By Dee Ford Byas
For those whose history is steeped in wanting freedom and equality, recognizing Juneteenth as a paid federal holiday for employees has expanded to a local government level as city workers will benefit from a welcomed tradition that celebrates when once enslaved people were finally informed that they no longer had to work for free.
City of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and the Phoenix City Council voted on Wednesday, Feb. 2, to designate every June 19, as a city holiday to observe Juneteenth, which was sanctioned as a federal holiday in 2021 by President Joe Biden. Likewise, Gallego reportedly had vowed to proclaim Juneteenth a city holiday following the president’s lead, getting the Phoenix City Council’s support in formally adopting it as a paid city holiday beginning this year, according to published reports.
Like other holidays, government employees can have paid time off in commemoration of what is also referred to as “Freedom Day.” If June 19 is on a weekend, then the holiday will be celebrated on the Friday before if it falls on a Saturday; or Monday when the holiday is on a Sunday. City offices will be closed for Juneteenth on Monday, June 20, with services available that day like that of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day or Cesar Chavez Day, reports said.
For Juneteenth 2022, the national theme is: “Juneteenth Fathers of Freedom,” which recognizes the United States Colored Troops, also known as “the Black men with guns,” who were noted to have assisted in bringing word of freedom to Galveston, Texas, detailed Lanette Campbell, who facilitates the annual Valley of the Sun Juneteenth Celebration, and has served as the Arizona State Director of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
The annual Valley of the Sun Juneteenth celebration, traditionally held at Eastlake Park in Phoenix, is planned for June 18 The event will include guest speakers, entertainment, refreshments, and activities for the whole family, Campbell stated.
She explained the importance of commemorating Juneteenth, which dates to June 19, 1865, when the announcement of freedom from enslavement was made in Galveston, Texas, proclaiming the abolishment of slavery in 1865,