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Melton pushes council to recognize ‘Juneteenth’

In an email sent out to the Selma City Council shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Selma Mayor Darrio Melton pushed for the council to adopt Friday, June 19, as a holiday in the city in recognition of “Juneteenth,” which observes the day in 1865 that Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston freeing all previously enslaved people in Texas, almost two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“I am fully aware that the City Council may from time to time proclaim holidays to be observed by City Employees,” Melton said in his email to the council. “I am asking the City Council to join me in acknowledging this Friday, Juneteenth, as a Holiday in the City of Selma. It is my hope that the Council will take action prior to this Friday.”

The email was accompanied by a proclamation, which states that June 19, 2020, will be recognized as “Juneteenth Freedom Day” in Selma, though it makes no mention of the day being a holiday for city workers or whether such a holiday should be paid.

The council, however, won’t take up the issue until next week’s council meeting, according to Selma City Council President Corey Bowie.

“As far as the Juneteenth resolution, it’s an observation of how far African-American have come since the Civil War,” Bowie said. “I’m all for the concept, I just wish it would have been discussed at our last council meeting.”

Bowie said that the last-minute nature of the mayor’s request made it impossible to get enough council members together to approve the proclamation via a special called meeting – the council will “ratify and approve” the proclamation Tuesday, though it will have to be taken up again next year if the city plans to observe the holiday annually, as Melton’s proclamation only specified the 2020 observation.

Additionally, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities, a council-approved ordinance would likely be required to take action on closing public buildings, approving paid time for employees and recognizing a city holiday.

For her part, Selma City Councilwoman Miah Jackson is looking forward to officially recognizing the day, albeit after the fact.

“Juneteenth is significant in our country’s history,” Jackson said. “I am elated that many cities and organizations around the country are adopting the same or similar proclamations as Selma. It is good that we are recognizing the value of this historic day to one of its most disenfranchised and challenged populations.”