Evanston’s third annual Juneteenth Parade was one for the history books.
“Thank you all for coming out and marching today,” Kemone Hendricks said to a crowd of a few hundred in Ingraham Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon, June 18.
Hendricks is the organizer of Evanston’s Juneteenth parade, and she beamed as she spoke: “It took over 150 years for this to happen. I’m just one of the catalysts…there are so many people before me who were huge advocates for Juneteenth, pushing to make it bigger, to celebrate on a high level, a respectable level.
Evanston Present and Future, Hendrick’s nonprofit organization, partnered with the Town of Evanston for the parade and subsequent celebrations, which began at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Robert Crown Community Center and spilled over into Ingraham Park’s celebration – blackberry with vendors, food, live music and spoken word artists.
In the morning, two drummers played bongos as town officials, local families and countless Black Evanston-based bands lined up enthusiastically in the parking lot of the community center.
As the motorcade left the field and headed north, residents of Evanston lined the streets to cheer and watch.
The local parade was also one of 10 nationally chosen cities that were part of the Opal Walk for Freedom.
All of the marches were two and a half miles long and held simultaneously to remind people that it took many years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation before slaves across the country were told of their freedom.
The walks have been coordinated to coincide with the walk that Opal Lee, 95, a retired teacher and counselor, continues to do each year.
In 2016, when she was 89, the activist, who is considered Juneteenth’s grandmother, traveled 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, DC, to deliver a petition with 1.5 million signatures demanding lawmakers respect Juneteenth and make it a national holiday.
But it wasn’t until 2021 that the law was passed and President Joseph Biden signed it with Ms. Opal Lee at his side for the ceremony.
Many of Evanston’s community, government and business organizations were present at the event, including people from:
- Connections For The Homeless,
- Evanston Pride,
- Evanston Public Library,
- Evanston/Skokie School District 65,
- Life Without My Child, a local support group for bereaved mothers,
- Black Leaders Forum,
- The black leaders of the NorthShore University Health System,
- The Jesse White Tumblers, a downtown youth tumbling team
- And various black people running for office.
“It’s a glorious day,” said participant and Evanstonian Stephanie Lanebaker, who walked in the parade with her husband, Aaron, and adult daughter, Laura. The roundtable found them at the online after-celebration for Hecky’s Barbecue.
Lanebaker said: “We are just happy to celebrate with Miss Opal and Kemone and everyone in the community.” Linebacker modeled her Juneteenth outfit, which was a sundress with a pan-African headgear for black women.
“We have that pride,” exclaimed Linebacker. “We are so happy.”