CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Conversations about inequality and systemic racism have picked up in recent weeks during social unrest surrounding Black lives and police brutality.
On Tuesday night, a discussion about how former Confederate capitals are answering the calls for change was held as part of the Tom Tom Foundation’s Cities Rising Summit.
Mayors of both Confederate capital cities, both Black men, discussed their experiences with racism and action taken in their cities during calls for racial justice.
“I’ve been living here for 16 years, this is my home, I love this place,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. "But race in the former capitals of the confederacy has always bubbled underneath the surface.”
Stoney acknowledged some roots run deep during the virtual conversation on the state of the former Confederate capital.
“I’ve also been stopped by police officers for no, no reason for being pulled over," he said. "You still encounter people who still hold these beliefs.'”
Stoney was joined by Montgomery, Alabama, Mayor Steven Reed. Montgomery was another Confederate capital. Both cities have been dealing with the monuments and honorary names linked to the cause.
“Now we can talk about reconciliation but we can’t get there until we’re truthful about it,” Reed said.
Both mayors say racism and systemic inequalities are not only found in former Confederate states.
“So my family members who left and moved to New Jersey, and moved to Queens, New York, they will tell you about those segregated areas there,” Reed said.
Reed points to the rhetoric coming from some politicians, including President Donald Trump.
“You have a son of New York in the White House inflaming all these thoughts and emotions out here, campaigning with racial rhetoric," Reed said.
Stoney says these conversations and moments are important and will pay off if change comes.
“Are we going to do something about it?" Stoney asked. "Are we going to just be comfortable, accepting of this image? Or are we going to change that image?”
The Tom Tom Foundation conversations pick up on Wednesday with sessions on COVID-19 recovery and the Black maternity crisis.