Valdosta has a rich history with many upstanding historical figures and cultural traditions to be proud of. So, why are we allowing symbols of hate and prejudice to defile our beautiful landscape?
Why is there a Confederate statue in the town square, when the Confederate Army fought to preserve and expand slavery? Why are numerous streets and buildings named after slaveholders? For example, Valdosta has Toombs Street and Forrest Street named after slaveholders Robert August Toombs and Nathan Bedford Forrest, neither of whom are from Valdosta?
In a 53% Black or African American city, it is disrespectful to enshrine the names of slaveholders on streets and buildings.
Rather than helping the Black citizens of Valdosta and their allies with changing the names of these streets, we are consistently given new hurdles to overcome to change the name.
Why, when Valdosta citizens have rallied to change Toombs Street's name, were we required to have signatures of churches and businesses whose real address is on an adjacent street?
Additionally, we are being asked to get signatures for city property and state government offices. This process is an apparent conflict of interest.
However, we should not have to call our Secretary of State or City Manager Mark Barber to sign a petition. Is that not the will of Valdostans and a conflict of interest? Why is changing a name of a street so controversial?
The new city ordinance states "of the owners or verifiable residents of All parcels of land abutting the public street or alley for which a name change is being requested."
Citizens of Valdosta, call on our elected leaders to help change the names of certain streets in our city. We ask our elected officials and city employees to be leaders in this effort, rather than waiting until the rest of the cities across the country have finished making these changes.
For example, Rockdale County, Ga., which is similar in size to Lowndes County. Fairfield, Va., who removed the Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. Charlotte, N.C., renamed streets and took down a monument from in front of their capital.
Even the University of Cincinnati has voted to remove Marge Schott's name from the school's baseball stadium and archive library, who its president, Neville G. Pinto, said the former Cincinnati Reds baseball team majority owner's "record of racism and bigotry stands at stark odds with our university's core commitment to dignity, equity and inclusion (Jouranl-news.com)."
Are we a city without limits, or are we a city that promotes white superiority? We must demonstrate to our future generations that we do not condone hate or bigotry. We are a city of many nationalities, religions and genders. We cannot be without limits if we limit ourselves to promoting one race.
Unwillingly, this is what we advocate when we decorate our streets with names of people that represented distorted values and not what we believe in collectively. We are all created equal under God and were told to love thy neighbor as ourselves.
What love is being shown through Confederate generals' street names? Change is difficult but history has proven that Valdostans will stand for what is right. So, the street should be named to reflect the community it serves the most.
His/her achievement should be celebrated by Valdostans regardless of politics. If you would like to help us reach this goal, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facebook page Down With Forrest.
David Jonathan (DJ) Davis, senior, sociology and anthropology; an alumnus of VSU, bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies; grad of minors, African American studies, history; advisory team, African American Male Initiative; president, Sociology/Anthropology Club a.k.a. Students Obtaining Unity and Liberty.