Juneteenth festival at Ingraham Park.

“Unity and history.”

That’s what Erika Jarvis said Juneteenth means to her.

Jarvis was among those enjoying the music, food, arts, and sunshine at Ingraham Park on Saturday afternoon, in a community jubilee that concluded Evanston’s Juneteenth celebration.

Listening to music was part of the Juneteenth festival.

The now-federal holiday commemorates the end of slavery. On June 19, 1865, a Union general told enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended, and they were free. Word of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued two-and-a-half years earlier, had either never made it to Galveston, or was ignored by slave owners.

Jacqui Fomond was also at Ingraham Park.

Fromond said she did not know much about Juneteenth until a few years ago, but added “the fact that my kids can get to grow up learning about it is awesome.”

Another festival attendee, Nikita Nicole, said she was excited that Juneteenth is now a national holiday. President Joe Biden signed a measure last year, giving June 19 official holiday designation.

Evanston’s Juneteenth parade began at Robert Crown Center.

While many holidays simply turn into a chance to shop while ignoring the meaning of the day, Nicole said “not with Juneteenth.”

“We’ll keep it steady, strong, and getting bigger,” she added.

While Juneteenth recognizes the end of slavery, it is also a chance to think about the brutality of slavery itself, and its role in America’s past.

Erika Jarvis said history cannot be ignored, “even if history can be ugly.”

“There can be beauty coming out of it,” she added, “if people know where they came from, they can know where they’re going.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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