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With Paid Holiday On Hold, Aldermen Renew Effort For Chicago To Officially Recognize Juneteenth

A new effort could make Juneteenth the second commemorative holiday in the city.

Juneteenth 2019
Black Remembrance Project
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CITY HALL — As the city gears up to celebrate Juneteenth, two aldermen are renewing their efforts to create a city holiday for the day that recognizes the end of slavery.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) will introduce an ordinance at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that would add Juneteenth as an observed holiday in the city. Currently, the city holidays include its twelve official paid days off, plus the commemoration of the city’s founding and of its founder, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, and marks the day in 1865 that troops arrived in Texas to free enslaved Americans — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. If Hadden’s ordinance is passed, Juneteenth would be the second commemorative holiday outlined in city code.

Hadden and Ald. David Moore (17th) previously introduced a measure to make Juneteenth a paid city holiday, but that effort is subject to budget considerations and labor negotiations.

Adding a 13th paid holiday for city employees is estimated to cost around $100 million, and the item would be subject to contract talks with labor unions that would drag through 2023, Hadden said.

Hadden said it is important for the city to officially recognize Juneteenth, even if a paid holiday is still years from being a reality.

“I”m confident we’ll get there,” Hadden said of the Juneteenth paid holiday effort. “Let’s go for the unpaid holiday [now]. We want to codify that as something the city celebrates annually.”

Hadden and Moore’s paid holiday initiative has the support of 41 colleagues, so the commemorative effort will likely not be controversial, Hadden said.

RELATED: It’s Time To Make Juneteenth An Official City Holiday, Ald. Says: Black History Is American History’

Also at Wednesday’s council meeting, Hadden and Moore will introduce a resolution recognizing Juneteenth as a celebration of freedom from slavery and calling on the city to officially recognize and designate every June 19th as the celebration of Juneteenth.

The resolution also recognizes the efforts Black Chicagoans who have shaped the city’s legacy and history.

“It is not enough for the City of Chicago to just have parades, barbecues and events celebrating Juneteenth,” the resolution reads. “Chicago must recognize Juneteenth as an official City holiday, which will help support the campaign to recognize ‘Juneteenth National Freedom Day’ as a national holiday.”

The ordinance making Juneteenth a holiday will not be enacted before Friday’s celebrations. Hadden and other groups had been planning a first-of-its-kind official city celebration of Juneteenth, but the coronavirus pandemic put an end to those plans. But Chicagoans will still mark the occasion in social distance-friendly ways.

The first annual Juneteenth citywide car caravan is being organized by Black Culture Week. The event will also include food giveaways, a flag raising ceremony and a spoken word concert.

In Rogers Park, the Rebuild Foundation and Experimental Sound Studio will host a Juneteenth livestreamed concert. Hadden’s office will also post fliers around the community seeking to get citizens to support the effort to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, she said.

While Juneteenth should be officially recognized and celebrated every year, Hadden said the effort to have the day marked as a holiday carries “extra weight this year,” given widespread protests denouncing systemic racial injustice and racist police practices.

“While we’re fighting aggressive injustice, it’s also very important to celebrate the victories we’ve had,” Hadden said. “Even with the distance we have to go, we’ve come a long way.”

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