Maggie Walker’s awesomeness

7/21/2017, 1:47 p.m.

We are still filled with pride and exuberance from the Maggie L. Walker statue dedication last Saturday in Downtown. There was a gloriousness about the day that Richmond rarely sees.

As music swelled and Mrs. Walker’s family beamed, not even the heat of a Richmond summer day could melt the ebullience among the crowd of hundreds of people who attended the ceremony.

Mrs. Walker represents what is best about Richmond. She embodied courage, fortitude, vigor and a can-do spirit. Combined with vision and leadership, she surmounted obstacles known and unknown to usher in change on many fronts.

At a time when African-Americans were being treated as third class citizens and women had no rights that men had to consider, she pushed back and showed what could be accomplished when people pool their resources and energies to accomplish big things.

With her work as grand secretary of the Independent Order of St. Luke, she founded a bank, developed a department store and started a newspaper in Richmond in the early 1900s. Her efforts helped many overcome the barriers and white supremacist attitudes that sought to diminish, demean and depress African-Americans and others.

Her spirit and the inspiration she offers are virtually all that remain, aside from her house that is now a national historic site.

But every generation needs what she represents — the willingness to challenge the status quo, dare greatly and rally others to tackle problems, even in the face of hostility.

That’s why we applaud the vision and leadership of the many people who made a tribute statue to Maggie L. Walker a reality. They include Maggie Walker High School alumnus Melvin S. Jones Jr., who launched a crusade to honor her decades ago; former Mayor Dwight C. Jones, who put the city’s muscle and money behind it; and the city Public Art Commission that forged ahead even as faux concerns about a live oak tree arose in a desperate attempt to block the tribute.

In a city, a state, a nation and a world so divided over issues of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and class, Saturday was a day when people of all stripes united to celebrate the statue, the woman and the legacy she has left Richmond and the world.

We still believe her statue belongs on Monument Avenue, replacing Confederates honoring a lost cause.

Others believe it should stand proudly at a major crossroad in the city, such as Belvidere and Broad, where her spirit can infuse those who pass by.

But others believe her statue belongs right where it is, as a gateway to the Jackson Ward neighborhood that she loved and helped flourish.

Be clear: Maggie Walker belongs to all of us. Richmond stepped up and did the right thing by celebrating her as a symbol of hope and opportunity to all who dream big and seek to succeed and achieve.

She is our Statue of Liberty. She speaks to us of not being satisfied with what is, but rather to seek ways to produce positive change, no matter the obstacles.