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Juneteenth becomes federal holiday, sparks confusion and possible weekend closures

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Posted at 10:22 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 10:22:06-04

CLEVELAND — Celebrating Juneteenth is nothing new as the holiday has long been acknowledged by the Black community.

“I think it's very good that they're recognizing our freedom. I hope something comes of it in the future,” said University Heights resident, Alicia Sloan.

Robert L. Solomon, the Vice President of the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) says what’s “particularly profound to see our institution embracing its history and seeing how it can be infused going forward.”

Wallace Settles, another Cleveland Heights resident, says the federal move is a good start.

"I hope there's more that comes behind it.”

State Representative Juanita Brent agrees.

When it comes to true change, Brent says acknowledging Juneteenth is not enough. She says more concrete things need to be done to uplift the black community and truly achieve equality including, addressing redlining, health care disparities and the criminal justice system.

“There’s still more that we have to do. We have to focus on other things to address the systemic racism we have going on here within our country,” she said.

In the meantime, companies are already recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday like Target, Uber , and Best Buy. The Cleveland Cavaliers and CWRU are also on the list. Federal employees and more than 50,000 ohio state employees are observing the holiday on Friday, June 18 this year since June 19th falls on a Saturday. However, the U.S. post office and wall street are staying open as a result of not having enough time to adjust schedules and avoid major disruptions.

“I've seen it all over social media people's employers are letting their employees off for the day and I think it's great,” Sloan said.

As for private businesses though, there's no requirement give employees the day of or even make it a paid holiday. Representative Brent says it’s something she is pushing to change by urging state lawmakers to pass a resolution.

“We need to treat this no different than we treat Christmas, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, those are paid federal holidays that people not only get the day off, but they also get paid for it. So we really want people to take this seriously.”

RELATED: Cleveland Juneteenth Freedom Fest—Everything to know about citywide festival celebrating end of slavery