SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — This weekend is Juneteenth, a time to commemorate the day in history when all enslaved people were finally free in Texas. But a new bill introduced in California is looking to go even further and make Juneteenth a state holiday.
One year after President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday, California Assembly Bill 1655 proposes to make Juneteenth one of the holidays that state workers can choose to take paid time off for. And two assembly members say this proposal is long overdue.
After waiting over 150 years to make Juneteenth a holiday on the national level assembly members Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Dr. Akilah Weber are looking to make it a paid holiday for California state workers.
“It's not too much too quickly. I would actually say it's actually a little too late,” says Dr. Weber, assembly member for District 79.
“Academics actually in the UC’s, CSU, community college, came to me and said that we should have a Juneteenth holiday, state holiday, for state employees and I said you know what that’s a great idea," added Jones-Sawyer, assembly member for District 59. "So they really pushed to have that happen because they really knew how important Juneteenth is for not only African Americans but for the history of this country.”
Dr. Weber says that it’s important to celebrate this holiday nationally and locally because it’s the true day that all slaves were freed.
“Just like we celebrate the freedom of America on July 4th, we also need to recognize and celebrate the freedom of the enslaved people of America, which happened – the last ones were released or told that they were free on Juneteenth – so just like we celebrate other parts of American history, its extremely important that we recognize and celebrate the freedom of the last enslaved people in this country.”
And Jones-Sawyer says while slavery is still present today – recognizing the history – is one of the best ways to move forward.
“We have to constantly remind ourselves because chattel slavery, especially for African Americans was devastating, and 400 years of it, not only the slavery part but the remanence of it – Jim Crow, bigotry, redlining – it still exists and we need to remind ourselves that we need to abolish all of that. We have to stop this river of racism that’s running through the Black community, and the only way to do that is to celebrate Juneteenth where we finally realize, not only that we’re free but that we are full American citizens.”
The bill was amended in the assembly late last month and is now moving forward.
“Luckily it passed on the assembly committees and on the assembly floor and it's actually over on the senate side now," says Dr. Weber. "We expect to get the same amount of support and enthusiasm that we got on the assembly side and the final step will be hitting the governor's desk and the expectation there is that we will actually sign it into law."
The bill will not impact this Juneteenth but if it is signed into law next Juneteenth will be recognized as state-paid holiday making California the 10th state in the nation to give Juneteenth official holiday status.