Remembrance and justice: Shockoe Bottom Memorial
Letters to the editor
3/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Every week, a new story of some city, county or state’s decision to keep or remove a memento of the Confederacy captures our nation’s attention. In Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, our decisions regarding this issue hold an unparalleled symbolic weight in our national debate. The example we set will be seen and judged by people from across this nation and beyond.
Who we build and maintain monuments to matters. Our monuments physically show us what and who we value. That is why the recent decision to rename the Boulevard in honor of Arthur Ashe deserves praise. It is also why we must push forward the work to memorialize the enslaved in Shockoe Bottom.
In the past, African and African-American history has been ignored and suppressed by those in power in order to manipulate the public’s perceptions of African people, history and identities. It is time we recognize the damage this has done and work to undo the systemic trivialization of the value of African people.
It is easy to take for granted how commonplace references to European heritage are. Our state, most of our counties and our city itself are all named after European people or places.
While we have made numerous efforts to commemorate the lives and accomplishments of many African-American people, few public monuments exist to contribute to our understanding of the experiences of African people in colonial and early independent America.
A well-developed, inclusively planned and respectful Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park is our chance to be a pioneer in a movement toward reparations for the iniquities of the past and racial reconciliation.