Origin of the Chicago Juneteenth Ordinance (11.09.19)
Black Remembrance Project members hold up a copy of the Chicago Juneteenth ordinance at City Hall on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. (From left to right: Linda Jennings, LaCreshia Birts, and Lonette Sims)
Importance of A Juneteenth Holiday
Having Juneteenth officially recognized in Chicago as a holiday is not merely about city workers getting a day off. The request for the holiday comes directly from the desire to uplift the painful and tragic history of slavery in America.
Juneteenth has been unofficially celebrated in America for centuries. In the early 2000s, many local municipalities and states began to pass legislation to recognize the holiday. As it stands, the holiday is not federally recognized and celebration of the day is not equal. For instance, the state of Illinois recognizes the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth. Whereas, in Texas and the majority of other states, Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th, the day that our formerly enslaved ancestors declared their holiday.
Furthermore, there is a national resurgence in conversation around slavery, racial inequality, and reparations for slavery descendants. This conversation has been expanded by a special publication by the New York Times called, "1619 Project.” The project is dedicated to understanding the history of slavery in America. At the same time, Juneteenth is being pushed to be recognized as a federal holiday by several longtime Juneteenth advocacy groups. One Juneteenth advocate is a 93-year old woman named, Opal Lee. Lee is currently walking across the nation to raise attention to get Juneteenth declared as a national holiday.
As we await national Juneteenth recognition, the Black Remembrance Project is asking for greater upliftment of the holiday in Chicago. After all, Jean Baptist Pointe Du Sable, an African American man, founded Chicago. Chicago was also involved with the underground railroad through the Quinn Chapel AME church. The church was an underground railroad hub and a meeting place for abolitionists. Unfortunately, Chicago's connection to slavery and the influence of Black Americans in this city are not widely known. Greater recognition of Juneteenth can promote a deeper awareness of Black American history.
Other than the proposed Juneteenth ordinance, there hasn't been much acknowledgment of Juneteenth from Chicago's City Council or public institutions. Currently, there is no formal mention of Juneteenth in Chicago Public Schools. On the state level, there has been more participation in Juneteenth festivities. Governor Pritzker acknowledged the significant contributions that African Americans have made in Illinois, by announcing a Juneteenth Proclamation on June 19, 2019. The Black Remembrance Project would like to see more involvement and acknowledgment from public officials in Chicago--particularly from Black Aldermen and the city's first Black woman mayor, in regards to Juneteenth.
Black Remembrance Project Co-Chair, LaCreshia Birts and Alderwoman Maria Hadden at City Hall September 2019
How You Can Support
Sign the national petition To support efforts to recognize Juneteenth nationally, you can sign onto the national petition for Juneteenth at http://chng.it/BdKxJwFx9k
Reach out to your Alderperson If you're in Chicago, you can support the Black Remembrance Project's efforts by contacting your Aldermen and letting them know how important this holiday is to you.
Join us! Contact the email@example.com to sign up for our Juneteenth Political Action Team or to join our City-wide Juneteenth Planning Committee