Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/06/2001 08:06 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 100-JUNETEENTH DAY                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0085                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL announced  the committee  would hear  testimony on                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 100, "An  Act establishing the third  Saturday of                                                               
each June as Juneteenth Day."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0116                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   LESIL   McGUIRE,   Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
testified  as   sponsor  of  HB  100.     Representative  McGuire                                                               
introduced  Juneteenth as  "the oldest  known celebration  of the                                                               
ending  of   slavery."    Freedom   actually  came   through  the                                                               
Emancipation  Proclamation  in  1863, but  slaves  in  Galveston,                                                               
Texas,  did  not  get  word  of  it  until  June  19,  1865,  she                                                               
explained;  adding, "Juneteenth  gets  its name  from that  date,                                                               
June nineteenth."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  noted that Juneteenth is  a state holiday                                                               
in  Texas,   Oklahoma,  Florida,  and  Delaware,   and  has  been                                                               
celebrated in  Anchorage for the past  eight years.  She  said it                                                               
is an  unpaid holiday celebrated  on the third Saturday  of June.                                                               
Congress  passed   a  Republican-sponsored  resolution   in  1997                                                               
recognizing  the  holiday,  she continued,  but  [then-President]                                                               
Clinton  did  not  issue  a proclamation  to  make  it  official.                                                               
President  Bush is  expected to  make  recognition official  this                                                               
year, and  has been asked  to do so  on June  19, she said.   She                                                               
asked all members to support HB 100.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0298                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JAMES   N.    "DINO"   ALLEN,   of   Anchorage,    testified   by                                                               
teleconference.   He said  he has  been promoting  the Juneteenth                                                               
celebration in Anchorage  for the past eight  years; however, the                                                               
celebration  there has  been going  on  for more  than 20  years,                                                               
sponsored  by the  National Association  for  the Advancement  of                                                               
Colored  People (NAACP)  and  others.   He  said  it  is a  great                                                               
celebration in Anchorage and elsewhere.   In Ontario, California,                                                               
last year,  there was  a Juneteenth  conference where  the agenda                                                               
"was  just to  get  everybody  to celebrate  it  in every  state,                                                               
regardless of a holiday," he said.   "Now they want to take it to                                                               
a different  level and get it  recognized ... as an  official day                                                               
of celebration, an  official day to recognize  freedom."  Freedom                                                               
is what  America has been  built on, he  pointed out; but  at the                                                               
time  of  the  Declaration  of  Independence  in  1776,  African-                                                               
Americans'  ancestors  were  not  free.    "We  think  that  [in]                                                               
recognizing [June 19]  in 1865 when official  freedom came about,                                                               
we might be  able to begin the healing of  the country [which was                                                               
once divided over slavery]," he concluded.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL thanked  Mr. Allen  for his  interest and  for the                                                               
work he has done on the organizational effort.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE said  she thinks it is  "a great statement                                                               
we  are making  as a  state,"  joining a  nationwide movement  to                                                               
bring this to the forefront, "to  educate people about the end of                                                               
slavery and  the suffering that has  been endured on the  part of                                                               
African-Americans in our country."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said this causes  her to ponder where we are                                                               
today in  relation to 1865, and  [about] the claims of  racism in                                                               
our country.   She  noted that  in this  country, we  have, "more                                                               
freedom than anyone  does in any other country in  the world" and                                                               
that "everyone  has the same  opportunity and it's  an individual                                                               
endeavor  for us  to get  there."   She  said she  is proud  that                                                               
Alaska has such  a "diverse potpourri of all  different races and                                                               
cultures," and thinks  we should celebrate that  all Alaskans are                                                               
free and  equal.  She  said she  thinks HB 100  is a step  in the                                                               
right direction,  pointing out that  there is still  some slavery                                                               
today,  that  there are  white  slaves,  and  that slavery  is  a                                                               
"horrible  thing" and  is wrong,  no matter  who it  is [that  is                                                               
enslaved].                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COGHILL  added that  what they are  doing in  Anchorage [on                                                               
Juneteenth] is truly celebrating freedom.   He noted that this is                                                               
"one  of the  few places  in  the world  where we  can say  we've                                                               
overcome some  of our bad things  in our society, and  as long as                                                               
that's the  emphasis of it [Juneteenth],  I have no problem.   If                                                               
it becomes an issue that divides  us rather than unifies us, then                                                               
I  think that  it would  be a  step in  the wrong  direction, and                                                               
that's  something we  need to  continually guard  against."   But                                                               
celebrating freedom is a wonderful thing, he said.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. ALLEN said he didn't  know where any racial implications came                                                               
from,  and that  was  never the  proponents'  intention.   "We're                                                               
truly for  freedom, and on the  slavery issue, it has  nothing to                                                               
do with racism," he emphasized.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  COGHILL said  he thinks  what the  committee is  saying is                                                               
that  "we  just  need  to guard  against  [racism]  becoming  the                                                               
issue."                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. ALLEN said he understood.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0906                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE FATE  expressed concern that  June 19 is  so close                                                               
to July  4.   He said  he completely agrees  with the  concept of                                                               
Juneteenth, but  he said there  seems to  be some erosion  of the                                                               
meaning of  July 4, and he  wondered if the date  could be backed                                                               
up a week or something like that.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE explained  that  June 19  comes from  the                                                               
official proclamation  from Galveston,  Texas, on that  date, "so                                                               
it is set  in stone."  She  echoed what Mr. Allen  had said about                                                               
this  being an  opportunity for  all  races to  come together  to                                                               
celebrate the  end of  "a really terrible  time in  our history."                                                               
She said  she thinks, "It's  OK for us to  look back as  a nation                                                               
and  recognize  where  we  have  erred and  where  we  have  made                                                               
mistakes, and celebrate  the fact that we've  moved beyond that."                                                               
She said it  wouldn't be any more appropriate to  change the date                                                               
of June 19 than it would be to change the date of July 4.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ALLEN pointed  out  that  the celebration  is  on the  third                                                               
Saturday, regardless of whether that actually falls on June 19.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON called  the committee's  attention to  the                                                               
"History  of Juneteenth,"  included in  their packets.  "Once you                                                               
read this,  everything makes  more sense," she  said.   She never                                                               
heard of  this when  she lived  in North  Carolina, and  that's a                                                               
shame, she said, because she thinks  there are a lot of places in                                                               
our  nation --  although we  may not  notice it  so much  here in                                                               
Alaska --  but in other  parts of  the United States,  "there are                                                               
still feelings  on both sides,"  she said.   She said  she thinks                                                               
[the Juneteenth  celebration] is wonderful  and that "we  need to                                                               
join with them and help them celebrate."                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE emphasized  that  although  the date  was                                                               
actually June  19, 1865, it  is celebrated on the  third Saturday                                                               
in June.   Part of that, she  explained, is that it  is an unpaid                                                               
holiday, and Saturday  is a day when most people  are not working                                                               
and have a chance to ... (indisc.-coughing).                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1160                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COGHILL  observed that one  of the reasons this  bill moved                                                               
so easily  is that it  is an unpaid holiday.   He said  he thinks                                                               
there is a movement toward a  national holiday, and that [HB 100]                                                               
will probably reinforce that effort.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES  clarified that  she  had  not intended  to                                                               
suggest, "that  this was a  racial issue at all."   "It is  in my                                                               
heart, a celebration ... that we  will not accept slavery in this                                                               
nation,"  she avowed.   Historically,  slavery  was an  atrocious                                                               
thing  for  African-Americans,  but  there still  are  people  in                                                               
bondage, "and  if we can draw  attention to the slavery  issue, I                                                               
think we  make it  a bigger  issue than just  the freedom  of the                                                               
African-Americans,"  she  said.  "Everyone,  regardless  of  your                                                               
color or your creed or whatever,  every human is intended to have                                                               
the  same freedom  as every  other one,  and there  should be  no                                                               
slavery, no bondage at all in this nation."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS agreed with  Representative James that "we                                                               
have a lot  to be proud of  in this country, where  we are today,                                                               
but  we also  have a  lot  to feel  bad about,...[including]  the                                                               
treatment  of Negro  slaves as  well as  the treatment  of Alaska                                                               
Natives and other Native Americans."   We have had a tradition of                                                               
mistreatment of people because of their  races," he said.  In the                                                               
short  time he  has  been  in Alaska,  since  1970,  he has  seen                                                               
mistreatment of Native  people, and it wasn't that  long ago that                                                               
the  Native people  of  Alaska  received the  right  to vote,  he                                                               
recalled.   "So it's not that  far from where we  are right now,"                                                               
he said.   "I think all  this says, really basically,  is that we                                                               
need to  be constantly  vigilant and never  allow this  to happen                                                               
again, and constantly work toward  racial equality.  This is very                                                               
positive  and  very  good,  and  I know  we'll  support  it,"  he                                                               
concluded.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1340                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CELESTE  GRAHAM   HODGE,  President,  Anchorage   Branch,  NAACP,                                                               
testified  by teleconference.    She said  HB  100 is  definitely                                                               
something that  should be supported.   Slavery and  lynchings are                                                               
not that far in the past, she said.   But now, it is time to move                                                               
in a  positive direction, she stated,  and celebrating Juneteenth                                                               
is something that the NAACP definitely supports.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1416                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAYES moved  to report  HB 100  out of  committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
note.  There being no objection;  House Bill 100 was reported out                                                               
of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                  

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