Monday, July 8, 2013

Boulevard Stadium Referendum, Huguenot High Latino Student Protest

Today on DefendersLIVE, a discussion with Virginia Defender Newspaper editor Phil Wilayto about


3 Richmond school board members and the president of the Richmond NAACP stood alongside students and families protesting discriminatory practices at Huguenot High School on Thursday, June 20, 2013: A Latino student group was frisked, bags searched and then escorted to buses, having been implicated by rumor as being involved in a planned fight. During the search students were told that this was preferable to calling in the police because that could involve charges and possible detention and deportation. A meeting with the principal earlier in the week included parents, students, and community allies, aired parents' concerns about the difficulty of communicating with the administration and faculty when so few on staff  speak Spanish. Several students suffered consequences as a result of their participation, including being reassigned to the RPS Capital City Program (a title which signifies nothing), an alternative school in Gilpin Court established in 2004 to serve "students who are disruptive, low-performing and at risk of dropping out of school". According to a radio report on Weekly Sedition (WRIR) a list of demands provided by the students and their parents delineate why a protest on the second to last day of school was so important. This issue will be raised at the next meeting of the Richmond Public School Board on July 15, 6pm, at


Tonight's Richmond City Council meeting and the referendum to limit city property use for stadium development to the acreage that includes the site of the present stadium on the Boulevard, AND the resolution to prevent action until the referendum can go before the state's voting public in November. More information is posted at and there are many conversations building on Facebook.

The mayor of Richmond is perhaps caught between county administrations that refuse to contribute to a new stadium even though the fan-base of baseball in Richmond is primarily from the counties and the developers who will pay to develop a retail blockbuster on the Boulevard only if they can move the stadium development to the Bottom. But City Council members and the Slave Trail Commission and the institutions that state their purposes as the discovery, study, presentation, and/or preservation of our historical and cultural resources can certainly have opinions, can't they? So, where are their voices? The Squirrels management have at least said enough to imply that they'd be happy to stay on the Boulevard, though really they just want a new facility.

Speaking of facilities, what about the Arthur Ashe Center? THE city's public school event center? The plans for that are utter annihilation. Tear it down to make way for the improved sports complex on the Boulevard. Ok? Is a new Arthur Ashe Center planned? What facilities will offer what it offers to our schools? Will Arthur Ashe's legacy be a sculpture on Monument Avenue that is less about him and his contributions than it is about the state of the Confederacy, Public Art and Self-Determination in Richmond right now. Might he actually be pleased that his statue became about something more than an individual's achievements?

When we talk about the ongoing marginalization of Black History, there are contemporary issues at stake and one of the issues is a conflict: whether to seek to play IN the sandbox or outside of it. Should we accept that our elected officials simply react to shifting opinions and influences or do we want them to LEAD because we believe they have the strength of character to go to new places, create new spaces. OR is that not actually possible? Don't we have an historical precedence in defying authorities and systems of power and influence in order to move society forward? toward our ideals? Don't we?

That's what Shockoe Bottom's history and its prospects mean to me: having the principles and confidence to challenge the status quo and move us all forward.

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