Dear Local Progress Members,
As many of you know, yesterday the city of Charlottesville, VA experienced an act of racially motivated domestic terrorism and a wave of repellant marches led by white supremacists. Our fellow Local Progress member, Charlottesville Vice Mayor Dr. Wes Bellamy, the city’s only black councilor, has been singled out and openly attacked by white supremacists.
At our national convening two weeks ago, Wes shared an inspirational story of resistance and progress. Wes successfully organized the City Council to vote to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee and at the same time unanimously passed a $4 million dollar equity package for the city, providing services and infrastructure for the city’s African American community. We were moved and inspired. This progress has drawn white supremacists to the city bearing torches, performing Nazi salutes and singling out and targeting Vice Mayor Bellamy for his leadership in advancing equity and dismantling white supremacy.
We stand with Wes and the city of Charlottesville against hatred, violence and racism.
We must actively denounce the “Alt Right” and other white supremacist groups. We must call out a President who chooses not to name and shame the real perpetrators of hate and violence in our communities and to name these actors as terrorists. Donald Trump has claimed that there are “many sides” deserving of blame for today’s events. We know there is only one side. His abject failure to condemn unequivocally the chants, symbols, and violent actions of neo-Nazis openly marching in our cities is deplorable.
We know these acts are not an isolated incident and are not limited to Charlottesville. The events in Charlottesville are a reflection of the oppressive social and institutional structures that are woven into the American fabric. They reflect systems in which the black and brown members of our communities are continually devalued, marginalized, and criminalized.
As we stand with Charlottesville, we must look to our own cities, where we can make progress on advancing racial equity and repairing our relationship to our country’s history. Dozens of cities have led work to establish racial equity offices and advance policies and budgets that reflect the historic devaluation, marginalization, and criminalization of black and brown communities. But this is not even close to enough, and we need to do more. Just a few weeks ago, Local Progress Members Tishaura Jones and Megan Green successfully fought to remove a confederate monument from St. Louis. Yesterday Mayor Jim Gray announced a plan for the removal of confederate statues in Lexington, KY. These calls for the removal of racist confederate monuments in public spaces are powerful – not so that we turn a blind eye to history – but so we do not continually allow the symbols of treason and hate to cause trauma to those in our communities that suffered under them.
We grieve with the community of Charlottesville as it copes with the terror of yesterday’s events and the loss of innocent life. We recommit ourselves to the fight to dismantle white supremacy in our cities and in our country. We stand together as the Local Progress Network.
In Solidarity and Loss,
Sarah Johnson & Ady Barkan, Local Progress Co-Directors
Photo: Dr. Wes Bellamy speaks during a counter-protest to “take back Lee Park” on Sunday night after torch-bearing protesters met up at the Charlottesville park Saturday night. Photo/Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress