Rolling Out

NAACP’s Gerald Griggs touts the importance of Juneteenth

Celebration in Sandy Springs is occasion to bring unity, promote freedom and urge Black people to vote

Gerald A. Griggs is an Atlanta attorney who was elected the 13th President of the State Conference of the Georgia NAACP by an overwhelming margin. Sixteen months later, he became the President of the Atlanta NAACP.

It was therefore no surprise to see him out in Sandy Springs, celebrating Juneteenth and talking about why voting is important and why moving forward in freedom is vital. He took a few moments away from the festivities to speak with rolling out‘s Monisha Brown.

Mr. Griggs, can you explain to us what is the purpose of this Juneteenth festival and event?

It’s to bring Fulton County together. So, this is the third annual Juneteenth Celebration in Sandy Springs. But the name has changed. It’s now the One Fulton Juneteenth Celebration, because many know that there are supposedly two sections of Fulton County, North Fulton and South Fulton. But Sandy Springs is actually in the middle. So, we want to bring all of Fulton County together to celebrate liberation of freedom. So we partner with the Juneteenth Federation, and so many others to bring One Fulton. The Atlanta NAACP, the North Fulton NAACP, the Georgia State Congress and so many others are partnered together to bring this to Sandy Springs.

As a new parent, you’re in a position where our youth looking up to you. What will you tell your child about Juneteenth and the importance of the holiday?

I will tell them that almost two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves on June 19, 1865, freed slaves in Galveston found out they were free from General Granger coming into town and they celebrated. That’s the birth of this Juneteenth. And so when we celebrate independence, we want to celebrate all independence. And that’s why we are celebrating Juneteenth, which is now a national holiday. It’s a state holiday in most states, and it’s a city holiday in most cities. So we are celebrating that combination by bringing everybody together here in Fulton County to  celebrate One Fulton Juneteenth.

Awesome. Now, this holiday is all about emancipation and freedom. How do you feel personally about the freedom of Black people right now in our country?

I feel like we are at a turning point in our country, where we’re either going to protect our freedoms and enhance them, or we’re going to go back. Of course, the NAACP for 115 years, we stood on the front lines, pushing for more freedom and we will continue to do that. So I’m hopeful.

Now this is an election year. So I’ve got to ask you, any messages out there about voting?

You know, voting is our power, our most powerful nonviolent weapon that we have in our arsenal. We have to exercise it. In this election, there’s a choice between freedom and liberation and going backward. Of course, the NAACP, we can’t tell you who to vote for, but we can tell you the progress must be made. And we have to continue to move forward.

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