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Central Illinois commemorates Juneteenth with Block Parties, History Bus, Bike Ride

A state marker in Galveston, Texas, notes where Union army general Gordon Granger read federal orders on June 19, 1865 proclaiming that all enslaved persons in the state of Texas were now free.

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District is hosting its very first Juneteenth Block Party at the Illinois Terminal on Friday 5:00-7:00 p.m. It is one of several events commemorating the freedom of American Blacks who were enslaved.

Date, time Location Activities and links to organizers
June 16, Noon Urbana City Building, 200 Vine Street, Urbana Juneteenth flag raising ceremony sponsored by the city of Urbana. Click here for information.
June 16, 5:00-7:00 p.m. Illinois Terminal, 45 E. University Ave., Champaign Arts, music, poetry, and food sponsored by MTD. Click here for information.
June 17, Noon-3:00 p.m. Douglass Park, 501 E. Eureka St., Champaign Arts, music, food, family fun sponsored by Champaign Park District. Click here for information.
June 18, 2:00-4:00 p.m. The Lake House in Crystal Lake Park, Urbana Music, food, and MTD’s Black history bus sponsored by Urbana Park District. Click here for information.
June 19, 10:00 a.m. Champaign

Freedom Bike Ride from Human Kinetics Park on Market Street to Randolph Street Community Garden. Food, jazz and voter registration at the end of the bike ride. Click here for more information.

June 19, Noon-6:00 p.m. Dana Colbert Park, 203 E. Church St., Savoy Juneteenth celebration at the Colbert Pavilion

Friday’s event in downtown Champaign will have a 360 photo booth, MTD’s Juneteenth Mobile Bus Exhibit, Mama Duke’s Food Truck, art, music, and poetry. Everything except the food is free to the public.

Second and third graders at Booker T. Washington Elementary School created Juneteenth-inspired art pieces. Those will be on exhibition on the second floor of Illinois Terminal in the Amtrak waiting area.

The national Black anthem will be sung by Ameriah Lockett and Music will be provided by DJ BJ Clark. 

Urbana poets Ja Nelle Davenport Pleasure and Danyla Nash will perform at the event as well. 

Juneteenth is a newly recognized federal holiday that commemorates when enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 2021, Joe Biden signed an act to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday into law. Shortly after, a committee was formed at the MTD.

“The committee wanted MTD to use its resources to be at the forefront of celebrating the holiday and educating people,” said Amy Snyder, MTD Chief of Staff.

Snyder said that they would have liked to have held an event like this sooner for Juneteenth, but pandemic recovery made it difficult. 

“This year, we were able to dedicate the resources and the personpower a little bit better than we could have last year,” said Snyder. 

She said that Juneteenth as a holiday represents an acknowledgment of America’s disgraceful history with slavery – and they too have a duty to acknowledge it.

“We as a public service entity, who provides access and opportunity for all needs to be aware and an advocate for social change,” said Snyder. 

Snyder said they estimate about 70 people showing up over the course of the two hours and depending on how things go they will open to continuing this event annually. 

“My hope is that this is just a fun event that gets people excited and educated and brings the community together around Illinois Terminal,” said Snyder. 

Picture of Mae Antar

Mae Antar

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