The Town of Cary held its inaugural Juneteenth celebration in 2019, but this year marks the first time town employees will have a paid holiday in honor of the day.
The Town Council voted unanimously last month to add Juneteenth to Cary’s existing list of 12 paid holidays.
Juneteenth, observed on June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War was over and enslaved African Americans were free. The news came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Following recent widespread protests over police brutality and racial injustice, there has been an increased push to formally recognize Juneteenth. Cary has joined several surrounding governments in making it a paid town holiday, including Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, Hillsborough and Raleigh.
Though Juneteenth has been celebrated by African Americans for years, the day is neither a federal holiday nor a paid state holiday in North Carolina. The state is one of 47 that recognize Juneteenth as a ceremonial holiday.
Cary’s Town Council discussed making Juneteenth a paid town holiday in November 2020, as part of the town’s commitment to “foster a diverse and inclusive workspace.”
“This is also a commitment to our Cary community, one that embraces and values diversity and adds to the many attributes that makes this a great place to live, work, play, raise a family and do business,” said Rashonda Harris, senior human resources strategic partner, at the council’s May 27 meeting.
She said officially adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday honors the importance of the day and takes a step toward racial justice and equity.
“It is not just a day off, but a day on, to provide Cary employees an opportunity to participate in the joy and celebration of this holiday that represents freedom, fortitude, and resilience, values that resonate for all throughout our country,” Harris said.
The Juneteenth holiday will be a paid holiday like all other paid holidays currently offered to the town’s 1,000 plus employees. Adding the holiday is expected to cost the town $112,000, and includes premium pay for employees required to work.
At-large council member Lori Bush proposed the idea of adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday to Cary’s town manager. Bush said she did so after her company, Cisco, recognized the day as a paid holiday last year.
“It’s not just important to recognize it,” she said, “but it’s also important to show our employees how they are also valued, and how their history is valued, and that we care enough to learn and celebrate with them as well.”
Cary’s Juneteenth 2021 celebrations will include virtual and in-person events, including an online interactive class on June 16 based on imagining and creating an original scene from the book “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom.” Registration is required.
On June 19, musical and dance performers will gather at Sertoma Amphitheater at Bond Park from 1 to 2:30 p.m. for an afternoon called “Celebrate Freedom.”
Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday, affected services will take place Friday, June 18.
The Citizen’s Convenience Center will be closed June 18.
Cary will not be scheduling any special waste collections June 18.
The Cary Theater, Cary Arts Center, and the Page-Walker Arts & History Center will be closed.
Fields at WakeMed Soccer Park, Thomas Brooks Park, Middle Creek and Mills Park will have normal rentals.
Sk8-Cary will be open for regular sessions from 1:30-3:30 p.m., 4-6 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cary Tennis Park courts will be open normal hours, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The clubhouse is open from 8-5 p.m.
Bond Park Boathouse will be open 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
GoCary will offer regular weekday service on fixed and door-to-door routes.