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Juneteenth to Become Public Holiday Statewide; Some Credit BLM, George Floyd Protestors

Syracuse area residents who marched and rallied for racial justice can see one result of their actions codified into law.  New York is poised to make Juneteenth an official public holiday. 

Syracuse Juneteenth Committee member Ruthnie Angrand credits change to Black Lives Matter and other movements – largely led by youth.

“They are not ok with all but deliberate speed when it comes to matters of social justice and matters of equity.  Historically, protests and direct action, those are the things that are our conscience and drive us as a country to just do the right thing.”  

We talked to her last month when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to make Juneteenth a holiday for state workers – but just for this year.  Now the State Senate has passed a measure to make it a permanent, public holiday. 

“The Juneteenth holiday is a reminder of our past and a celebration of freedom,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “It recognizes the day when the last enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy were informed about their emancipation. As we enjoy this festive day, we also recognize that there is still progress to be made.”

Angrand says the significant move can help the fight for racial justice.

“It’s American history.  It’s not just for Black people or African Americans. … We may be able to get policies, corporate policies, government policies, focused on equity in a way we never have been able to before.  And it reminds the country that we had to put an end to slavery.  We had to look at someone from another race and see them as a citizen for the first time.” 

She says hopefully the holiday will give people a chance to reflect on equality.  But she adds, it can’t change what’s in people’s hearts.  The June 19th holiday bill heads to the Governor’s desk where he’s expected to sign it into law. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.