Jun 13, 2022
CAPITAL B NEWS | ATLANTA
Many county and municipal government bodies in the Atlanta metro area have passed similar laws recognizing Juneteenth over the past year, but leaders in some local cities still haven’t done the same.
Juneteenth still isn’t a paid holiday for city employees in Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, Roswell, Johns Creek, and Smyrna. Each one is hosting or planning at least one Juneteenth event organized by community members in the coming days, but North Fulton County NAACP President Kay Howell said having local governments enact a law officially recognizing the holiday is still a priority.
“We are very concerned that a federal and state holiday is not being observed,” Howell said. “I know it costs money to have those city government employees have the day off, but is [Juneteenth] where we want to draw the line? Why are we drawing the line there?”
Black Americans have been honoring Juneteenth for decades, but the annual June 19 celebration — commemorating the day in 1865 that former slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation — didn’t become a federal holiday until a year ago.
The decades-long push to recognize Juneteenth at a national level gained steam following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. President Joe Biden signedJuneteenth legislation into law more than a year later on June 17, 2021.
Gov. Brian Kemp followed suit in December when he signed a proclamation making Juneteenth an official holiday in the state. Since June 19 falls on a Sunday this year, federal and state government employees will get the day off on June 20, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Despite getting the governor’s approval, the holiday has become a point of contention in several local areas.
City communications director Bob Mullen confirmed that Johns Creek still hasn’t passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth.
“I really couldn’t officially comment on why. … I think the opportunity is still out there. It just hasn’t been acted on as of today,” he said.
The office of Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Mullen said Impact Johns Creek, a local Black nonprofit group, is in the process of planning a Juneteenth event. The group’s founder and president, Nicole Washington, did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment.