Originally published to the Virginia Defender Facebook page on February 12, 2019. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes.
Richmond, Va., Feb. 11 — At a time when the eyes of the country and much of the world is focused on Virginia and its sorry history of racial oppression, Richmond City Council took a step this evening in the right direction: Before hundreds of people assembled in council chambers, it voted 8-0, with one abstention, to rename the street known as The Boulevard to honor Richmond’s native son Arthur Ashe, internationally known as an anti-apartheid and AIDS activist and tennis champion.
Before council took up this issue, Defenders Joseph Rogers and Phil Wilayto spoke during the public comment period to demand that council “do something” to show it is opposed to honoring the Confederate leaders who fought to preserve chattel slavery. While other cities have taken down statues and other monuments honoring the slavery-defending Confederacy, Richmond has yet to remove a single statue in the city that has the largest concentration of such symbols of white supremacy in the country.
The Defenders will continue to pressure council to take the steps they proposed, including changing the name of the Robert E. Lee Bridge, Jefferson Davis Highway, all the streets named after Confederate figures and turning off the lights that illuminate the Lee and Davis statues on Monument Avenue.