Hyde Park community celebrates Juneteenth with market, reflecting on holiday

By Izzie Rutledge, Staff Reporter

Vendors and community members gathered at The Promontory in Hyde Park to celebrate Juneteenth on Monday, June 19, at Thank You Chicago’s annual Juneteenth Market. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas were informed of their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

The holiday, which began in Galveston, Texas, and has been celebrated across the country for over a century since, was federally recognized in 2021. And each year, events and festivities take place across Chicago to observe the important date.

At The Promontory, Black-owned businesses set up booths selling products from clothing to candles to skin care. Throughout the space, attendees danced to music by performing artists like DJ Fresh Da Juice, the music ringing out through loud speakers.

Brandon Echols, a vendor with CandleWickCare, said he was happy to be a part of the community event because of all of the Black businesses present.

“I’m excited for everyone to get out and enjoy the Black market, shop Black, Black-owned businesses; it’s a beautiful thing to be overall,” Echols said.

Nearby was NiV Living’s booth, and together Owner Toddale Smith and Director Pilar Jett set up shop to sell all natural hair and skincare products at the event.

Smith said she grew up celebrating Juneteenth in her native Minnesota, but didn’t understand the depth of the holiday until she got older. “I feel like we need to teach that younger, so that people can explore that, and you don’t find it out so late,” she said.

Jett added that she was not familiar with the holiday until recently, but she has enjoyed getting involved.

“It’s really only been like three years. I really didn’t know much about it until someone mentioned ‘Oh, there’s a Juneteenth event going on’,” she said. “So I was like, ‘What is that?’”

It made her “really proud” to learn the meaning behind the holiday.

Similarly, event attendee Ashley Cooper was not always well-acquainted with Juneteenth. “In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten more information about the celebration, the bondage, the freedom and why we’re here today,” she said.

Cooper attended with her husband and said she hopes to see a more widespread engagement with Juneteenth celebrations in the future. “I would just say massive gatherings, you know, parades[s] and that all community and walks of life would begin to participate and celebrate with us,” she said. “I think it’s time for everyone to come together and really celebrate this day and recognize who we are as a people.”

Echols said he sees a future where the holiday is celebrated as equal to others such as Independence Day. “It’s always good to just be in the midst of something different, something important and something just as extravagant as any other holiday,” he said.

Though Juneteenth is an important annual commemoration, Smith said it should be recognized daily. “Let’s have a celebration with it amongst ourselves every single day and just kind-of expand that,” Smith said.