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Flint, MI–The Flint City Council passed a resolution Wednesday night to declare Juneteenth an official city holiday.
The resolution passed with seven yes votes, one no vote and one abstention.
The intent of the resolution is to recognize Juneteenth as a celebration day and encourage Governor Gretchen Whitmer to make it a holiday for the state of Michigan.
Juneteenth is a day commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery became official January 1, 1963, but it wasn’t for another two and a half years on June 19, 1965 that this news was brought to the enslaved people in Texas.
Flint residents along with many others across the nation celebrated Juneteenth last week.
City Attorney Amanda Wheeler said that as an official city holiday, City Hall would be closed June 19, but that details such as whether it would be a paid holiday for workers, have yet to be determined.
“I think this is definitely a great step forward, not only for the city of Flint, but the state as well to try to recognize this as a holiday,” Councilman Santino Guerra said. “I’m the youngest by far on the council and not in highschool nor in college did we learn about Juneteenth…so I think this is a huge step forward.”
Guerra said he felt the declaration as a holiday would inspire schools to include the history of Juneteenth in their curriculums.
“I teach social studies in middle school and up until a few years ago I had never heard of Juneteenth and that’s a shame,” said Councilwoman Eva Worthing. “Knowing the history now, that’s something to celebrate. This celebration deserves more recognition just like the other holidays that we celebrate.”
Councilman Maurice Davis said he applauded Mayor Sheldon Neeley “for taking a step like this.”
“I’m glad to be on a council at a time that I can be part of history making,” Davis said.
While everyone on the council agreed that declaring Juneteenth an official city holiday would be a step in the right direction, some voiced concerns about the lack of details in the resolution regarding the financial impacts it would have on the city and the legality of it.
Council President Monica Galloway said “there is a huge cost associated with making something a city holiday.”
“I celebrate this, nobody does it like Michigan,” she said. “What I’m not going to do is…support something that is definitely a move in the right direction but the financial impact has not been really thought out.”
Wheeler said the addition of Juneteenth as a holiday would cost the city approximately $100,000.
“I’ve been going to Juneteenth activities since I was a little girl,” said Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter. “However, we gotta think about it. We need more police on the force, we need more money towards blight. This is a great idea but let’s talk about the finances of it.”
Councilman Eric Mays made a motion to postpone voting on this resolution until the next meeting, but it failed.
“I wouldn’t care if it cost $100,000, $200,000 or $500,000,” he said. “I don’t mind celebrating what needs to be celebrated in this old wretched United States of America as it relates to Black folks and how they didnt tell folks about being free and just kept using ‘em and beating ‘em and lynching ‘em for years.”
Mays said he was more concerned about the legality of the resolution, and said “we ain’t no feel-good spirit, rah rah, I’m all of a sudden for Black people now. We really should look at it and do it right.”
Mays abstained from the vote to approve the resolution and Galloway voted against it.