There wasn’t a lot on Tuesday night’s City Council agenda. It was mostly the boring business of the City. The bond package passed last fall took one step closer to reality, Phase 2 of the Quarry Park’s development was approved.
Local activists speaking truth to power during the public comment period energized a dull meeting. They implored the City Council to make justice their business.
Read the Journal’s Wesley Young’s article in today’s paper for a good summary of Winston’ Confederate statue debate and the timeline for relocating it. In the past few weeks, as Winston’s rebel statue controversy unfolded, the Journal has given an inordinate amount of attention to a relatively small number of Confederate statue apologists, while marginalizing statue opponents. Today’s article provides a little more balance.
Michael Banner began the public comment period by quoting Langston Hughes. Banner appealed for legal reforms in Winston-Salem and an end to policing that disadvantages the poor.
Raven Johnson, spoke as a Winston-Salem State student, about her opposition to Downtown Winston’s Confederate statue.
A young man from Reagan High School spoke powerfully about what comes next after the Confederate statue falls. “For us, taking down this relic of racist rage isn’t the end goal, it’s only a small, insignificant step on the road to justice. Because, while it will be satisfying to see this come down, what’s being unaddressed is what’s going up.” Luxury apartment buildings pricing out low-income families, an injustice in and of itself, well said young man.
A descendant of a Confederate soldier spoke against the rebel statue at Fourth and Liberty.
Another Winston-Salem resident spoke about her opposition to that racist downtown statue as a Christian.
Local historian, Margret Smith, called for United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of the Confederacy to accept the city’s “gracious and generous” offer to move the statue to Salem Cemetary.
A student from Wake Forest shared a family tragedy that reminded the City Council that racist violence is not a thing of the distant past.
Destiny Blackwell, another student from WSSU, said, “the statue downtown is an articulation of oppression.” She called for the destruction of Winston’s Confederate statue and the construction of a society of liberation.
A professor from Winston-Salem State spoke about the proper way to remember history.
Then a couple of historically challenged, out-of-towners advocated for keeping Winston’s Confederate statue at its present location.
Howard Snow, of East Bend N.C., spoke in support of the Confederate statue’s presence in Downtown Winston. He said that it wasn’t racist and maintained that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about taxes. He repeated the ‘heritage, not hate’ narrative; a disproven fiction.
Wendy Hayslett, from Hampton Virginia, representing the Virginia Taskforce 3 Percenters, spoke unapologetically about Confederate history.
Hayslett and Snow are living in the past, a past of their own construction, a past born of white privilege that largely minimizes or ignores slavery, lynchings, and white supremacy. To them, Jim Crow was a beloved but misunderstood uncle.
By contrast, activists based in Winston are focusing on the removal and or destruction of that Confederate statue from Downtown Winston and the construction of a better, more just, more equitable Winston-Salem.