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The month of June is past, and many of us missed the opportunity to celebrate Juneteenth. This holiday is observed on the third Saturday in June and celebrates the end of slavery in this country. The first time I heard of Juneteenth was at a back yard barbecue at the home of Commissioner Rory Hoskins.

Hoskins is from Galveston, Texas, where the holiday originated. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger came to Galveston and proclaimed that all slaves had been freed. At that time, one-third of Texas’ population, 200,000 African-Americans, were held in bondage.

Naturally, Hoskins’ hometown was the first to celebrate Juneteenth and Texas the first to recognize it as a state holiday. Since then, Juneteenth observances have spread to at least 25 states.

Mayor Anthony Calderone sponsored a resolution marking Juneteenth in Forest Park and was among the Italian-American mayors who marched in the 13th Annual Freedom Parade on June 21. The resolution notes that 11.5 million Africans survived the passage to America where they served as slaves during a 200-year period.

Hoskins is not alone in his passionate support for Juneteenth. In 2005, a Juneteenth Emancipation Garden was dedicated in Chicago and Baltimore hosted a huge mid-June festival celebrating African-American heritage.

Supporters are hoping the holiday will expand, but they are not looking for another day off from work. Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley rejected a proposal to make June 19 a paid holiday, because it would cost the city millions.

Hoskins said he sees the holiday as a chance for families and friends to reconnect, while marking the end of the saddest chapter in American history. He also used the occasion to help reconnect Forest Park with Maywood. Hoskins hosted a late-June pool party and invited a number of dignitaries from our neighbor to the west.

Among them was Lennel Grace, the unofficial historian of Maywood, who spoke of re-establishing the strong ties that used to unite the two villages. Grace was one of the driving forces behind the pedestrian bridge that now links Forest Park to Maywood.

It’s unclear whether Forest Park will embrace Juneteenth in the coming years. Will we have a parade here and save the mayor a trip to South Shore? Will we have a formal observance, or quiet family barbecues?

According to the mayor’s proclamation, we didn’t entirely miss Juneteenth this year. He sees June 19, along with the Fourth of July, as completing the “cycle of freedom” for America’s Independence Day observances.

So, when we’re up at the park, watching the star shells burst, we can remember that our fight for freedom doesn’t just center on the Fourth of July. A new freedom was founded on a summer day on Galveston Island. Juneteenth is a holiday that unites all Americans in our effort to bridge racial divisions.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.