A free, family-friendly celebration of Juneteenth will be held in the Beverly/Morgan Park community on Saturday, June 19, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Juneteenth Family Festival and Black Business Crawl will provide an opportunity to reflect on history, celebrate as a community, support local businesses, learn more about health and wellness, and just have fun.

Hosted by the Beverly/Morgan Park Coalition of Black Community Members, the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative, and Burst Into Books, the 2021 festival will convene in the parking lots of Morgan Park Presbyterian Church and Morgan Park United Methodist Church at 110th Place and Longwood Drive. Additional activities will be held across the street in Bohn Park, 1966 W. 111th St.

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, celebrates the emancipation of those who were enslaved in the United States. Considered the longest-running African-American holiday, it is celebrated annually on June 19, the date in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to free all people who continued to be enslaved. June 19, 1865, is two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in the Civil War.

The Beverly/Morgan Park Juneteenth festival was first held in 2019 in the Dan Ryan Woods, and it pivoted to a Black Business Crawl in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

It is returning with great energy, a new location and more activities this year.

The Juneteenth Family Festival provides a chance to “give-back” by showcasing several Black-run non-profit organizations, spreading the word about their work and sharing information about how to get involved and support their efforts. Participants will be encouraged to reach out to their elected officials to make it known that Juneteenth should become a federally recognized holiday.

Juneteenth Family Festival activities acknowledge and celebrate this critical moment in African-American history while educating the community at large.

Among the 2021 festival offerings are African-inspired storytelling, drumming circles where kids and adults can learn to play the djembe, West-African dance lessons, children’s activities, educational workshops, vendors and more.

The Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., will host West-African dance lessons for children and adults from 12 to 3 p.m. 

At 3:30 p.m., main-stage entertainment will feature Kimosha Murphy telling the story of Juneteenth; R&B/jazz band NuSource; and the Take Ova Gang, a group of African-American young men performing footwork and much more.

Health and wellness programs, including a fitness workout with Live and Believe Nutrition, 2025 W. 95th St., will begin at 11 a.m. at the festival main stage. Also onsite will be yoga classes, a dental van and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations from Roseland Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

A directory of Beverly/Morgan Park Black-owned businesses will be available at the festival, and the directory encourages attendees to visit five or more businesses on the day of the event for a chance to win raffle prizes.

The local festival was originally imagined by Shanya Gray, a board member of the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative, while driving through Beverly/Morgan Park and reflecting upon the need to celebrate all cultures in the community. Around the same time, Jurema Gorham, founder of Burst into Books, a literacy organization on the South Side, had reached out to collaborate with Gray’s Facebook page, Moms of Beverly.

Gray shared her dream of a festival with Gorham, and together, the two decided to make it happen.

The organizers sent educational resources and activities to area public schools, which agreed to partner with the festival. Students are encouraged to use their creativity to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth. The schools with the most submissions of Juneteenth-related projects will receive a prize.

“Too often, we think of history as a memorization of facts in school,” said Gorham. “But, we create our own history every day, in the present. Celebrating our unique story and building on it is a strength.”

Additional community partners include the office of 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea, the Beverly Arts Center, the Beverly Area Planning Association, the Morgan Park/Beverly Hills Business Association, the 95th Street Business Association, and the PR Store.

To learn more about the festival, look for Beverly Morgan Park Family Fest on Facebook and Instagram and #beverlymorganparkff2021 on Twitter.

For a full schedule of events, visit the website at eventcreate.com/e/bmpjuneteenth.

For more information, email juneteenthff@gmail.com.