Pittsfield Recognizes Juneteenth As A Holiday

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Pittsfield Township will begin celebrating Juneteenth as an official holiday starting this June 17. When slavery was abolished in the United States some enslaved Americans were unaware that this had happened for years until they were liberated by the army late in the Civil War.

“Whereas, when Union Army General Gordon Granger landed at the Texas port city of Galveston in 1865 as the Civil War drew to a close, one of his first actions was to read general order number three, which stated that all enslaved people are free and that former masters and slaves have absolute equality of personal and property rights; and whereas, since then, as the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery and the Emancipation of Black Americans, the tradition of celebrating Juneteenth has been carried on by some over the years but has not received the degree of attention it deserves to recognize the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery; and to honor the strength, endurance and faith of our nation’s Black American ancestors; and, whereas, it is imperative that we work towards a more equitable and just community so as to make liberty and justice accessible for every single resident of our community,” the resolution reads, it was resolved that “Pittsfield Charter Township hereby proclaims June nineteenth of each year as Juneteenth Observance Day.”

Celebrations always followed every time new groups of African Americans learned of and celebrated their freedom, which continues to this day as Juneteenth. After over a century of being ignored, President Biden signed
the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. The bill was remarkable in these hyper-polarized times for passing the Senate unanimously and sailing through the House of Representatives with 415 Republican and Democratic votes to 14 all-Republican votes declaring June 19 a federal holiday last year.

“This all happened on the heels of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all of the protests of 2020, 20221. It was time to acknowledge that not everybody came here of their own accord. Even changing the word ‘slaves’ to ‘enslaved people’ acknowledges that people did not here on their own,” Trustee Linda Edwards-Brown said. “As we’re talking about social justice and social equity there has to be some recognition of the injustices that occurred in this country if we are ever going to build past them and build a country where everyone has the same opportunities. People talk all the time about how ‘that’s 400 years ago. It has no impact on today,’ well it absolutely has an impact on today; because the trauma of 400 years ago is revisited in the souls and spirits of the ancestors of the folks who lived through that. I think the recognition of Juneteenth is wonderful. I also think though that we need more than a holiday. … But we need so much more than that.”

The Board also took in a presentation on planned improvements and expansion plans from the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority that evening. Edwards-Brown went on to say that in addition to the holiday, real equitable change in the forms of things like the expansion of mass transit access were key to include opportunity and equity for the community.

“History is so important,” Pittsfield Treasurer Patricia Tupacz Scribner said. “Everything that happened had a reason. We need to look at that to see how we move forward. Every issue is affected by history.”

Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees passed the resolution with unanimous support, April 13. The State of Michigan has also made it an official holiday.

“I think it is only appropriate that we follow President Biden’s lead in establishing a mark a holiday and a celebration which is a long time coming,” Supervisor Mandy Grewal said.

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