Midway march looks back, forward
More than 50 people took part Friday, July 31, in a march that began and ended in downtown Midway – with a stop in between at the site of the racially-motivated burning of Second Christian Church in 1868. Before the march began, Marley Bush, a sister of event organizer Milan Bush, stepped up to speak when she learned Milan was stuck in traffic. She told the crowd, “One-hundred-fifty-two years ago today, July 31, Midway’s first and (the nation’s) oldest black community church was destroyed. “I lived in this town all my life and my dad had to tell me that this happened (on) a street that I pass every day, (in) a town that I called home. I didn’t know this happened to my people. And it systematically happens … today. And we’re at a very important part of history. We have to show what side we stand on, and you guys are standing on the right side of history, so I thank you. …” Marley said. The marchers, all wearing masks with one playing a drum, walked to the corner of Gratz and Stephens streets. There they stopped for brief comments by Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and Joyce Thomas, 88, who’s believed to be the oldest Black resident of the city. Thomas said she hadn’t planned on attending or speaking, but realized, as she laid in bed, that she’d be sorry if she didn’t come out. She promoted grants to support historic Black churches and Black History studies for Woodford County students. The group then walked to the site where the church was burned, on the campus of Midway University, then its present location at Smith and Stephens streets, where it was constructed in 1906. In a 2017 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Bill Estep wrote, “The mob attack was described in the book “Racial Violence in Kentucky: 1865-1940,” by the noted black historian George C. Wright: The mob ‘proceeded to wreck the church, destroying the pews and shooting out the windows. Several people were injured by the many rounds of ammunition fired by the irate whites.’” Another stop was at the historic African-American Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery on Bruen Street. “We were just so heartened, thrilled and gratified because so many people came out and they brought their children with them,” said longtime Midway resident Helen Rentch. Like Thomas, Marley Bush hadn’t planned on speaking, but her words were similarly well-received. “It matters that you’re taking time out of your day and taking time to show that you care during times that we’re scared. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. So I thank you,” she said.