SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As more states declare Juneteenth a holiday, three local municipalities have made it official.
Mayor Van Johnson on Thursday signed a proclamation recognizing June 19 as a commemorative holiday in the City of Savannah. City offices will remain open.
Tuesday night, Statesboro’s City Council voted to designate Friday, June 19, as a paid holiday for city employees.
On Monday, Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka, on behalf of Bluffton’s Town Council, issued a proclamation declaring it a holiday. Like in Savannah, offices will remain open.
Juneteenth is a historical celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States. Texas was the first state to make it a holiday in 1980. New York most recently adopted a resolution to make the same change.
“This year’s observance takes on a special and historical meaning,” said Mayor Johnson. “The nation has expressed collective outrage about the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police officers. There is outrage about the death of Ahmaud Arbery in nearby Glynn County. This must be more than a moment. It must be a movement. It has to be more than a protest. There must be some policy. There has to be love, care and empathy.”
Johnson is encouraging the community to recognize Juneteenth by becoming more aware of its significance in American history and Savannah’s history.
“We recognize that there is so much work to be done yet to address and correct inequities and social injustices,” Sulka said. “We hope that this proclamation will encourage other lawmakers at all levels to not only begin the conversation, but to work toward meaningful solutions as well.”
Bluffton officials say the town holiday also highlights the town’s Juneteenth celebration, which is sponsored and hosted annually by the Bluffton MLK Observance Committee. This year, the event will take place on June 20 at Bluffton’s Eagles Field from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be more than 40 vendors, African drummers, Gullah storytelling, voter registration, and more.