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Dear Decaturish – Decatur’s leaders should correct the narrative about the city’s history

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Dear Decaturish – Decatur’s leaders should correct the narrative about the city’s history

People were invited to write in chalk on the sidewalk what they learned during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights Decolonize Decatur Committee “Genocide Cannon on the Square” Teach-In at the “Indian War” cannon by the historic DeKalb County courthouse on Sunday, Aug. 22. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Dear Decaturish,

As Decatur celebrates the 200th anniversary of the founding of our city we are also challenged to reflect and to make amends, because our history is not without its blemishes. The reality is this progressive and vibrant city we are proud to call home rests upon land where the Muscogee Nation once lived and thrived. The signers of this letter, as Christian faith leaders, are painfully aware that Christianity was once used to justify the European conquest and colonization of lands we now call North America.

Numerous religious decrees, which authorized and encouraged European powers to conquer the lands of non-Christians, were used to justify the long history of European violent exploitation of other people and their lands. Collectively these religious tracts, which we now recognize as false teachings, came to be known as the Doctrine of Discovery. As Christian faith leaders, we firmly believe that we are all God’s chosen people, siblings called to share the resources of creation without exploiting one another or creation itself.

Since our forebears helped justify the wrongs of years past, Christians must stand with others in setting things right. Therefore, the Decatur faith community is now taking a practical step in a critically important truth-telling, repentance, and restorative justice process by urgently insisting that the city of Decatur correct the distorted version of this community’s history on our city’s website. The current narrative is woefully inadequate in its description of our history. The ripple effects from the harm done over these last 200 years continue to be seen and felt today, especially by people of color.

A team of volunteers, who worked for more than a year, have completed a “People’s History of Decatur” in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding. Working with historians, academics, community organizers, members of faith communities, and students, including students from Dr. Akinyele Umoja’s GSU Africana Studies Department, the People’s History presents what happened on this land from an Indigenous and African perspective. This framing is largely absent from the Decatur history found on our city’s website. The Decatur People’s History can now be found on the Art for the People page of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights website.
At the same time as we sound this call, we are proud to celebrate the removal of the Genocide cannon from Decatur Square. And yet the crucial work of remembrance and repair for Creek Removal in Decatur remains. While the Genocide cannon removal was a critical step, we have farther to go in our effort to ensure that history is not erased. The space where the cannon once stood has remained empty for two years. To us, the harmful silence of not remembering echoes in this empty space. To this end, members of Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights have written to Dekalb County Commissioners to place a plaque where the cannon once stood in remembrance of the Creek who once lived here.

We strongly support a remembrance of the Creek people to be installed where the cannon once stood. More than two dozen Protestant denominations in the U.S. and Canada as well as the World Council of Churches have officially voted to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. We believe this is an important moment to take this ongoing movement to the local level–bridging the important work of remembrance and repair we undertake as Christians regarding the history of our faith with the work we must do as members of the Decatur community.

We ask you to take another step towards correcting the narrative about how the city of Decatur came to be, and towards remembering the removal of the Creek community from their sacred ancestral home.

Yours in faith and solidarity,

Rev. Ashley Robinson, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Rev. Melanie Vaughn-Colwell, Oakhurst Baptist Church , Rev. Nibs Stroupe, Presbyterian USA, Rev. Daniel Brower, Disciples of Christ. Rev. Tom Hagood, Columbia Presbyterian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner, Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Dr. Tina Pippin, Agnes Scott College, Rev. David Lewicki, North Decatur Presbyterian Church, Rev. R. Mark Green, First Baptist Church, Decatur

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