Juneteenth 2019 Credit: Black Remembrance Project

CHICAGO — Juneteenth could become an official city holiday in 2022.

The holiday is currently Chicago’s only “day of observance,” but Mayor Lori Lightfoot — who had previously said it would be too expensive to make Juneteenth an official holiday — said Monday she now supports elevating the day.

Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day enslaved Black Americans were freed in Galveston, Texas. City Council members have pushed for the day to become an official city holiday, which would mean city workers would get a paid day off.

But last year, as Chicago struggled financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lightfoot said it would be too expensive. It was estimated making Juneteenth a holiday could cost the city $100 million.

A compromise was reached: The city would make Juneteenth a day of observance, meaning it would be marked on city calendars but employees wouldn’t get a day off. Aldermen said they would continue their fight for the holiday.

On Monday, officials gathered at Daley Plaza to raise a Juneteenth flag there for the first time. In a surprise move, Lightfoot said she was declaring Juneteenth an official holiday.

The move only needs City Council’s approval, Lightfoot said in a tweet.

“Black people are inextricably tied to America’s founding and foundation, making days like Juneteenth all the more important to observe,” Lightfoot wrote.

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