The Juneteenth Festival weekend of activities on the West Side concluded with a rally downtown Monday.
Organizers of this year’s festival, which took place over three days at Garfield Park beginning last Friday, along with members of the South Austin Coalition, The NAACP Westside Branch and other community groups, gathered at the Thompson Center in the Loop to raise awareness about issues affecting the community.
Participants met at Malcolm X College Monday morning around 10. A walk from the college, 1900 W. Van Buren, to the Thompson was originally scheduled but later cancelled.
Participants nonetheless addressed a number of issues, including the need for treatment-on-demand for ex-offenders and addicts, financial assistance from soaring energy prices and the shuttering of under-performing schools in mostly poor, minority neighborhoods.
“Kids are constantly being shipped out and constantly being dropped from school rolls,” said Bernard Clay, education chair for the Westside Branch NAACP. “It’s a lot of students who don’t have a place to go for a secondary education. We want to keep the pressure on our elected officials to make sure they bring financial resources for education back to the community.”
Rickie Brown, CEO of Juneteenth Chicago, NFP and festival co-organizer, challenged Mayor Daley to do more for the black community.
“It is a shame, Mr. Mayor, that you are not doing anything to help the community that has turned out on several occasions to put you in office,” he said.
Carol Moore, an organizer with Affordable Power to the People, called attention to the need for energy assistance for families. The organization is a CEDA site that processes energy assistance applications.
“Every season we get seniors and people with little kids when their power goes off and their gas and electric is off,” Moore said. “They can’t pay their bills because every year the gas and electric are being raised higher and higher. A lot of these people are on fixed incomes where they can only pay so much.”
Moore said the Affordable Energy Act, House Bill 465, introduced by State Rep. Marlow Colvin (33rd) in 2005, would help families. The bill is currently languishing in the Illinois General Assembly.
“We think that once this bill gets passed, these seniors won’t be struggling and these people with children would be able to survive,” said Moore.
Charles Jackson, deputy director for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said the state has offered about $180 million in bill-payment assistance to 360,000 households throughout the state. Jackson, who spoke at Monday’s rally, said rising energy costs have been major problem for families.
“It’s been really hard on everybody to have prices be as high as they were at one point during the winter,” he said. They have come down, so we’re hoping that they stay down.”