Yo, let it go.
That’s the message that Charles Alexander, wants to spread through the Charlottesville area, and eventually across the country.
Alexander, a Charlottesville native and motivational speaker better known as Mr. Alex-Zan, is the mind behind the campaign YOGO in the ‘Ville, with a goal of interrupting the chain of events that lead to violence, be it gun violence, domestic violence, or road rage.
YOGO is shorthand for “Yo! Let it go!” and the name of a cartoon bee mascot created by Alexander. The campaign is sponsored in part by the city of Charlottesville.
Alexander introduced the campaign at a press conference outside Charlottesville City Hall Tuesday morning, along with other local leaders. The goal is to encourage people to think before they act and to let go of anger and resentment before they react.
“If you don’t feed it, it won’t grow,” Alexander said.
A focus of the campaign is to de-escalate arguments. Alexander is placing 150 YOGO yard signs around the city and giving out 700 YOGO posters to be placed in local businesses, along with promo cards for people to place in their homes.
Alexander has also written a YOGO song that will be played on local radio stations.
He said he wants to address the violence that often comes between people who already know each other and can even happen at celebrations.
“A lot of the violence, a lot of disturbance can come at house parties, cookouts, birthdays. So we have five or six disc jockeys that are going to be encouraging participants to let it go,” Alexander said. “We want you to have a good time. But if you have a beef with someone, let it go.”
Alexander said he believes this program may be the first of its kind in the country, and he wants to see it reach past the Charlottesville region.
“We want the rest of the country to know there’s more to Charlottesville than statues coming down and the neo-Nazis and the tiki torches,” Alexander said.
Alexander was one of the Charlottesville Twelve who integrated city schools in 1959, a year before Ruby Bridges famously integrated a white elementary school in Louisiana. Alexander was a 7-year-old second grader when his mother elected to send him to the white Venable Elementary School.
He has been active in the community, from organizing in his youth to educating youth on how to get along by ‘dunking the junk’ and now letting it go.
Alexander has some backing. Charlottesville Acting Chief of Police Tito Durrette spoke in support of the campaign.
“It takes a village to raise a community so it’s going to take everyone’s part to walk hand in hand and together to bring this community to where it wants to be,” Durrette said.
Delegate Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, also supports the let-it-go concept. She said it’s important to focus on interpersonal actions in violence prevention.
“Virginia has made an awful lot of progress in the last two years in enacting some meaningful violence prevention reforms, including gun safety and investing in community violence programs,” she said.
“But at the end of the day, all of it comes down to personal interactions. And so there is only so much that we can do with policy and laws if we’re not investing in relationships,” Hudson said.
While the campaign had been in the works long before the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, Alexander took a moment to acknowledge the tragedy and the white supremacist motivations behind the shooting.
“Hate is really a waste of time that could be used for being kind. Let’s come together. It’s not too late to love one another instead of hate,” Alexander said.