Excitement is building for Juneteenth celebrations across the Chicago area


CHICAGO (CBS) — Festivities are planned across the Chicago area this weekend for Juneteenth, the national holiday honoring the official freeing of slaves in the United States.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory shares more about a giant celebration in the south suburbs, with thousands of people on the guest list.

It feels like it was just yesterday,” said Destiny Watson, walking in the Homewood-Flossmoor parking lot where, a year ago, her dream became a reality: bring the first-ever Juneteenth celebration to the south suburbs.

She told CBS 2 back then how Black Lives Matter protests inspired the festival.

“The ages, the races, everyone that was there, it was just … like people are recognizing what’s happening,” she said in our June 2021 report previewing the event.

The appetite was definitely there.

“We had over 3,000 people here [last year],” said Watson, who founded the non-profit “You Matter 2” that is hosting the Juneteenth celebration.

Last year’s festival was so successful that 2022 is coming back with bang. Expect more food trucks, vendors and performances in the Homewood-Flossmoor High School parking lot from 11am to 6:30pm on Sunday, June 19.

The inaugural Juneteenth parade will be on Saturday the 18th at 9am.

“We just wanted to find a way to expand the festival that gets us moving through the community for people to see,” said Watson.

About 400 people from 22 different groups will strut their stuff down Flossmoor Road towards Parker Junior High School. Along the route, keep an eye out for the “Classy Ladies of Excellence.”

It’ll be the baton twirling team’s biggest show yet.

“They get to actually experience a cultural event, so this will be something that they can actually, you know, say, ‘I was part of history,'” said Kenyatta Johnson who directs the team with her sister Kaila Muhammad.

Also new this year: the Juneteenth Royal Court. Miss Juneteenth LaNiya Whitlock and other royals completed workshops and community service ahead of their big task: leading the parade.

Whitlock, 15, competed in pageants when she was younger and won. This tiara and title hits different.

“No one in my family has done this before, and no one around me has seen this before, and it’s like I feel like I am making my ancestors proud,” the Homewood-Flossmoor high school student said.

The jam-packed weekend is free with an opportunity to make a difference. Donations of back-to-school supplies will be collected at Sunday’s festival at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

Of course, You Matter 2 is always looking for assistance in funding programs for the youth. You can donate on their website.

Choose Chicago, the tourism agency for the City of Chicago, also has a listing of Juneteenth events on their website.

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