CHICAGO (CBS) -- Celebrating Juneteenth has always been a Chicago tradition, but it has never been a federal holiday – until now.
Throughout the city, people have marked Juneteenth on Saturday in a number of ways – all joyous and hopeful. CBS 2's Meredith Barack visited one celebration downtown, and another in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood on the city's South Side.
Barack spoke to several people Saturday who said they are overjoyed Juneteenth is finally being recognized as a federal holiday.
They said it is a step in the right direction, giving them even more reason for these celebrations.
Downtown, hundreds marched to commemorate freedom and to celebrate Black culture. It is something that Elisa Odunukwe wanted to make sure her daughter was a part of.
"I think with her just being 17 months and actually going to a Juneteenth celebration is the start of what's going to happen for her in the future," Odunukwe said. "I don't even think I even went to my first Juneteenth celebration until I was in college, maybe - you know, it just wasn't available."
In Jeffery Manor, that is what Tammy Johnson hopes to change.
"The goal this year is to have Juneteenth become where you want to be in Chicago every year," she said.
Between basketball games and music blaring, it is really about what took place on June 19, 1865.
That day, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished, freeing the last of enslaved African Americans still being held in the Confederacy - more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
"If we don't celebrate anything in this country, we should definitely celebrate Juneteenth," Johnson said.
And she wants everyone - especially the young people - to remember why they're here.
"It's not just a party - it's way more than that," Johnson said. "It's very important for them to understand and for future children to already have built into their education the truth about what happened in America.
It is something that people like Miss Vera reflect on - leaving her overwhelmed with how far we've come, and where we are headed.
"I'm totally speechless," she said. "I really, I don't even have words because I'm so - my family will tell you I cry over anything, and I'm really tearing up."
The festivities at Bradley Park, 9729 S. Yates Blvd. are happening until 8 p.m. Saturday - so you still have plenty of time to come out and join the celebration.
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