June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the ending of American slavery. This year began the first year National Freedom Day was celebrated as an official state holiday, with state offices closed in observance.

This past weekend, members of the Illinois Senate Black Caucus celebrated the holiday around the districts they represent.

Majority Caucus Chair Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) was honored with the Social Equity and Justice Lifetime Achievement Award at Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer’s Juneteenth Racial Equity event on Friday. There, she spoke of the importance of Juneteenth, the establishment of National Freedom Day, and her work on legislation to recognize the day in Illinois.

The event also honored Congressman Danny K. Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, Dr. Ezike and Dr. Obari Cartman.


“I am ecstatic that Juneteenth is finally a national holiday. It is a very important day not just for me as a legislator, but for me as a Black woman,” said Hunter. “On this holiday, we can honor those who were enslaved by learning our history, learning how to rectify the flaws in our systems, and lastly, for us Black folk especially, by resting and enjoying the richness of our culture.”

Hunter also sponsored a Juneteenth event on Saturday with Voices of West Englewood, giving away over 400 bags of food.   


State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) had two Juneteenth events this weekend. On Saturday, Peters attended a celebration of Black culture and food drive event with A Just Harvest, a Rogers Park-based community organization that runs a local food pantry. He was awarded an Afro-Boricuan mask.


“Thank you to A Just Harvest for presenting me this Afro-Boricuan mask for the work done to pass the Pretrial Fairness Act” said Peters. “The mask symbolizes laughing in the face of death as well as courage and determination.”

Peters also attended a Juneteenth peace rally at Kenwood High School.  

“I was pleased to join Congressman Bobby Rush, Commissioner Bill Lowry, Sen. Collins and Pastor John Harrel for an inaugural Juneteenth Peace Rally at Kenwood High School,” said Peters. “Black history and Black voices need to be amplified, and I was glad to see everyone come together to show our commitment to making all of our communities safe.”


State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) visited Voice of the People’s Juneteenth Jubilee and Resource Fair in Uptown and also attended at A Just Harvest’s Juneteenth Celebration in Rogers Park this past weekend. In Uptown, he and his staff hosted a table of state resources while connecting with families and listening to some great music, courtesy of DJ Papo Fizz MC!


In Rogers Park, Simmons also celebrated Juneteenth with families and reflected on the meaning of the holiday alongside fellow government officials.


“It was so fantastic seeing neighbors in Rogers Park and celebrating Juneteenth with the Uptown Community,” said Simmons. “The Voice of the People and other local social service agencies are doing so much important work for our communities.”


House Bill 3922, which created Juneteenth National Freedom Day on June 19, was signed into law last year and went into effect this year. The celebration of Juneteenth is a reminder of what African Americans have overcome. It is a time to reflect, learn, and commit to a better tomorrow.