Champaign-Urbana celebrates Juneteenth

Lizzie+Cocoa+Duckworth+Carter+sings+Lift+Every+Voice+and+Sing+to+start+off+the+Juneteenth+celebration+at+West+Side+Park+in+Champaign+on+Saturday.+The+Champaign-Urbana+community+came+together+in-person+and+virtually+to+commemorate+the+date+the+last+enslaved+African+Americans+in+the+United+States+were+notified+about+their+freedom.

Photo Courtesy of the Champaign Park District Facebook

Lizzie Cocoa Duckworth Carter sings Lift Every Voice and Sing to start off the Juneteenth celebration at West Side Park in Champaign on Saturday. The Champaign-Urbana community came together in-person and virtually to commemorate the date the last enslaved African Americans in the United States were notified about their freedom.

By Aliza Majid, Assistant News Editor

Juneteenth has been celebrated by the Black community for years as it marks the date the last enslaved African Americans were notified about their freedom in Texas in 1865. The celebration has been established as an official federal holiday after President Joe Biden passed the Juneteenth bill, signing it into law Thursday.

The Champaign-Urbana community lined up a wide array of events to commemorate Juneteenth with the public. Both virtual and in-person events took place in order to celebrate the holiday.

“It’s a little bit conflicting,” said Mariah Madison, the founder of Buy Black Chambana. “It’s a start somewhere, we make Juneteenth a national holiday but now we’re waiting to address systemic racism, reparations, voter suppression rights and talking about race in school. So, it’s a step in the right direction, but I’m hoping that this actually took many more actionable steps.”

The Champaign Park District held a virtual Juneteenth Celebration featuring various Black artists and educational references for the community to indulge in during this holiday.

“With this event, we always want to remind the public that we see them, we welcome them to all of our events and programs and to be involved,” said Chelsea Nortin, director of marketing for Champaign Park District. “We sought out Black musicians, dancers and businesses that wanted to participate, different individuals in our community to provide representation.

Along with virtual events, the annual 217 Black Restaurant Weekend celebration took place from last Friday to this Monday that celebrated and supported the Black businesses in the community by spotlighting local restaurants in the area. 

Buy Black Chambana is a community organization that dedicates itself to empowering Black culture by supporting businesses and uplifting the community. In order to strive toward this goal, the organization hosts an annual Black Restaurant Weekend on Juneteenth weekend to support Black businesses.

“We are home to Champaign County’s first Black-owned business directories with over 150 businesses,” Madison said. “We take time to celebrate Juneteenth by having our annual 217 Black Restaurant weekend. We really want to acknowledge the rest of our owners that are in our directory during this time and honor our ancestors. So we encourage people to shop with them.”

Juneteenth is now the 12th official federal holiday in the country and was signed into legislation on both the federal and state levels.

“Juneteenth is important because it’s our liberation day,” Madison said. “It’s the day that we celebrate our freedom… We celebrate how far we’ve come, but we also acknowledge that there’s still a long way to go.”

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