PoliticsIn Florida, Juneteenth highlights an ongoing fight for freedom

In Florida, Juneteenth highlights an ongoing fight for freedom

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Florida’s official day to commemorate the end of slavery is May 20, known as “Mayteenth.” However, as communities across the nation celebrate Juneteenth, the federal holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States, it stirs mixed feelings among African Americans.

Despite being recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has yet to achieve official state holiday status in Florida, a point of contention for many activists and community leaders.

Juneteenth highlights

Juneteenth

Mutaqee Akbar, attorney and president of the Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP, highlighted contradictions in Governor Ron DeSantis’ approach to freedom, using the word to his benefit.

“Talk about us surviving. You know what? We survive,” Akbar emphasized. “You’re not free to teach it or read about it or any of those things. And it’s absolutely hypocritical to invoke that word freedom and not allow freedom at the same time.”

DeSantis issued a proclamation in 2020 calling on Floridians to honor Juneteenth but efforts to make it a state holiday have stalled, with recent legislative attempts failing. Akbar highlighted state policies that led the NAACP to issue a travel advisory warning African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals about visiting Florida.

Akbar stressed the advisory still holds today from what he sees as continuous attacks on African Americans.

“Things that are important to Black people. Not only education, voting, voter suppression, redistricting, all of those things are attacks on all that on the African American community,” Akbar outlined. “I think it needs to be addressed through these advisories.”

The history of Mayteenth and Juneteenth in Florida stirs mixed feelings. Akbar hopes it is a day of conversation as much as celebration while avoiding commercialization. He sees it as an opportunity to teach what some have tried to block.

Although the state has observed Juneteenth since Governor Lawton Chiles signed the Juneteenth Observance Bill into law in 1991, making it a fully recognized state holiday remains unfinished.

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