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A Special Juneteenth Message

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Today is Juneteenth, an important occasion celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth marks the events of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and first informed the enslaved people there that they were free -- two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after the Confederacy had surrendered.

The holiday has long been celebrated in the black community, first in Texas-- which declared Juneteenth an official state holiday in 1980 -- and then across the nation. It has drawn attention this year during the national awakening that has followed the murder in Minnesota of George Floyd, and the national outrage of other similar instances of injustice in our country.

Just this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for New York State employees, and he has urged the state legislature to move forward with plans to mark the holiday statewide in the future (46 states and the District of Columbia have moved to recognize the holiday). County Executive George Latimer has declared that June 19, 2020 will be a holiday for County employees. The Board of Legislators will join with the Governor and County Executive in observing the Juneteenth holiday.

For years, communities in Westchester have held Juneteenth celebrations, with parades and other public events. I was honored to be the Grand Marshal of the Juneteenth Parade in White Plains last year. The COVID-19 epidemic means there won't be as many of the same kinds of celebrations this year. But, in many ways the new attention being focused on Juneteenth, and on racial equity and fairness, is one of the best Juneteenth commemorations we could have.

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