Southern Indiana

New Albany City Council members voted to formally recognize Pride Month and Juneteenth on Thursday.

The vote came two days before Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the United States.

New Albany City Council member Jason Applegate said the resolution proclaims a day of celebration. He said New Albany’s role in the Underground Railroad, as well as its proximity to Louisville — which became a focal point of racial justice protests last year — makes it even more important for locals to better understand the history and lasting effects of slavery.

“I think that, especially with African American history, you hear over and over about how the conversation just needs to be started,” Applegate said. “We need to listen, we need to look at what happened in the past, recognize what is going on and why, then look towards a strong future together.”

The city of New Albany declared Juneteenth a paid day off for government employees this year for the first time.

But Applegate says recognizing the holiday is only one step. He also wants to see the city’s diversity reflected in leadership roles. About 10% of New Albany’s population is Black, but the city council is entirely white, as is the New Albany Floyd County Schools board.

“These steps go a long ways with opening [and] extending any olive branch that can be extended to say if anyone, if they want to apply, if they want to run for office, if they want to sit on a board, that everyone is welcome,” Applegate said.

The council also approved a separate resolution to officially recognize June as Pride Month in New Albany.

Council member Jennie Collier, the sponsor of the resolution, said it’s an opportunity for both celebration and education.

“I just want the LGBTQ community to know that they’re accepted in our community, and we appreciate their contributions to our community,” she said.

New Albany City Council president Greg Phipps was confident both resolutions would pass. Democrats sponsored each resolution and they hold a majority of council seats. 

Phipps said it’s important to bring attention to marginalized populations, especially as several states push laws to prevent the teaching of critical race theory, and lack laws protecting the LGBTQ community. 

“It’s a great time to get both topics and those contributions out in the limelight, so to speak, because they often aren’t reflected in the general curriculum of schools,” he said. “So it’s a way to raise public awareness about the importance of diversity and the accomplishments of minority groups within our society that are often neglected.”

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.