A member of the Smithfield Town Council asked Johnston County Commissioners on Monday to make Juneteenth an official holiday in Johnston County. Councilman Marlon Lee addressed Commissioners during their monthly meeting and made the request. Wake County Commissioners voted Monday and approved a similar measure.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the United States. It originated in Texas and is observed each year on June 19th.
Over the last two months Councilman Lee said he has marched with Clayton High students, marched with protestors in Downtown Smithfield, attended a rally with a diverse group of ministers, and organized an event called 100 Men in Suits. “I am proud of these moments but now we need some movements.” Mr. Lee also mentioned the swearing in last week of Dr. Eric Bracy as the first African American superintendent in the history of Johnston County Public Schools.
“We can paint on the road. We can tear down statutes, but that really don’t mean anything. We need to stand in solidarity with African American employees and their families,” Councilman Lee said. “Let’s vote unanimously and make Juneteenth a county holiday. Let’s be a part of the movement… This could be just the beginning. Our sister county (Wake County) is doing it. Why not follow the lead and do it.”
Commissioner Butch Lawter of Clayton said as Johnston County moves forward the County needs to have a discussion on this issue on a much broader scale.
Commissioner Chairman Ted Godwin requested to meet with Councilman Lee to discuss his request in more detail.
“I would love to see things that unite people. I’m not sure that this will, but I’d love to have that conversation,” Mr. Godwin stated.
No formal action was taken by Commissioners on the request.