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Dear Decaturish – More readers weigh in about Confederate monument in Decatur

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Dear Decaturish – More readers weigh in about Confederate monument in Decatur

An inscription on the Confederate monument in Decatur. Photo by Erik Voss
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An inscription on the Confederate monument in Decatur. Photo by Erik Voss

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Dear Decaturish,

In an editorial that said, “There are other ways to show disgust with the Confederate Monument” Mr. Skillman points out the very war that happened right around the courthouse grounds. He points out that there should be a celebration to honor Union Soldiers. I would suggest going further.

Notice the bricks around the monument. Those bricks can be pulled up and memorial bricks sold to add more monuments to the area creating a veterans park. Just on the other side is a police officer’s monument. We could add a monument listing the soldiers who fought in the battle of Decatur, Soldiers from the Indian Wars, WWI, WWII, Vietnam and all soldiers who served from Decatur and DeKalb County. There could also be a monument to slaves and civil rights to the same area.

Simply put we need to embrace history and not erase history. A well repeated lie was told in regard to the monument. It was said the monument was installed in response to the Race Riots in Atlanta in 1906. In reality the monument was proposed in 1896 with two slabs of marble offered from the DeKalb courthouse. It took a great deal of time to raise money for the monument. The Confederate Express card was not available during this time so small donations from a dollar with the maximum being one hundred dollars. Over 1,000 DeKalb school children participated in the donations along with veterans and private citizens.

Instead of showing disgust as a form of political attacks and spreading feces on public property, why not try to learn from history and enhance it? I am not sure how Mr. Skillman feels about his ancestor but I am curious if he read some of the political statements made by William Tecumseh Sherman in regards to race?

– Barry Colbaugh

Duluth, Georgia

The monument in downtown Decatur. Photo provided to Decaturish

Dear Decaturish,

From a recently published letter in the Decaturish, the community might get the impression that no progress has been made regarding the removal and relocation of the Confederate monument in the Decatur city square. As we approach the Aug. 12, one year anniversary of the tragic events in Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer by white supremacists, we understand that many people may feel frustrated.

While one goal – the actual uprooting of the monument – has not been met, progress has been made over the last year. When we and the county thought we had exhausted all possible locations to take the monument, a door opened when a member of our coalition suggested that a church take it as part of a way to .recognize past history and acknowledge the previous support of Southern Christian churches for the institution of slavery.

An interfaith coalition was formed to explore this possibility. This led to the development of a proposal to develop a Truth, Restorative Justice, and Healing Place where active listening, honest dialogue, education, and organizing about race can happen. We envision the creation of a place of contemplation, truth-telling, redemption, and liberation. We have to look no further than the anti-immigrant rhetoric used by the Republican candidates for governor this year to see the need for creating such a space.

We developed relationships with county leaders, particularly on the County Operations Committee, which gave us time to pursue this initiative. As we went deeper into the proposal, we decided the monument would need to be paired with art of equal size and scope affirming the dignity and worth of all human beings, as well as contextualizing it with plaques. We also discussed bringing the marker from the Montgomery National Memorial for Peace and Justice to connect the memorializing of the Confederacy to the lynchings that took place in DeKalb County. We believed this assembling of history and art would be the best way to both shine a light into the darkness of the past and illuminate the path to the future. So we began reaching out and including local artists in our discussions.

Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain became a possible site but unfortunately decided they did not have the resources to support and sustain such a project. While we are disappointed, we still believe we’re on the right track. We are continuing to reach out to other local churches and national denominations that may support our vision. We need an institution with both the space, resources, and the prophetic imagination to make this a reality.

Through our work with Memorial Drive Presbyterian, we also learned about the Brannon Hill community located next door to the church. We added language to our proposal to address the needs of that community for economic and housing justice. On June 23, members of our coalition participated in a Brannon Hill Clean Up and Celebration event with the Brannon Hill Home Owners Association and representatives of DeKalb County government. Create Community 4 Decatur/DeKalb: Black Lives Matter supported the organizing of a community forum held on July 17th at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church to address proposed issues of development in this community and support the community of Brannon Hill’s right to self-determination.

Simply moving the monument to another location on the public square is not appropriate. The goal of removing it is important. However, the process we have developed in achieving that objective is even more important. The relationships we have built and strengthened, the insights we have gained, and the strategies we have developed are all invaluable. White supremacy and other forms of systemic oppression will continue to exist the day after that piece of concrete is no longer on the square. We will continue to grow and build the movement – we invite you to join us. The power of our organization is our best guarantee of creating the future Decatur and DeKalb County we all want. Your thoughts, prayers, and concrete suggestions are welcome.

Sara Patenaude and Paul McLennan

Hate Free Decatur

Mawuli Davis

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights

Fonta High and Leslie Withers

Create Community 4 Decatur/DeKalb: Black Lives Matter

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