Hamilton County commissioners are honoring Juneteenth with a proclamation and by recommitting "ourselves to defending the self-evident truth, boldly declared by our Founding Fathers, that all people are created equal."
The board Thursday unanimously approved the proclamation commemorating June 19, 1865, celebrated as Juneteenth, the date Major General Gordon Granger and Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing word of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the United States.
"We, as the leadership of the county, recognize that although we may be created equal, Americans of African heritage have faced flawed citizenship since it was granted in 1868 with institutionalized and systematic racism by government and private sectors," the document states. "As these have negatively impacted the lives of African Americans, we are committed to addressing any legacy of institutionalized and systematic racism by the county government."
Commission Vice President Stephanie Summerow Dumas presented the proclamation. Afterward she acknowledged local companies that are recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday, and she encouraged others to follow suit. She also wants to see more companies observing the federal Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
"I'd like to put out a challenge to our Hamilton County companies, agencies, businesses... for Martin Luther King Day - you have six months to do it - that you pledge to observe that day. And I'd like to hear from those companies that are agreeing to do that."
Additionally, she encourages those companies and businesses to consider how they might recognize Juneteenth next year when it will fall on a Saturday.
Commissioner Victoria Parks, noting she once lived in Galveston, points out we aren't so far removed from slavery and June 19, 1868.
"When I think about our history and things like Juneteenth, it sounds like it's so long ago, but that was 41 years before my father was born. It is in very recent times and related to generations."
Parks is also working on a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis in Hamilton County. A draft is expected to be ready by the end of the month and public hearings will likely be scheduled in July.
Cincinnati will raise the Juneteenth flag Friday at 10 a.m. at City Hall. Commission President Denise Driehaus says the county, which currently doesn't have any Juneteenth flags, should plan ahead and procure one for each of its seven county buildings next year.
Interim Public Health Director Greg Kesterman says there are concerns the disease reproductive value, or R-value, is increasing. The reproductive number is an indicator of the contagiousness or transmissibility of infectious disease: when it's above 1, the outbreak is spreading; when it's below 1, fewer people are getting sick.
"Today's R-value is 1.48," he said on Thursday. "Yesterday, for reference, it was 1.45, so only a slight increase, which I guess is good news. But when you compare it to one week ago from today it was .92, so definitely a big jump over the last week."
Kesterman says more people are able to get tested, affecting the numbers. There's also a slight increase related to protests that began several weeks ago in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Commissioner Parks points out the jump isn't as high as some thought it might have been and Kesterman agrees, saying it would be inappropriate to credit the entire increase to protesters, who in many cases he notes, did wear face coverings.
"There are a lot of people in day-to-day doings ... that aren't doing things right," he says. "It's easy to point the finger and say 'those people Downtown protesting are causing this,' but the same folks that are at the grocery store - only two out of 10 people are wearing a mask right now - those individuals are contributing to the increase as well."