City leadership must acknowledge work of activist groups in monument controversy

The day after the tragic events in Charlottesville, Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky, voiced his support for the relocation of two Confederate monuments from downtown Lexington, drawing national attention to the city.

In an online video, Gray speaks of a decision borne from community discussion, Lexington’s dark history of slave trading and the need to do the right thing. “It’s time for all of you out there to stand up for what’s right,” he said.

Gray does not, however, explicitly credit the Lexington group Take Back Cheapside. The group is headed by community leader DeBraun Thomas and has been fighting for the removal of these statues and other tributes to white supremacy in Lexington since 2015. Nor does he recognize his own unwillingness to speak up, despite the group’s efforts, until national attention fell on the statues.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s earlier speech regarding the removal of the New Orleans monuments was, though longer, much of the same. He, too discussed the dark aspects of his city’s history but touched on its lack of memorialization as well as the issues with memorializing and revering the leaders of the Confederacy. He too spoke of doing the right thing, indivisibility and community.

He also neglected to mention the long and tiring work of Take Em’ Down NOLA, the years-old group which has been, and continues to be, essential in the fight to remove tributes to white supremacy in New Orleans, and the activists who likewise fought even before the establishment of that group. He never speaks of the New Orleanians who pushed the mayor and the city council long before the decision for removal was finally made.

It is irresponsible for the leaders of our cities, in removing symbols of oppression, to neglect to recognize the incredible sacrifice and effort made by the community members who fought for that removal, and those that continue to push for the removal of all monuments and systems of oppression in our country.

This is an opinion article and does not represent the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Ella is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]

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