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Philadelphia mayor declares Juneteenth a city holiday

Philadelphia mayor declares Juneteenth a city holiday
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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) announced Tuesday that he has declared Juneteenth an official city holiday this year.

Kenney said in a statement that city offices and facilities will be closed to the public on Friday, June 19, to observe the day, which celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S.

“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,” said Kenney.

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“This designation of Juneteenth represents my administration’s commitment to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities and our understanding of the magnitude of work that lies ahead,” he added.

To permanently establish Juneteenth as a holiday in Philadelphia beyond this year, the city council will have to pass legislation and renegotiate all city holidays with the municipal unions.

“The administration will do whatever is needed to ensure Juneteenth continues to be an official City holiday in Philadelphia for years to come,” Kenney said. 

Juneteenth is the annual marking of June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to tell enslaved people in the state that they were free. 

National upheaval over the killing of unarmed African Americans by police has brought with it renewed calls for states and the federal government to declare Juneteenth a national holiday.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Tuesday he will make Juneteenth a paid holiday for all executive branch employees and introduce a bill making it a statewide paid holiday.

Northam said in his announcement that “it's time we elevate this, not just a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”