Governor Andrew Cuomo holds daily Coronavirus press briefing (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs an executive order to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. Cuomo noted that he will, also, enact legislation to push for the day to become an official state holiday in 2021.

“It is a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history,” the governor said, referencing the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across the globe. New York now joins a number of other states, across the country, that have acknowledged Juneteenth in an official capacity.

Since 2004, New York state had been observing Juneteenth as a “day of commemoration,” after then-Governor George Pataki was signatory to an edict to greenlight celebrations. But, it took 16 year for the winds to shift to an official paid holiday, for only state employees, which Cuomo sanctioned.

“Friday is Juneteeth, (it) commemorates the emancipation of slavery in the United States. It is a day we all should reflect upon,” the governor further added, during a daily presser, on Wednesday. Regardless, this minor official recognition of the day is significant to black people across the United States as it symbolizes when freedom was formally granted to African Americans, and as hope for a possible federal declaration next.

Juneteenth is celebrated with various family-centric activities including parades, cookouts, team sport games, parties, etc. Schools also incorporate learning, through essay papers and other projects centered on the historical and modern observances. There is also a Juneteenth flag, which bears the red, white and blue of the flag of the United States of America, but with different significance.

The colors were retained to indicate that slaves, and their subsequent descendants, were to be recognized as full Americans. A star in the center of the flag pays homage to Texas.

Juneteenth flag

Forty years ago, the lone star state – where Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery and the Civil War, on June 19, 1865 – became the first to make Juneteenth an official holiday.

According to the United States’ Congressional Research Service, the state of Texas has recognized and celebrated Juneteenth since 1866, with celebrants eventually procuring and dedicating an official communal space for Emancipation Park in Houston.

The January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, from President Abraham Lincoln’s September 22, 1862 directive, was largely ignored and received major push-back, which then resulted in a two-and-a-half-year gap between the initiation of and formal termination of slavery.

Though the ‘day of freedom’ is now widely observed and celebrated, in various official and unofficial capacities across the United States of America, Juneteenth is not yet a federally recognized holiday.

The United States’ first African American president, Barack Obama, made multiple attempts – in his capacity as both senator and president – but was unsuccessful at passing legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

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