If there was ever a place destined to take the lead in the conversation of racial healing, understanding and empathy, it is my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. For the record, I am an old white guy who has lived most of my life in RVA and all-to-date in Virginia. When I tell you the monuments used to be green, I know what I’m talking about.
When we began writing this missive some time ago — before Monument Commissions and before Charlottesville — we begin thinking how can we, as Mayor Stoney described it, “tell the complete truth” on the avenue. (Updated: After Charlottesville, Mayor Stoney said in his personal opinion, the statues should be removed & relocated. Also see: Commission Report.)
We imagined the possibility of extending Grace Park — the Allen Avenue median strip between Broad Street and Park Avenue — and there creating “Little Monuments” that tell the stories of all Virginians.
Constructing so many new monuments — be they large or be they little — as well as removing / relocating the existing monuments would be a costly endeavor. If anyone has any extra money, we strongly suggest it go directly to the school system. Therein lies our greatest hope for understanding the monuments and the swirl of issues around them.
In that spirit, it’s not so fanciful to imagine we can together create an RVA curriculum using Monument Avenue and the Little Monuments in Grace Park as a “class project.” We believe people of goodwill will come together to talk intelligently and respectfully about the subject of race. The discussion will start in places of community, education, worship and service.
Generation after generation, for good and evil, the great Commonwealth of Virginia has given birth to our nation’s understanding of race. It is time once again for us to begin a new discussion, a new conversation. Rededicated to the proposition that all are created equal.
August 20, 2019, is the four hundredth anniversary of the first Africans brought to Jamestown, Virginia. In the section “Grace Park” you will see that date as the rededication date of a new Grace Park. More importantly, between now and then, we suggest that the greater Richmond area come together to create and support a “city curriculum on racial healing, understanding and empathy.”
Here at GraceParkRVA.org, we are in the process of creating a classroom, a library and a newsroom where we can begin this conversation. Our intention is to add platforms where we can share our stories, our opinions, our hopes for the future.
"Brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand That together ordinary people can do extraordinary things" ~ Illinois Senator Barack Obama wins Iowa caucuses 3 January 2008