Create a ‘Social Justice Trail’ in Richmond

7/22/2021, 6 p.m.
Re Column “Reimagining Monument Avenue,” Free Press July 1-3 edition:

Re Column “Reimagining Monument Avenue,” Free Press July 1-3 edition:

“Sometimes I feel like Cassandra; blessed with the gift of prophecy, yet condemned to have no one believe the things I foretell.” That thought came to mind as I read the column “Reimagining Monument Avenue” by Burt Pinnock and Julie Weissend.

Shortly after the planting of the TDoR Memorial Tree, honoring those lives lost to anti-transgender violence, on the grounds of the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department in November 2016, I came to realize and treasure the rich cultural heritage of the tree’s neighborhood. In opposite directions, within easy walking distance, stand a statue of Maggie L. Walker and a bust of Oliver W. Hill Sr.

Additional research uncovered a treasure trove of other monuments to social justice causes, all within a 2.5-mile piece of level ground, following the street grid. This path begins with “Rachel Weeping For Her Children,” a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and concluding with a tribute to Native Americans on the grounds of the State Capitol. Even more amazing, these sites sprang up organically, on what is essentially Monument Avenue extended.

This realization developed just as the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the wake of the disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, urged progressive groups to seek neutral or affirming sites for counter-protests to avoid violent confrontations. At that time, I warned that the Confederate iconography lining Monument Avenue could lead to Richmond being spoken of in the same breath as Charlottesville. Last summer’s events proved me right, thankfully sans any fatalities.

I’m heartened by the fact that Mr. Pinnock and Ms. Weissend state they want to look at the community in aggregate. I urge the creation of a formal Social Justice Trail, featuring the numerous sites already identified, together with others along the trail, to be developed by common consent.