Last week, Kansas City, MO city council passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as an official paid city holiday. City leaders celebrated the win at a commemoration ceremony earlier this month at the Black Archives of Mid-America.

The holiday only impacts employees of the City of Kansas City and not any other businesses.

“There are many municipalities now that have started to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, as well as a few states and a lot of universities,” said councilwoman Melissa Robinson, one of the sponsors of the newly-passed ordinance. “So, this is our opportunity to say that we want to recognize the liberation and emancipation of slaves in America.”

Robinson said Kansas City will also encourage its employees to participate in a day of service to celebrate the day.

“Members of the city that are having that day off, take a day of service and find ways to engage our community and touch base back with African-American culture here in Kansas City,” said Makeda Peterson, director of Juneteenth-KC.

“When we look at Juneteenth, we’re more than just a festival, we are continued programming and continue ways to uplift our community,” Peterson said. Her father, Horace Peterson, brought Juneteenth celebrations to Kansas City in 1980. For the past 10 years, Peterson has continued her father’s legacy organizing Juneteenth celebrations in the Jazz District.

Peterson said workers from any industry who have Juneteenth off can volunteer for the heritage festival, community cleanups and mobile food distributions. Visit their website to learn more about how to get involved: 

“This is a very important occasion for which our city recognizes this as an important step toward racial reconciliation and racial healing in America,” Robinson said. “This is a tangible thing that we can do to take an opportunity to address our past.” Robinson said she hopes that soon, businesses and universities city-wide will also recognize Juneteenth as an official paid holiday as well.

“It’s not too late for them to do that for this year,” she said.

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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