HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — On Wednesday, the city of Huntington became the first to unanimously vote to have “Juneteenth” be an official holiday.
The vote is the first by a city council in West Virginia, and it has the community talking.
Local pastor and city councilman Charles Shaw said he believes it is time.
“Implicit racism exists, and I think this is something just to maybe pull our heads up out of the sand and we can’t act as if this does not exist; too much is happening, and I believe we are at a point in our society in life today where change must happen,” Shaw said.
Shaw was also encouraged by how well the latest council idea was embraced.
“I think it’s fantastic that our mayor and the city council have enough foresight to recognize what’s going on in society today and that they’re willing to take leadership and make such a commitment,” he said.
“I think here, in Huntington, it is the first step toward a change, and as I say, the recognition and to come out with this ordinance to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday is a big step and I think its a pattern that we’re setting for others to follow,” he added.
Other locals say they, too, are encouraged by the progress Huntington is making but say there’s still more to be done.
“It’s a good start, more needs to be done, but right now we can start with this and move up to bigger and better things,” Huntington resident Geneva Jewett said.
For fellow resident Kara Hornbuckle, this is an opportunity to learn.
“I think this might be the first step in getting some curriculum changes in the schools to teach more black history. I know as a kid growing up in this school system, it wasn’t really a focus,” Hornbuckle said.
Mayor Steve Williams says its all about coming together as one community.
“We need to let every one of our African-American friends and residents within the city know that we’re standing by them, that black lives do matter,” Williams said.
For Shaw, it’s only the beginning.
“Change must happen, it must happen. Puttin’ some meat on the bones, puttin’ some legs to the talk, and let’s start doing something in legislature … and making some law changes, and addressing the problems that exist with police brutality,” Shaw said.
He also added in the future, he hopes to continue talks with the council about police body cameras and the creation of a citizen review board for police officers.