City Council makes Juneteenth official

City Council makes Juneteenth official
September 29
10:15 2020

The Winston-Salem City Council has approved a resolution recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday marks the day (June 19, 1865) Union Soldiers in Galveston, Texas, announced the end of the Civil War and that slaves had been freed. In response to the modern day lynching of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed while being detained by police in Minneapolis, Minn., citizens across the country have called for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday.

Although Juneteenth hasn’t been acknowledged as a national holiday, several municipalities across the country have decided to recognize the day, also known as Black Independence Day, as a paid holiday. And on Monday, Sept. 21, Winston-Salem became the latest to do so when the City Council unanimously passed the resolution during a virtual meeting.

Before the original resolution passed unanimously, Councilwoman Annette Scippio proposed an alternate resolution that called for city staff to go back to the drawing board and do more research. Scippio, who represents the East Ward, said the original resolution would take away a floating holiday from city employees that is traditionally used for Christmas Eve. She also raised concerns about what calendar date would be observed and the need for the city to adopt a policy on paid holidays.

“This as proposed is not an added benefit, but it takes away what our employees have become accustomed to,” Scippio continued. “Without rushing it through, I think we need to be more thoughtful about the effects on our employees and how we see it as a benefit to them. Secondly, we need a policy with criteria around paid holidays.  This is one holiday that is about the emancipation of African Americans in America and in this city Cinco De Mayo is celebrated for the emancipation of Mexicans against another ethnic group. I believe we need to clearly write down what our expectations are when we grant paid holidays.”

Mayor Pro Tem Denise “DD” Adams said she believed African Americans deserve a holiday. She said with other cities already making the change, she doesn’t see why it shouldn’t be done here in Winston-Salem. Adams, who represents the North Ward, said the council has the power to approve the resolution and figure out the details later.

“I struggle to understand why it is that when it comes to Black stuff or African American things or events or situations, we struggle with that,” Adams continued. “I can understand discussion, disagreement or whatever, but it always bothers me when it comes to something that’s not for the majority, we stumble with that, we struggle with it.

“This is in respect of the fact of what America did to a race of people. We deserve a holiday, an acknowledgement day.”

Scippio’s alternate resolution failed 3 to 5. It is important to note that Cinco De Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican Army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated annually on Sept. 16.

Since 2004, here in Winston-Salem Triad Cultural Arts Inc., which is led by Cheryl Harry, has played host to the city’s largest Juneteenth celebration. The celebration held at various venues over the years regularly includes free seminars, workshops, live performances, food, guest speakers and much more. For more information on the local Juneteenth Celebration, visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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