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CHICAGO — Runners came out to celebrate Juneteenth and spread awareness by participating in a 5K on the West Side Saturday morning.

The sounds of Latonya Nelson’s gym shoes hitting the pavement were one of the hundreds that filled the air of Garfield Park.

“This is a great start. Just join us. I don’t care where you are, who you are, if you come with a positive message and you want to support this and change the world, let’s start here,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s motivation was rooted in optimism.

“Something like this is so important because to me it all goes hand in hand; mental health, physical well-being, and positivity,” Nelson said.

The event was organized by Peace Runner 773 to help raise funds for a local youth football team and bring awareness to the Garfield Park community.

“I want people to know that there are a lack of resources out here. It’s a desert out here. So we want to revitalize the area, we want to bring resources to this area, provided for the community. That’s why we say ‘Our community, Our health,’ Peace Runner 773 vice president Dominque Clay said.

While attendees walked and ran, others prepared for the 8th annual Garfield Park Parade. Adrienne Hawkins-turner is the parade organizer.

“This is all about community and how we can work together and support each other,” she said.

Hawkins-Turner reflected on the meaning and history behind Juneteenth.

“Many of us look at this as our Independence Day. We celebrate July 4th because it’s the independence Day of the country, but for African Americans, that’s what Juneteenth is, an opportunity for us to say ‘we are finally acknowledged,’ and this is a celebration of that. It’s a sad part of our history, but it’s an important part of our history.”