It took only a few minutes after the city of Biloxi posted a Facebook status and tweet — noting offices would be closed Monday for “Great Americans Day” — for people to start responding.
For the record, Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday.
Great Americans Day doesn’t exist as a holiday in Google, Wikipedia or for the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, which recognizes a joint celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Robert E. Lee’s birthdays. “Great Americans Day” also did not appear in a media-database search of all Mississippi news sources for the past 20 years.
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Within two hours, the Facebook post had 64 comments and 91 shares and readers’ responses to the city’s tweet contain words that can’t be repeated on SunHerald.com or in the newspaper.
The kindest were some variation of “I beg your pardon?,” and “Autocorrect seems to have accidentally misspelled MLK Day.”
The city, for its part, issued a series of tweets defending the name and touting Biloxi’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events.
Two hours later, the Facebook post also had been amended to add that Great Americans Day was a state-named holiday and to include a link to its MLK events.
Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel said the declaration of the holiday didn’t originate with the city, and he described the tweet as something that started out as “innocuous.”
“We did not decide to start calling it Great Americans Day,” he told the Sun Herald. “However, whenever the state did years ago, that’s how it’s listed in the city’s code of ordinances.”
He added, “It is very frustrating, very frustrating for Mayor (Andrew “FoFo”) Gilich, for the city leaders, to be labeled as racist, when this is something we did not originate. We’ve got a long history of diversity and welcoming people to our community.”
Shortly before 9 p.m., the city posted another Facebook status: “From Mayor Andrew ‘FoFo’ Gillich: ‘As far as I’m concerned, it’s called ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.’”
Gillich also called for the city to update its Code of Ordinances to reflect the official federal name of the holiday.
“In my opinion, that is the appropriate step to take for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday,” he said. “This city’s longstanding support of our annual MLK celebrations speaks volumes about our support for this holiday. In face, we’ve always celebrated this day as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”
The responses, at least online, seem to have done little to quell the concerns of Mississippians, as #BiloxiRenamesHolidays began to trend on Twitter.