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Festival History

The Story of the First Beverly/Morgan Park Juneteenth Family Festival

The first Juneteenth Family Celebration’s banner

The Beverly/Morgan Park Juneteenth Family festival was originally conceptualized by Shanya Gray, a community member and Board Member of the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative. Shanya, whilst driving through the Beverly neighborhood in February of 2019, reflected upon the need to center and celebrate the multiple cultures that resided within the diverse Beverly/Morgan Park community.

Shanya’s reflection on this one day in February happened in the midst of seeing advertisements for the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but none that recognized or celebrated Black History, especially during Black History Month. You see the Beverly/Morgan Park community, is a historic, middle class community on the Southside of Chicago that comprises of diverse neighbors, primarily of African American and European American origin.

Shanya Gray at the 2021 Juneteenth Family Festival

That one day in February led Shanya to envision a celebratory and educational Juneteenth family celebration in the neighborhood. Coincidentally, around this same time, Jurema Gorham, the founder of Burst Into Books, a literacy organization that serves children on the Southside of Chicago, had reached out to Shanya, in order to form a partnership and have her organization collaborate with Shanya’s Moms of Beverly Facebook Community Group which she co-founded.

Shanya then shared her festival idea with Jurema, who by what Shanya attributes to God or divine interaction, already had a picnic spot reserved in the Dan Ryan woods for her organization at the end of June that same year. Shanya also shared her vision with the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative members at one of their Wednesday night meetings and received immense support to organize such an event. So it began, and together Shanya and Jurema, along with members of the Southwest Diversity Collaborative began to plan the very first Juneteenth Family Festival.

Jurema (left) and Shanya (right) at the very first Juneteenth Family Festival in 2019

The very first festival was a great success with lots of hard work from volunteers and the generosity of community businesses and organizations. 300 people turned out that day to learn about and to celebrate Juneteenth, as well as to have fun. From then, the first festival was established and that is how today, we have the Beverly/Morgan Park Juneteenth Festival.

Pictures from the very first Juneteenth Family Festival in the Dan Ryan Woods. June of 2019

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