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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

With Black Culture Week, West Siders Commemorate Juneteenth While Focusing On Wellness And The Ongoing Fight For Equity

The weeklong festival was organized by West Side neighborhood groups and runs through Sunday. "Health and wellness is part of Juneteenth inherently because of what freedom means. It is connected to repair — repair from the harm that has been done and continues to be done."

Kaleigh Jones of Roseland holds up her fist during the Juneteenth Celebration ReBuild Black Wall Street in Washington Park on Friday, June 19, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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GARFIELD PARK — West Side neighborhood groups are celebrating Juneteenth with a week of events promoting a uniquely Black culture of physical and mental wellness.

Black Culture Week, which runs through Sunday, marks the history of Juneteenth and the ongoing struggle for political and economic liberation of Black people. The event will include a conference on Black culture, a Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony, a citywide car caravan and parade, live music and worship services.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Enslaved people were declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but many Black people in the South remained in captivity for more than two years. The holiday recognizes the anniversary of when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to ensured enslaved people were liberated.

Slavery was officially abolished in the United States by the 13th Amendment, ratified later that year.

“The celebration of Juneteenth is the recognition to the harm that’s been done. You can’t just recognize the harm that’s been done; you also have to be a symbol of the repair,” said TJ Crawford, founder of Black Culture Week and director of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative.

The holiday is also a reminder “we’re still shaking free of the shackles of institutional racism,” Crawford said.

Among the most critical battlegrounds in the fight for equity today is in health and wellness. Black people face massive disparities in health outcomes caused by a lack of access to clinical and preventative care, as well as social conditions like poverty, food scarcity, health care deserts, educational gaps and crime.

“Health and wellness is part of Juneteenth inherently because of what freedom means. It is connected to repair — repair from the harm that has been done and continues to be done,” Crawford said.

Developing a culture that centers wellness is a key part of the Black Culture Week festival organized by the Black Culture Collective, a coalition of West Side neighborhood groups, including the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative, the Black Remembrance Project, Firebrand Arts Network and the MAAFA Redemption Project.

“Black culture is beautiful, it is nurturing, and it has sustained us throughout our entire time in this country,” said Brandi Booker, director of Firebrand Arts Network.

For a full calendar of the events, see the Black Culture Week schedule online.

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