Hillsborough County officials, employees and community members gathered in front of the Fredrick B. Karl County Center Wednesday morning to commemorate Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when Union soldiers brought news of freedom to enslaved African Americans in Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves 2.5 earlier.
The inaugural ceremony included a melodic song by the Tampa Bay Juneteenth Coalition Community Choir and the raising of the Juneteenth flag by Commissioner Gwen Myers and her 9-year-old nephew Tony Sirmons, a fourth grader at Cambridge Christian School. Later that morning, county commissioners issued a proclamation declaring June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day.
In 2021, June 19 became an official federal holiday, and in July of that year, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved Juneteenth as a County holiday. This year is the first year Juneteenth is a holiday for employees (observed on Monday, June 20).
The raising of the Juneteenth flag was an important element of Wednesday’s ceremony. Each element in the design of the Juneteenth flag has meaning, including a star representing Texas and the freedom of African Americans in the country, an outline around the star inspired by a nova and signifying a new beginning for African Americans, and an arc that extends across the width of the flag that represents a new horizon of promise and opportunities. The flag’s colors are red, white, and blue.
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