PEORIA, Ill. — Communities across Central Illinois came together for Juneteenth celebrations on Saturday.
Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
“We try to enhance our community, to be aware of our culture, African American culture,” said Willie Holton Halbert, the program chair for the Bloomington Juneteenth celebration.
Friends and families came together to celebrate Juneteenth with music and spoken word.
“Our goal is to have everybody come together in a community park and just recognizing how much we have in common as a people,” said Sherry Cannon, the secretary of the Peoria chapter NAACP.
This year, the Peoria celebration focused on unity with a family reunion theme.
“It’s just a day of putting down the worries of trying to fight the other battles we fight all the time and just have a day of celebration,” said Cannon.
Organizers say the event gave the community a chance to enjoy one another.
“Given everything that’s been happening in our city and in our community, we feel that we need to re-energize, reorganize, and inspire family unity again,” said Pastor Marvin Hightower, the president of the Peoria chapter NAACP.
This was the fifth Juneteenth celebration in Peoria and the first in Bloomington.
“Let’s revitalize it this year, let’s get it started. so we decided in march to do this, and the whole community has rallied around us,” said Halbert.
The Bloomington event celebrated the community and their history.
“There’s something for the entire community, to appreciate their heritage and where we’ve come from,” said Halbert.
Organizers in both Peoria and Bloomington hope to continue to host Juneteenth celebrations in years to come.
“We want to continue to celebrate, not just staying in the past or focusing on the past, but using the past as a springboard to move us forward as a community,” Hightower said.