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Milwaukee County officials honor victims of violence as board declares Juneteenth a permanent holiday

Updated: 4:31 p.m. on June 25, 2020

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- A tribute was held during Thursday's Milwaukee County board meeting, ahead of a vote designating Juneteenth a major holiday.

"Joel Acevedo was killed by an off-duty Milwaukee Police Department officer this year. The officer was charged with first degree reckless hoicide and is awaiting trial. This is the story, his name is Joel Acevedo."

Board supervisors read the names of people lost to violence and systemic racism.

Some of those names included George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, along with many others.

They shared each person's story, and the virtual Zoom meeting featured photos of each person.

After that, they discussed making Juneteenth a permanent holiday.

"If you're going to have a holiday, why not make it a major holiday," said Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Joseph Czamezki. "I don't see why Juneteenth Day is any less major than New Year's Day, for example."

The board unanimously adopted a resolution making June 19 of every year, or Juneteenth, a holiday across Milwaukee County.

The process began when County Executive David Crowley declared June 19 a holiday by executive order last week.

“Marking Juneteenth as an official holiday is a declaration that Black Lives Matter, and it is an invitation to all Milwaukee County residents to reflect upon the significance of this day and the struggles that Black Americans have endured for the past 401 years. Providing County employees with one more paid holiday is a demonstration of our commitment to improving the health and wellness of all County employees through the pursuit of racial equity,” said Chairwoman Nicholson.

Milwaukee residents have celebrated Juneteenth Day with organized events since 1971.

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Posted: 3:52 p.m. on June 15, 2020

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee County employees will now have a floating holiday on June 19 to commemorate Juneteenth Day and the end of slavery in America.

The announcement was made Monday, June 15 by Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, as part of Milwaukee County's efforts to "achieve racial equity and be the healthiest county in Wisconsin." In a statement, the County Executive's Office acknowledged that Milwaukee and nation are currently facing two public health emergencies -- one caused by COVID-19 and one caused by racism. 

“Beginning this year, Milwaukee County will officially recognize this important day in American history,” Crowley said. “Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the rich history and culture of the African American community. 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.”

“As America begins, again, to open our hearts and minds to fully accept and seek to redress centuries of oppression and systemic racism, Milwaukee County is taking a step forward to formally acknowledge and celebrate Black Independence Day and all that it symbolizes,” County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson said. “One day, perhaps all Americans will sing the Black National Anthem together at the start of sporting events and other gatherings, and celebrate freedom and equity for ALL Americans, the true promise of these United States.”

Milwaukee has one of the longest-running Juneteenth Day celebrations in the country, drawing thousands since 1971. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Milwaukee’s 49th Juneteenth Day Parade and Street Festival were canceled this year.

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