image

After three years had passed without Cayuga County recognizing Juneteenth as a county holiday, Legislator Brian Muldrow was tired of waiting. 

Muldrow, the county’s first Black lawmaker, proposed a resolution to designate Juneteenth — the anniversary of the final enslaved people being freed at the end of the Civil War — as a county holiday. The county Legislature approved the resolution in January. 

People are also reading…

The conversations about the Juneteenth proposal began after Democrats won the majority in November. But Muldrow, in an interview with The Citizen, insists the discussion was going to happen whether he was in the majority or not. He wanted to put his colleagues on the record. If they opposed making Juneteenth a county holiday, he says they would have to explain why they were voting no. 

“It was going to be a walk-on resolution no matter what,” Muldrow said. “It was coming. I’m not afraid to mix it up.” 

Muldrow reiterates what he said at the county Legislature meeting in January — that he does not blame anyone for the delay in recognizing Juneteenth. 

Juneteenth became a federal and state holiday in 2021. But the county, for various reasons, did not observe the holiday. 

Cayuga County Legislature Chairwoman Aileen McNabb-Coleman, who previously served as chair in 2020 and 2021, previously told The Citizen that timing was a factor in the initial decision not to recognize Juneteenth in 2021. She explained the county received late notice of the state’s decision to mark the holiday, which gave the county little time to plan its own observance. 

In 2022, there was new leadership. Former Cayuga County Legislature Chairman David Gould, who held the post for the last two years, said the issue would be addressed during contract negotiations with county employee unions. It was revealed that negotiators wanted workers to give up a floating holiday in exchange for making Juneteenth the 13th county holiday.

Employees did not want to give up their floating holiday. The new contracts were ratified, but the agreements did not include recognition of Juneteenth. 

Muldrow, who was first elected in 2021 and was reelected to a four-year term in November, wasn’t involved in the county’s contract negotiations, but was advocating for Juneteenth to be observed as a holiday. 

“Now that I know how these contracts work, it should’ve never been a discussion point,” he said. 

At the beginning of a new term this year, Muldrow made Juneteenth a top priority. He chairs the legislature’s Government Operations Committee and one of the first resolutions the committee considered last month was his proposal to designate Juneteenth as a county holiday. 

Under Muldrow’s proposal, the holiday would be observed on June 19. When June 19 is a weekend day, the holiday will be observed on either Friday or Monday. 

The resolution advanced through the committee phase. It passed 10-1 at the full county Legislature meeting in January. The lone opponent was Legislator Hans Pecher, who is concerned about the costs of making Juneteenth a paid holiday. 

With passage of the resolution in January, it gives the county five months to prepare for its first Juneteenth observance in June. 

Muldrow knows there are some residents who may not understand the significance of Juneteenth. He compared the holiday to Fourth of July. Fourth of July and Juneteenth, he continued, should be celebrated by all Americans. 

“If they could look at it like a Fourth of July, a true Independence Day for African Americans when they were all legally free, I think people will get a different appreciation of it,” Muldrow said. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.