Pritzker proclaims Juneteenth in Illinois
Michelle Duster, Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, Haki Madhubuti honored in ceremony at Thompson Center
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Saying, “Change is slow and painful and not always linear,” while throwing shade at the White House, Gov. J.B. Pritzker officially proclaimed Wednesday “Juneteenth in Illinois” in a ceremony honoring three African-American activists at the Thompson Center.
Juneteenth celebrates the events of June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with word that the Confederacy had surrendered in the Civil War and bearing a proclamation known as General Order 3, which began: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
It has come to generally mark the end of slavery across the nation as the day President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation took effect following the Civil War.
Pritzker recited Granger’s proclamation, pointedly adding, “The battle for absolute equality was not won … and it continues today.
“Change is slow and painful and not always linear,” Pritzker said. “That especially feels true today with the guy that’s occupying the White House,” of course meaning President Trump.
Yet Pritzker added that sometimes, after long struggles, the pace of change increases, and he touted the achievements of his own government as “the most diverse administration in the state’s history.”
Pritzker joined in honoring three African-American Chicagoans receiving awards from the Illinois Human Rights Council: Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, whose Chicago Defender Charities produces the annual Bud Billiken Parade, Michelle Duster, who recently succeeded in having a Chicago street named after her great-grandmother Ida B. Wells, and Haki Madhubuti, a poet and author who founded Third World Press in 1967 and turned it into the largest independent African-American-owned publisher in the nation.
Pritzker called them “heroes of today” and said they were part of the initiatives his administration had pushed through. Drawing from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop historical musical “Hamilton,” Pritzker added, “If we put the right people in ‘the room where it happens,’ change will come faster.”
Pritzker’s Juneteenth proclamation made a point to “urge all Illinois residents to reflect on our country’s history, future, and the unequivocal importance of equality and equity for all.”
In Washington, D.C., the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties marked Juneteenth with a hearing on reparations for slavery including testimony from author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has argued for reparations. The hearing drew a packed house and heated arguments on both sides.