On July 4 we will celebrate independence, marking the moment when leaders of the colonies proclaimed themselves a new nation. But at that moment in 1776 about 20% of the population in the colonies were enslaved.
So July 4 was a great moment in our history, but it wasn’t such a great moment for freedom. For a full-throated celebration of freedom, we have Juneteenth, marking the moment in 1865 when all our people were informed they were (technically, at least) free.
The long struggle to fully realize the promise of that moment continues, and celebrating Juneteenth helps keep our attention on the past we must atone for and the goal we hope to reach of “liberty and justice for all.”
We’re fortunate to have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate freedom and Black culture at the two-day HF Juneteenth Festival.
Local youth leadership organization You Matter 2 presents the festival as the largest Juneteenth celebration in the Southland. I haven’t been to others, but I can confirm that the H-F event is big, well-run and joyful.
For the event’s third year, the festival will be from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, in the parking lot of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s South Builing, 999 Kedzie Ave.
Organizers expect 21 food vendors and 149 vendors including retailers, nonprofits, service providers and artists.
There will be entertainment all day. In the past, performers have included musicians and dancers.
Highlights the past two years have been performances by the 40+ Double Dutch Club and its impressive rope jumping and the Jesse White Tumblers, always crowd pleasers.
The parade will be on June 19, the day 158 years ago when Union Major Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 announcing the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas.
The parade will start at 9 a.m. at Western Avenue Elementary School, 940 Western Ave. in Flossmoor, and will end at Parker Junior High School, 2810 School St.
Find all the details about the celebration at hfjuneteenthfestival.com.
Kudos to the coach
For Father’s Day this year, I wanted to give some recognition to a local baseball coach who has taken the cherished tradition of supporting youth sports to a new level.
I remembered recently a conversation I had three years ago with Fred Chaney, who had a surprising (to me) story about his baseball journey. Fred has been coaching for years and leads what he notes is one of the few all-girl traveling baseball teams in the country, Chaneyville.
He’s also the father and coach of one of the community’s top girl baseball players, Demi Chaney. The Chronicle has published several stories in recent years about her accomplishments.
I interviewed Fred and Demi back in March 2020 to do a feature on the young phenom.
After we talked about Demi’s career, I asked Fred about his history with the sport, assuming that like many parent-coaches he’d probably played ball as a kid and maybe in high school or college.
“I never played,” he said. “I never liked the idea of someone throwing a hard object at me.”
In my day, kids learned baseball practically from the cradle. I was surprised an accomplished coach didn’t have that formative experience.
He said when his son, Ty, was a youngster, he wanted to play baseball but wasn’t getting enough instruction in recreational play.
“He wasn’t really learning the game. That’s what started my quest to learn the game so I could teach him how to play the game so he could have success,” he said.
He became a student of the game, heading first to the library to read about the game and how to teach children the basics. He immersed himself in videos about the game and started watching games to absorb the nuances and strategies.
A turning point came when his son, Torii, started getting notice from Major League Baseball scouts when he was only 7. The scouts’ interest convinced Fred that kids who got focused instruction could go further in the game.
The Chaneys are my neighors, and I see the kids out in their yard playing catch. The family travels often to baseball tournaments and games. Torii and Demi are rising stars. Ty is playing ball in college. The youngest, Denim, is getting his baseball career going. Baseball is now in their blood, and for that, they can thank a guy who came to the game for his kids.
To go from a guy who wasn’t eager to have a baseball thrown at him to being a coach who has helped open doors for his and other kids seems like a pretty cool dad move to me.
Happy Father’s Day, Fred.
Did you wear orange on June 2?
I wore orange on June 2. Members of the Homewood Board of Trustees said they would be wearing orange. Kathy Erickson, Jane Sablich and Tony Graves of Homewood committed to wearing orange.
The trio appeared at the Homewood board meeting on May 23 to show support for a proclamation issued by Mayor Rich Hofeld declaring June 2 to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the Village of Homewood “to honor and remember all victims and survivors of gun violence and to declare that we as a country must do more to reduce gun violence.”
They represented Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization started by a mother of five following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of 26 people in 2012.
A 9-year-old boy was killed by gunfire in Matteson on May 25, reminding us that the need to act is local.