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Charlotte-Area Schools, Organizations Respond To New Juneteenth National Holiday

Johnson C Smith University aerial view - photo courtesy JCSU.jpg
Courtesy JCSU
In a statement marking the Juneteenth holiday, Johnson C. Smith University’s president, Clarence Armbrister, said work to eliminate systemic racism must continue long after the media spotlight fades.

Charlotte-area organizations, businesses and universities responded quickly on Friday to the declaration of Juneteenth as a new federal national holiday on June 19.

The day commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday afternoon declaring the Juneteenth holiday. Most federal employees observed the holiday on Friday, because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year.

Post offices and postal services remained in operation nationally Friday and Saturday. A U.S. Postal Service statement issued late Thursday said the service supported the new holiday, but was not able to cease operations on 24 hours' notice. Federal Reserve offices in Washington, D.C., were closed Friday, but Federal Reserve services were still available to banks.

The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Carolina Panthers offices both were closed Friday for Juneteenth. Companies including LendingTree, Starbucks and Target recognize Juneteenth as a paid company holiday, enabling employees to take time off or receive holiday pay. Truliant and Truist, both credit unions, planned to close early on Friday.

Johnson C. Smith University, Queens University of Charlotte, and Davidson College were closed or issued statements Thursday and Friday.

Clarence Armbrister JCSU president - photo courtesy JCSU.jpg
Clarence Armbrister, JCSU president

“As the nation celebrates our culture and commemorates our history on this 155th Juneteenth, I ask that we individually and collectively think about the work that needs to be done and commit to continuing that work long after the media spotlight on the issue of systemic racism has faded,” wrote Clarence D. Armbrister, president of Johnson C. Smith University.

At Queens University, president Daniel Lugo sent an email to university employees Thursday night announcing the next day would be recognized as a holiday.

“Since June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, in celebration and recognition of this historic day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, senior leadership and I have decided to close business tomorrow, Friday, June 18, and give employees the day off to be reminded of the importance of our continued push toward equity and justice,” Lugo wrote.

A short film featuring three dance performances by Tamara Williams, a professor of dance at UNC Charlotte, was scheduled to premiere virtually on Saturday. The film and dance performances focus on the strength of Black women.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a proclamation Friday honoring June 19 as Juneteenth Day in North Carolina. A year ago, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles signed a Juneteenth proclamation on June 18.

“As we celebrate Black heritage, history and freedom, it’s critical that we also take this opportunity to both celebrate the progress we’ve made and accept the challenge we still face to achieve true racial equality,” Cooper’s proclamation said. “By addressing the systemic racism that has been in our communities for centuries, we can create a more just and equitable future.”

Charlotte events celebrating Juneteenth started Thursday, with youth day camp activities at Plaza Midwood's House of Africa on Thomas Avenue. Celebrations continuing from Friday through Sunday include dancing, music, fashion, art and food trucks among other events, and are scheduled to take place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Victoria Yards uptown and at Camp North End.

Grace Wesoly is a student in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, which provides the news service in support of local community news.