A resolution recognizing Juneteenth as a day of celebration in Bexley was unanimously approved at the City Council’s Tuesday, Dec. 1 meeting.
The resolution was originally proposed by City Council member Jen Robinson. Robinson explained that Juneteenth is observed each year on June 19 to celebrate the day that the news of emancipation reached the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, the last stronghold of slavery in the United States.
Robinson said she was initially inspired to propose this resolution following the surge of Black Lives Matter protests, which occurred throughout the country this summer in response to the killing of George Floyd.
“There have been so many calls to action post-George Floyd,” she said. “A lot of us have really taken pause and tried to investigate what we thought we knew, and this is just another opportunity to do that.”
The lack of knowledge about the holiday in the Bexley community is another reason for proposing this resolution, she said. Many people equate Juneteenth to the Fourth of July or just a day that marks freedom for the African people, she explained, but to her it is also an opportunity to educate community members.
“It is a day to celebrate and more importantly educate [people] and acknowledge the things we’ve done right and the things we haven’t done right in the past,” she said.
The actual events of the day have not been planned yet, Robinson said, but she hopes to use the day to educate the community further and highlight Black-owned businesses and community members who have made a difference.
However, Robinson said she wants the Juneteenth celebrations to reflect the community’s vision for the day, not just hers.
“One of the things that is really important is that a committee is formed from a group of people who are interested in creating this day for our city and come together and decide as a group what it is we are going to focus on,” she said.
Sophomore Maya Murray agrees with Robinson and believes that Black residents should be involved in planning this day.
“I think that any time you’re planning something in relation to a certain culture, it’s important to talk to people who identify with it and get lots of input from those people,” Murray said.
Robinson said the idea of promoting equity and diversity in the community was frequently discussed among City Council members toward the end of last year and the beginning of 2020, which is also when she initially presented the resolution.
She explained that she originally wanted the resolution to be an ordinance, which would give city of Bexley employees a paid day off, but the switch was made due to concern raised by members of the community.
“Right now the object of giving a majority white workforce the day off to celebrate Juneteenth just wasn’t cool with some people in the community, which makes total sense,” Robinson said.
She said she realized that an ordinance is something to focus on for the future, once they are able to better diversify their workforce.
“The ordinance was more of a long term goal, but sometimes you have to address where you are now,” she added. “So it was the right choice for the community.”
Murray said she believes the Juneteenth celebration is a good start for honoring diversity in Bexley, but she would also like to see other minority groups represented in the same way, such as the LGBTQ+ community with a Pride event. She added that she would also like this to be an opportunity to spark year-round conversation about equality and diversity in Bexley.
“Instead of this being a one day thing, it could be used to facilitate more conversation,” she said. “Maybe [City Council] could set things up throughout the year or give out resources to continue the discussion about race and racism.”