Bexley City Council: Vote still pending on Juneteenth legislation

Chris Bournea
ThisWeek
City of Bexley

Bexley residents will have to wait at least until City Council’s meeting Tuesday, Nov. 10, to find out if Bexley will designate Juneteenth as a holiday. 

At previous meetings Oct. 13 and Oct. 27, council was scheduled to vote on the third and final reading of Ordinance 39-20 to formally recognize Juneteenth as an annual celebration.

Council member Jen Robinson, who introduced the ordinance, said she moved to table the legislation Oct. 13 and keep it tabled Oct. 27 in order to gather more feedback from residents and community groups. 

“This is an opportunity for us to listen to our residents,” she said. “It’s such a complicated history.” 

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved African Americans were emancipated in Texas, according to Juneteenth.com.

Juneteenth is not recognized as an official holiday by the federal government and observances vary by state, ranging from community festivals to paid holidays for government employees. In Texas, the state legislature voted in 1980 to make it an official state holiday. 

Robinson said the national reckoning on race that came to the forefront amid the George Floyd protests in late spring made recognizing Juneteenth a priority. 

“I was trying to think of a way to engage the community in a learning experience about the gifts of the African-American experience, the things that have happened since Juneteenth – good, bad and indifferent,” she said. 

In drafting Ordinance 39-20, Robinson said she consulted with residents and a cross-section of community organizations, from those that have been existence for several years to others that have formed since the George Floyd protests. She said she has consulted with Bexley Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Bexley Minority Parent Alliance and the Bexley Anti- Racism Project, among others. 

Robinson said the feedback she consistently received was that if Bexley adopts an official Juneteenth holiday, the observance should focus on substantive programming about African-American history rather than a holiday that will be treated as just a day off. 

“It’s education as much as celebration,” she said. “It really is a day of recognition.” 

Robinson said she also is waiting to see if the city of Columbus and the state of Ohio adopt legislation.

In June, Franklin County Commissioners announced that beginning in 2021, the county will replace the recognition of Columbus Day by making Juneteenth a paid holiday for county employees. 

The Nov. 10 meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and will be available at the city’s website, bexley.org. 

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