Forest Parker Joseph Biosah cools off at the pool. | File photo

This is the ninth year that former Forest Park commissioner Rory Hoskins will be hosting a Juneteenth Celebration at the Forest Park pool.  When he started out in 2008, his was the only “show” in the area.  Lately, however, Juneteenth seems to be gaining traction as an event which, especially for African Americans, serves as a meaningful symbol of freedom.

For example, Michael Rogers has been hosting Juneteenth in Maywood for the last three years.  Anthony Clark and the Suburban Unity Alliance is teaming up with the Oak Park Library to hold a Juneteenth event for the first time this Sunday afternoon.

Rogers tipped his hat to Hoskins saying, “Rory has indeed been an inspiration and has brought significant attention to Juneteenth in the area. For years he has pushed to get some activities attended and has shown annual events can be sustained. Maywood has followed that lead and for the third consecutive year will do an event simulating the Juneteenth historic announcement.”

Clark acknowledged the initiative of Hoskins saying, “I love what Rory is doing and has done and it’s about communities collaborating and working together. I look forward to us building on the celebration while continuing to build community bridges.”

Rogers emphasized that the Maywood Juneteenth, which the Village of Maywood is sponsoring, is intended to complement the one in Forest Park, saying, “Ours is during the day and is careful to build on the Forest Park event, not to compete.”  He added that the Maywood Museum will host connecting activities after the event.  

Both Hoskins and Rogers made it clear that the Juneteenth celebrations are about changing people’s thinking and understanding.  Hoskins says most people in this country avoid talking about unpleasant topics like slavery and race but added, “I think our country is evolving now to a point where we can have discussions about slavery and the symbols that are associated with slavery.” 

Rogers said, “The Juneteenth celebration in Maywood is about history and celebration of emancipation and progress.  It is not aimed at any controversy but at knowledge and history. Too many people don’t know much about or celebrate emancipation from slavery. If areas with large black population don’t celebrate and inform, it’s not likely to occur.”

Clark spoke from his own personal experience.  “As a black male, growing up in Oak Park, I always struggled with a lack of ownership of my own identity and history.  The Suburban Unity Alliance and the Oak Park Public Library are looking to not only educate black youth but each and every member of our community, so that we all can recognize the importance of Juneteenth and how to identify where we each intersect and how we can work together to continue to build on the foundation Juneteenth has laid.”

The Maywood Juneteenth celebration is Saturday from 11 a.m. till noon and will be held at the corner of Lake Street and First Avenue.  Forest Park’s event is at the Forest Park Pool from 8 p.m. till 11 p.m. Oak Park’s is on Sunday at the Oak Park Library from 2 p.m. till 5 p.m.  All are free of charge.

The Forest Park Review is among several long-time sponsors of the event in Forest Park.