Leaving aside the snipers on the roof of the historical society, the second anniversary of August 11 and 12 saw, as promised, a much lighter police presence than last year. And in the absence of checkpoints and bag searches, there was room for community events focused not just on reflecting and remembering, but on using the anniversary as a catalyst for change.
On Thursday night, more than a hundred people turned out to share a meal at the Community Table and talk about our local schools. On Friday, a similar number took part in a Confederate monuments tour (led by Jefferson School director Andrea Douglas and UVA professor Jalane Schmidt) that gave the full context of when and why those statues were put up, and what “work” they do in our public spaces. There was dance on the Mall and trombones in the park, a candlelight vigil on Sunday and a moving, interfaith service at First Baptist, the oldest black church in Charlottesville,
The events “[gave] folks a way to increase their awareness about all of the things that Charlottesville’s about,” says Charlene Green, who helped organize the Unity Days programming. “We’re more than what happened in August.”
There was also more than one memorial going on this week. Friends and fans have been mourning the loss of indie rock musician and poet David Berman, a UVA alum who died suddenly on August 7. And this weekend, Nelson County commemorates the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille, when a massive rainstorm killed 124 people overnight. It’s the kind of thing that’s hard for anyone to comprehend, let alone recover from, but community, perhaps, can help.
As First Baptist deacon Don Gathers noted at the packed August 12 service, “This is the type of gathering, this is the type of spirit, that will pull us through.”