Juneteenth got another boost Thursday when the Cook County Commission voted to make the observance of African American emancipation a county holiday. Flossmoor officials recently announced support for a local Juneteenth parade and festival in 2021 that will be organized by You Matter 2, a local youth empowerment organization.
Cook is the first county in the state to grant Juneteenth that status. The commission’s vote means Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for county staff.
Donna Miller, 6th District commissioner and co-sponsor of the measure, said she hoped the move would encourage other governments to offer official recognition. Miller’s district includes Homewood.
“It is my hope that others across our state and country will follow suit and pass similar legislation, and that we unite as a country and foster respect and appreciation for all of our differences,” she said in a post on her Facebook page. “Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us, and what better way to do that in Cook County than by creating the Juneteenth holiday.”
Destiny Watson, founder and director of You Matter 2, also applauded the decision.
“This action serves to show how important and historical Juneteenth is for the African American community and the importance of celebrating this holiday,” she said.
Juneteenth celebrations recall the June 19, 1865, proclamation by Union Gen. Gordon Grainger notifying enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that the war was over and they had been freed. It is one of a number of significant events in the emancipation of slaves.
Miller said she hopes the county’s designation will contribute to more awareness of the event and its meaning to African American’s today.
“I firmly believe we need to make this part of our curriculum in schools so that our children can gain further understanding of the struggle and sacrifice that was needed to end slavery,” she said.
Watson said she hopes the county’s proclamation and the local event her organization is planning will help raise awareness and appreciation for the event and help establish it as a community tradition. She said the event will help people learn more about Black history and liberation and also “lift up local Black businesses, leaders, talent and voices in our communities.”
“We hope that the HF Juneteenth Festival can become a staple in this community, just as the way we celebrate the 4th of July,” she said.
You Matter 2 is seeking sponsors to support the H-F event in 2021.