Saturday, August 22, 2020
August 22-23, 2020: Charlottesville in 2020
[As with everything else in this plague-ridden year, my sons and my annual summer trip to Charlottesville unfortunately hasn’t been able to happen as planned. But this blog will always return to my home state, this time for a series on a few of Virginia’s pivotal historical moments, leading up to this special post on my hometown in 2020.]
A few updates on where things stand in Cville.
1) Those damn statues: I’ve been writing about Charlottesville’s now-infamous Lee and Jackson statues since well before they became the epicenter of so many 21st century American debates (Joe Biden even launched his presidential campaign through the lens of Charlottesville), and at times it feels like I’ll be writing about them for the rest of my life. Or perhaps not—as I draft this post in late May, a new ruling has made it more possible than ever that the statues will be removed from their downtown Cville locations, so perhaps by late August the town will finally have been able to move forward from those seemingly endless debates. Can’t say I’m particularly optimistic that that will be the case, though, and I’ll try to remember to edit this post to include any further developments between May and August. [Addenum: As of late August, the Lee and Jackson statues remain in limbo, but the University of Virginia has moved forward with the possibility of removing the white supremacist statue of George Rogers Clark, and neighboring Albemarle County likewise with the Confederate soldier outside the County Courthouse. I support both those efforts as well!]
2) Continued youthful activism: Yet if the statue conversations have seemed unable to move forward, many of those involved in the debates have definitely done so, and none have progressed more impressively than Zyahna Bryant, the Charlottesville High School student who spearheaded the initial campaign and petition to remove the statues and change the name of Lee Park. Bryant is now a student at the University of Virginia, where she has helped lead a number of inspiring new efforts, including one on behalf of fair compensation and other employment issues for the university’s contract workers. The future of Charlottesville, like the future of America, is in the hands of young activists and leaders like Bryant, and that’s one main reason why I remain (most of the time) a critical optimist even in 2020.
3) Community leaders: Another reason for my continued, hard-fought optimism is the online communities of which I’m part, and the folks I’ve gotten to meet and be inspired by through those connections. That includes a number of Charlottesville community leaders in various arenas: UVa professors like Jalane Schmidt, Allison Wright, and John Edwin Mason; journalists like Jamelle Bouie; and members of the town’s broader activist community like Emily Gorcenski Andy Orban, and Lyle Solla-Yates. These and many other folks make me proud to be born and raised in Charlottesville, and excited to see where the town’s communities and conversations can go from here (especially if we can maybe, just maybe, move and move past those damn statues).
These and many other folks make me proud to be born and raised in Charlottesville, and excited to see where the town’s communities and conversations can go from here (especially if we can maybe, just maybe, move and move past those damn statues).
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other Virginia histories or contexts you’d share?