June 17, 2021
Over the past year, all of us have been reminded of the unrelenting power and promise of a free, inclusive society. At the same time, we have been reminded of just how unevenly freedom has been achieved and preserved since the founding of this country. It has been fully realized by some while remaining elusive and unfulfilled for others. It is in these remarkably different stories – and, tragically far too often, these historic injustices – that we perceive the American experience in its totality and truly understand what it means to be an equitable, honest and accountable nation.
For those who may not be familiar, Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19 and commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were finally informed that they were free – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and two months after the Civil War ended. Its name is derived from a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” and represents hope, liberty and resiliency among Black Americans by confronting the harsh but fundamental realities underpinning history.
That is why I am pleased to announce that, beginning in June 2022, Juneteenth will become an official, paid holiday for all full-time City of Columbus employees. This year, all city employees are being given an additional paid holiday to use at their discretion and in coordination with their supervisors. I am grateful to all of our employee unions for agreeing to this change. We will also be illuminating City Hall red, black and green – the colors of the Pan-African flag – June 18-20.
Remembrance and reflection alone, however, are not enough. We must also recommit to eliminating racism wherever it exists and building an anti-racist community through meaningful action. I encourage everyone, no matter your background, to learn from the lessons of our collective past, to consider the vital work that still lies ahead and to move forward, together, with renewed optimism and determination.
Have a safe and happy Juneteenth!