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Florida lawmaker to refile bill making Juneteenth state holiday

'It's our freedom,' FAMU Student Ian Brown says
Posted at 5:46 PM, Jun 21, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Is it now Florida’s turn?

A state lawmaker said Monday he was again filing a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday, days after the federal government did so on the national level.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, believed Florida should recognize June 19's significance to the fullest.

"Making it a holiday is another step," Bracy said. "I think that people need to observe it, take a day off and observe the importance of it."

Juneteenth holiday
The Juneteenth holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Juneteenth's origins date back to Texas in 1865 when some of the last of America's slaves were informed of their freedom following President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Since 1991, Florida law has commemorated the date only in observance, falling short of a holiday. Upgrading it would grant state workers time off and likely encourage more private employers to do the same.

But to Florida A&M student Ian Brown, full state recognition of the date meant more than a day off.

"It's our freedom," Brown said. "It's our Fourth of July. We want to celebrate it just as much as everybody would like to celebrate the Fourth of July."

Florida A&M student Ian Brown
Florida A&M student Ian Brown speaks about the significance of the Juneteenth holiday.

Brown was hopeful Florida would now follow in the federal government's footsteps. He told us the national holiday left a lasting impact.

"It felt like I was being supported," Brown said. "It felt like I wasn't being overlooked anymore. ... It made it feel like we have somebody on our side."

It was earlier this year when Bracy's last attempt cleared the Senate chamber but failed to reach the House floor. Some opponents felt Florida should instead recognize May 20, which is when word of the proclamation reached slaves here.

In a tweet over the weekend, Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, reaffirmed the concern.

"Why does the day that Texas slaves learned about the Emancipation Proclamation deserve a national holiday but not the day Florida (or other states)," Fine wrote. "On behalf of my Black constituents, we must stop this discrimination."

Bracy thought he could find a bipartisan compromise. He said he would be open to working with Fine to add May 20 to the list of state holidays in addition to Juneteenth.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol for the 2022 lawmaking session on Jan. 11.