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Community leaders react to federal holiday

Craighead County NAACP Chapter President Emma Agnew says it’s a step in the right direction.
Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 10:48 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 11:04 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The Jonesboro Juneteenth Celebration kicked off on a positive note, according to KLEK General Manager LaGanzie Kale, who was thrilled to hear the news it had become a new federal holiday.

“That’s just honestly the beginning,” Kale said. “We still have a long [way] to go.”

Although Juneteenth received overwhelming support from Congress, there has been debate this week on another issue. Several federal lawmakers, including Arkansas Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman, are sponsoring a bill to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in school.

Region 8 News contacted Sen. Cotton for a statement but did not hear back from him.

However, he did Tweet a statement earlier in the week:

According to the media release earlier this week, the bill from Sens. Cotton and Boozman would seek to prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project by K-12 schools or school districts.

Also, schools that teach the 1619 Project would not be able to receive federal professional development grants.

Kale mentioned the history behind Juneteenth is just as important as the celebrations.

“For us to grow as a people and as a country, we have to learn about all our history, even the things that aren’t so pleasant,” he said.

Craighead County NAACP Chapter President Emma Agnew says Cotton and Boozman’s opposition to the Critical Race Theory contradicts their vote for Juneteenth.

“It is a reminder of the history and the racism that followed,” Agnew said.

She added that history needs context, saying it’s about telling “everybody’s history, not just one side.”

Both Kale and Agnew believe teaching events such as the Tulsa Race Massacre or the Elaine Race Riots is not intended to shame another race but rather change the perspective of Black people.

“It’s a part of history. It’s a part of the culture. It’s the truth,” she said.

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