By Elizabeth Moscoso
ALEXANDRIA,VA- Alexandria has begun the process to claim its Equal Justice Initiative monument in solemn recognition of its two documented lynchings. Alexandria is one of the first communities in the country to claim its monument from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, and on Sept. 21 the city hosted its first informative meeting on the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance project.
“Now, perhaps more than ever, we understand that we have to commit ourselves to an era of truth and justice, if we are to repair and to restore our nation from its long history of racial injustice,” said Kiara Boone, deputy director of community education for EJI, at a community meeting at Charles Houston Recreation Center on Sept. 21. “We are committed to engaging communities in honest reflection that can help our nation respond more effectively to the legacies of this history.”
The victims of the Alexandria lynchings are Joseph McCoy, who was killed in 1897, and Benjamin Thomas, who was killed in 1899. Both terrible events occurred in Old Town.
What Is The Equal Justice Initiative?
The project recognizes the victims of more than 4,400 racial terror lynchings across the country, and the community meeting highlighted some of the necessary steps to bring the monument home.
The Alexandria audience also watched “Abbeville,” an Equal Justice Initiative video.
“We are here, we are here, we are here,” rang out the collective voices of residents from Abbeville, South Carolina, in a powerful message of how their unified community stood in remembrance of Anthony Crawford, a farmer and civic leader who was lynched in the city in 1916.
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Former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg was confident that the monument will make it to the Port City.
“We will see this to fruition,” Silberberg said.
Bringing The Monument Home
The memorial in Alabama features a monument for each county in the United States where lynchings occurred. On each monument are the names of the victims and the dates of their death. EJI has invited counties to claim a duplicate of their monument as a way to express solidarity.
“We hope that this EJI process will get people in our community to talk not only about the two lynchings that we know about, but also to investigate into their families,” said Audrey Davis, director of Alexandria’s Black History Museum.
Several committees will be created in order to get the process started for taking on the work that needs to be done in order to be prepared to receive the monument.
“This is not just going to happen overnight,” said Gretchen Bulova, director of the Office of Historic Alexandria. “We personally are looking at this as a three year arc.”
The initial presentation and adoption from city council was in Feb. 2018. The next community meeting will take place on Nov. 16 at Charles Houston Recreation Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Interested in joining a committee to bring the monument home? Register online at https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/blackhistory and the committee chair will reach out to you.