Juneteenth will be recognized as a federal, state and local holiday for the first time this year.
The day recognizes the freeing of the last enslaved people in Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. To mark Juneteenth, the Cook County Juneteenth Planning Committee is hosting a two-day conference focused on racial equity.
The committee was also responsible for making Juneteenth a paid holiday for Cook County workers.
The conference will be held at Malcolm X College June 16-17. Events include a movie screening, career fair, health fair, blood drive and panel discussions on topics around education, health, wealth and justice.
Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer says he’s been working to make Juneteenth a holiday and day for education ever since he became a legislator in 2017.
“As a young kid, growing up on the West Side of Chicago, I had never heard of Juneteenth before. It wasn’t until I went to Jackson State University, to College, which is an HBCU, that I heard about Juneteenth and it was when I decided to stay over the summer so I can graduate a little bit earlier, and someone invited me to a Juneteenth festival, and I said to them June what? And they said Juneteenth, and I went to the festival, and long story short, learned all about Juneteenth and what that meant and the freedom, the last of the slaves to be free, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since,” said Deer, “It’s all about the Black community, celebrating our freedom, but not only freedom of our physical being, freedom economically, freedom from an educational standpoint, freedom from a public safety standpoint, and freedom and liberation of education.”