With a community focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, Homewood and Flossmoor are planning a celebration in 2021 of a key moment of liberation in the nation’s history, Juneteenth. Destiny Watson, founder of You Matter 2, is determined to bring this recognition to fruition for the H-F area and is leading fundraising efforts now.
Juneteenth marks the anniversary of Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger’s issuance of General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. The orders stated: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
That proclamation is one of a number of key moments in the process of emancipating slaves during and after the Civil War. Its celebration came to be known as Juneteenth.
The Juneteenth Festival is planned for June 19, 2021. According to the mission statement of the event, the Homewood-Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival will be a celebration of African American culture as expressed through food, music, dance and arts. The mission is to provide an environment that celebrates and showcases the uniqueness, power and endurance of African Americans. The event is family-friendly and open for all ages, races, and ethnicities.
“I think it’s important because H-F is a very diverse community,” Watson said. “It’s important to celebrate the people who live in this community.”
The event will also highlight the history and achievements of African Americans. Vendors for the event will be Black-owned, with a majority of business coming from the Homewood-Flossmoor area.
There will be performances, a photo booth, an activity tent for young children and museum exhibits, such as The University of Dayton’s “The Ferguson voices: Disrupting the Frame” exhibit. This exhibit features audio excerpts and text from interviews with individuals affected by or involved in the protests in response to the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Mo.
The planning committee is a team of individuals comprised of Homewood-Flossmoor high school alumni, parents of current You Matter 2 participants, and family members of Watson. The event has garnered support from the village of Flossmoor, the village of Homewood, Homewood-Flossmoor High School and the Rainbow Push Coalition.
“The Homewood-Flossmoor area did an amazing job joining in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement through the protest and vigils in our community,” Watson said, referring to a series of events held last summer after the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. “It was good to see so many different walks of life present this past summer.”
The biggest struggle has been planning in the midst of a pandemic, according to Watson. Though she hopes to have an in-person celebration, plans have been made to pivot if that is not possible. Some ideas include limiting capacity of the event, sharing the live event on social media for interactive engagement and having a virtual pop-up shop for vendors.
Currently, to help raise funds for the event, the organization has a Holiday Cocktails and Treats fundraiser. Donors can receive a cocktail kit with whiskey glasses, hot chocolate kit with a reusable mug or a combination of both. Individuals can also become sponsors for the Homewood-Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival, earning name listing acknowledgement, T-shirts and other benefits.
In preparing for the event, Watson reflects on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we face now will surely fail.”
To become a vendor, volunteer or donate to the Juneteenth celebration or to get youth involved in the program, visit the You Matter 2 website.
You Matter 2 is nonprofit organization that empowers youth in grades seven through 12 to be world changers. The youth involved in the program participate in service projects, receive education on local and global issues and discover their passion and involvement in the community.
Watson created the organization during her junior year at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. According to Watson, the original intent was to be an after school service program, in hopes to go to WE Day, an annual youth empowerment event that celebrates young people making an impact through service.
Today, the organization has continued and grown with a number of programs, including a back-to-school celebration, school supply giveaway and a food drive.