Sunday, February 19, 2012

Richmond Slave Trail Commission unveils plan for U.S. National Slave Museum

On February 18, 2012. the Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission held an important public Charette/Meeting regarding plans for the establishment of a United States National Slavery Museum in Richmond. The meeting was free and open to the public and all Richmond-area residents were invited and encouraged to attend to learn more and participate in the discussion and planning.

The new plans from the commission envision a new museum that addresses the United State's role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the integral role played by the City of Richmond in that history. The meeting was used to identify key issues and needs to promote the African-American Legacy that helped build our nation.

At a previous Charette, held June 2011, community leaders and key representatives from the Commonwealth gave input and support for a United States National Slavery Museum that would utilize the Richmond Slave Trail and incorporate the Richmond African Burial Ground and Lumpkin's Slave Jail sites. This Charette included Lord Cultural Resources presenting its findings and proposals for the vision of the United States National Museum on the Richmond Slave Trail.

This Charette was a continuation of the work of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission which, since 1998, has been committed to helping to preserve and present the history of slavery in Richmond.

The meeting included a performance by the Richmond Public Schools Armstrong High School Choir in observance of February as African American History Month.

1 comment:

farid alan schintzius said...

Over the years, serious questions have been raised about how Richmond's City Council's Slave Trail Commission (STC) functions - whether it is a democratic body interested in input from the pubic, or whether it acts as a private club, making important decisions behind closed doors. Now the Commission is posed to change the rules that govern it, making it even less of a democratic body.

The Richmond African Burial Ground Community Organizing Committee reports that STC member Cynthia Newbille plans to ask City Council's Land Use Committee to allow STC members to serve past their term limits, and also to reduce the number of its seats from 17 to 13. The four seats to be eliminated have been vacant for more than three years, during which time the STC has refused to process applications from members of the pubic seeking to join this important City Council committee.

Most of the members of the STC seem to have exceeded the term limits of their appointments - a maximum of two, three-year terms. This raises a question as to whether the Commission is legitimately constituted. And that's important for two reasons: first, the STC is responsible for developing the area of Shockoe Bottom associated with Richmond's role in the slave trade, and second, because over the past nine years the Commission has spent more than $1.1 million. (Figures are from the STC page on the City's official Web site.)

The STC has made many important contributions to reclaiming Richmond's past. But throughout its work it has shown a reluctance to boldly face this city's racist history, focusing on "reconciliation" before there has been an honest accounting of the crimes committee here. Most shamefully, the Commission resisted community efforts to force Virginia Commonwealth University to close the parking lot that desecrated the African Burial Ground. This is why the effort to allow the present members to remain on the commission indefinitely, while making it even less likely that new members will be accepted, is so disturbing. We have to ask why this initiative is being taken now, when the City is preparing to put serious effort into developing Shockoe Bottom as a national heritage site, defining its history for generations to come - and raising and spending lots of money in the process.

We urge you to please come out to the Land Use Committee meeting, listen to the discussion and, if so moved, express your opinion on the STC resolution.

Land Use Committee Meeting
3 pm, Tuesday, Feb. 21
Council Chambers (2nd floor)
Richmond City Hall
900 E. Broad St.
Richmond, Va.