“Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy.”– Mayor Levar Stoney
The deed is done, folks. Richmond once had a deep history of pride in its Confederate roots, despite the Confederate army setting our city on fire. We even have museums about our city’s role in the Confederacy. But one thing we no longer have: statues of their leaders on Monument Avenue.
Yesterday morning, the last statue standing, that of Robert E. Lee, which sits in the middle of what is now called Marcus-David Peters Circle, was dismantled from its pedestal to cheers from onlookers and the Mayor himself. After massive protests on our streets in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and multiple others of color, all of the other Confederate monments under city control were taken down earlier this year. Lee was under state control, and with our state Supreme Court ruling on September 2nd that it could finally be removed, action was swift.
It’s been amazing to witness the evolution of this site over the past year or so. The pedestal has become a work of art, with graffiti and memorials now covering what once held up the leader of the Confederacy. I loved running past on my many training runs through the Fan. There was always something new to see. The energy here was palpable.
Even in my extremely conservative county of Hanover, just outside of Richmond, we managed to convince the school board that it was time to remove the Confederate names of our Mechanicsville schools. More relics of an expired era gone. There has been much backlash, including the ousting of some school board members, and multiple protestors at meetings arguing against teaching critical race theory, and even upset with teachers who declare that their classrooms are inclusive and safe spaces for children who are not straight and white. It’s a three steps forward, two steps back kind of thing. It’s pretty disturbing, but not unlike what’s happening elsewhere in our country. We clearly still have work to do.
I apologize for devoting so many blog posts lately to current events, but the fact is that all of these issues are stressful for many, and truly affect our overall wellness. The continued pandemic, the realization of how unjust our world is, the chipping away at voting rights and reproductive freedoms… It’s exhausting. Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one feeling this way. But with this symbol of white supremacy gone, we can take a moment to rejoice. It’s time for Richmond to be known for something better.
I never thought that change like this could happen, but it did. I know these are mere symbols, and that the real work for social justice must continue. But symbols are indeed significant, and their disappearance from our city’s landscape absolutely means something. This is not erasing history. It’s demonstrating that as a community, we will no longer honor a government that wanted to preserve slavery.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.