President Joe Biden on Thursday signed legislation making June 19 a federal holiday to be observed on Friday, since the actual date falls on a Saturday.
It is now the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established.
“The emancipation of enslaved black Americans did not mark the end of America’s work to fulfill its promise of equality. It marked only the beginning. To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we must continue toward that promise because we haven’t got there yet,” President Biden said.
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But in New York City, public schools have remained open with city workers showing up for work, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vow last year that “beginning next year, June 19 will be an official holiday and an official holiday of the schools of New York”.
The timing of June 19 seemed to have been the complicating factor for the city, and since June 19 falls on a Saturday, it’s treated as a floating holiday that workers can use whenever they see fit.
Yet the city is taking other steps to honor Juneteenth. The “official town celebration” began at 6 p.m. on James Baldwin Lawn.
Residents from near and as far as Virginia claimed their place in the park for the city’s official June 19 celebration. There were performances, food trucks and a speech planned by de Blasio and the first lady.
“This is new to me and I will be 80 on Monday,” said Harlem resident Stephanie Tolbert.
Everyone who attended Friday’s celebration said they were delighted to have the day officially recognized.
“I think it’s great that more people are interested in it,” said Harlem resident Lena Hilliard.
Hilliard hopes this will lead to more positive changes.
“We need police reform and all these other things that will keep our community safe,” she said.
The mayor announced his June 19 economic justice plan on Thursday, tackling racial inequality with a savings plan for every kindergarten student in public schools next year, among other initiatives.
And earlier this week, the Parks Department announced it was naming 16 parks for Black Americans.
Last year, Juneteenth fell in the days following the brutal murder of George Floyd, and it was marked by a series of marches across the city and the country.
For a list of Juneteenth events across the city, visit NYC.gov/Juneteenth.
Learn more about the NYC Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan:
Universal NYC Baby Bonds: Extending NYC Kids Rise to all public school children
New York City will directly address the generational racial wealth gap by expanding savings plans to every public school kindergarten student next year. This initiative will open accounts and place a minimum of $100 in each account.
In 2016, Mayor de Blasio launched a Baby Bonds 529 college savings pilot project in Queens School District 30 in partnership with the non-profit organization NYC Kids Rise (NYCKR). The children of this district now have more than $6 million for their college and vocational education.
RELATED | Long Island ‘Pickle King’ Samuel Ballton honored ahead of Juneteenth
Building on the success of the pilot, the Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan is expanding NYCKR through public-private partnerships to all school districts, providing 529 universal savings accounts to every child in public schools, from grade kindergarten this coming school year. The city will invest $15 million per year through 2025. It is estimated that each public dollar will leverage 20 to 25 times more in philanthropy, family savings, community scholarships and returns on investment by the time a child graduates of high school.
CUNY Scholarship Fund: Over 2,800 four-year CUNY scholarships for black and low-income students
New York City will support the education and career success of black and low-income students by offering more than 2,800 four-year CUNY ACE Model Scholarships valued at $4,000 per year. This $45 million investment will help fill gaps in financial aid, books, transportation and counseling for eligible students.
The program will serve 1,000 Medgar Evers College students and 1,800 low-income students in the hardest-hit COVID-hit Taskforce neighborhoods, NYCHA housing estates, and other low-income ZIP codes.
The Brooklyn Recovery Corps at Medgar Evers College: Paid internships, work experience, and career preparation for over 200 students per year
Medgar Evers College will launch the Brooklyn Recovery Corps to provide more than 200 students each year with the opportunity to contribute to Brooklyn’s ongoing economic recovery, focusing on experiences that integrate science, business, public health, or green economy.
Annual investments of $900,000 ($4.5 million over 5 years) will provide scholarship students with technical skills, academic credits or paid internships, work experience, career preparation support and engagement with the community, as well as STEM-focused career placement opportunities.
The Racial Inclusion and Equity Task Force brings an equity-based approach to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the city’s hardest-hit communities. Services and supports are tailored to meet the unique challenges of New Yorkers in communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Specifically, the task force made a series of announcements to build generational wealth, including:
–Employee Ownership – path for employees to succeed their employer
–New M/WBE requirements, mentoring and job shadowing services
— Equitable ownership – requiring at least 25% M/WBE and/or non-profit ownership in affordable housing projects
–NYC Acquisition Fund – $210 million loan fund for M/WBEs and nonprofit developers
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