To the Editor:

In December 2020, it was an honor for me, along with my colleagues on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, to vote unanimously to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for County employees. In fact, our Board of Commissioners led this action before the federal government — in which President Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in June 2021.

For us in Cook County, it was a particularly special resolution to pass at the end of the 2020 year that was marked by turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial injustice across our country. Earlier that year, our nation mourned the police murder of George Floyd and we renewed our commitment to eradicating the racism so deeply entrenched in our systems and institutions.

Celebrated annually on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. While we cannot ignore our country’s egregious past with slavery and the heavy burden this holds in the hearts and minds of African American people to this day, Juneteenth is also an opportunity to celebrate joy amongst sorrow.

Juneteenth is an annual opportunity to celebrate Black history, culture and joy. I’m hopeful that the commemoration of Juneteenth as a holiday at all levels of government will encourage individuals to learn more about the history and importance of the day.

This year, in collaboration with Cook County Commissioners Dennis Deer, Brandon Johnson, Stanley Moore, as well as Black Men United, Black Fire Brigade and PepsiCo, I’m proud to host the inaugural 3rd District Juneteenth Peace Rally on Monday, June 20 at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This will be a special occasion to celebrate the holiday, uplift our community, and enjoy a BBQ with friends and neighbors. You can find out more information at www.CommissionerLowry.com.

At the Peace Rally, we will also make a call to action to end the gun violence that plagues our city and county. Earlier this year, I was the main sponsor for the Cook County resolution that brought together the Health and Hospital committee and the Criminal Justice Committee to review reports and discuss testimony from nine separately elected Cook County officials and departments involved in the criminal justice system. This was a first-of-its-kind convening to discuss and address an Anti-Violence Strategy in Cook County. We know we must continue to use all resources and bring together all of our community stakeholders to seek solutions to end gun violence and heal our communities.

We are also hosting the Juneteenth Illinois Conference on Thursday, June 16 and Friday, June 17 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W Jackson Blvd. The event will feature educational panels, career and resource fairs, and more. You can visit www.JuneteenthIllinois.com for the full details for the conference.

The existence of Juneteenth events, parades and celebrations are becoming more commonplace, and I’m grateful for what this symbolizes for our nation moving forward. Our children are learning about Juneteenth at school, and there is a recognition that Black history is American history. I hope you take some time to get out into your community this year to learn more about and celebrate Juneteenth.

Bill Lowry

Lowry is the local Cook County commissioner for the 3rd district. 

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