See below for commentary by Charlottesville City Council members Lloyd Snook and Heather Hill, in response to the controversy over Mayor Nikuyah Walker’s “sexually graphic post” the other day, which stirred up a LOT of attention…and criticism (note: the post’s most controversial line was probably, “Charlottesville: The beautiful-ugly it is. It rapes you, comforts you in its c** stained sheet and tells you to keep its secrets.”). Also see below for Mayor Walker’s response to Snook and Hill…
First, here’s what Snook and Hill wrote:
We have been swamped with requests for reaction to Mayor Walker’s poem. Here is a joint statement that Heather Hill and I have drafted and sent out:
On Wednesday, Mayor Nikuyah Walker posted a poem on multiple social media platforms that likened the City of Charlottesville to a rapist who then comforts and oppresses his rape victim. This post has received national attention.
As White individuals, we can only dimly understand the present-day impact of America’s history of slavery, lynching and sexualized violence toward Black people in general, and toward Black women in particular. We see daily the pressure on Mayor Walker, as the sole representative on our Council of a marginalized and historically oppressed group. We do not – because we cannot – share her pain; no one can judge someone else’s pain. And we are appalled at the threats, both direct and indirect, that Mayor Walker has received in response to her post.
But it can never be appropriate for our Mayor – as our leader and as our representative – to use terms of sexual violence to characterize the City of Charlottesville. The “rape” metaphor was salacious, but it was also jarring and hurtful to victims of sexual assault and rape, and deeply unfair in how it presents Charlottesville to the world. We should not gloss over our difficult history of race relations, but as elected officials, we must choose our words carefully.
We wish that our city was being seen for the many things our community has been accomplishing, especially since the alt-Right violence of 2017. Since 2017, Charlottesville has made historic commitments to affordable and deeply affordable housing, to the redevelopment of our public housing through resident-led planning, to grass roots initiatives for mortgage and rent relief to prevent evictions, and to a panoply of bold housing plans on par with much larger municipalities. We have started programs to train people for living wage jobs and to teach them how to start up independent businesses, even during a pandemic. We have launched a Police Civilian Review Board, fare-free public transit, and local food justice initiatives. We are working on a sweeping affordable housing plan, a rewrite of our Comprehensive Plan with an emphasis on racial equity, a new zoning plan that looks to begin to undo historic segregation patterns in single-family housing, and a climate action plan that will work for all of us.
These initiatives – and many more – are what people should be seeing in the national headlines about the City of Charlottesville. We remain committed to investing resources and repairing broken systems so that all in our community have the opportunity to thrive. We still face many challenges, but if we work together as leaders, and shoulder to shoulder with our citizens, we will continue to make progress toward a more equitable city.
Some of the progressive programs outlined above were begun before any of us joined City Council. Some of them have been started during our times on Council. When Charlottesville has made progress on these issues, it has been with support of people of all backgrounds. The funding for these initiatives has come from the tax dollars of people of all backgrounds. Our future success depends on the good will and the desire for unity of people of all backgrounds. This poem did not help build that unity.
Now, here’s Mayor Walker’s response to Snook and Hill:
Heather and Lloyd teamed up to write a response to my truth. #takecontrolofthenarrative! It was interesting watching them learn one another in 2020 and Big D Democrat the city council while you all blindly watched and waited for the three “most progressive councilors ever elected” to move our city forward. Anyhoo… Heather and Lloyd, maybe Dr. King and 1963 or Charlottesville and 2017 can remind you who you are and how unhelpful you will continue to be unless you CHANGE.
In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.”
“That’s as true today as it was then. The silence of white moderates who won’t speak up when faced with extreme racism exacerbates the problems we have today. White moderates have become comfortable with their lives and don’t want to “rock the boat” or make too much noise. To white moderates, I say that your silence is aiding and abetting their agenda and your moral leadership is needed now more than ever.”