The Chicago Acrobatic Boys Team performs at the HF Juneteenth Festival on June 17. (Nuha Abdessalam/H-F Chronicle)
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Juneteenth embraced, celebrated at annual festival

Homewood-Flossmoor community members embraced and celebrated the Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 17, while recalling the significance and meaning behind the holiday.

It was a beautiful sunny day for guests to walk among the 170 vendors and exhibitors, meet friends, enjoy food dishes and sit and watch the entertainment.

KhaliyahX performs at the HF Juneteenth Festival. (Nuha Abdessalam/H-F Chronicle)
KhaliyahX performs at the HF Juneteenth Festival. (Nuha Abdessalam/H-F Chronicle)

Sponsored by You Matter 2, the event at Homewood-Flossmoor High School drew crowds throughout the day. Juneteenth, a new national holiday, commemorates Major General Gordon Granger’s arrival in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. He issued General Order No. 3 announcing that the end of the Civil War had happened months earlier. The federal troops with him emancipated the slaves being held in Texas. The holiday reflects on the legacy of slavery and efforts to promote racial justice and equality.

Imari Henry and Clara Richards, first-timers to the event, came to celebrate and support community members.

“I’m enjoying seeing all the Black businesses and greatness behind Juneteenth because it’s the time; it’s time for us to get out there and put our energy out in the world,” Henry said.

“Walking around here feeling engaged, a sense of pride in our history and where we are now through support, growth and fellowship,” Richards said.

Elanore McGee, vice president of the NAACP-Chicago Far-South Suburban Branch, said, “I’m happy that the holiday is coming to the forefront because historically I don’t know if people knew about it. It’s long overdue … I love seeing so many young people educating (themselves) and spreading the word. Our holiday involves learning; it’s not just a festival but the meaning behind it.”

Flossmoor resident Ashley McGee said: “I continue to live in Flossmoor for the community. This reminds me why I love it here and to see people come out and support each other; people are intentional about keeping it real here and supporting one another.” McGee has created the nonprofit 2BLoved.

Attendees had many booths to scope out and visit, and opportunities to learn about various organizations and Black owned businesses.

Food trucks featuring all kinds of cuisine, including Mexican, Soul Food, and hot bowls of gumbo, were among the countless delicious options for guests. The festival supplied several key beverage stations for guests, in addition to several hand sanitizing stations.

Kids had several festival activities to choose from, including the inflatable tic-tac-toe, zip-lining, and mechanical bull riding.

The Chicago Acrobatic Boys Team stunned crowd members with sophisticated and exceptional acrobatic stunts and tricks. Audience members were selected to participate in their performance by standing as flying acrobatic boys catapulted over them.

“That was so scary and so exciting, and like the many feelings I’m having, I’m here for it proudly,” said Miss Africa Universe winner 2023 Oriane Medjum Toguem.

Musician and artist KhaliyahX pumped up the crowds with ‘90’s legend Aliyah covers and other influential R&B Black artist covers, in addition to performing her original song “What’s My Name.”

“Juneteenth has been such a blessing. It’s bringing our community together, it brings Black people together, but I believe it also brings POC (people of color) together and of different cultures,” KhaliyahX said. “(It’s) another way for us to empathize, sympathize and bring unity and community within each other to make sure everyone is celebrated, and I’m all for it!”

The crowd enthusiastically sang along and danced to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Beyonce Knowles’s “Freedom” and other powerful hits.

Many sororities, including Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Psi Epsilon, and men’s fraternity Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity marched in celebration and gave recognition by chanting the legacies of Black women and men who historically built these houses.

Certified cycling instructor Alicia Moore, affiliated with Byrd Chest Fitness, brought about a dozen cycling bikes for a real-time cycling experience for volunteers.

“I love life, I love my community, and I love the unspoken connections of events like Juneteenth. (They) bring harmony and support,” Moore said.

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