February 10, 2021
Mayor Jim Kenney has signed an executive order changing the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous People's Day on the city government calendar in a move that is part of a larger initiative to promote racial justice in Philadelphia.
The order also designates Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the United States, as a city holiday.
These changes are a part of Philadelphia's Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation, a campaign that started in June amid the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that is intended to address racial inequality in the city. Other initiatives within Pathways include police reforms and public health awareness.
The holiday changes will remain in place at least through Kenney's administration, the city said, though there will be opportunities in the future to make them permanent.
"We hope that for our employees and residents of color, this change is viewed as an acknowledgment of the centuries of institutional racism and marginalization that have been forced upon Black Americans, Indigenous people, and other communities of color," Kenney said.
Juneteenth occurs on June 19, and Indigenous People's Day will take place the same day Columbus Day has been traditionally observed, the second Monday of October. This year that falls on Oct. 11.
Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who's expedition landed Americas in 1492 and kickstarted centuries of transatlantic colonization. Columbus enslaved Indigenous people and used violence against them for their insubordination. They were also exposed to a host of new diseases that devastated populations.
The concept of Indigenous Peoples' Day was introduced in 1977 at a United Nations International Conference as a way to honor the first inhabitants of the Americas instead of Columbus. Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin are among the states that have changed the holiday's name. Last October, Washington, D.C., passed a temporary resolution it plans to make permanent to adopt the name Indigenous Peoples' Day.
In August, Philadelphia covered the statue of Christopher Columbus in South Philly's Marconi Plaza, and there are plans to remove it entirely.
In 2020, Kenney first designated Juneteenth as a city government holiday through an executive order that expired this year. His administration plans to make the holiday a permanent part of the calendar during the upcoming collective bargaining agreements with the city's four municipal worker unions, Lauren Cox, a mayor's office spokesperson, said.
In the meantime, Kenney's latest executive order ensures the holiday is recognized in 2021.
The city released its six month update to its Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation last week, which focused on four goals: police reform and public safety, economic recovery, community engagement, and public health.
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