Today we got to Charlottesville, Virginia when the sun was still down and woke up five hours later to start the day. We were told the weather has gotten a little cooler, not the blazing heat that was present last weekend, similar to way the city has begun to cool after the riots that occurred on August 12th. Our team of five walked towards the library center to get ready to spend the day processing with Charlottesville citizens about what they experienced two weeks ago to the day. The first thing we noticed was the shrouded statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. This shroud set in the middle of the square, a figure hidden but not removed, mirrored the confusion of the events and history of racism in this city.
Today I came to realize the difficulty in supporting a community that has experienced both a traumatic event as well as what we would call historic, systemic trauma. The difficulty I realized today is that many people who were not directly affected by the death of Heather Heyer or those injured in the riots have begun to go back to life as usual. But, those families who were affected are continuing the grieving process. On top of that, the actual underlying division in this city has not changed. Later in the evening as we sat in a blazing hot “Call to Conscience for our Nation” at the First United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. William Barber exhorted the community to continue to push through the racial division and discrimination with nonviolence.
Tomorrow we will go out again. Grief comes one day at a time. Change comes one day at a time. There is still confusion, pain, and ultimately a history of violence here that will take much longer to unravel than the short time we are here. I am thankful for the hands that will hold this beautiful and broken city when we return home.
Nia Baker, MA, LAPC