CHICAGO - Hundreds of people gathered at the DuSable Black History Museum in Hyde Park on Sunday amid red, green and black Pan-African flags, sporting shirts and bags with phrases like "hella Black, hella liberated" and "end systemic racism."
This outdoor celebration of Juneteenth — with music performances, vendors, kids’ activities and Black history education — felt "almost like a family reunion," said Zephanie Battle, a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute.
"A lot of kinship going on," Auburn Gresham building administrator Michael Moslui added. "This is what the Black community needs."
Juneteenth is the newly minted federal holiday recognizing the freedom of the remaining enslaved Black people in Texas on June 19, 1865.
Chicago and Illinois both designated Juneteenth as a holiday last year. Many businesses and government offices are closed Monday.
But for some people, like retired teacher Janice Rowe, the day’s significance is more important than a day off of work or a Sunday barbecue.
"It’s an event that happened," Rowe said. "It wasn’t a holiday for them. For them, I’ve come a long way."
The DuSable Museum celebration featured performances by different bands, and famed Chicago native Chance the Rapper made an appearance and was set to perform. Bounce houses, yoga and baseball games entertained kids, many of whom were brought by their parents to celebrate Black culture.
"I just knew it was gonna be a great atmosphere," said Kenitha Brown, who brought her 5-month-old son, Malik Hilliard Jr. "I feel like this will be a big event for him to celebrate when he’s older."
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a short speech and said while celebrating is important, more action needs to follow, including health care and criminal justice reform.
"Having a day isn’t enough," Pritzker said. "It’s about delivering for Black families."
Juneteenth celebrations across Chicago took place throughout the weekend and continue Monday.