With President Joe Biden signing legislation to make Juneteenth--National Freedom Day--a federal holiday in 2021, Governor JB Pritzker announced that State government offices will be closed Friday, June 18 in accordance with the new federal law, recognizing the importance of emancipating the enslaved and continuing to pursue and protect the rights of Black Americans.
Please note, tomorrow is a paid day off for all employees, except those employees who are required to work at any of our 24/7 state run facilities. Those employees will be eligible for holiday pay.
Yesterday, just steps away from the rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation making Juneteenth an official State holiday.
On June 19, 1865, approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were informed that the Civil War was over, and that they were, in fact, free people. Juneteenth is an event in a history of events in this country that, in some way, marks the staunch and structural resistance to the liberation and equality of Black people.
In spite of so many related, remaining challenges for Black Americans, Juneteenth stands out as a day of freedom, independence, and celebration. On the very first Juneteenth celebration in 1866, formerly enslaved people read the Emancipation Proclamation aloud, sang spirituals, and played games.
At IDHS, we continue to deploy resources that are important to Illinois' recovery from COVID-19, and yet, it is important that we also confront and reform systemic inequities and injustices.
In this regard, IDHS remains steadfastly committed to becoming an anti-racist organization that pursues equity and racial justice with intention, vigor, and tenacity. I hope that we can continue to challenge our own prejudices and implicit biases, as we work together to increase racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion at IDHS and through IDHS, for ourselves and for every person we are here to serve.
Real conversations about racial inequality and discrimination may feel hard because they can expose our individual roles in systems that still too often perpetuate the mistreatment of marginalized people. ?This is a moment that can bring about positive and long-lasting change, but it will require a strong commitment from individuals all across our workforce, our communities, our state, and our nation.
So please celebrate, listen, learn, and respond. Consider taking some time to learn more from a Black author or historian about Juneteenth and the experiences of Black people in America before and after Juneteenth's liberation. Then, think about how you can be an agent of change in helping to dismantle racist systems of oppression.
Please read the official press release from the Governor's office here.
Grace B. Hou