L TO R Rob Corcoran(Hope In The Cities), Rev. Lawrence Wofford(President, Selma NAACP),Felicia Lucky(Executive Director, Blackbelt Community Foundation), Rev. Robert Turner, Jr.(Projected Manager, BBCF, Callie Greer(Selma Center),Brandon Oconnor(Selma Center) and Ainka Jackson(Executive Director, Selma Center For Non-Violence, Truth and Reconcialtion). Not pictured is photographer Randy Williams(Publisher,Selma Post Herald/Talk Show host WHBB’S Viewpoint.)
Richmond, Va. -October 16 and 17, 2017 as part of W.K. Kellogg Foundations' Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation(TRHT) national initiative. A delegation from Selma comprised of representatives of The Blackbelt Community Foundation and members of its Multi-Sector Team and The Selma Center for Non-Violence, Truth and Reconciliation visited Richmond, Va. to get first hand information from Initiatives Of Change and Hope in the Cities, organizations considered as models in effectively starting a transformation process in race relations. But the trip almost didn't happen. Had it not been for the persistence of Ainka Sanders Jackson, (Executive Director of The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation) and Delta Airlines Supervisors. What happened was a delay in flights to Montgomery caused the original itinerary's schedule to miss connections in Atlanta to Richmond which would have led to the trip being cancelled or rescheduled. Ainka got on the phone with Delta Airline supervisors and they were able to rework the itinerary. In fact some members got an upgrade to first class in seating by Delta as a result.
Once arriving in Richmond the delegation was met by Sylvester “Tee” Turner, Director of Reconciliation Programs who took the group to lunch at Mama's, a Soul Food restaurant in Richmond where they were met by Hope in the Cities Founder Rob Corcoran. After lunch they went to Initiatives Of Change headquarters where for several hours they exchanged in dialogue with staff and advisory board members about the process of racial healing and transformation in Richmond and Selma. The next day the group was again met by Sylvester "Tee" Turner at the Marriot Hotel from where he led them on a tour of significant sites relevant to Initiatives Of Change's experience in Richmond.
"Tee" took them to five sites representing "How we used history to support the healing work that needs to take place in our community". The first site was at the highest point in Richmond at Libby Hill Park where a monument to Confederate soldiers is erected.
"One of the things I have learned from doing this is when I can validate your sacred story it's much easier for you to validate my sacred story. When we both validate each others' sacred story then we find a common ground we can begin to build from". He went on to explain that Libby Hill is a site for Richmonders, Native Americans, African Americans and Confederate Soldiers. Watch the video to hear his full presentation. The second site was across the street from the home of Elizabeth Van Lou, a Northern spy during the Civil War. The was originally located in Richmond's wealthiest part of town and diagonally across the street from Saint John's Episcopal Church where Patrick Henry gave his infamous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. He went on to tell the story of Mary Bouser a slave Van Lou inherited with a photographic memory. Van Lou freed her and sent her North to be educated. Bouser returned to Richmond as the Civil War was breaking out and because the wife of Jefferson Davis needed a maid Van Lou sent Bouser. General Ulysses Grant later said that the most valuable information from Richmond came from Van Lou via Bouser. From this location Tee stresses that women played a role in the Union victory and that African Americans fought for their freedom. The group was taken to three other sites; The starting point of the Richmond Slavery Trail where enslaved Africans were imported and exported in Richmond; Lumpkin's Slave Jail and the Reconciliation Statue.