Editor's Note: This letter was sent to the Board of County Commissioners. The authors asked that it be printed in the Citrus County Chronicle.
It’s important as Americans to celebrate and honor Juneteeth. The day commemorates the day on June 19, 1865, when knowledge of the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolishment of slavery reached the last remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, nearly 2 1/2 years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.
While July 4 is a celebration of liberty, it was an imperfect liberty, because slaves still legally existed in the nation. The 250,000 former slaves in Texas celebrated June 19 to honor their emancipation and to foster political engagement by African Americans.
At Tuesday’s BOCC Monthly meeting, it was moving to see Citrus County natives -- Pastor Douglas Alexander and Christine Wright -- implore the Board of the importance of recognition of the holiday for our community.
Both former residents of Hernando, one of our historically black towns – Christine Wright talked about her childhood memories of May 20 being the date Florida and her community would come together in recognition and celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation; however, over time that holiday has since disappeared. Now a retired teacher, Ms. Wright stressed the importance to our children to recognize and instill the historical significance of the holiday.
Ultimately, the BOCC did unanimously vote against making Juneteenth a paid holiday on the grounds that it would be at a cost of $286,512 in salaries and expenses to do so. We would ask that the BOCC reconsider their decision based on two important factors.
Pastor Douglas Alexander himself took the lead in the proposal and we would ask the board and all members of the Citrus County community to consider the value of the work that the pastor and the New Church Without Walls provides each and every year to the citizens of Citrus County.
How could we possibly assess the financial value of the countless food, meals and school supplies that Pastor Alexander and his church provides each and every year to the citizens in need of Citrus County? Our guess is it far exceeds the cost in question.
Secondly, as the community of Citrus continues to grow and evolve, it’s more important than ever to honor our native Citrus Countians by honoring our history, heeding the experience of such valued citizens and providing opportunities for countywide celebration and witness year after year.
We agree with Pastor Alexander when he says “Let Citrus County be the lead here and do something that’s right for the people of Citrus County.”
Betty Honkonen, President
Democratic Women's Club of Citrus County
George Ann Jackson, President
Democratic Black Caucus of Citrus County