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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Declaring its commitment to freedom, achievement and equality, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) commemorated Juneteenth with a flag raising ceremony and parade participation.

Commissioners and staff paused on June 14 to reflect on the holiday and raise the Juneteenth flag at the Barbara J. McGowan Main Office Building and at all seven water reclamation plants.   

Board of Commissioners raise the Juneteenth flag
(From L to R): MWRD Executive Director Brian A. Perkovich, Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos, former MWRD Vice President Barbara J. McGowan, President Kari K. Steele, Vice President Patricia Theresa Flynn and Commissioner Yumeka Brown display the Juneteenth flag.

“As we celebrate Juneteenth and its growing popularity, it is important to look back at its meaning and reflect on the liberties we cherish today,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “Like access to clean water and the services that the MWRD provides, we recognize the importance of this freedom and the opportunities that stand before us.”

Juneteenth is a federal holiday commemorating the end to slavery in the United States. Deriving its name from combining "June" and "nineteenth," it is celebrated on the anniversary of the order issued by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved persons of African descent in Texas. 

Juneteenth Flag Raising at all water reclamation plants

Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth has since been observed annually throughout the United States, growing in recognition in the Chicago area. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, creating a federal holiday. Although the federal government did not observe Juneteenth as a national holiday until 2021, two years prior, the MWRD offered the day as a paid optional holiday, the first in Cook County to do so.

The MWRD also participated in the 10th Annual Chicago Juneteenth Parade on June 15, marching down Madison Street in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, from Francisco Avenue to Central Park Avenue, where parade organizers held a picnic event marking the occasion in Garfield Park. 

“We observe Juneteenth to celebrate freedom, achievement, and racial equality,” said MWRD Commissioner Yumeka Brown. “On Juneteenth, we acknowledge our past, while committing to a future of preserving these values and the diverse communities we serve and represent.”

The Juneteenth flag holds special meaning in its symbols. The star represents freedom for every Black American and pays homage to the lone star of Texas, where the last enslaved people were freed. The burst surrounding the star represents a new beginning for all, and the arc represents a new horizon of opportunities for African Americans.

Commissioner Brown and Cook County Commissioner Tara Stamps attend the Juneteenth parade
MWRD Commissioner Yumeka Brown (on left) was joined by Cook County Commissioner Tara Stamps (1st Dist., right) at the 10th Annual Chicago Juneteenth Parade on June 15.
Commissioner Brown attends Juneteenth parade
Commissioner Brown and staff at the Juneteenth parade on June 15
Press Release
Awards and Announcements, Events

Established in 1889, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is an award-winning, special purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and stormwater management in Cook County, Illinois.


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