Yesterday, Kemone Hendricks, who's organizing next weekend's virtual Juneteenth Parade, set up her pop-up shop, her array of beautiful wares, outside, YoFresh Cafe on Chicago Ave. She was joined by representatives from Young, Black & Lit, an organization that increases access to children's books that center, reflect, and affirm the experiences of Black children.
The event was a huge success, with lots of residents coming by to purchase earrings, yard signs, and necklaces, and enjoying delicious YoFresh treats.
But the joy of the event was disrupted when a white woman pushed through the crowd and approached Kemone.
Here's how Kemone explained what happened:
"So... something terrible happened at the pop-up today. A lady approached me, in the middle of everything, children all around, in front of YoFresh, Black lives matter jewelry all around, and began trying to argue, saying things like, 'Why are we promoting Black Lives Matter?' And 'I believe in 'all lives matter,' and, 'Why do we in America care so much about Black people?' and then attempted to tell me a story about a Black woman who did something wrong to a white a man."
"I was pissed to say the least," Kemone said. "She was also way too ignorant for anyone to get through to her. She was eventually 'booed' away by the crowd. But all I can think about is the young Black children who were there when she was doing this.
I’m exhausted. But I will be at Hecky's Barbecue tomorrow from 12 to 2 p.m.
My people, the ones I know and the ones I don’t know, please come out, cause that was crazy."
This happened. Right here, right now in this time, in this city that so many (white) people call "Heavenston."
After Kemone posted about this experience on her Facebook page, and we shared it on Dear Evanston, she received an outpouring of support.
Today outside Hecky's BBQ, where Kemone held her last of three Juneteenth pop-ups, the line of of people waiting to purchase "merch" and enjoy a Hecky's lunch did not dwindle for a moment for the two hours (and then some) scheduled for the event. Visitors spanned race, culture, and ethnicity, a beautiful representation of Evanston at its best.
In addition, many white Evanstonians who had read about what had happened yesterday on Kemone's post and on Dear Evanston, mobilized and came out specifically prepared to address any racism that might rear its ugly head, so as not to allow the burden of response to fall on Kemone or any Black people who'd come out.
With their presence, they let everyone know they believe that Black lives matter. In person, on the corner of Hecky's, beyond the comfort of computer screens, and posts, and comments.
It was a beautiful event, on a beautiful day, with lots of people arriving from every direction on foot, by bike, and by car, the smell of Hecky's "It's the Sauce" BBQ wafting up to the perfect blue sky.
Only Hecky Powell's absence took away from the joy of the day. Hecky, who had pushed so hard for years to make Juneteenth a more visible celebration in Evanston.
So let's make this Juneteenth a celebration, a statement, a resounding declaration of solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
Of course, there's much more work we need to do besides purchasing merchandise and celebrating Juneteenth. But if Juneteenth doesn't matter at this moment in history, when will it?
This afternoon, Kemone posted her daily Juneteenth update.
"That wraps up this weekend's Juneteenth Popup Shop extravaganza," she wrote. "There was no room for hate here. Thank you to everyone who showed up to support and express kind words. It was so busy I barley got to speak to anyone but it was great to see everyone in person. Special thank you to all the rockstar volunteers for the day! Everyone who said they would come did! I am all out of merch! I am getting more in soon and will update you all."
Don’t forget to tune in starting Friday, June 19 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, June 20 at 6 p.m. for the jam-packed Juneteenth streaming extravaganza, and visit evanstonsjuneteenthparade.com for more information.
Have a good week, everyone, and remember to always be an upstander and never a bystander!