The founder and organizer of Lakeland’s 29-year-old Juneteenth celebration asked the City Commission today to pass a resolution recognizing Juneteenth — June 19 — as a day to recall the end of slavery in the U.S.

Doris Moore Bailey said she made the request in response to the commission causing confusion last month when it issued a resolution that recognized May 20 as Florida Emancipation Day but ignored the long-established Juneteenth observance.

Commissioners were unsure whether the city had previously recognized Juneteenth with a resolution, and Mayor Bill Mutz said that if the city has not created a Juneteenth resolution, one would be created.

“None are free until all are free,” said Moore Bailey, pointing out that June 19 is recognized nationwide as emancipation day. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when a Union army general ordered the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas.

Moore Bailey said she fears that Lakeland’s support for Florida Emancipation Day will detract from Juneteenth celebrations and divide the community.

She said she has no issues with celebrating May 20, but “what is problematic is saying: Hey, no more Juneteenth in the state of Florida.” The resolution recommended that the state Legislature adopt a similar resolution.

There is proposed state legislation this year for the creation of a Juneteenth Independence Day holiday, but that that would be on June 19.

“By letting this happen, you have created a problem here,” said Moore Bailey. “It opens up wounds and again we need to be healing the wounds.”

Commissioner Don Selvage anticipated a potential conflict Feb. 2, when the commission passed the Florida Emancipation Day resolution. At the time, he asked if by recognizing this date would the commission be “competing with or complementing Juneteenth,” and if it would be challenged by community leaders.

Commissioner Stephanie Madden asked Commissioner Phillip Walker, who brought forward the resolution, if he had spoken to Moore Bailey about the resolution. Moore Bailey “has a lot of skin in the game,” Madden said at the meeting last month. Walker said he had not consulted with her.

Last year’s Lakeland Juneteenth observance, held in the wake of the springtime social justice protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, drew 200 people to Munn Park.

Commissioners noted today that they have issued proclamations in the past recognizing the local Juneteenth observance. But Moore Bailey said there has not been a resolution.

She also said the city has never contributed financially to the Juneteenth event, but she acknowledged that former Parks Director Bill Tinsley had allowed use of the Coleman-Bush Building for the event in past years.

Last year’s Juneteenth observance drew 200 participants to Munn Park. | Joni Bing for LkldNow

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Jason is an intern from Florida Polytechnic University.

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