Broward approves racial equity task force; considers making Juneteenth a paid holiday

Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness sponsored the creation of a Racial Equity Task Force. (WPLG)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The creation of a racial equity task force has been approved by Broward County commissioners. The 37-member group will be asked to “identify systemic and racial inequities and develop a detailed plan aimed at eliminating racism and create greater racial equity in Broward,” the commission announced Wednesday.

The ordinance was sponsored by Commissioner Dale Holness.

“This brings us an entity that will identify issues of inequities, bring about policy recommendations and identify those who will be able to implement across the board solutions, that we can work,” Holness said in a news release.

Commissioners say they will each appoint one member to the task force and that the following entities will also be represented: Broward Workshop, the Broward League of Cities, Hispanic Unity of Florida, School Board of Broward County, Broward County Sheriff, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Urban League of Broward County, Office of the State Attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, Office of Public Defender for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, Black Lives Matter, New Florida Majority, Community Foundation of Broward, Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Broward County, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Children’s Services Council of Broward County, a representative from the banking or mortgage banking industry, representative recommended by the Broward Council of Chambers of Commerce, the Pride Center at Equality Park, an individual from Broward College, six Broward residents who are engaged in racial equity work in one of the County’s systems for child welfare, housing and homelessness, or health care services nominated by the Human Services Department, a representative of a newspaper of other media organization and the Women of Color Empowerment Institute.

This task force is separate from the county’s police and criminal justice review board, which was created by the commission in October.

That ordinance was also drafted by Holness, the former county mayor.

Juneteenth a paid holiday?

Commissioners are also considering making June 19 an official paid holiday for the county in recognition of Juneteenth, which commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.

That request was also brought to the commission by Holness, who said “I think this is a gesture that would go far to help in healing those deep wounds that still exist in our society.”

The county notes that some of its cities, including Pembroke Pines and Tamarac, have already made Juneteenth an official holiday, as has Miami-Dade County.

“I think that this date needs to be given as much the same consideration as any other paid holiday that we’re taking off in Broward County,” Commissioner Dr. Barbara Sharief said. “It is such an important event in African American history, and I think that doing this would bring a special kind of awareness. People will come to know what it is we are celebrating. I think this is long overdue.”

The county estimated that the cost in salary of adding a paid holiday is $1.3 million, and the commissioners directed the county attorney to draft a resolution that they can then discuss further before putting it to a vote.