Words + Links

Demanding Justice for Shahidul Alam.” Aperture, August 9, 2018.

For the Forgotten African-American Dead.New York Times, January 7, 2017.

My Inspiring Year Uncovering Forgotten African-American Graves.” Narrative.ly, August 31, 2016.

These Volunteers Have Been Cleaning Up Abandoned Black Cemeteries.” Buzzfeed, July 9, 2016.

Why Does This Old Cemetery Matter?” Reading the Pictures, May 10, 2016.

Race Trips.Colorlines. Seven-part series, with Erin Hollaway Palmer, July 8 to August 3, 2015.

 

Tragedy and possiblity in a single frame

We had canceled today's work day at East End because there was rain in the forecast. Richmond got some, but not much. Just drizzle. So Erin and I went out. First, we hauled a plastic tub and a trash bag filled with empty malt liquor and beer bottles—a gift from anonymous, shameless party animals—out of the brush-only dumpster. Mark and Karen stopped by, gathered the bottles, and after a play session with Willow and Teacake, took them home to be recycled.

When we finished, Erin migrated toward an area in the old section of the cemetery that she had started clearing a couple of years ago. She gloved up and set to work.

I stopped to look at temporary—or courtesy—markers. There are hundreds, of various types in varied states. Many of the aluminum ones, most under 50 years old, are in decent shape. Everything is metal, even the raised letters, so they tend to last, unless some grinds them up with a lawn mower (as has happened at neighboring Evergreen).

Older markers are metal frames with glass windows. Under the glass, a slip of paper with the deceased's name, date of death, the name of the funeral home, maybe more, if they could fit it. A precious few of these slips are still legible. Most are not. Water and time have dissolved them. Some of these empty frames were planted in plots that also have headstones. Perhaps the stone was set and the courtesy marker not removed. We can assume, but can't know. Often, there's just the busted metal frame.

These, to me, are among the most tangible, powerful reminders that much of this community's history has been destroyed, allowed to disintegrate and disappear. This is tragic, largely because it did not have to be so. But this is the afterlife of Jim Crow, as Erin puts it.

But there is something else. In this same moment, in this same frame, I see possibility. Like the headstones, many of the metal markers had been enmeshed in tangles of greenbrier, English ivy, and Virginia creeper or covered in soil from decades of erosion. We see the markers because we, the volunteers, have revealed them; the ground in which they were planted has been cleared. We may never learn who that marker was placed for, but we can still honor that nameless person by continuing to reclaim the land from nature and a community's stories from obscurity. —BP

7 April 2018

 

 

 

 

This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Facing Race 2016, Atlanta, GA

 Michelle Alexander (third from left;  The New Jim Crow ) and other conference attendees listen to a speaker at Facing Race 2016 before the plenary session, "Multiracial Movement for Black Lives." To her right are Isa Noyola ( Transgender Law Center ) and Alicia Garza ( National Domestic Workers Alliance  and #BlackLivesMatter), Atlanta, GA, 11 November

Michelle Alexander (third from left; The New Jim Crow) and other conference attendees listen to a speaker at Facing Race 2016 before the plenary session, "Multiracial Movement for Black Lives." To her right are Isa Noyola (Transgender Law Center) and Alicia Garza (National Domestic Workers Alliance and #BlackLivesMatter), Atlanta, GA, 11 November

I arrived in Atlanta for the Facing Race conference, convened by Race Forward, the day after the presidential election. I spent the next three+ days immersed in a sea of attendees, 2,300 souls, making photographs of events, interactions, and quiet moments to the best of my ability. There was listening, talking, sharing, crying, brainstorming, debating, arguing, connecting—and yes, eating, dancing, and laughing. It was therapy and inspiration.

 Michelle Alexander ( The New Jim Crow ) speaks at Facing Race 2016 plenary session, "Multiracial Movement for Black Lives." Atlanta, GA, 11 November

Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) speaks at Facing Race 2016 plenary session, "Multiracial Movement for Black Lives." Atlanta, GA, 11 November

Please take a look at the photos. This is who we are.  Follow the links in the captions to learn about speakers and the organizations they represent. They organize for justice—justice for all, not just some. It was a big tent, so to speak, with all races, ages, sexual orientations, levels of mobility, ethnicities, nationalities, and I was happy and proud to have a place in it.

The Grunts & Major General Mattis, 9 July 2004

 Major General James N. Mattis briefs Marines about to convoy north to Babil province, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, 9 July 2004

Major General James N. Mattis briefs Marines about to convoy north to Babil province, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, 9 July 2004

Major General James N. Mattis figured out that there might be civilian news media—me—in his briefing a few minutes in. That didn’t seem to inhibit him. He kept on talking like a grunt to grunts who would soon convoy north from Camp Virginia, Kuwait, into Iraq. I didn’t audio-record Mattis’s brief to Battalion Landing Team 1/2 (1st Battalion/2d Marines), but I did jot down his most noteworthy statements.

"The enemy will try to make you racists."

"In a war sometimes bad things happen.”

"We are going to kill and kill and kill—not the innocent, only the enemy—until they are sick of this war."

He quoted Geronimo, but I didn’t get that.

Mattis told the men that the people in their new area of operations were "95% friendly."

"Do not allow yourself to hate these people who had the mistake of being born in this country at this time,” he continued.

 Men of Battalion Landing Team 1/2 (1st Battalion/2d Marines) listen to brief by Major General James N. Mattis, commanding general 1st Marine Division and Multi National Force–West, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, 9 July 2004

Men of Battalion Landing Team 1/2 (1st Battalion/2d Marines) listen to brief by Major General James N. Mattis, commanding general 1st Marine Division and Multi National Force–West, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, 9 July 2004

About the forces that the Marines would engage in-country, Mattis told them, "they mean every word when they say they hate you.... All they know is hatred. Your job is to kill them. I'm not into you taking a lot of prisoners...."

"We do not become animals. We do not lose our humanity. We don't lose our discipline."

Of the Iraqi National Guard, he said: "A few of them are treacherous bastards, but most of them are on our side."

"You are the most radical dudes in the world,” he told the men, in perhaps his first ungruntly moment. "Keep your sense of humor. It's like a flak jacket around your spirit."

 Major General James N. Mattis briefs Marines about to convoy north to Babil province, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, 9 July 2004

Major General James N. Mattis briefs Marines about to convoy north to Babil province, Camp Virginia, Kuwait, 9 July 2004

This was July 9, 2004, a little over two months after the 1st Battle of Fallujah (aka Operation Vigilant Resolve), a bloody harbinger (an estimated 600 Iraqis were killed, 1,000 wounded; 30 U.S. Marines were killed), which itself was precipitated by the ambush, killing, and desecration of four Blackwater mercenaries in that city.

"Although a tenuous cease-fire continues in effect for Fallujah,” reads a 2009 report by the USMC's History Division, “the Shi’a [al-Sadr] militia begin spreading violence to several other cities, including parts of Baghdad, Kut, Karbala, and Najaf.” The cities of north Babil—Iskandariyah, Musayyib, Haswah, and other which these Marine would patrol—weren’t on that list. They would be soon. Mattis, commanding general of 1st Marine Division and Multi National Force–West, was sending these men—and a number of women who served with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s support group—into this violence. Marines would be killed, and Marines would kill.

You’ll hear and read that Marines revere him. I saw and heard that. I still do. Mattis is a man of substance—not simply a “mad dog,” a nickname apparently bestowed on him by the troops after Fallujah, but also a “warrior monk.” But is this the substance we need in a Secretary of Defense, “the principal defense policy adviser to the President,” who is responsible for the formulation of general defense policy” and all things DOD? That’s a question for which I don’t yet have an answer.

VOCAL-NY at Abyssinian Baptist Church, NY, NY

Industry Truth: Reflection On the Business of Photojournalism, #2

  Image Truth/Story Truth  conference, Columbia Journalism School, NY, NY, October 16, 2015

Image Truth/Story Truth conference, Columbia Journalism School, NY, NY, October 16, 2015

A couple of days ago a thread on a closed Facebook group for journalists of color stopped me in my tracks. A Medium.com piece, "Where Are All the Black Photographers?," by an educator and image-maker named Ron Cowie, a white man, triggered a roaring response from... black photographers.

Cowie made a list of the black photographers he knows—the last entry was "this guy I saw on 60 minutes who photographed Jazz Musicians back in the 80's"—and by his own reckoning, came up short. He did some Googling, which didn't produce the bounty he must have been hoping for. "It’s almost like we’re looking to celebrate anything but African American photographers," he writes.

I wrote a few replies to photographers on the closed FB page, but I'm stitching some of them together here because I think the conversation needs a wider airing.

Here is what I wrote on the FB page, minus names of and references to participants in the private discussion:

I have been attending photo/documentary conferences of late. I am one of a handful of black folks and people of color in the room. Doesn't feel very different from a decade or more ago.

I'd like to offer some information and make a gentle call to action here...

A week ago, at a photojournalism conference at the Columbia Journalism School, Image Truth/Story Truth (#imagetruth), Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute noted that many promising initiatives launched 10 to 20 years ago to make newsrooms more inclusive were ended and not replaced when digital began crushing the profitability of old-line news media. People of color have not advanced in the field, Irby said to the mostly white group. Santiago Lyon of the Associated Press told the audience that an estimated 85% of AP’s photographers come from the countries in which they work. “If it works internationally, why can’t it work at home,” Irby asked? “We still have a pitiful state of affairs.”

Michele McNally, director of photo at the New York Times— and an Assistant Managing Editor at the paper— acknowledged that since the buyout, the paper’s record on “diversity” has been dismal. (I don't dig the term "diversity." It turns black and brown folks into sprinkles on a white, mainstream sundae. We are ice cream; we have abundant flavor/flava.) The conversation took many turns after this, all away from the issue of inclusion. Panelists discussed branded content, collaboration between news media and corporations to create… whatever it is that they create, which NYT, AP, and Getty Images are all embracing. (This conversation got heated, and then, poof, it ended, too. The links above lead to the branded content sites—NYT's T Brand Studio, Getty's Curve, and AP Content Services.  See what you think.)

We must acknowledge something that the old guard is loath to: digital technology has destroyed their power to define “news,” “photojournalism,” and “documentary” for the world. They still have power, and some money, too, but they will prosper only by reaching new communities, not simply speaking to (and about) people like them, and starting—or deepening—relationships with practitioners from these communities.

This erosion of power has a lot of implications, among them the collapse in the monetary value of what they disseminate (and what we make). For us, it means that the pie of potential assignments/paying opportunities, never a big slice, is perhaps reduced to a sliver.

But perhaps this a moment of opportunity, for us and for them.

Journalists of color are producing amazing work and innovating on the Web. If the old guard is acknowledging that it has a problem with inclusion of people of color, let’s show them (again) what we’re doing. I’m not talking about stopping what we’re doing and directing all of our attention their way. But if there are great projects that haven’t gotten “mainstream” exposure—perhaps we can discuss and nominate some here—let’s bring them to the attention of the gatekeepers. Directly, via emails, snail mail, at industry events.

We’re not rattling the tin cup in front of the NYT or Getty or AP or whatever/whomever; we’re picking up the conversation they started. You have a problem with inclusion, you say, here’s some beautiful, powerful work that might help you address it. Here’s a photographer you might want to pay attention to, develop a connection with. Here's someone who would make a mighty fine producer, editor, curator. And let’s keep track of the responses. Talk is cheap, as we well know.

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Let’s keep innovating, creating, sharing, collaborating. We can continue to break down our own silos and connect to each other horizontally—Brooklyn to Addis, for example, or LA-Chicago-Miami—building what comes next. And we can work/keep working with white allies who step to us as partners, not tokens.

One page member noted that I hadn’t dealt with youth, the people who might transform our field.

So I replied:

Those of of us who teach journalism, PJ, or documentary at the undergrad or grad level are probably accustomed to having few black and brown students—I’m talking US nationals, not international. That’s obviously not the case at HBCUs—I taught broadcast journalism at Hampton University in 2013—and at some other schools, but at many colleges, public and private, I think this is the case. Where are the kids of color? Most likely they’re studying in disciplines that can get them paid when they graduate with a load of debt. It’s a little nuts to go into journalism now—unless you’re very focused, very connected, and/or very rich.

Correct me if I'm wrong, those of you who teach photo at the secondary level and in community programs: You have a tough time getting more than one or two students into the field as paid professionals, right?

And yet even as the journalism as we know it disintegrates, digital creates genuine opportunities. At Image Truth/Story Truth, Fred Ritchin used the hypothetical example of an Instagrammer in Egypt with 80,000 followers shooting iPhone news images. Young American kids of color blew up social media in Ferguson. Some parlayed that into paying work. (Help me with examples, social media-savvy comrades.) More than that, they got the word (and image) out unmediated. They defined the story for the MSM—or at least created a powerful grassroots narrative that Fox and friends had to contend with. So how do we capitalize on digital’s potential to do this in ways that create new narratives and new modes of communication? Again, it’s happening—Black Twitter—but can we shape it into a more cohesive and powerful force? Maybe create ways to get paid, too?

As I lecture and adjunct my way across US campuses, I note the young folks (of all colors) who are taking the lead in visual journalism/social media journalism/etc. They are multiplatform. They can write. They have confidence. And a few who I have met can code, or at least dig into existing content-management systems in ways that goes beyond posting to Wordpress and posting Youtube videos. My challenge is to impart what I know—about photos and writing and ethics and so on—while encouraging students to courageously develop backend knowledge and experience.

Image Truth/Story Truth, October 16, 2015

Below, a few frames from the recent Columbia Journalism School conference on the state of photojournalism in the digital age, as a genre, a vocation, and as an industry, organized by Nina Berman and Gary Knight.

In the interest of "image truth," one of our central concerns, I disclose herewith that I processed these digitally captured Canon images in Camera Raw and Photoshop. Some or all of the following adjustments were made to the images in Camera Raw: increased or decreased exposure; sharpened; corrected color temperature; raised midtones (using curves); set black and white points; added vibrance and clarity; burned or dodged.

Written reflections on the event to follow.

From the Archives: The Million Man March, 1995

I photographed the MMM, sponsored by the Nation of Islam and headlined by its leader, Louis Farrakhan, 20 years ago for U.S. News & World Report, then the country's third largest news magazine. 

There were, of course, those who opposed the notion on its face after it was announced—a million black men on the Mall?! Yikes! But there were many nonracist skeptics, me among them, who were concerned that the primary organizer, the NOI, would use the day to promote the more problematic aspects of its cosmology and black separatist ideology, rather than ones I/we deemed positive—black economic independence, unity, education. [Click right here to read Ta-Nehisi Coates's excellent 1999 essay about/interview with journalist Karl Evanzz, author of The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad, a biography of the NOI's founder.]

I arrived before daybreak as the stage was being built and panels of bulletproof-glass set side by side in front of the dais. The sun rose on buses rolling in, walkers rolling up—tens of thousands of people. Those who had arrived earlier and dozed off in their own laps awoke to greet the new arrivals.

The gathering was bigger than the NOI and Farrakhan. The Million Man March, which was really a rally (unless one counts the personal marches each one of us took to arrive at the Mall) answered a need—for community, meaning, connection, so many things—among African Americans, men and women. I felt this.

I learned of the 20th anniversary march, to be held tomorrow,  from posters that popped up around town a few days ago. Coming in to my office at VCU today, I spotted two young black men in suits, wearing bowties, the Nation's uniform. I had noticed weeks ago that some NOI youth like to study in a corner of this building.  As the young men waited at the elevator, I asked if they belonged to the group. "Yes," answered one, a tall, thin gent with glasses, a little gold chain making an arc under his tie. I asked if the Nation would be sending buses north to DC for the event. "Oh, we're not going to the Million Man March." Not the answer I expected. I wasn't ready with a follow-up. They hopped on the lift.

The Flag Is Just the Beginning

 The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected in 1894, one of dozens of such public memorials to the Confederacy in its former capital, and one among hundreds across the South, Richmond, VA, 2014.

The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected in 1894, one of dozens of such public memorials to the Confederacy in its former capital, and one among hundreds across the South, Richmond, VA, 2014.

Removing Confederate flags from public places in South Carolina and from Virginia's vanity license plates might be meaningful steps toward the fundamental goal of destroying what they represent: the myths of white supremacy and black inferiority that hobble our society. But such steps will be tiny and not very meaningful if we allow a politics of equivocation and deception, as promoted by people like the governor of South Carolina, to block a real examination of the Confederacy’s legacy, symbolic and actual.

 Visitors join Confederate reenactors at a "stacking of the arms" ceremony during the sesquicentennial of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Union forces, Appomattox Court House, VA, 2015.

Visitors join Confederate reenactors at a "stacking of the arms" ceremony during the sesquicentennial of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Union forces, Appomattox Court House, VA, 2015.

Governor Nikki Haley speaks of “South Carolinians [who] view the flag as a symbol of respect, integrity and duty. They also see it as a memorial. A way to honor ancestors who came to the service of their state during a time of conflict. That is not hate, nor is it racism.” 

“At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past," Haley continues. "As a state, we can survive and indeed we can thrive as we have done whilst still being home to both of those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here.” (In reality, the loser was declared at Appomattox, but no matter.) This is an absurd position, one that trivializes and effectively denies what she herself allows is the "brutally oppressive past."

 The battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia flies in the Confederate section of Oakwood Cemetery, which is maintained by both the City of Richmond, VA, and private groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, 2015.

The battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia flies in the Confederate section of Oakwood Cemetery, which is maintained by both the City of Richmond, VA, and private groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, 2015.

That the different variants of the flag were the standards of a 19th-century regime and military built on the enslavement of African Americans, my forebears among them, is indisputable. This is fact, not fiction, supported by evidence, most prominently by the words of the secessionists themselves. Also incontestable is the fact that the battle flag was resurrected by segregationists in the 20th century and redeployed as the unifying symbol for the brutal backlash against people who fought for and supported full human and civil rights for African Americans.

 Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA, 2014.

Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA, 2014.

Look across the South (and some places up North) and you’ll see numerous, more durable symbols of the Confederacy that have been planted in civic spaces and therefore in our public consciousness. Here in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, you can’t shake a stick without whacking a granite erection to the ordinary soldiers or the exalted men who led them. Courthouses feature this statuary, too. And cemeteries, private and public, are clogged with it. Chances are we won’t be tearing down these monuments Firdos Square–style anytime soon. There are just too damn many of them, and they're literally embedded in the landscape.

 Visitors gather to join a march of Confederate reenactors during ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, VA, 2015.

Visitors gather to join a march of Confederate reenactors during ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, VA, 2015.

As historian David Blight and others have pointed out, these monuments were constructed by Confederate partisans years after the Civil War to solidify a revisionist narrative that minimized the role of slavery—and of black struggle and liberation—in the conflict and promoted the myth that the war was first and foremost about self-determination for the South. If one erases the systematic dehumanization and enslavement of black Americans effected through violence, then the heritage rises like cream above the hatefulness of the system. The Confederacy’s own founding documents belie this interpretation, of course, but it is still peddled by those who don’t know any better and by their enablers.

I meet, speak to, debate, and occasionally correspond with Confederaphiles—reenactors and scholars, both credentialed and independent—as I work on our documentary, Make the Ground Talk.

Africans participated in the slave trade, reenactors tell me. And some African Americans fought for the Confederacy. Slavery was nothing new in the world—Africans did that, too, along with Greeks, Romans, and Arabs. And so on. I respond to each one of these points, all of them true, usually by quoting respected historians and occasionally by linking to actual documents, to provide context.

Some Arabs and Africans profited from the business of capturing and selling fellow humans, but they did not create or control the transatlantic slave trade, out of which our unique American political, economic, and social systems grew. Chattel slavery, which built American wealth and prosperity, was unique to this country, I wrote to one of my Confederate correspondents. It is not interchangeable with Greek, Roman, or Arab slavery. "If we don’t see and understand our own institutions as both similar to others and unique," I wrote to him, "how are we to understand them? Is the French Revolution the same as the American Revolution? The Iranian Revolution?" Common sense, I thought. The vast majority of so-called Black Confederates were enslaved people dragged into the conflict by their owners to cook, dig ditches, and buff boots. Many of them escaped to join the Union army, as documents indicate my great-grandfather, who was owned by a Confederate officer, may have done.

 Statue in front of Amelia County Court, Amelia Court House, VA, 2013.

Statue in front of Amelia County Court, Amelia Court House, VA, 2013.

And fundamentally, how does any of this excuse or minimize what happened on our soil? We must own what is ours, I wrote to this same defender of the Confederate cause—one who refused to contend with an irreducible fact of slavery that always stops me in my tracks: A black person’s body was never his or her own.

“Think about a system under which a ‘good’ and ‘benign’ owner of people, one who fed and clothed his chattel, could decide one morning—hell, every morning—that he had a taste for intimate relations with the women and girls he owned,” I wrote. “I think about this a lot. You can’t rationalize this away.” He had no reply.

The less polished lash out, as did one man who commented on a piece I wrote about trying to see the "heritage, not hate" position through the eyes of a daughter of the Confederacy.

I am more than a little miffed by the author’s preconceived ideas that ALL people that fly Confederate Flags are racist. That comes from your stupidity and ignorance. The cliché American by birth, SOUTHERN by the grace of GOD rings true with me. I am proud of my southern roots. Times have changed in this country many times over again. Yes, some of my ancestors did own slaves. Some of my WHITE ancestors were slaves or Indentured servants. If I were racist in my youth, my momma would have beat me many times over. As a Christian, I still am NOT racist. Moses a Jew had a black wife. I do fly every Confederate flag I own every chance I get. I also try my best to educate morons that believe “rebel flag = kill niggers”. Sorry, I have to use such grammar YOU understand. Those words are NOT my words nor my beliefs.

This from a man who voluntarily tends the graves of blacks and whites at an abandoned cemetery in Hampton, Virginia.

“How we see the flag is a matter of perception and perspective,” I wrote back to him. “I am trying to understand the tradition and heritage point of view…. But to disregard and disrespect the views of those who were on the receiving end of brutality and discrimination by men, women, and children waving that flag is, I think, to remain blind to their humanity and their history." And this is precisely the problem.

African Americans knew what was going on when they saw Confederate statues popping up in their midst at the end of the 19th century, as their citizenship, never fully realized, was being attacked, diminished, and dismantled. John Mitchell Jr., outspoken editor of the Richmond Planet, a man born into slavery, witnessed the 1890 dedication of the Robert E. Lee colossus that still stands on Monument Avenue. “This glorification of States Rights Doctrine—the right of secession, and the honoring of men who represented that cause, fosters in the Republic, the spirit of Rebellion and will ultimately result in the handing down to generations unborn a legacy of treason and blood.”

 May 31, 1890, editorial in the  Richmond Planet  by John Mitchell Jr. on the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.

May 31, 1890, editorial in the Richmond Planet by John Mitchell Jr. on the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.

Going toe to toe with hardcore Confederaphiles by hitting them with evidence that they will most likely ignore may exhaust us, but we need to do so when their noise fills a vacuum. Post-Charleston social media is blowing up with precisely such intelligent vacuum-filling by writers and historians who are giving no quarter. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jelani Cobb, Paul Krugman, Stacey Patton, and many others have replied forcefully in bigger media.

On top of these sharp and reasoned reactions, we must know, understand, and teach that which the deniers seek to dismiss or erase. The Charleston Syllabus, spearheaded by Brandeis history professor Chad Williams, is a wonderful response to the need for essential information about black history in the wake of a massacre born of hate. Here in Richmond, venerable institutions such as the National Park Service, Library of Virginia, and Virginia Historical Society are doing good work, but monumental change is happening at the grassroots. Groups like the Defenders for Freedom, Justice, and Equality have fought the construction of a minor league baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, a hub for the internal slave trade. The group has also proposed an alternative that would prevent the destruction of the few vestiges of that past and still allow for some commercial development. Volunteers gather on Saturdays at an abandoned African American cemetery, East End, to claw back the headstones from nature and record what they find.

Flags can be hidden and monuments toppled (eventually), but the ideology behind them stands—unless we confront and replace it. In other countries, this process has been called “truth and reconciliation." It seems that truth-telling finally has serious momentum. We have a lot of work to do to sustain it.