June 19 is now an Ann Arbor vacation, but the fight for equality continues, according to the NAACP

ANN ARBOR, MI – Juneteenth, a day celebrating the freedom of blacks from slavery in the United States, is now an official Ann Arbor city holiday.

The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday May 18 to recognize the holiday, which is celebrated locally and elsewhere across the country on the third Saturday of June.

“There are just not enough days in the year to do this justice,” said Mayor Christopher Taylor. “The damage of slavery and white supremacy persists, it sustains and stresses and harms our African American community members – each and every one of them – every day.”

Recognized as a public holiday or special observance day in 45 states, Juneteenth is the oldest known end of slavery celebration in the United States, Sharie Sell, a staff member for the city, told the council in a memo.

City guides and staff will observe the holiday on the Friday before June 19 each year and the town hall will be closed on that day, the council resolution said. The city estimates it will cost $ 85,266 in paid time off this year to add the holiday to the city calendar.

The NAACP’s Ann Arbor branch has held annual June 19 celebrations in Wheeler Park since 1994, and President William Hampton said he supported the move to have the city officially recognize the holiday.

But there is more to be done, he said.

“June 19th is the day of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans after 246 years of involuntary servitude. I think total freedom is still a work in progress, ”said Hampton, discussing the long struggle for equality in housing, employment, public housing and economic sustainability.

“This ongoing struggle for equality continues. It’s been almost 156 years since the announcement on June 19, ”he said. “Translation: This means that while we are in this unfortunate situation, it would be 2111, 90 years from now, to get out of slavery.”

Councilor Lisa Disch, D-1st Ward, noted that the holiday commemorates the June 1865 announcement made by Union Army General Gordon Granger, who landed in the port city of Galveston, and after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E., freedom from slavery in Texas proclaimed. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant two months earlier.

This was preceded by President Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of emancipation two and a half years ago, and the “time gap” between these two events was the first of many cases in which “justice is delayed, justice is denied,” states the council resolution in the juneteenth is recognized.

“This holiday is really important because it reminds us of a day that is rightly celebrated as Liberation Day, but that is also a reminder … that equality before the law actually does not guarantee equality,” said Disch. “And so I hope that this holiday … will inspire us to gather together and keep working and taking action to actually achieve the goal of equality.”

The passage of the Juneteenth resolution is a step in the right direction, but by no means a “mission accomplished,” said Councilor Ali Ramlawi, D-5th Ward.

“There is so much to do,” he said, adding that many people in the community do not feel they are treated equally.

The city’s Juneteenth adherence provides Ann Arbor with a city-sponsored, structured opportunity to unite to recognize the central and shameful role of slavery and government-structured racism in America’s past and present, Taylor said. It is an opportunity to recognize the moral imperative to counter the enduring legacy of slavery through racial discrimination and institutional and individual racism, he said.

“It will be a day for us to come together, a day to realize where we have been and how we got here and strive to do better,” said Taylor.

Councilor Travis Radina, D-3rd Ward, hopes that the city’s recognition of Juneteenth can help build on the celebrations the NAACP has held for many years.

“I’m also particularly grateful that this comes at a time when we have also decided tonight to invest in equity by unanimously supporting the recruitment of an equity officer to move this forward,” he said.

“While I think Juneteenth is a really important day for us as a community to reflect on the history of our nation and how that history continues to shape and influence our society and culture today, it is just that – a day of education, one Day when the black community and the contributions that have been made to our community are celebrated, ”said Radina.

Much more work needs to be done and recognizing the history of racism and inequality is crucial to overcoming them, Radina said.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual celebration is scheduled for June 19 this year, Hampton said.


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