Juneteenth, June 19, will be a holiday for employees of the City of Greensboro beginning in 2021, following action taken by the City Council at the meeting Tuesday, July 21.

Adding a new holiday for city employees was not on the agenda but was brought up by Councilmember Sharon Hightower at the end of the meeting when councilmembers are given a few minutes to talk about whatever they want.

In explaining why she wanted Juneteenth to be a holiday, Hightower said, “I think in the climate that we have lived in there are things that we have been missing and this will allow us an opportunity to learn more about the culture that people don’t know a lot about and when we reflect back on slavery and such negative times, I think we need to learn about that history and learn how there are good positive things that go on and the fact that we have a long way to go in eradicating discrimination and racism. And I think if we celebrate Juneteenth it gives us an opportunity to have those discussions among each other.”

City Manager David Parrish has sent a short memo to city councilmembers about how the city celebrated Juneteenth this year that also notes that Wake County and the states of New York and Virginia recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.

The memo from Parrish states, “HR [Human Resources] has suggested that we consider making this date an official paid holiday.  The City currently recognizes 9 holidays annually with 12 paid days off, as Christmas and Thanksgiving observe multiple days.  This proposal would be in keeping with our community’s rich civil rights history. HR estimates with holiday premiums for hours worked during this day, the cost to the organization in additional expenses would be around $25,000.”

After Hightower made the motion for Juneteenth to be a paid holiday, Councilmember Justin Outling said that while he fully supported the holiday, “My preference would be to have the information from the staff.”

Parrish said that the item could be placed on the agenda for the August meeting, but that he did not anticipate having much additional information to provide.

Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said she supported the Juneteenth holiday but would also like to see city employees get time off to vote.

Hightower said, “Let Juneteenth stand on its own.”

Hightower added, “We really need to focus on doing it for the right reason.  We don’t want to get into whether this is a nickel or dime issue.”

Outling said that as long as there was no additional information, “I’m fine on voting on it tonight.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I’d rather go ahead and do it this evening.”

The City Council voted 9-0 to make Juneteenth a holiday for city employees.