We are walking with them. We have inherited their hopes and fears. We have learned, for better and worse, from the stories they told us. We heard different stories, you and I. Stories from our parents and grandparents, stories from the times in which they lived. Their today is our history. It is time that we make a genuine effort to listen to and understand the tapestry that is all of our stories. May grace now lead us home.
If there was ever a place in the United States destined to take the lead in racial understanding, empathy and healing, it is my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. (For the record, I’m a 65 year old white guy, lived most of life in Richmond, all-to-date in Virginia. When I tell you the monuments used to be green, I know what I’m talking about.)
Grace Park — the concept, the project — is an example of an individual, team, or class project, within a River City Curriculum on “Racial Understanding, Empathy and Healing.” Let us be ambitious. Let us use the challenge of Monument Avenue to provide ourselves with an opportunity to actually prompt the national discussion of race that we’ve so often been promised. Where better to begin that here?
We envision opportunities throughout the RVA region to engage in events, community discussions, book clubs and movie clubs, educational classes, religious services … over the next two years, to create opportunities for discussions about race. Let’s begin by telling our own stories within our own communities. This is a hard. This is scary. We run the risk of being vulnerable, exposed, of being misinterpreted and mislabeled. So we begin one discussion in one group where we feel safe. Very possibly — and here is the heart of the problem — in a racially not-so-diverse group. That’s okay. Well, it’s not, but we always start where we are. We’ll build relationships. We’ll invite my group and your group to a cookout. Pizza night shared by diverse groups and a speaker. Our book clubs will meet together and read Reverend Ben Campbell’s “Richmond’s Unhealed History.”
“Little Monuments in Grace Park” is my humble attempt to exemplify a “Citywide Curriculum” assignment in our Network of Learning and Sharing. If we use the practical problem of “What to do with The Monuments?” as a springboard to understanding the different points-of-view through our personal experiences, we will be doing a great service for those generations yet to build the monuments to tell their stories.