HONOLULU (KHON) — In a press release, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that Juneteenth will be officially recognized. The press release is as follows:

Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the Honolulu City Council worked together today to recognize Juneteenth as an important national day of commemoration and celebration. Mayor Caldwell ordered that Honolulu Hale be illuminated in yellow and black from the evening of Friday, June 19 through Sunday, June 21 in recognition of “Juneteenth” and the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier today, a key Honolulu City Council committee passed Resolution 20-154, proclaiming June 19 as “Juneteenth” and an annual day of honor and reflection going forward for the City and County of Honolulu.

“It is important that our City sends a clear signal that we stand in solidarity with the Black community as we all work together for social justice,” said Mayor Caldwell. “But it’s also important that we celebrate and lift up the contributions and achievements of Black people in Hawaiʻi from the time of the Hawaiian Kingdom to today. Recognizing Juneteenth is a way to do both and I’m proud of the way our community has come together and grown stronger in the face of injustice.”

Honolulu City Council Member Tommy Waters, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Welfare, helped guide a resolution to unanimous approval by the Committee earlier in the afternoon. The resolution highlighted the fact that the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi had declared that slavery would not be tolerated in any way a full decade before the US Civil War, and the support provided from Hawaiʻi for Dr. Martin Luther King during the civil rights struggle.

“I think it’s important that we recognize Juneteenth as a time to reflect on the contributions of the black community in Hawaiʻi, their unique experiences in our nation, and the ways we can engage with our friends, family, and the broader community to dismantle systemic racism,” said Councilmember Waters.

Juneteenth, also known as “Juneteenth Independence Day”, “Emancipation Day”, and “Freedom Day” is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth signifies the date June 19, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and announced the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas almost two and one-half years after United States President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

“The City and County recognizing not only the presence, but also the contributions of Black residents of Honolulu via the Juneteenth resolution is a significant step,” said Akiemi Glenn, the Executive Director of the Pōpolo Project. “It is also important to note that the City takes this step as the world is erupting in an unprecedented global call for justice for Black people, connecting this moment to 1852 when Hawai’i enshrined in its constitution an affirmation that Black lives matter on this ‘āina because they matter everywhere.” 

Texas was the first state to officially recognize Juneteenth in 1980. Today, 49 of the 50 US states recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial day of observance. The only state that does not yet recognize Juneteenth is Hawaiʻi, making the resolution passed by the City and County of Honolulu with approximately 70% of the state’s population an important step to finally bringing this day of recognition to the entire nation.

“Millions of Americans are dealing with the pain and agony of systemic racism and civil unrest,” said Alphonso Braggs, President of the Honolulu Hawaiʻi NAACP. “In Hawaii, it’s comforting to see our local government leaders recognize the importance of celebrating one of the most significant events in African-American history. This year’s celebration includes a renewed commitment to work together on police reform and community building.” 

Juneteenth will be recognized on June 19 this year with a sunset ceremony at Makalei Park near Leahi to honor ancestors and those working for a future where every individual is truly free.

The Pōpolo Project is a Hawai‘i-based nonprofit organization that redefines what it means to be Black in Hawai‘i and in the world through cultivating radical reconnection to ourselves, our community, our ancestors, and the land. To learn more about the Pōpolo Project, visit thepopoloproject.org.