Juneteenth celebration coincides with rally to end War on Drugs

June 17, 2011

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(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
At the Juneteenth celebration, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued a proclamation to honor Juneteenth across Illinois.
(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was among the speakers at the rally to end to the War on Drugs.
(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
At the Thompson Center, a rally to end the War on Drugs occured simultaneously with a celebration of Juneteenth.

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's "War on Drugs." And this weekend is African American emancipation day, otherwise known as Juneteenth.  For some there's a connection easily drawn between the two anniversaries.

A hundred or so people gathered during the Friday lunch hour in the food court of the Thompson Center. They were there to commemorate the end of U.S. slavery in 1865. Chicago radio personality Darryll S. King emceed the event.

At one point she remarked, "But ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls - were the slaves really free? When they were free did they have education, could they write could they read? No."

Just up the escalator and out the door at the Thompson center, hundreds rallied for an end to the War on Drugs. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Father Michael Pfleger and other community leaders lent their voices.

Pfleger whipped up the crowd and said, "There is not a war on drugs, there is a war on the poor and a war on people of color!"

Nancy Michaels works at the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation and is one of the rally's organizers.

Regarding the Juneteenth event happening simultaneously downstairs, she remarked, "There are more black men incarcerated today than there were in 1850, so there's just an interesting irony with this falling on the same day."

Celebrations for Juneteenth will continue throughout the weekend.