Charlottesville has done it again – renamed downtown parks that once honored confederate generals.
Charlottesville’s city council is rarely unanimous about anything, but last year every member agreed to rename Lee and Jackson Parks – to call them Emancipation and Justice Parks. Those might seem like safe selections, but they provoked an outcry from some members of the African American community who felt emancipation and justice had not been done and those names were not acceptable.
The city then posted other options on its website and held and electronic vote. About 3,000 city residents cast ballots online. One third liked Market Street Park and nearly 60% supported Court Square Park.
Mayor Nikuya Walker expressed disappointment that voters had not chosen to honor civil rights activists, and councilman Wes Bellamy agreed. “When we choose neutral names, it allows us to not truly deal with some of the issues that we’ve had," he complained. "There’s been a reluctance from a wide variety of people in our community to deal with things head on, so we like to choose what’s easy.”
Former Mayor Mike Signer understood the point but suggested that with so much development underway in Charlottesville, there would be other less controversial opportunities to honor leaders from the black community.