Hundreds of community leaders, faith leaders and several elected officials took part in a march in downtown Chicago Friday, calling for an end to systemic racism on Juneteenth.
Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, is an annual celebration marking the end of the slavery in the U.S. The holiday commemorates a specific date — June 19, 1865, the day many enslaved people in Texas learned they had been freed.
Demonstrators in Chicago gathered at 12 p.m. at Roosevelt and Columbus and marched north on Columbus to Grant Park.
Several elected officials like Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin were in attendance.
Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Community Church in Bronzeville says the movement has five pillars: systemic racism, housing, economic development, physical and mental health as well as pushing for legislation aimed at these goals.
The march marked "the beginning of a citywide movement designed to unite the faith community and residents of this great city in a common cause: the elimination of systemic racism, and so much more," Harris said in a statement.
“Strategically, we chose to start our march and movement at the Christopher Columbus Statue, not just because of its obvious symbolism, but because we want to highlight the deceitful and disruptive foundation upon which this nation was founded," he added.
While marching with participants, Gov. J.B. Pritzker explained two of his top priorities in the fight against racial injustice: criminal justice reform, increasing police accountability and investing in Black communities.
Pritzker also told the crowd that he plans to make Juneteenth a state holiday.
The march to Grant Park was one of several that took place in Chicago Friday to commemorate Juneteenth and call for racial justice.