NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city's Board of Education has made Juneteenth a school holiday.
Lawmakers, seeking to make it a public holiday across the state, may soon be following suit.
The state Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday that would designate June 19 an official holiday.
If approved by the state Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey would become the latest state to declare it a holiday.
Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the day in 1865 that Union Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told the slaves there of their emancipation - two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth has been growing in popularity and visibility over the past few years, but it came into the mainstream consciousness like never before this year when racial injustices of the past were linked to George Floyd's death after he was pinned to the ground under a Minneapolis, Minn., police officer's knee for about 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
Floyd's death on May 25, captured on video, sparked outrage and anger that spilled out onto city streets across the country.
Texas, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania are the only states that currently recognize Juneteenth as an official paid holiday for state employees, although New Jersey, New York and Virginia are moving toward joining that list.
A Juneteenth celebration with speeches, performances and more is planned for Saturday, July 4 from 1-4 p.m. Participants in the United Black Council event will meet at the Monument Square Park near the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. A rally will be held in front of City Hall on Bayard Street.
The event is being supported by Keith Jones II, the chief of staff in Mayor Jim Cahill's office, the Rutgers African American Alumni Alliance, the New Brunswick Area NAACP and Seedburger.
Although the fight against injustice sparked by Floyd's death was a theme in the Board of Education's meeting on June 23, the district pointed out that it has long sought to address issues such as inequities in its curriculum.
The Equity Alliance Committee was launched by the board in at the start of the 2019-20 school year.
Comprised of teachers from each of the district's school, the goal is to "uncover oppressive trends, structures and practices as barriers to student learning and take action to ensure access and opportunities for all students." It is also directed to "work to identify and dismantle specific practices and structures that act as barriers to learning by facilitating district-wide learning focus on shifting both mind-sets and practice."