Najifa Farhat

(Missoula Current) The Missoula City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday recognizing Juneteenth National Freedom Day as an official city holiday. The resolution aims to commemorate the emancipation of African/Black Americans from enslavement and celebrate their freedom.

Mayor Jordan Hass presented the motion, stating, "Our motion today aligns with the city's Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) resolution passed in January, which ensures inclusivity for all residents of Missoula in commemorating and celebrating significant moments."

Juneteenth has been a federally recognized paid holiday since 2021, and the state of Montana designated the third Saturday of June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

Under the resolution, Juneteenth will be observed on June 17 each year. If the designated day falls on a weekend, the holiday will be observed on the nearest weekday. As a result, the city will have 11 holidays in odd-numbered years and 12 holidays in even-numbered years.

The resolution adopted Wednesday originated from Local #271 of the Missoula Fire Department, with firefighter Andy Drobeck representing the motion on behalf of the department.

Drobeck emphasized the diverse significance of Juneteenth.

"Juneteenth can hold different meanings for different people. It is a day to celebrate African American culture with festivity, but it is also a day to study black history, black poets, black leaders, and black achievements," he said.

The City Council passed the motion in accordance with Article XI, section 5 of Montana's Constitution, which empowers local government to adopt new resolutions and enact laws related to equal rights and human dignity.

Councilman Amber Sherrill expressed support for the resolution, saying, "Schools and parents can seize this opportunity to educate students about the importance of this holiday. It is long overdue, and I am pleased that we are taking this step."

The direct costs associated with implementing the holiday, including staff required to work on the designated day and overtime pay for essential service employees, are estimated to be approximately $10,000.