SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – For Sioux City NAACP President Ike Rayford, the federal recognition of Juneteenth has been years in the making.
“For 40 years now, it has been an ongoing celebration. There are organizations and entities that have already said, ‘You know what? We’re going to let our employees be off today,'” Rayford said.
However, a formal celebration in Sioux City is on hold due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We hope to have that big celebration here in Sioux City next year,” Rayford said.
Juneteenth is not without its critics. The bill to recognize the holiday nationally passed unanimously in the senate, but 14 House representatives voted against the bill. The move is something Sioux City Human Rights Commission Director Karen Mackey says is not surprising.
“You know, we saw this also when Martin Luther King. Jr. Day was passed. There were some people that, no matter what, they didn’t want that to happen,” Mackey said.
Mackey says even with the federal recognition, it could take much longer for Sioux City to recognize the holiday as well.
“Hopefully over time, people will either make that a holiday for their employees, or make it an option for a holiday,” Mackey said.
Despite this, both Mackey and Rayford say they hope the recognition of the holiday will bring other social issues closer to the spotlight.
“In the long-term, I am hoping that it will start some good discussions,” Mackey said.
“Whether it be law enforcement issues, whether it be, you know, poverty issues, you know, we’re going to press our elected officials to come together, not be divided, but come together in a sense of unity, and push for things that help all people,” Rayford said.
Sioux Falls and Omaha will be hosting a number of events over the weekend. For more information on ‘Juneteenth Sioux Falls,’ visit their Facebook page here. For more information on the 2021 Omaha Freedom Festival, visit their website here.