100 Leave Charlottesville to Embark on a 6 Day Civil Rights Pilgrimage

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Sculpture at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice Sculpture at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

More than 100 people from Charlottesville began a civil rights pilgrimage to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama Sunday morning.

The group includes city councilors, members of the board of supervisors, UVA students, community activists and even Mayor Nikuyah Walker.

They left the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center for a six day, five night journey. Travelers hope that the trip will help them acknowledge Charlottesville's history of racism, so they can make the city a better place for everyone.

The Charlottesville Civil Rights Pilgrimage is sponsored by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, the Charlottesville City Council, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the University of Virginia Office for Diversity and Equity and several other organizations. 

On the one year anniversary of the Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville's Justice Park, these members of the Charlottesville community have embarked on a journey to face the city's difficult history of white supremacy.

David Garth, a member of the group, said, "Last summer was a real awakening for a lot of us to realize not only that folks that came from outside that caused so much trouble but how much quiet, silent sympathy there is in the white community."

Garth decided to join the pilgrimage group to help him come to terms with racism in his own family tree. His ancestors lived in Charlottesville during a time lynching of African Americans wasn't uncommon.

Garth said, "It's certainly a reminder that in the not so distant past we have lynched people and we have been part of the white supremacy the KKKs, who gave money to Memorial Gymnasium."

The delegation will visit iconic sites in the history of the civil rights movement throughout four states and will conclude their trip at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, where they will deliver soil collected from the Charlottesville lynching site of racial terror victim, John Henry James. 

Jazzmond Ward-Opie, the project coordinator for UVA's Advancement Communications, said, "With everything that went down last year that hashtag Charlottesville was trending and it wasn't a good look, but I think this trip and everyone going from Charlottesville will be able to reshape the public's image of Charlottesville as a whole."

Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer who was killed during a car attack at the Unite the Right rally, boarded the bus wearing purple, Heather's favorite color, and one of Heather's sweaters. 

Bro said, "Having the events of last summer happen has really pushed us to a point where we can no longer hide the truth."

"I feel that she is going," Bro added. "Just we can't see her. I feel her in my heart."

Bro believes this pilgrimage will help Charlottesville move forward. 

"We're trying to make Charlottesville a better place,” Bro said.  “We're going to reshape public spaces. We're going to reshape our understanding of our history."

Those on the pilgrimage will explain what they learned during their trip to the Charlottesville community sometime in early August before the one year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally.

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