Dr. Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, said she hopes that the community can come together, hear from each other and understand what the people want five years after the events of Aug. 11 and 12.
“Sometimes it’s a good thing they [people] air it out and see what falls in a room that feels the heaviest and needs to be addressed most urgently,” Douglas said.
Douglas, along with eight other African-American participants, held ‘The Color of Community: A11/12 Conversation” in the center’s auditorium Saturday. The discussion followed a week of exhibits, discussions, a virtual town hall sponsored by The Daily Progress and a Friday night vigil to mark the tragic events on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, in Charlottesville.
In a YouTube live-streamed event, the group shared and discussed individual stories of growing up with racism, the meaning of the removed statues, the alarming impact of the Aug. 11 and 12 events and the focus of the African-American community in the future, among other topics. The conversation lasted close to two hours.
Douglas’s goal with the event is that it was another opportunity to continue the momentum of reevaluation where people could hear some ideas that they hadn’t heard recently.
“You can’t get to something so deeply necessary if you are unwilling to not only talk to your home people but also the people who are outside of that,” she said.
The group touched on the struggles of affording rent in the Charlottesville area and how sometimes even with working two jobs it is not enough to secure housing for a month.
During the discussion about the statue removal, some participants acknowledged the positive impact that the activists in the city had. They mentioned how before, the removal of the statues was not that important to them. After going deeper into their history, their outlook changed, along with their amplified support.
Former city council member Dr. Wes Bellamy mediated the conversation. Toward the end, he asked others about the next things that the African-American community should focus on.
Political literacy, financial literacy and affordable housing jumped to the forefront, but also the need to better understand each other, work smarter with given resources and potentially use the Jefferson School as one of many centralized places for resources.
“This is just something that as an African American Heritage Center we are compelled to do. We want to talk to our own people and understand what that looks like,” Douglas concluded.