“It’s a step in the right direction,” says Midway mayor; Declares Juneteenth official holiday

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MIDWAY, Ky. (WTVQ) – Governor Andy Beshear asked the state legislature to officially make Juneteenth a state holiday a day after the small City of Midway made the announcement it would be permanently recognized there.

It commemorates the date when more than 250,000 slaves in Texas found out the Civil War was over and they’d actually been freed by President Lincoln two years earlier.

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Though attempts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday have been unsuccessful, several states recognize it.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift signed an executive order Wednesday that recognizes the day, closes city hall and allows paid time off for city employees.

In a Facebook post, Mayor Vandegrift said in part, “I’m proud to have signed an executive order today establishing June 19, or Juneteenth, as a permanent holiday in the City of Midway.”

Vandegrift said City Hall will be closed and all city employees will have a paid holiday in observance.

The post went on to say, “If we don’t understand the awful legacy of slavery and oppression, we can’t understand it’s lingering effect.”

Vandegrift said the move isn’t “earth shattering,” but it’s a step in the right direction.

“We need to celebrate this holiday and as we do it, observe what it means and then talk about the lengths we have to go because we’ve got a long way to go in this fight for equal justice under law,” Vandegrift said.

He cited the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as examples of the need for change, and said he hopes other cities follow suit.

Vandegrift said although Midway won’t hold a city-wide Juneteenth celebration this year, events will be held in 2021.

The City of Winchester is also holding a march called “Together for Justice”. The public is encouraged to gather at the Clark County Courthouse beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, June 19.

The march will begin no later than 5:30 p.m. and will conclude at Heritage Park for the Winchester Black History & Heritage Committee Juneteenth Celebration at 6 p.m.

City officials say it is a family-friendly event and the march will be silent. Those planning to attend are reminded to respect social distancing and face mask guidelines.

Meanwhile, the City of Somerset is partnering with community youth and local leaders to host a Juneteenth charette from 6-8 p.m. Friday, June 19.

City officials say the event will feature speakers, music and poetry, and will help shine a light on the experiences of the Black community in Somerset.