Juneteenth won't be a DuPage County holiday in 2021
DuPage is looking to educate the public about Juneteenth, but won't give county employees a paid day off on the holiday next year.
The county board this week adopted a holiday schedule for 2021 that will give the county's nearly 2,200 workers 11 days off for holidays, including Presidents Day, Columbus Day and the day after Thanksgiving.
Board member Elizabeth Chaplin said she's disappointed the schedule doesn't include Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day when the last slaves learned of their emancipation -- June 19, 1865.
"We could have led the way," the Downers Grove Democrat said Thursday. "It was an opportunity to allow people that day off to learn about Juneteenth."
But Chairman Dan Cronin questioned whether that would be the most effective way to honor Juneteenth. He pointed to remarks that Black community leaders made during a recent meeting of the DuPage Complete Count Committee.
The Rev. James Miller, senior pastor of DuPage AME Church in Lisle; Theodia Gillespie, president and CEO of the Quad County Urban League; and DuPage NAACP President Michael Childress were invited to speak to the panel to begin a dialogue about diversity and inclusion in the county.
During their comments, Childress and Miller weighed in on the idea of making Juneteenth a county holiday.
"I do support Juneteenth as a holiday," Childress said. "But I don't support it as just a day off work. I support it as a day of education and a day of service."
Miller urged officials not to add Juneteenth to the county's holiday schedule.
"Please do not make Juneteenth a holiday," he said. "We don't need another empty symbol."
Cronin said he wants the county to take a "more robust and substantive approach to Juneteenth."
The Elmhurst Republican said the county will work with College of DuPage to plan a series of educational events that will culminate in a unity breakfast celebrating the day in 2021.
"This breakfast will feature an educational program to teach our community about the history of African American contributions to DuPage County and to help us all understand and mend racial divisions," Cronin said.
He said he wants the calender of events to be developed with the help of Unity Partnership, the DuPage NAACP and other groups.
"I believe these activities will promote greater understanding (and) will make a real difference," Cronin said.