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Evanston’s third annual Juneteenth parade was one for the history books.

“Thank you, everyone, for coming out and parading today,” said Kemone Hendricks to a crowd of a few hundred at Ingraham Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon, June 18. 

Hundreds joined the parade that started at the Robert Crown Community Center. Credit: Richard Cahan

Hendricks was the organizer of Evanston’s Juneteenth parade, and she was glowing as she spoke: “It took over 150 years to make this happen. I am just one of the catalysts … there are so many people before me who were huge advocates of Juneteenth, pushing to make it be larger, to be celebrated on a high level, a respectable level.” 

Evanston Present and Future, Hendrick’s nonprofit organization, partnered with the City of Evanston for the parade and after-celebrations, which began at 10 a.m. in the Robert Crown Community Center parking lot, and spilled out into the Ingraham Park celebration– ripe with vendors, food, live music and spoken-word performers.

In the morning, two drummers played bongos while city officials, local families and countless Black Evanston-based groups lined up with excitement in the community center’s parking lot.

As the procession filed out of the lot and headed north, Evanstonians lined the streets to cheer and watch. 

Evanston was one of 10 cities chosen nationally whose parades were part of the Opal Walk for Freedom.

The walks were coordinated to coincide with the walk Opal Lee, 95, a retired teacher and counselor, has continued to take every year. She is considered the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”

In 2016, when Lee was 89, the activist walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to deliver petitions with 1.5 millions signatures demanding lawmakers respect Juneteenth and make it a national holiday.

But it wasn’t until 2021 that the law passed and President Joe Biden signed it into law with Lee beside him for the ceremony.

A slew of Evanston community, government and business organizations were at the Saturday’s event, including people from Connections for the Homeless, Evanston Pride, Evanston Public Library, Evanston/Skokie School District 65, Life Without My Child (a local support group for bereaved mothers), Black Leadership Forum, Black leaders from NorthShore University Health System, the Jesse White Tumblers (an inner-city tumbling team for youth) and various Black individuals running for office.

“This is a glorious day,” said attendee and Evanstonian Stephanie Lanebaker, who drove in the parade with her husband, Aaron, and adult daughter, Laura. The Roundtable found them at the after-celebration in line for Hecky’s Barbecue.

Lanebaker said, “We are just happy to be celebrating with Miss Opal and Kemone and everyone in the community.” Linebacker modeled her Juneteenth outfit, which was a summer dress with a Black woman rocking pan-African headwear.

“We got this pride,” Linebacker exclaimed. “We’re so happy.”

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...

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  1. It was a wonderful celebration and a peaceful day….Thanks Kemone,city staff and all neighbors and visitors!