Mayor Kenney announced Tuesday evening that he will be designating Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, as an official city holiday. This means that city offices and facilities will be closed on Friday.
Kenney said in a news release he will do this for 2020 with an executive order. For future Juneteenth celebrations, Kenney said his administration would take steps to ensure June 19 will become a city holiday “for years to come.”
The mayor said he consulted with the city’s recently formed Reconciliation Steering Committee and it overwhelmingly agreed to have Juneteenth become an official city holiday “in order to increase the education of our past and connection with our communities.”
Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. earlier in the day announced that the school district would be closed on Friday to honor Juneteenth.
Kenney said in a statement: “Now more than ever, it’s critically important to acknowledge America’s original sin of slavery — something we as a nation have never atoned for. The only way to dismantle the institutional racism and inequalities that continue to disenfranchise Black Philadelphians is to look critically at how we got here, and make much-needed changes to the governmental systems that allow inequality to persist. This designation of Juneteenth represents our administration’s commitment to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities as well as our understanding of the magnitude of work that lies ahead.”
Last year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf designated June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” in Pennsylvania.