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Juneteenth in Downtown Joliet is just weeks away

Toni Greathouse

Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area History Museum, worked his magic at City Hall to wave the entry fee for the Juneteenth, June 19, event.

Greg has been a godsend for Juneteenth in Downtown Joliet. We reconnected late in 2021 at an event featuring local Black artists sponsored by Joliet Focus and the Joliet Herald-News. Paraphrasing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “If you dare take the first step in faith the staircase will appear.” This the only way to describe how a serendipitous conversation formed the launchpad for the Father’s Day event.

Juneteenth Downtown Joliet

Juneteenth is a gargantuan idea planned to incrementally unfold over the next decade. Had it not been for Greg’s insistence on starting small as the path to build to the big vision it may have never gotten off the ground. Low-key, perfection is my kryptonite. My gift - creative clarity - doubles as a curse. Puzzles fascinate me. The challenge of fitting disparate pieces to form a cohesive picture excites me. That’s what assembling the components of Juneteenth has been like. Although the vision pitched across downtown for the better part of 18 months is crystal clear and working to achieve the big picture has been a humbling experience.

Bottomline, building something out of nothing takes more than an overactive imagination and sheer force of will. It has required the support of a grassroots group of small business owners. I owe a debt of gratitude to them. They believed uniting would move the needle from concept to completion.

Greg was embarking on the task of expanding the museum’s local and national Black History collection. Crossing paths last winter was a fortuitous circumstance that collided when preparation met opportunity.

Going forward, the Joliet Area History Museum will play a pivotal role in the annual event starring as Juneteenth’s educational resource. The point of creating this platform was to carve out space to look, listen and learn about Black History. The museum authenticates our efforts, supplying historically accurate information vetted to bridge gaps in understanding.

How can 400 years of history be covered into one day?

First thing, we considered incorporating learning through play. Next, we repurposed the game of bingo correlating cards with Black History facts. Then we added a twist. On Juneteenth (June 19), digital downloads of the question sheet will be available. Players will be extended 365 days to work alone or preferable with family and friends to find answers. The following year, winners (who’ve collected answers) will earn cash prizes. Details will be released at the event. See you there.

Juneteenth in Downtown Joliet

Who: Everyone is invited

What: Juneteenth in Downtown Joliet

When: Noon to 4 p.m., Father’s Day (Sunday) June 19

Where: Joliet Area History Museum, 204 Ottawa St. Joliet, free entry

How: Caricature ARTivism + Black History Bingo

Why: Look & Listen & Learn

Website: Juneteenthwalkoflife.com

Toni Greathouse is an “Entrepreneurial Evangelist” whose purpose is spelled out in the letters of her first name - serving as a reminder to Take On Neighborhood Interaction & Try Out Novel Ideas.