Letter: Juneteenth Celebration lacks appreciation by council

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Dear aldermen and alderwomen of the Lincoln City Council:

I watched the city council proceedings with interest this past week in anticipation of the agenda item relating to the request for $2,500 from Hotel/ Motel Tax Fund for the Juneteenth Celebration. I wish to share my extreme disappointment and ask you to reassess your decision.

As a reminder, just a few years ago the city council approved, authorized, and assigned the Diversity and Inclusion Commission with the task to create incentives and programming to increase the awareness and appreciation for diversity of all kinds within our community. I was proud to play a role in realizing this needed commission, and was happy to see that the commission’s members immediately and fervently took the tasks they were given to heart. My last few months on the council in 2021 witnessed the exciting planning for a Juneteenth celebration which took place last year, and which was very successful by all accounts. I wonder how many on the council bothered to attend the event.

I understand the council is not obligated to carry out the requests even of its own commissions. I have no issue with that. What I have an issue with in this case is the seeming lack of appreciation for what Juneteenth is, and how the lack of a vote conveys a tremendous disregard for our city’s participation in commemorating this event. I relay to you some reminders and observations:

1.    This request was for use of hotel/motel tax money, which is not subsidized by local taxpayers.

2.    The reason the request was rejected was not based on the lack of available hotel/motel tax money, as according to budget numbers there are sufficient funds for this event and others.

3.    Juneteenth is a NATIONAL holiday. Thus, Juneteenth sits alongside July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day or any other holiday in its importance. Assume some veterans came before the council and wanted to have an event, would you not even second the motion and vote on it? Would you simply chalk veterans as some demographic which doesn’t represent the majority population, and not even second the motion? Would you consider a veterans’ event as not worthy of funding? I HIGHLY doubt you would answer yes to those questions. And if you would approve a veterans’ event or a July 4th event, you should likewise highly consider and vote on a community Juneteenth event. 

Not even bothering to second the motion for this request – so as to invite the opportunity to discuss and vote on the item – sends a strong and clear message. It conveys the message that the city council does not deem Juneteenth as important enough, nor desires no role in helping an event which celebrates a national holiday. Juneteenth commemorates freedom. I thought we were all champions of freedom. But sadly and most detrimental, not even seconding this motion signals the lack of concern for minority voices and blatant disregard for the egregious struggles past and present that our fellow citizens have borne and carry still. 

It is not too late. I implore the Lincoln City Council to revisit this request at its next committee as a whole meeting. I encourage you to bring the request back to the table, discuss it, and at least give some monetary support as a sign of unity, solidarity, harmony, and commonality. 

Thank you all for your service to the namesake city of Abraham Lincoln – the city named for the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation – the act which led to Juneteenth.

Thank you,

Ron Keller

Lincoln, IL 

Letter to the Editor

via Lincoln Courier

April 23, 2022 at 08:11PM

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