State senator Kimberly Lightford, pictured here at a March press conference in Forest Park, is pushing to make Juneteenth a state holiday. | Alex Rogals, Staff Photographer

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (4th), whose district encompasses most of Proviso Township, is following up on her promise last year to push to make Juneteenth a holiday across the state.

Earlier this month, Lightford introduced Senate Bill 1965, which would make June 19 Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Illinois, meaning state employees would have a paid day off and schools would recognize it as a holiday.

Juneteenth, which combines the words June and nineteenth, commemorates the moment that Union army general Gordon Granger announced the federal order that freed enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 — two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all enslaved people in Confederate states free. The murder last year of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, brought the holiday to the attention of many more Blacks and non-Blacks alike.

“June 19, 1865 is the day the United State truly became the land of the free,” Lightford said in a statement released March 24. “It’s a day everyone should celebrate, and it’s a reminder that Black Americans are still recovering from the terrible legacy of slavery.”

Lightford said the state holiday would be a “way of highlighting our freedom and reminding us how far we’ve come.”

Senate Bill 1965 passed the Senate Executive Committee on March 24 and is scheduled to go to the Senate floor for more debate.