On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt Juneteenth as an annual Day of Remembrance and paid holiday. The ordinance introduced by Mayor Wheeler, observes a day of moving past the history of anti-Blackness and racism in Portland, and is supported by a Core Values Resolution (attached) to lead decisions and drive culture within the City workforce.
“We are in a moment of reckoning. Since the death of George Floyd, thousands of people have reached out to my office demanding accountability and change,” Mayor Wheeler said. “Today’s ordinance and resolution are a direct result of our commitment to listen and respond to our community. This is not performative. This is our reality and it is our responsibility to resolve the brutality of the past.”
June 19th, 2020, will be a paid holiday during which City staff are encouraged to spend time self-educating and reflecting on anti-racism and the negative impacts of white supremacy, which is the foundation of American culture. Mayor Wheeler worked with elected offices, equity managers, the Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Bureau of Human Resources to bring the ordinance (attached) to Council.
“As we continue to address systemic racism within our institution, I am proud of the values we have agreed on today, which are binding city policy, and the formal recognition of Juneteenth,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz said. “This important day to the African-American community marks the end of subjugation for an oppressed people and reminds us how much further we must go to heal the wounds of enslavement. I look forward to working with my colleagues and our respective bureaus to uphold the Core City Values we passed today, for the dismantling of the layers that make public service a racist workplace for BIPOC employees and to uplift their voices as we move towards changing the racist nature of our institution.”
“Juneteenth continues to be an important lesson in our country’s history – one that describes the complacency and desire for status quo, and the resiliency of Black America in the face of that complacency,” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said. “It’s a perfect illustration of how systemic oppression continues despite laws or intentions. I hope non-Black Portlanders will use some of the time to find ways to act in solidarity with Portland’s Black community not just today, but every day.”
Black Americans have experienced oppression and suppression for more than 400 years. When Oregon was founded as a state in 1859, its constitution explicitly banned Black people from visiting, living and owning property here. To this day, navigating life as a Black American in our city and country does not come with the same privileges experienced by others.
"I'm proud to support this formal day of remembrance in recognition that Juneteenth was instrumental to the fight for Black equality in our nation," Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said. "This year, I encourage all Portlanders—particularly white Portlanders—to observe this day by educating yourself about Black history in our country. In particular, the lasting impact that our failure to address racism after the Civil War has had on our society. It is imperative for us to not just acknowledge our racist history but to recognize how it manifests in the present, and commit to real remedies for the harm done. There are many ways to support Black Portlanders. From standing up to hate in your community to committing to advancing equity in your workplace. From shopping at Black-owned businesses to donating to Black organizations like PAALF, Urban League, and NAACP. From showing your solidarity through protests to challenging yourself to recognize how unearned and undeserved privilege benefits you. I encourage all Portlanders to find a way to make a meaningful contribution this Juneteenth."
The City or Portland is committed to being an anti-racist institution, and continues working to prioritize addressing anti-Blackness and celebrating Black resilience within the City workforce and entire community. Today’s ordinance and values resolution will create an environment where there is zero tolerance for racist behaviors.