Missed Communication – County Juneteenth Proclamation Clarification
Well that was quick. Or was it? It depends on whom you ask. Juneteenth is a National Holiday effective today. The Senate voted Tuesday, the House voted on Wednesday and the President signed the bill Thursday (yesterday) to make the 19th of June a National Holiday.
While that seems pretty fast to a lot of Americans, especially the 60% of those surveyed who said they knew nothing or very little about Juneteenth! But on the other hand, there is a much smaller portion of the population who've been pursuing a National Juneteenth Holiday for many many years. For the them, the question isn't "what just happened?" but "what the heck took you so long?"
That is important to keep in mind in any conversation about Juneteenth. It is a long standing topic of extreme importance to some. That in part explains some of the emotion in the story portrayed on the front page of the Yakima Herald Republic (YHR) and on local TV news.
The headlines on the June 18th edition read "Proclamation Draws Ire Of NAACP--Commissioners accused of slighting Juneteenth". I know the local President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). I have worked with the very talented Reesha Cosby at the same radio station group for nearly 20 years. I also know the County Commissioners and while the emotions triggered by the way the story's chain of events played out, I think it's safe to say this is a perfect storm of bad timing without any ill will intended by anyone.
The local chapter of the NAACP sends a proclamation to City Hall and the County Commissioners each year seeking recognition and remembrance of Juneteenth (June nineteenth) It is has been an important tradition, especially since despite years worth of effort, there has been no National Holiday --until now. To the NAACP, the proclamation is significant but routine. The expectation has built up over the years that the Commissioners will accept and read the proclamation and especially now with this being the week that our national leadership took action on creating the holiday.
The problem is that only one of three commissioners has been part of the annual Juneteenth proclamation and that's Ron Anderson who was out of the office most of the week and not at the meeting. The other two Commissioners, LaDon Linde and Amanda McKinney, don't have the benefit of knowing the history between the NAACP, the Juneteenth proclamation and the commission. They were unaware of the significance and annual nature of such a proclamation. When the proclamation was received at the courthouse two days before agenda deadline, Anderson was out, Linde was swamped with work and didn't see it and so there wasn't the normal time or vetting process available for reviewing outside proclamations and so by their established procedures, it wasn't included on the agenda. No ill will intended.
What was on the agenda was a proclamation written and vetted a couple weeks back saying the commissioner stood against the Governor's or any other entity's plan to separate or "segregate" people based on their COVID vaccine status. Innocent enough and reasonable stand to take.
But imagine the shock and surprise of Ms Cosby and others who tuned in to the recent Commissioners meeting to hear their proclamation read proclaiming the significance of Juneteenth -- only to hear a proclamation that may have sounded like an attempt to combine thoughts on the scourge of black/white segregation with COVID vaccination segregation.
High expectations crashed into innocent unawareness.
It doesn't help the rest of us trying to get a handle on the truth of the story that the YHR chose to write the article in a way that said the commissioners "declined" to read the Juneteenth proclamation and opted "instead" for the COVID segregation proclamation --which makes it sound as though both were weighed equally and the choice was made to pick one over the other based on its perceived "value". The commissioners say that's not what happened at all.
Soon departing City Councilwoman Kay Funk didn't miss an opportunity to chime in saying at Tuesdays City Council meeting, according the paper, "But I will say that anybody who can't differentiate a government recommendation of vaccination from, say, chattel slavery, there's something wrong with you." Nice, that helps a lot. To which I would say to Councilmember Funk --Blessed are the peacemakers-- way to assume the worst and put it on the record - but then she is just adding to an existing track record of her own.
Bottom line - all three commissioner have apologized for the incident and explained how it came about. In talking with Reesha Cosby of the NAACP by text this morning, she said her main concern was moving forward, having a successful event this weekend and knowing Reesha I would add enjoying the acknowledgment that the America has finally listened and taken action on something of real importance to Black Americans and ultimately to the entire nation.