On June 20, Forest Park residents are invited to gather and celebrate Juneteenth from 8:15 to 10 p.m. at the pool. This is the sixth year the village has celebrated this holiday, which marks the end of the saddest chapter in American history. 

Juneteenth was first observed in June 1865, two months after the end of the Civil War. It was created to commemorate the end of slavery. This holiday is mostly celebrated in the South but it was brought to Forest Park by former Commissioner Rory Hoskins.

Arriving in Forest Park in 2007 from Galveston, Texas, Hoskins decided to bring this tradition with him. In 2009, the only African American elected official in Forest Park history, got the OK to hold a Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth is usually celebrated on June 19th. The name actually comes from Creole and reflects how slaves used to pronounce “June Nineteenth” in their dialect. 

 “Slavery is still an uncomfortable topic for everybody,” Hoskins observed. “Some say, ‘Can’t we just get past that?’ or ‘That’s ancient history,’ but it’s an important aspect of American history. Slavery existed before the U.S. came into being. This institution requires examination by Americans from all backgrounds.”

Hoskins explained this to Middle School and Field Stevenson students during a rousing address at their pep rally on May 29. One of the Middle School boys already knew about Juneteenth. Others were excited by Hoskins’ invitation to a pool party. 

After his remarks, he recounted how slavery existed in North America from 1619 to 1865. 

“For 240 years, black people were treated cruelly. It was even illegal to educate a slave,” he said, noting that black children make up the majority in Forest Park schools. He sees Juneteenth as a celebration for the village’s African American population.

However, Hoskins also sees this family-friendly event as a great way to bring neighbors together and break down social boundaries. He also insisted on inviting Forest Park students to the celebration. 

“We will have hot dogs for up to 500 kids,” Hoskins said. “Minor children should be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. Swimwear is required.” There will also be a dance party, featuring the musical stylings of DJ Ryan Russ.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.