Desert Hot Springs to formally recognize Juneteenth public holiday

DESERT HOT SPRINGS — The idea to honor Juneteenth as a public holiday bubbled up to the Mayor and City Council through a public records specialist in the city Police Department.

Floylaina “Flo” Smith, who works in the Police Department Records Department, reached out to Council Member Jan Pye. Together they educated city staff on the idea that even though it is a federal holiday the City Council would still need to adopt a Resolution to make it a city holiday, Mayor Scott Matas told Uken Report.

DHS Designates Juneteenth Public Holiday

Scott Matas

“I feel kinda foolish for not recognizing this and bringing it forward sooner,” Matas said.

Either way, he said, the City Council heard the request and unanimously supported it, adding it to the list of holidays that the city will observe, close its offices and pay its staff.

Matas said the public holiday is designed “to reflect on the struggles that our African Americans went through during times of slavery and to celebrate the freedoms that were given to those that were in slavery.  This day will help us remember how blessed we are to leave in the United States of America but also remind the struggles our African Americans went through.”

After decades of activists campaigning for change, Congress approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law after the efforts of Lula Briggs Galloway, Opal Lee, and others. Juneteenth had previously been established as a state holiday in Texas in 1980, with a number of other states later declaring it a state holiday or observance.

The holiday is celebrated on June 19, and it began in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, NPR reports.

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the proclamation outlawing slavery in most of the United States years earlier, but it was not until 1865 that those in bondage in Texas were freed.


Image Sources

  • Scott Matas: Desert Hot Springs
  • Juneteenth: Shutterstock