Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Commission Holds First Public Forum

Posted: Updated: Jul 27, 2016 09:53 PM
The Blue Ribbon Commission held its first public forum Wednesday The Blue Ribbon Commission held its first public forum Wednesday
Don Gathers, Blue Ribbon Commission chair Don Gathers, Blue Ribbon Commission chair
Jane Smith, Blue Ribbon Commission member Jane Smith, Blue Ribbon Commission member

People gathered to voice their opinions in a debate about Confederate monuments in the city of Charlottesville Wednesday night. It’s part of a larger discussion about race, memorials, and public spaces.

Commissioners say they realize they're not going to be able to satisfy everyone's needs, but it's important to hear what people are thinking.

A range of opinions were heard at the first ever public forum hosted by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

“We're going to be asking people to talk about histories they feel like have been overlooked,” said Jane Smith, Blue Ribbon Commission member.

The nine member commission is tasked with evaluating the city's Confederate memorials, statues, and public spaces.

"We want to make a concrete, viable decision to give to council so that we can move forward and decide what's best for the majority of the people,” said Don Gathers, Blue Ribbon Commission chair.

Some say the existing monuments bind them to their heritage and to their descendents while others are concerned that they are offensive.

"To remove these statues will be doing a disservice to my ancestors and future generations,” said one attendee.

“I know about this history in this town. So if you want to talk to somebody about history, talk to some people that's my age. They'll let you know about the feelings that they had and the feeling that they still have,” said another attendee.

Many say this is a teaching moment.

"I think the real solution to memorials perceived as offensive is to both educate, through contextualizing as to why the story came to be, and to challenge their controversial message,” an attendee of the Blue Ribbon Commission said.

The Blue Ribbon Commission will hold two more public forums before presenting its findings to Charlottesville City Council.

City council will make the final decision in December.

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