COLUMBUS—Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) members today held a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse to commemorate Juneteenth and provide updates on legislation that builds up Black families in Ohio.
Observing Juneteenth has been a continued tradition for African Americans from the southwest for more than 150 years, as June 19, 1865 marks the day when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of both the Civil War and slavery.
“This Juneteenth, OLBC affirms that Black history matters, and we renew our commitment to expanding opportunity for all of our constituents,” said State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton), OLBC’s president. “That is a commitment which we take very seriously – our members made that very clear in outlining the work they are doing. Our job is not done until each and every Black family has the chance to thrive, not just survive.”
“Juneteenth is not just African American history; it’s American history,” said State Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland), OLBC’s first vice president. “Celebrating Juneteenth is a reminder of the continuous work that our country needs to do in order to end the systemic racism that effects Black people every day.”
The lawmakers held their press conference the day after the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday. The bill now heads to the U.S. House for its consideration. In the 133rd General Assembly, Rep. Brent introduced House Concurrent Resolution 33, which urged Congress to do so.
“Juneteenth is American history. It happens to be about Black people, and more relevant today, but the truth is the truth and it must be told,” said State Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati), OLBC’s second vice president.
47 states and the District of Columbia observe Juneteenth in some form. In 1980, Texas became the first state to officially declare Juneteenth a state holiday.
State Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Rep. Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus) and Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) also delivered remarks on legislation they have introduced to build up Black families.
Sen. Craig spoke on Senate Bill (SB) 78, his and Sen. Andrew Brenner’s (R-Powell) bill to declare Juneteenth a paid state holiday.
“Last year, this legislation unanimously passed the Ohio Senate. This General Assembly, it is critical that both chambers declare Juneteenth a paid state holiday,” said Sen. Craig, OLBC’s sergeant-at-arms.
“Doing so would highlight how far racial equity has come and how long the road is ahead for racial justice. African-American history is American history. Declaring Juneteenth a paid state holiday is an important step towards healing the great divide and providing an historical framework for justice and equality.”
Rep. Jarrells addressed his and Rep. Brigid Kelly’s (D-Cincinnati) HB 69, which would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Juneteenth is about celebrating freedom. And for me, freedom translates into having a livable wage,” said Rep. Jarrells. “That is why Rep. Kelly and I are pushing HB 69. It is important that we create a system for Ohioans to thrive and be set free from the financial barriers that hold so many of us back.”
Rep. Hicks-Hudson delivered remarks on HB 238, Rep. Erica Crawley’s (D-Columbus) and her bill to designate July 28 as Buffalo Soldiers’ Day. That legislation is scheduled for a vote on the House floor today.