I wanted to take a moment to address an important occasion that is often overlooked and under-celebrated: Juneteenth. With this letter I would like to share my thoughts on the significance of Juneteenth and why it deserves our attention and support.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, commemorates the liberation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed the end of slavery, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth represents a pivotal moment in American history, signifying the emancipation of enslaved people.

For many of us within the white community, Juneteenth might not have been widely recognized or even acknowledged until recent years. However, it is crucial for us to understand that Juneteenth holds immense importance for all Americans, irrespective of our racial or ethnic backgrounds.

Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the systemic injustices that have plagued our nation. Recognizing the past and its impact on the present allows us to reflect on the legacy of slavery and the ongoing struggle for equality. Juneteenth symbolizes hope, resilience and progress. By acknowledging and commemorating this day, we honor the progress made towards racial equality, while also recognizing the work that still lies ahead.

In conclusion, Juneteenth is a momentous occasion that deserves our attention, respect, and active participation. Riverside, by resolution, was one of the first communities in Illinois to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. I will have the honor of representing Riverside by attending several Juneteenth celebrations over the next couple weeks and at the same time I ask you all to take time to recognize and educate yourselves on the importance of this day.

Joseph Ballerine, village president, Riverside

Ed. Note: Joseph Ballerine first read this statement as part of his president’s report during the June 15 meeting of the Riverside Village Board.