Santa Clara County first to make Juneteenth a public holiday
In light of the recent decision to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, Santa Clara County leaders hope residents become more aware of African American history.
Milan Balinton, executive director of the African American Community Service Agencysaid Juneteenth signifies independence for African Americans.
“What Juneteenth is doing is warning the people we recognize (slavery) happened in America,” Balinton told the San José Spotlight. “It prioritizes what freedom really is for African Americans.”
Derived from the date of June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865 and is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day.
“(Having Juneteenth as a holiday) is an exciting time,” said Helen Kassa, AACSA’s policy and advocacy coordinator. “This means that our story will be recognized and discussed in the classrooms. We hope this will translate into greater impacts in terms of awareness and recognition of disparities in this country.
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday, although this year June 17 is Saturday. Prior to the bill, 47 states, including the District of Columbia, recognized Juneteenth as a holiday or celebration of the state.
But here in California, Santa Clara County was the first to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for county workers. The supervisory board passed the holiday last September and put $ 2.3 million in a contingency fund to pay employees a month before. It is the 13th paid public holiday of the department.
“The decision to recognize this day is a testament to our continued commitment to advancing racial justice and fairness for all community members in our county,” Rocio Luna, deputy county director, said in a statement in San José. Spotlight.
Supervisor Otto Lee said he hopes the recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday at the county level and at the federal level will help educate and raise awareness of the country’s slavery history.
“Having the Juneteenth vacation will certainly raise awareness … of the importance of our history of slavery and the importance of making these changes, educating ourselves and moving forward as a nation, ”Lee told the San José Spotlight.
Balinton said AACSA has been celebrating the holiday for 39 years by creating events for community members to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and celebrate African American culture and history.
“Juinth means a lot in the space of awareness, recognition, celebration of freedom to my community and my people,” Balinton said. “We come together as a community… and celebrate in a country (our ancestors) knew nothing but made the most of it. “
Contact Stéphanie Lam at [email protected] or follow @StephCLam on Twitter.