Meet the middle school student drove Hamilton’s recognition of Juneteenth

Deion Oatis isn’t 12 yet, but already, he can take credit for prompting a piece of Hamilton legislation, one that recognizes Juneteenth as forever a city holiday.

Hamilton City Council in July heard Oatis’ essay about Juneteenth, the spontaneous celebration that arose almost 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the country. Despite the president’s act, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read General Order No. 3, announcing the end of the Civil War and slavery, that freedom rang in Texas.

Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and 19th. It also is known as “America’s Second Independence Day.”

“I feel excited,” Oatis said. “I’m glad that I did something at a very young age that’s so important.”

Pastor Michael D. Reeves Jr., president of the Hamilton Fairfield West Chester Unit 3186 Branch of the NAACP, said he and the organization’s executive committee were pleased by the decision, which calls for each future June 19 to be celebrated.

“By acknowledging Juneteenth as America’s second Day of Independence, the city of Hamilton, Ohio, has taken a step towards the engagement and acceptance of the African American culture and heritage,” Reeves said. “And this is definitely a step in the right direction. With many more steps to take for its African-American residents.”

“He’s a courageous little boy,” said his mother, Candice White.

Deion said history isn’t among his favorite subjects. Instead, math is. He also plays for the Monroe Swarm baseball team, as a pitcher and shortstop, and began writing a book during last school year.

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