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Juneteenth is officially a holiday in Milwaukee now

Juneteenth is now a holiday in Milwaukee County. This morning Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson announced an executive order declaring that county employees will have a floating holiday on June 19, a day commemorating the end of slavery in America.

The holiday's roots date back to June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when the final enslaved Americans in Texas finally learned of their freedom. Juneteenth is celebrated around the country, but Milwaukee claims one of the oldest and largest celebrations, filling a long stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive with tens of thousands of people most years. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the city's Juneteenth celebration, which is organized by Northcott Neighborhood House.

“Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the rich history and culture of the African American community," Crowley said in a statement. "It is also a day to appreciate the long struggle for civil rights that Black people in America have faced for centuries. I am hopeful that our employees will be able to take June 19 as a day ‘on’ not a day off in order to fully support Black lives, liberation, and the vision of Milwaukee County to achieve racial equity and become the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Despite chilly weather, last year's Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee drew a typically huge crowd. This year's celebration has been canceled because of COVID-19.

Sadly, this year's Juneteenth celebration has been canceled because of the coronavirus, but organizers have found other ways to commemorate the day. There will be a voter registration drive and COVID-19 testing on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, followed by a 4 p.m. solidarity march starting at 2661 N. 2nd St. More information is on the flyer below.

There will also be a Black Womxn's march and Juneteenth block party starting at 1:30 p.m. at Sojourner Family Peace Center. Meanwhile, Liberate MKE is hosting a series of virtual Juneteenth events starting Tuesday. They include a study group on defunding the police and a lecture from Dr. Deborah Blanks on the history of policing in Milwaukee. Safe & Sound is also hosting its own virtual Juneteenth celebration from noon to 2 p.m.