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Blue Ribbon Commission Ready to Tackle Confederate Statues Issue

Posted: Updated: Jun 07, 2016 10:04 PM
File Image: Robert E. Lee state and Lee Park File Image: Robert E. Lee state and Lee Park
File Image: Daughters of Zion Cemetery File Image: Daughters of Zion Cemetery
File Image: Drewary J. Brown Bridge File Image: Drewary J. Brown Bridge
Don Gathers, Blue Ribbon Commission member Don Gathers, Blue Ribbon Commission member
Frank Dukes, Blue Ribbon Commission member Frank Dukes, Blue Ribbon Commission member
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

After months of controversy over what some call "racist" memorials, Charlottesville City Council appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to tackle the issue.

While many of the commission members have never met, some of them already seem to be on the same page. They say, the first step to coming up with a solution is to listen.

As the controversy over the Robert E. Lee statue in downtown Charlottesville’s Lee Park boiled up, the issue brought Blue Ribbon Commission member Don Gathers back to his roots.

As a young boy in Richmond during the 1960's, Gathers saw racism firsthand.

“I remember some of the sit-ins, not being able to sit at lunch counters in downtown Richmond, the people having to sit in various parts of the buses and not being able to sit where they might choose to,” Gathers said.

Now, he is one of nine people that are tackling the issue in Charlottesville.

“It's an opportunity for us to grow as a community,” said Frank Dukes, Blue Ribbon Commission member.

Charlottesville City Council appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission during a meeting Monday. The commission is tasked with studying Charlottesville’s Confederate past, listen to the community, and decide what options the city should consider to both respect the African-American community and remember the city's history.

“If it's offensive to someone, we have to at least address that in some way,” Gathers said.

The commission will look at different memorials around the city, including the Robert E. Lee statue, the Daughters of Zion Cemetery, and the Drewary J. Brown Bridge.

“One of my goals is actually to help bring the community together instead of being divided by that. So that means listening really carefully,” Dukes said.

“Listen to the wants and the needs and the passion from everyone and work from that point,” Gathers said.

The Blue Ribbon Commission has about six months and $10,000 to study the issue and look at where to go from here.

The group’s first meeting is next week.

  • Viewer Poll

  • Some Charlottesville councilors are considering removing the General Lee statue and / or renaming Lee Park. What do you think should be done?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee, keep park name
    1%
    372 votes
    Rename Lee Park, keep the statue
    5%
    1398 votes
    Remove the statue and rename the park
    13%
    3541 votes
    Don't change anything
    78%
    21692 votes
    None of the above
    3%
    874 votes
  • RELATED ARTICLES: In Depth: Central Virginia Debates over Civil War Era Displays and Monuments
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