Almost a month from the day Jaetayvus Clay was barred from his own graduation ceremony, he and eight other students celebrated in a different way with a graduation walk of their own.
Friends and family gathered at Lyric Theatre in Lexington on Thursday evening in celebration of the 15 students who were told they could not walk across the stage during Bryan Station High School's official graduation.
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In his speech addressing the small crowd on Thursday, Clay said he remembers a police officer continuously reminding him on graduation day that it was not his decision to keep him and the other students from walking across the stage.
"He said it was wrong that we were not able to walk, and he knew it was wrong," Clay said. "But he wasn't willing to fight for what was right, and that makes him wrong. That's what we're doing here tonight, fighting for what's right."
The majority of the 15 students were admittedly late to Rupp Arena on June 1 when they were denied the opportunity to walk and receive their diplomas with the rest of the graduating class.
One mother, Tanya Aguon, went to social media to show what was happening. Aguon sobbed in a live video on Facebook when her son, Jayden Johnson, was denied the chance to walk because he was wearing jeans and tennis shoes beneath his gown.
The video received more than 12,000 views by the end of the day on June 1, and prompted Aguon and Judy Joyce-Cannon to organize a ceremony called #allgradswalk. Joyce-Cannon's daughter, Churshonna Cannon, was also kept from walking on June 1.
At the #allgradswalk ceremony, nine of the 15 students heard from guest speakers and were given certificates of recognition on stage at Lyric Theatre.
"This is so awesome," a tearful Joyce-Cannon said to the graduates after announcing their names and handing out the certificates. "Don't worry about what happened on June 1, 2018. Your day is today."
Lexington 1st District Councilman James Brown was one of the guest speakers at the ceremony.
"Anytime there's an opportunity to celebrate and recognize our young people and our students, I think we need to do that," Brown said. "They should be afforded the opportunity to walk across somebody's stage and be recognized."
Brown also urged the students to learn from the experience and better themselves moving forward.
"For whatever reason you weren't allowed to walk, I think you use that as an opportunity," Brown told the students. "Whether it was for some personal reason or some routine, take a look at that and see if it's something you can improve on or do better because as you get older, there are going to be more responsibilities put on you. If there's rules that you don't agree with, put yourself in position to change those rules and change those policies."
A flyer posted on the school's website before graduation laid out dress code requirements and warned students to be on time.
When addressing the crowd on Thursday, Clay apologized for his disrespectful remarks toward officers on graduation day, and said he was late for graduation because he was checking on his recently-opened restaurant in Richmond that morning.
Clay named his restaurant "Mahogany's Casual Dining and Catering" after his mother, Mahogany, who died in October.
"A lot of people at graduation was ignorant to what I was doing that morning," Clay said. "But ignorance is OK. The next time someone calls you ignorant, don't get offended. Ignorant is defined as a lack of knowledge or information or awareness about something in particular. Most people who try to use the word ignorant are ignorant to the definition of the word ignorant."
Joyce-Cannon ended the ceremony with more words of encouragement, further contesting the school's decision to keep the 15 students from walking.
"They were told what they could wear from the first grade all the way up," she said. "Let them have their day, they deserve it. It just broke my heart. It does not matter what you look like what you wear, you earned that day to walk across the stage."