Here's how Santa Clara Co. became 1st in CA to recognize Juneteenth before Biden signed bill

Before the Biden Administration signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the county had already voted to do so.

ByMatt Boone via KGO logo
Saturday, June 19, 2021
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Ten months before the Biden Administration signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the County of Santa Clara had already voted to do so locally.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Ten months before the Biden Administration signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the County of Santa Clara had already voted to do so locally.

"This was the first opportunity to celebrate," said county supervisor, Cindy Chavez Friday morning outside the African American Community Service Agency in San Jose.

Because June 19 falls on a Saturday, the county observed the holiday on Friday, giving county employees a paid day off.

WATCH: Biden signs bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

"I think it's an exciting turn because it means our history will be recognized," said Helen Kassa, the policy and advocacy coordinator with AACSA.

She, along with executive director Milan Balinton, were instrumental in pushing the county to recognize the holiday.

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"This wasn't an easy lift with the county supervisors," recounted then-supervisor Dave Cortese. "We had to keep coming back until we knew we could get the majority vote."

After a summer of social justice protests, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance recognizing the holiday in September of 2020, the first county in the state to do it.

Since then, support for the holiday has grown and supervisor Cindy Chavez said their policy has now become a model for other governments.

RELATED: Here's a list of Juneteenth events happening in the Bay Area

"Counties across the country have reached out to us because they want to do the same thing," said Chavez.

This year marks another milestone for AACSA, which will be hosting its 40th annual Juneteenth festival at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

"Juneteenth is our holiday, but it is an American holiday that should be celebrated by all," said Balinton.

See more stories and videos related to Juneteenth here.