Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday that the City of Philadelphia designates Juneteenth as an official City holiday. As a result, this Friday, June 19, 2020, City offices and facilities will be closed to the public to observe Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
“For the past few years I’ve had the privilege of participating in our city’s annual Juneteenth parade and festival, which deepened my appreciation for this important holiday,” said Kenney said. “Juneteenth has a unique cultural and historical significance; it symbolizes freedom, represents the triumph of emancipation, and marks a day of reflection. Now more than ever, it’s critically important to acknowledge America’s original sin of slavery—something we as a nation have never atoned for. The only way to dismantle the institutional racism and inequalities that continue to disenfranchise Black Philadelphians is to look critically at how we got here, and make much-needed changes to the governmental systems that allow inequality to persist. This designation of Juneteenth represents our administration’s commitment to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities as well as our understanding of the magnitude of work that lies ahead.”
When deciding to make this designation, Mayor Kenney consulted with members of the City’s Reconciliation Steering Committee, a group established two weeks ago to lead the path of reconciliation and healing, focused on increasing racial equity, and enacting meaningful reforms to advance social and economic justice. The committee overwhelmingly agreed on designating Juneteenth as an official holiday in order to increase the education of our past and connection with our communities.
The designation, which will be done using an executive order, is for the year 2020. The administration will pursue all necessary steps to ensure Juneteenth continues to be an official City holiday in Philadelphia for years to come.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to ensure that slaves were freed. The troops arrived two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln. Juneteenth is currently recognized as a state holiday or day of observance in 47 states and the District of Columbia. More details about the history of Juneteenth can be found in the Mayor’s Executive Order No 4-20.
“We are thrilled that Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia have moved to make Juneteenth an official City holiday,” said Michael Rashid, CEO of PA Juneteenth Initiative, Inc. “Mayor Kenney has always championed diversity. This is another demonstration of his commitment to correct past wrongs and honor the value of citizens whose humanity is often overlooked.”
In the spirit of solidarity and a continued commitment to anti-racism, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D., announced Tuesday that the District will also be closed on Friday, June 19 in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday. “Juneteenth is a day of incredible significance for African Americans and our entire nation, and we are proud to honor this day together as a District,” Hite wrote in a letter to District employees that also included suggested ideas to honor the Juneteenth legacy, such as coordinating a day of action to combat racism and racial injustice and taking the time to build and deepen relationships with people who have the most marginalized identities. Mayor Kenney added, “It’s not lost on me that many members of our City’s workforce are hurting right now, so I hope that this day off affords us all time for healing and reflection. I also hope that other local organizations will join us in celebrating Juneteenth, and further affirming that Black Lives Matter in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. This is one small but meaningful step toward repairing the damages inflicted on Black Americans throughout our country’s history.”
“On behalf of the Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival, I want to thank Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia for declaring Juneteenth a City holiday. Since Philadelphia is the city where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed declaring America’s independence from England, it is appropriate for this city to recognize and celebrate the end of slavery by making Juneteenth a holiday,” said Ali Salahuddin, COO, PA Juneteenth Initiative, Inc. On Juneteenth, Mayor Kenney will participate in a press conference with the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative and the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium at 9:30 a.m. at Global Leadership Academy. Located at 5200 Pine Street, Global Leadership Academy is across the street from Malcolm X Park—the location of last year’s festival, believed to be the largest Juneteenth celebration in the nation with 25,000 participants.
City Services on Juneteenth: All City of Philadelphia offices will be closed and City services curtailed on Friday, June 19, 2020, for Juneteenth. All City buildings remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trash will not be collected on Friday, June 19. Residents who normally have collection on Friday should set out their trash on Friday evening after 5 p.m. for collection on Saturday.