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Midway mayor on Juneteenth holiday: 'Should have done this long time ago'

Posted at 9:42 PM, Jun 18, 2020

MIDWAY, Ky. (LEX 18) — One day before Gov. Andy Beshear signed a proclamation recognizing June 19 as 'Juneteenth National Freedom Day,' the mayor of Midway made the unexpected announcement that he would recognize the day as a city holiday.

"We should have done this a long time ago," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said. "I feel bad that we're just now getting around to it."

Mayor Vandegrift's idea for an executive order was suggested by his wife, and inspired by the ongoing discussions about race relations in the country.

"We have a problem in this country," Vandegrift said, citing the instances in which black men and women have died as a result of alleged police brutality. "And you can take each one on a case-by-case basis, but we clearly still have a major endemic problem that's still here."

Across the country, protesters have taken to the streets to voice their anger over police brutality and racial injustice, prompting elected officials to promise to address racial inequities in healthcare, education, and other areas.

Vandegrift recognizes his executive order regarding Juneteenth, which commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States, is not "earth shattering," but he says it's a start.

"Now it's time for me to shut up," Vandegrift said. "It's time for me to listen. It's time for other white folks to listen and just to absorb and to think about it."

Vandegrift wants to organize a virtual town hall on race relations, but he said it's important that Black people in the community lead the conversation.

Per the executive order, all city offices in Midway will be closed on June 19 and city employees will have a paid holiday in observance.

Gov. Beshear said he would ask the legislature to pass legislation recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday.