FAYETTE COUNTY/JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — June 19, 1865, marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
Kentucky lawmakers are discussing whether to make Juneteenth a state-recognized holiday. Local community leaders are speaking about what making June 19th a state holiday would mean.
Right now, Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the US.
President of the NAACP of Lexington and Fayette County, Whit Whitaker, says, "The important component of Juneteenth is that people need to also set aside time for reflection."
Whitaker says House Bill 133 and Senate Bill 22 would make June 19th a state holiday for state employees. Community leaders and life-long Kentuckians say making this day a holiday here would be a great observance of this community's history.
Anna Kenion, the Jessamine County Community/Program Coordinator for the Black History Celebration, says, "This program needs to be highlighted, as I said earlier so that people will be able to understand that better is on the way."
In Jessamine County, celebrations of Black history and culture have increased. Kenion grew up in this county and can remember a time when there were few observances that involved the entire community.
She says she remembers a divided community.
"Growing up as a little girl, I saw the division, I saw the separatism, I saw the...all kinds of things that a little girl probably should not have seen, but, I’ve seen it and the way that people have been treated and we still have a long way to go. We really do but at the same time, it’s great to have people come together as a team,” says Kenion.
Now, after 23 years, this entire community is working together, preparing for its annual Black History celebration on Saturday, February 26.
The program is sponsored by the Jessamine County Fiscal Court, the public library, and the CARE Council.
Jessamine County Judge Executive, David West says this event is important because "we are not separated, we are together and the more we learn about each other, the more we cooperate with each other, the stronger we get."
Kenion hopes that younger generations will carry on this community tradition.
"They can see things that are happening in their lives today and want to make a change in their community and make a change in the world that they live in,” says Kenion.
Jessamine County's Black History day celebration will be held at the Jessamine County Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Several communities in the area also have Juneteenth celebrations planned for this summer.