Chicago To Recognize Juneteenth, But Cannot Afford To Declare It A City Holiday

Chicago City Hall
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council recognized Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery, but stopped short of declaring the nineteenth of June a city holiday.

Alderman Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward, spoke for eight minutes and 46 seconds - which is the length of time a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck.

"I encourage the protesters to continue. Don't stop. Don't stop. Black lives matter. Black lives matter," she said.

Hairston said it’s “time for this City Council to wake up and stop being dismissive...Stop sweeping under the rug people who are advancing progressive legislation,” she added.

“We will never get there unless we look at things differently...I need everybody to open up their eyes and to see what role they play in continuing to be biased against black people and the color of our skin.”

RELATED: Trump Moved Tulsa Rally Date After Learning About Juneteenth

The Council passed a resolution that reads, in part, "be it resolved that the City of Chicago recognizes the value, sacrifice, and contributions the African American community has made to the city, and will commit to publicly and widely recognizing the great significance of June 19 every year."

The resolution goes on to designate June 19 of each year 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.”

A proposal to make it a city holiday did not have the support.

The Mayor said the city cannot afford to declare it a holiday and give city workers the day off.

“It’s certainly worthy of consideration given the importance of the holiday — the historic meaning of it,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told City Hall reporters after Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “But obviously in these difficult budgetary times, tough choices have to be made. I expect to continue my dialogue with the sponsors of the resolution to see what is appropriate given our incredibly difficult fiscal circumstances.”

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According to the Sun-Times, last fall, aldermen Maria Hadden (49th) and David Moore (17th) introduced an ordinance that would declare Juneteenth an official paid city holiday.

The ordinance didn’t stand a chance, as Chicago has been roundly criticized over the years for granting city employees far more paid holidays than counterparts in private industry.

But the death of George Floyd at the hands of now- former Minneapolis police officers and the anger, protests, rioting and violence that have followed has turned the political tide.

Alderman said Wednesday that the city should adopt the holiday in the future.

Read the full resolution below:"WHEREAS, Juneteenth is the oldest recognized celebration observing the freedom of African-Americans from slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is a historic milestone reminding Americans of the triumph of the human spirit over the harshness of slavery and the basic civil right of freedom and equality for all; and WHEREAS, The celebration honors those millions of African-Americans who survived, in chains, the voyage to the Americas as well as the millions that did not survive. For more than 200 years, the enslaved were stripped of their humanity by forced family separation, rape, branding, whipping, mutilation, and death; and WHEREAS, The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, but it had minimal immediate effect on the majority of enslaved people who remained in captivity and oppression by slave owners; and WHEREAS, On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Confederate-controlled Texas to take possession of the state and to enforce the emancipation of enslaved people throughout the state; and WHEREAS, Two years, five months, and eighteen days after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the last of those enslaved within the borders of the United States were freed; and WHEREAS, The word "Juneteenth" became the name for the joyous celebration of freedom from slavery as a result of the words "June Nineteenth" combined together in speech; and WHEREAS, Juneteenth is celebrated in more than 205 American cities and is officially recognized by 46 states including our state of Illinois, and the U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam; and WHEREAS, It is not enough for the City of Chicago to just have parades, barbeques, and events celebrating Juneteenth. Chicago must support the campaign to recognize "Juneteenth National Freedom Day" on a national level; and WHEREAS, Chicago, a city to which millions of African-Americans fled in two great migration waves, served as a refuge from terrorism; and WHEREAS, 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 WHEREAS, From those battered bodies and souls, African-Americans, through blood, sweat, and tears, have shaped the face of Chicago. Despite segregation and denial of fundamental rights, Chicago's politics, entertainment, sports, and civic life have all been impacted by the strength and heart of these descendants of enslaved people. Chicago's DNA would be incomplete without the contributions of African-Americans; and WHEREAS, Chicago, a city founded by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African descendant; the home ofBarack Obama, the first African-American President; and now led by its first African-American, lesbian, mayor can serve as a symbol and vessel that pushes this campaign forward; now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED, That the City Council of the City of Chicago recognizes the value, sacrifice, and contributions the African-American community has made to this city and will commit to publicly and widely recognizing the great significance of June 19th every year, and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City Council of the City of Chicago designates June 19 of each year 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."