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Tyler African American community leaders react to signing of Juneteenth bill

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 7:39 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 7:46 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Juneteenth will be the newest federal holiday in the United States, and the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983.

President Joe Biden signed the bill into law today. Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day many slaves in the south finally found out they were free.

“I am all for that,” said Gloria Washington, Executive Director Texas African American Museum.

“Obviously, I’m very excited about President Biden signing Juneteenth as a federal holiday,” said Derrick Choice, Public Relations for Juneteenth Association of Tyler and a Chairman of Board Tyler Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.

The signing comes two days before Juneteenth which falls on June 19 every year. Cedrick Granberry, Sr., President of NAACP Tyler Chapter, said he grew up celebrating it.

“When we would celebrate it on different days of the week, workers were penalized for taking off from their jobs to celebrate. So that’s why the celebrations were moved to Saturdays, so that workers wouldn’t have to worry about that,” Granberry said.

Now that it’s being recognized as a national holiday, Granberry has high hopes.

“Perhaps we can go back to celebrating it on the day that it takes place and workers won’t be penalized as a result of that.”

Choice said he’s happy about it.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction toward bridging the gap. I think we’ll still have a long way to go, but we have to look at it like an elephant, just take a bite at a time,” Choice said. “So it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m thankful that it has now become a federal holiday.”

Washington echoed the support.

“This is a good way for African Americans to be acknowledged for the pain, the suffering, the blood, the sweat, the tears that our forefathers went through for our freedom,” she said.

Congress passed the bill 415-14.

Juneteenth has been a state holiday in Texas since 1980.

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