Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Fifth annual Juneteenth celebration sees new additions to parade, festivities

Illustration by Ziye Wang
Evanston’s fifth annual Juneteenth celebrations will include five new awards, all related to preserving the legacy of the holiday.

When Kemone Hendricks started Evanston’s annual Juneteenth parade in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations included just a car parade and online events.

Four years later, the founder and executive director of Evanston Present and Future said the fifth annual celebration will feature floats, music and dance performances at the parade, as well as various community events.

“Through the years, it’s grown (from) people not knowing what Juneteenth is and not wanting to celebrate it every year,” Hendricks said. “Now, overall, the amount of groups and organizations that participate in the parade have grown.”

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates enslaved Black people’s emancipation in 1863. President Joe Biden declared June 19 — when Juneteenth is usually celebrated — a national holiday in 2021.

This year, Evanston’s Juneteenth celebrations will take place from June 15-19. The parade is on Saturday, June 15, followed by art, music and food at Ingraham Park.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) will serve as the parade’s grand marshal because of her continuous involvement in helping plan the festivities, Hendricks said.

Harris said she joined the event’s planning committee this year to see how she could help make the event a success. Since joining City Council in 2022, her contribution to the celebrations was helping get the word out, she said.

Harris added that for her, Juneteenth is about continuing to improve the community and creating a space to recognize the holiday’s legacy and importance for Black people.

“This is the Black community’s Fourth of July,” Harris said. “While I’m not that generation (that was emancipated), I am a product of those generations, so it’s important to me.”

Harris will lead the parade, which will feature groups such as the Juneteenth Creative Dance Team, the Jesse White Tumblers and South Shore Drill Team. The groups have performed at previous parades.

The parade will also feature members of the Evanston Township High School Wildkit Marching Band for the first time.

Matthew Bufis, director of bands at ETHS, said because the parade comes after the end of the school year, a group of volunteer drumline and color guard members will march in the parade.

The performers will begin practicing one to two times a week after the school year is over and then rehearse for 20 more hours the week before the parade, he said.

Bufis added that the drumline will play songs in their current marching band repertoire, and the color guard will perform a routine to a recording of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song often called “The Black National Anthem.”

“We really put a lot of thought into choosing this piece, specifically because we thought it would resonate with the Black community,” he said.

Also new this year, Hendricks has created five awards to present at the parade. She said she picked several of the winners based on her knowledge of who has been integral to Evanston’s Juneteenth celebrations.

The Emancipation Excellence Award winner, however, will be chosen at the parade and is given to the individual or group that most embodies the spirit of Juneteenth and its themes of emancipation and liberation, Hendricks said.

The Juneteenth Legacy Award will be given posthumously to Hecky Powell, an Evanston community leader, Hendricks said. The award recognizes an individual’s commitment to honoring Juneteenth’s legacy through advocacy, community engagement and education.

Powell was the president of the Evanston/North Shore NAACP branch and the executive director of Neighbors at Work, a local social services program. He was also the co-founder of Hecky’s Barbecue.

Evanston Present and Future will award the Freedom Trailblazer Award — which recognizes a person who has significantly promoted justice, equality and freedom in their community — to Julia Ferguson, the Juneteenth Creative Dance Team coordinator.

The other awards include the Heritage Preservation Award, which recognizes efforts to preserve the history of Juneteenth, and the Unity Champion Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership in creating unity in diverse communities.

Harris said she is excited to see the community come out and celebrate Juneteenth and for her role as grand marshal during the parade.

“It’s more of an honor that I have to carry this banner, and express my gratitude to our generations, to the generations in Evanston who carry what Juneteenth means and is,” Harris said.

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Related Stories: 

Juneteenth Creative Dance Team Program sets to return 

Evanston commemorates Juneteenth with parade, celebration 

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