Legislature votes for Black Lives Matter Day, Juneteenth holiday
Legislation that would designate Black Lives Matter Day in New Jersey and make Juneteeth a state holiday advanced in the Legislature Monday.
Neither bill is ready for Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature, as each house of the Legislature took up one of those bills but not the other.
The state Assembly voted Monday for a resolution that would designate July 13 of each year as ‘Black Lives Matter Day’ in New Jersey to recognize the movement’s work to combat systemic racism and violence against Black people.
Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, D-Essex, said Black Lives Matter is about humanity and resilience.
“You may not understand our pain. However, we need you to understand why this is necessary,” Speight said.
Nobody voted against the resolution, which was approved 53-0. Eight Republicans voted for it, and 18 voted to abstain. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said Republicans who voted to abstain did so because the BLM movement has some questionable positions and statements.
“Black lives matter. Let me say it again: Black lives matter. But this resolution doesn’t deal with a concept. It refers to a specific organization,” Bramnick said. “… This refers to an organization and on their website they praise a cop killer. They talk about defunding the police.”
The Senate voted 35-0 for a bill that would make Juneteenth – June 19, marking the date in 1865 that enslaved Blacks in Texas learned they were free, nearly 30 months after the Emancipation Proclamation – would become a state holiday in New Jersey.
Sen. Bob Singer, R-Ocean, said the Juneteeth holiday makes sense so that everyone is aware of that part of history.
“I was really unaware that it took two years from the Emancipation being signed to be finally read in the great state of Texas so that the people there knew exactly what was happening,” Singer said.
Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex, said plenty of Black residents don’t know the Juneteeth story, either.
“And we’re still living this history in a positive way,” Rice said. “But we’re also still living this history in a very, very negative way.”
Lawmakers also approved bills supporting minority- and women-owned businesses and apprenticeship mentoring for women, minorities and people with disabilities, as well as one creating a task force to study the racial and health disparities of the coronavirus.
“Communities of color are being impacted by COVID-19 at an alarming rate,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, D-Passaic. “We need to understand how and why these disparities are happening and what we can do to mitigate the harm the pandemic has caused.”
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