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“Do We Want to be a Great City?”

There’s an interesting, exciting article in the RTD entitled “Richmond looking beyond its slave-trading past”. Interesting because I am not so knowledgeable about Richmond’s full, dirty past and exciting because of what this dialogue portends for the future.

Excerpts:

“We’ve had a lot of dialogues for the sake of dialogue,” said Jonathan Zur, president and CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

The talk must move beyond the head and the heart and to the hands so that people can get to work transforming Richmond, he said.

……

The Rev. Benjamin P. Campbell, pastoral director of Richmond Hill, an ecumenical retreat center in Church Hill, said the ongoing dialogue “may represent our greatest opportunity to get closer to racial justice and reconciliation and heal some of the racial and economic issues that have been allowed to fester.”

“The question,” he said, “is not merely ‘Do we want to uncover our history?’ but ‘Do we want to be a great city?’”

“Let’s look at our education system. Let’s look at our housing. Let’s look at our city-county structure. Let’s think about who benefits from things being the way they are, who’s invested in things being created the way they are and staying there. And so the work then is critically looking at these structures and institutions that have been governing our way of life for so long, and perhaps making changes where changes need to be made.”

“People have very different lived experiences in metro Richmond,” said Zur, who grew up in New Jersey. “And so the conversation is why and how. And the action is, ‘What do we do to change that so there is an equitable lived experience?’”

……

El-Amin, who as a member of Richmond City Council drafted the resolution creating the Slave Trail Commission in 1998, said progress has been made in the discussion of slavery, but open and honest dialogue remains elusive…And honesty, he said, requires Richmond to confront the contradiction embodied by the Lost Cause figures so vividly lionized on Monument Avenue.

“How do you condemn the bad that was done but glorify the bad doers?” he said. “What do you do with those monuments? This is really, really what’s going to be difficult for Richmond.”

……

“That energy is different and it’s coming from a collective body that’s saying, ‘We can’t wait. We’ve got to make this work,’” said Coleman, a Winter Park, Fla., native who arrived in Richmond from Detroit, where she headed The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

“It is for something bigger,” Coleman said. “It’s about transforming a community. It’s about having people stop saying, ‘Why can’t we be like Charleston?’ Beat Charleston! Be something bigger.”

……

If reconciliation is an objective, Burrs said, the conversations must be about “unvarnished truth, and not polite, convenient truth.”

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