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WVPE News

South Bend makes Juneteenth an official city holiday

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Jennifer Weingart
/
WVPE Public Radio

The South Bend Common Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night making Juneteenth an official city holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and celebrates African American culture.

It’s observed every year on June 19, which marks the anniversary of an 1865 Union Army proclamation — General Order No. 3 — that executed and enforced the emancipation proclamation in Texas, which was the last Confederate state with slavery.

After decades of work by activists like Opal Lee, Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year when President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law on June 17, 2021.

Council president Sharon McBride said Monday she’s proud to follow in those footsteps.

“We have a long way to go,” McBride said. “But we are still continuing to make strides.”

Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for all city employees, and Latorya Greene said it should also be a day of service. She spoke on behalf of the Indiana Black Expo during public comment.

“Allow it to be an opportunity for volunteerism,” Greene said. “Not to have a day off, but actually a day on in the community.”

Multiple council members agreed.

The ordinance increases the number of paid holidays for city employees from 9 to 10. Next, a resolution setting Juneteenth as the date for the new holiday will go to the board of public works and come back to the council for final approval.

Kacey Gergely, Mayor James Mueller’s chief of staff, said it will cost the city between $15,000 and $20,000 in holiday and overtime pay and that the city hopes to have the process completed by this June.

Before Juneteenth, the last new federal holiday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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