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Juneteenth Can’t Be A City Holiday Because Chicago Can’t Afford It, Mayor Says

Still, a resolution to honor the holiday passed at Wednesday's City Council meeting — even if the city isn't officially celebrating it with a day off.

A person holds a fist out the window of a truck in the Kenwood neighborhood in solidarity with marchers along Drexel Boulevard during the Kids Non-Violent Protest Against Racism on Saturday, June 13, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city couldn’t afford to recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday this year, the mayor said Wednesday — but the City Council did approve a resolution honoring the day.

Juneteenth always falls on June 19 and marks the day when, in 1865, troops arrived in Texas to free enslaved Americans — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday has now grown and is celebrated across the United States, with rallies, car caravans and more planned for Chicago this Friday.

A large group of aldermen had hoped Chicago would officially recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday through an ordinance first introduced in November. That would mean city workers would have the day off.

But that effort stalled in the months since it was introduced. Even proponents of the push acknowledged it would be expensive, with Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) saying it could cost the city $100 million.

Instead, Hadden introduced a resolution at Wednesday’s City Council meeting calling on the city to recognize Juneteenth.

The resolution passed, meaning Chicago will acknowledge the holiday “as a day of observance to reflect on the suffering endured by early African Americans, promote public awareness and celebrate African American freedom and achievement” — even if it isn’t officially celebrating it with a day off.

RELATED: Here’s A List Of Juneteenth Celebrations In Chicago To Lift Your Spirits

Mayor Lori Lightfoot — who supported the resolution — said the city simply didn’t have the money for a 13th paid day off, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The holiday is important and has historic meaning, Lightfoot said, but it’s a “difficult budgetary time for the city.” Chicago is facing a $700 million budget shortfall this year due to the pandemic.

Still, aldermen said during the meeting the city should adopt the holiday in the future — particularly because of Chicago’s rich Black history.

The city was founded by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a man of African descent, and served as a refuge for millions of Black people who moved to the city during the Great Migration, the resolution notes.

“It is not enough for the city of Chicago to just have parades, barbecues and events celebrating Juneteenth. Chicago must support the campaign to recognize ‘Juneteenth National Freedom Day’ on a national level,” the resolution says. It was written by Torrence Gardner and Tiffany Liner, staff members in Hadden’s office. “Chicago, a city to which millions of African Americans fled in two great migration waves, served as a refuge from terrorism; and Chicago is a place where millions of African Americans never succumb to despair or cynicism and have always believed they could write their own destiny.

“It is from our many Chicago neighborhoods that African Americans pursued personal and professional endeavors while building a community embodying the spirit of their ancestry; and from those battered bodies and souls, African Americans, through blood, sweat and tears, have shaped the face of Chicago.”

Read the full resolution here:

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