Juneteenth weekend saw many celebrations across Chicago, including the grand reopening of the DuSable Museum of African American History. The public reopening ceremony took place on the lawn in front of the museum’s main entrance, with guests such as Alder. Jeanette Taylor (20th), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaking about the significance of the Juneteenth holiday.
The ceremony also acknowledged the 60th anniversary of the museum, as a brief but heartfelt speech by Taylor encouraged Chicagoans to support the DuSable Museum by becoming members. “This museum here is to remind us that everything that you love about this country, it came from Black people. We should never, ever forget that,” she said. “So today, my ask of you all is to support our history. Buy a membership, gift a membership, be an ambassador, sponsor a family. This museum cannot, under any circumstances, close on our watch. If it does, shame on us.”
Lightfoot, for her part, commented on the hard impact of COVID-19 on the art community. “So we must recognize that we must continue to support our arts and culture. I've made a commitment to this team and I will say it here publicly, no more will you have to scramble for dollars — I'm going to ask the City Council to give us a line item to support the arts and culture community in our city.”
After Lightfoot’s remarks, Preckwinkle unveiled “Monument Blank Slate: Hope for America” by sculptor Kwame Akoto-Bamfo.
“I came all the way from Ghana, West Africa,” said Akoto-Bamfo, who is bringing the monument on tour across the country. “And I'm here sharing my work on the African American experience. An experience I have not firsthand lived, but I'm here because of a specific tradition, it’s a tradition that everybody here subscribed to once your ancestors were taken off the shores of Africa and you were brought here.”
The end of the ceremony led to eager attendees standing in line to enter the doors of the museum, not only to see the new exhibits but also to enjoy a break from the day’s blazing sun. Food trucks and refreshments were on site for anybody needing a pick-me-up during the program, and guests were even given a complimentary Juneteenth Strawberry Soda, a creation of the late Evanston civil leader Hecky Powell. The label features a picture of Powell’s great-grandfather, Forest L. White, who was a slave. The strawberry drink is symbolic of the resilience and perseverance of the lives lost during the battle for liberation.
On the lawn of the roundhouse across the street from the museum, the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project (PNAP) encouraged members of the public to help paint murals created by students at Statesville Prison. “We've been working on these designs through Zoom for a whole year, and the class developed six mural designs. We're painting three of them today,” said Sarah Ross, who is the co-founder of PNAP. The students were asked to create murals around the theme of police brutality and mass incarceration with a focus on historical roots.
The grand reopening celebration included various activities on the museum campus for the remainder of the day, ending with a block party in partnership with SAVEMONEY that took place on the patio of the roundhouse.