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County Observes Juneteenth for the First Time with Some Closures

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington County will observe Juneteenth — which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. — for the first time as an official county holiday this Friday and Saturday.

The holiday celebrates the day when the nation’s last enslaved people learned of their freedom following the Emancipation Proclamation. The Arlington County Board voted to make Juneteenth a county holiday in late April of this year.

Since the June 19 holiday falls on a Saturday this year, certain offices and services will be closed Friday as well. All Department of Motor Vehicles offices and the county courthouse will be closed Friday, while libraries and community centers will be closed both Friday and Saturday.

Parking meters will not be enforced on either Friday or Saturday.

Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County Samia Byrd said she hopes residents take the time off to educate themselves about the day.

“I encourage people to take the time to participate in an event, activity or celebration that allows for reflection and learning more about Juneteenth and the history and events surrounding it,” she said.

In celebration, the Arlington Black Employees Council is hosting a Juneteenth Peace Rally today (Thursday) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bozman Government Center stairs with speakers and performers. The event, following up on a similar event last year, will be live-streamed on the county’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Byrd also suggests taking the day to bolster organizations working toward racial equity and supporting Black-owned businesses.

“Support organizations that continue to advocate for justice and liberation or volunteer for an organization,” said Byrd. “Patronize Black businesses. Enjoy fellowship and celebrate freedoms we have while considering what more can be done.”

This time last year, the county made headlines for sending Black employees to powerwash Black Lives Matter chalk art in a local neighborhood on Juneteenth, something for which the county soon apologized.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced last year that he would make June 19 a state holiday, giving all state employees a paid day off. Meanwhile, Congress voted yesterday (Wednesday) to make June 19 a federal holiday, and President Joe Biden’s signature today will make Friday a day off for many federal workers.

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