City Council unanimously approved a Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces May 2 after a Charlottesville High School student presented a petition to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee and rename Lee Park in March.
The nine-member commission will look not only at Confederate monuments like Lee and Stonewall Jackson, but will also consider options to tell the “full story of Charlottesville’s history of race relations and for changing the city’s narrative through our public spaces,” according to the resolution. That could include augmenting the slave auction block at Court Square, rehabbing the Daughters of Zion cemetery and revisiting Vinegar Hill through the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
Three commission members will come from the PLACE Design Task Force, Human Rights Commission and Historic Resources Committee, and all must apply in the next 30 days. Council will appoint the members June 6 after a closed session, and the commissioners will produce a written report by November 30.
At an April 28 work session, councilors discussed who should be on the commission, because the issue has drawn interest from people all over the commonwealth. They agreed that members need to have a strong affiliation with the Charlottesville/Albemarle area.
City Councilor Bob Fenwick said the commission’s discussions will be “blunt,” “brutally honest” and not always civil.
“It’s extremely important we’re transparent,” said Councilor Kathy Galvin. “This is something very emotional for our community, that we open it up and let people apply.”
Council approved $10,000 to fund the commission’s work.