African and Caribbean-Americans are gearing up to celebrate Juneteenth, one of the most significant holidays for the Black population in the United States. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865.
In Broward County, officials had voted not to make Juneteenth a paid holiday last January, but Jamaican-born Commissioner Dale Holness still wants it to be officially recognized by the county. At a commissioner’s meeting on June 1, he presented a proclamation designating June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Broward County.
In making the proclamation, he noted that the culture of racism in America has impacted the lives of minorities in almost every way.
“The Broward County Commission is committed to eliminating systemic racism and achieving racial equality in our community. History shows that a culture of racism in a community negatively impacts the lives of residents, permitting race to become a primary predictor of health, income education, criminal justice, and other life outcomes,” he said while addressing the commissioners.
Commissioner Holness and the entire commission were hailed by Broward residents, including Caribbean-Americans, for recognizing Juneteenth in the county.
Hilary Creary, a Jamaican attorney and member of the Caribbean Bar Association board, says the holiday is an important one for Caribbean-Americans in the county. She also called on the commission to think about whether or not slavery was really over.
“We don’t celebrate it until June 19 but we’re here today to recognize the scourge of slavery and to celebrate the end of the scourge of slavery,” she said.
“But as Bob Marley, the prophet said, only we can free our minds. So, we need to think about whether or not slavery is really over. It may be legally over, but every day in my life, I know it isn’t. So I say thank you for recognizing the importance of this day and I want you to think about what this day means, not just in your life but in the lives of the millions of Caribbean-Americans and African-Americans in this county.”
In recent years, the states of New York, Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts declared June 19 an official state holiday. North Miami Beach, Tamarac, and Pembroke Pines have also approved June 19 as an official paid holiday.