'The right thing to do': City of Hornell votes to recognize Juneteenth holiday

·2 min read

Juneteenth is officially a holiday in the city of Hornell.

The Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to authorize Juneteenth as a recognized paid holiday for all city employees. Mayor John Buckley said it was the first new holiday declared in the city since Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I thought this was an important thing to do, and I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Buckley.

Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday in June 2021. Forty-seven states had already recognized June 19 as a holiday. In New York, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared Juneteenth a state holiday on June 17, 2020.

Many consider June 19, 1865 the official end of slavery in the U.S. and the nation’s second Independence Day. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, slavery persisted until June 19, 1865 when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas of Lincoln’s proclamation.

Pastor Cedric Cooper, the Council’s lone Black alderman, said he takes “great pride and pleasure” in being part of the Council that made Juneteenth an official holiday in Hornell.

“It shows that the city is aware of the progress that our nation is making, is being open to the changes and is willing to address and face the changes, and flow with the progress that we are making as a nation,” said Cooper, a Democrat who represents the Third Ward. “I think the city is showing that, not just talking about it. I think this is a great step forward.”

Cooper, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hornell, said he is hopeful the city will hold an event to mark the Juneteenth holiday in 2023.

“I think some kind of celebration or acknowledgement of that is warranted,” said Cooper. “I think that would only help to educate folks. Everyone doesn’t know what Juneteenth means, and everyone is not aware of Juneteenth. Making this a legal holiday but also holding other community celebrations would raise awareness and help in that process.”

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While city hall will shut down June 19, 2023, other departments like police and fire will continue to operate. Buckley noted that department heads will have time to factor overtime costs for the new holiday into their next budgets. Rather than negotiating individually with the various unions, the resolution applies to all union and association contracts regardless of when they expire. It also covers non-contractual employee positions.

“I thought this was a more fair, equitable way to do it,” said Buckley. “This way it’s across the board.”

Chris Potter can be reached at cpotter@gannett.com or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on The Evening Tribune: Hornell Council recognizes Juneteenth holiday for all city employees