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Freedom Highway: Evanston's 1st Juneteenth Parade a Wrap!

About 100 cars participated in Evanston's first Juneteenth parade (Covid-19 edition), which started at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) at 10 a.m. this morning and made its way down Dodge to the Levy Center at Oakton.

Along the route, Evanstonians with signs, bells, and horns cheered the drivers on.

In addition to Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, the parade's Grand Marshall, Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite, State Senator Laura Fine and State Reps. Robyn Gabel and Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz participated in the parade.

At the Levy Center, parade organizer Kemone Hendricks and Ald. Simmons made brief remarks to the festive crowd.

"I can't wait for next year for this to be larger, everyone marching down the street" Kemone told the crowd. "Black lives matter. Black businesses matter. I'm so excited today was able to happen."

Ald. Simmons thanked Kemone for her vision and stamina and her quick pivot to made the anticipated parade a virtual "parade" online last week and a car parade.

"Right now we in Evanston have really highlighted our community of Black people. I feel we are being heard. I'm so grateful for our allies," said Rue Simmons.

"I appreciate everyone who has learned about Juneteenth, many people didn't know about Juneteenth. Thank you for being open to learning, and receiving and showing up on behalf of Black lives," she said.

"I am grateful, but at the same I'm still enraged. It's taken so long for us to get here. But I'm still appreciating that we're here now, and believing that everyone is committed to moving and advancing the conversation for Black lives matter forward. It's amazing that Evanston is the first to support reparations in this nation."

Rue Simmons said she cried along the whole parade route.

"Every time someone waved and honked in support of Black lives, I cried," she said.

"I have a Black son who's 24 years old and lives out of state, and I call him every day to say 'Have you made it home okay?' I have a Black grandson who's growing up in this community and I'm concerned for what his experience will be. But I'm so grateful that I'm doing this life in Evanston right now and that I'm able to use my voice and be supportive of community, of leaders like Kemone who are really committed to Black lives."

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