HIgh school students (L to R) Christophe, Lila, Madisyn, and Beres helped to keep the event running smoothly. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

Evanston community members enjoyed an afternoon of music, food, and games at the Summer Jubilee 2021. Presented by Our Village The Black Evanstonian in partnership with Jennifer’s Edibles, the event was held at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center on June 26.

Originally scheduled to take place on Fleetwood-Jourdain Center’s Foster Field, the event was moved indoors to the auditorium and the Keith Allen Smith Memorial Gymnasium amid thunderstorms and downpours on Saturday morning.     

“It’s very cool. In the gym, we can play, and there’s music, books and food,” incoming first-grader Varsity Corbbins told the RoundTable.

In the auditorium, a bright blue and gold balloon arch drew young visitors to a table where they could choose from a selection of new, free children’s books.

A special highlight for all ages was a spoken word performance by Evanston poet Melody A. Marion Bickhem, who read her original poem, “Juneteenth Jubilee.” The poem is reprinted below.

Poet Melody Marion Bickhem (left) enjoyed a lunch-time conversation with a young attendee. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

Guests enjoyed free hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and juice. Sweets, provided by catering company Edibly Me, included an array of red, white and blue frosted cupcakes with sprinkles on top.

“Our Village The Black Evanstonian… focuses on providing support services, referrals and outreach to the Black community here in Evanston,” Ndona Muboyayi said in her welcome remarks.

Formed in 2016 by Ms. Muboyayi and Lonnie Wilson, the organization is currently led by newly appointed president Joyce Hill.     

“We decided to create the organization in order to create the same village atmosphere that we had growing up,” said Ms. Muboyayi.

Our Village The Black Evanstonian grew out of the nonprofit organization Majestic Reign.

“Majestic Reign focuses on foreign language skills, as well as providing support for the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics [STEAM] – and at the same time working to connect children in the United States to children abroad,” said Ms. Muboyayi, who serves as CEO of the organization.

According to their website, Majestic Reign is “a family centered organization whose doors are open to all in need, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.”

Evanston North Shore Branch NAACP volunteers provided membership information and give-aways. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

Ms. Muboyayi said the Summer Jubilee 2021 is their first annual event “to highlight the accomplishments of our ancestors, and to encourage Black excellence in our youth. We also partnered with the Evanston North Shore Branch NAACP and invited STEM School Evanston. Representatives from both organizations were on hand to answer questions and provide information about their programs.”

The vision of the nonprofit organization STEM School Evanston, founded by Henry Wilkins, “is to open a public school located in Evanston’s central core where children excel via deep engagement in STEM principles: science, technology, engineering and math.”

Representatives of STEM School Evanston answered questions about the nonprofit founded by Henry Wilkins (second from right). (Photo by Heidi Randhava) Credit: Heidi Randhava

Mr. Wilkins recently outlined the plan in Part II of the Evanston Public Library Series, “Legacy of School Segregation, Visions for a Community School in the 5th Ward,” on May 20.

The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.

Juneteenth Jubilee

By Melody A. Marion Bickhem

In a room full of Black people, what goes through my mind?
The royalty, the wisdom, oh the treasures we might find

Such pride and beauty that’s before us. Such style and inner grace
And the history that’s written in the lines upon each face

Voyage maps from the ancestors lies deep in their DNA
That traveled with their spirits on ships embarked for the USA

The mastery of a language, not originally their own
The slaving away on plantations, forced to accept as their new home

The struggles and the hardships that led to their hard choices
The hurt and painful secrets silenced in their voices

Yes, the 4th of July has its place in the books to mark us as a nation
But more important for African Americans is the Emancipation Proclamation

The former, in 1776, has great American significance
The latter in 1863 is what declared OUR independence

But for the slaves in Galveston, Texas it wasn’t until 1865
When they heard the news of THEIR freedom. Took two-and-a-half more years to arrive!

But then came a time for celebration – from all those toiling years
“Better late than never!” they shouted through their tears

And that is why we celebrate this Juneteenth Jubilee!
June 19th is a special day. It marks the end of slavery!

Credit must be given to Opal Lee for her persistence
For her sheer determination in the face of staunch resistance

To expose the historical importance in every single way
Until the leaders of our Nation made it a National Holiday!

So, celebrate Juneteenth with pride, also called the Jubilee
It connects us to our ancestors AND to OUR History!

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.

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