Miss Hawaii USA launches coalition to make Juneteenth a state holiday

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FILE – In this Friday, June 19, 2020 photo, fireworks explode during Juneteenth celebrations above the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The Manhattan skyline is seen in the background. They light up the sky in celebration, best known in the U.S. as a way to highlight Independence Day. This year, fireworks aren’t being saved for special events. They’ve become a nightly nuisance from Connecticut to California, angering sleep-deprived citizens and alarming local officials. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

HONOLULU (KHON2) — This past June, 46 states across the country celebrated Juneteenth, commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. While communities across the island chain independently honor this historic day through marches and festivals, Hawaii remains just one of four states that does not designate Juneteenth as a state holiday. Miss Hawaii USA plans to change that.

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Hawaii’s first African-American Miss Hawaii USA, Samantha Neyland, is leading a coalition of advocates who are urging the State Legislature to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday. 

Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day,” commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865. Today, it is a celebration of African American freedom and achievement, while
encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.

“As a state that prides itself on diversity and inclusivity, it is long overdue for the Hawaii Legislature to fully live out the Aloha spirit and stand with the 46 states that have chosen to make Juneteenth an annual day of remembrance and celebration.

Samantha Neyland, Miss Hawaii USA 2020

Neyland also adds that a state calendar date will serve to better educate Hawaii’s diverse youth on Black history while celebrating the importance of equality.

The growing coalition is comprised of elected officials, nonprofits and civil-rights activists, including: the Anti-Defamation League, LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, the Honolulu NAACP, the African American Association of Maui as well as the majority of Maui and Honolulu County Council members.

On Tuesday, Aug. 18, the Maui County Council will vote on a resolution that would make Juneteenth a local holiday. Neyland hopes state legislatures will follow suit.

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