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The Arthur Ashe statue remains in Richmond when Confederate statues fall



Asked if she ever foresaw such potential development, former Virginia delegate Viola Baskerville, a Richmond native and former vice mayor, said: “Never. Never. Never.”

Richmond’s mayor was busy renting cranes, the story gave birth to yet another amalgam, and the statues have been wound up paired from six to a wrong two: Ashe and Robert E. Lee. And while Lee’s likely outing with the horse he boarded remains in dispute over disputes, Ashe believes it will remain low, even after some family members have expressed fear that potential retaliation may justify relocation. It had happened on June 1

7, after graffiti hit the other statues amid protests following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, when Ashe got its own trail of unwanted paint – “White Lives Matter” – before some citizens used some violent cleaners and quickly erased it .

The family will not even request a temporary takedown, Ashe nephew David Harris Jr. told the Associated Press on Friday, leaving the fleeting doubt as a new wounded bolt on a road that has known greater bumps: its beginning in the mid-1990s, when the idea of ​​Ashe’s location on Monument Avenue was wrangling.

Representatives of Ashe standing on Monument Avenue from the beginning were city council members such as Baskerville, Chuck Richardson and Tim Kaine, as well as L. Douglas Wilder, the governor from 1990 to 1994, who emphasized that what he calls the “living room of the city” should contain the most revered natives .

Arguments came in multiple streams, Baskerville recalled, from African Americans who did not want Ashe to be dropped on “an alley of losers,” to citizens who preferred Ashe in Byrd Park overlooking the courts where segregation once denied him access, to those who ” not doing is not like the art, she said. “And then of course it was the Confederate sympathizers who said no.” Even sculptor Paul DiPasquale, who had discussed the work by phone with Ashe two weeks before Ashes death in February 1993 of complications from AIDS after receiving HIV from a blood transfusion after surgery, thought: “I felt I knew Monument Avenue would be a fight and I didn’t want to lose and I thought it would disgrace Arthur Ashe [to lose]. So I was against it. “

It all wrapped up to a long and narrow and controversial city council on July 17, 1995 and over midnight to July 18, when the council voted, 7-0, for Ashe on Monument Avenue.

“The excitement in the room was one I had never known at a public meeting,” Baskerville said. “It was very stifling. It was very tense. It was stressful. “

Disagreement persisted in 1996 when Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Arthur’s widow, on New Year’s Day imprisoned an op-ed column in the Richmond Times Dispatch, preferring the idea of ​​the statue at the future African-American sports museum that her husband had imagined.

Yet after the inauguration on July 10, 1996, an Ashe-like calm took hold and kept going. Johnnie Ashe, Arthur’s younger brother whose 20 years in the Marine Corps included a second tour of Vietnam that allowed Arthur to continue playing tennis, found himself tagging a house three houses down.

At age 9, he had helped his uncle paint the house.

Now, along the same path, he spoke.

“It was rewarding,” Johnnie Ashe said on Wednesday night. “And it suited, given everything Arthur had done for Richmond, the state of Virginia. As I grew up I could drive down the street, but I could never go down the street. You go down the street, people would open doors, ‘Boy, what are you doing here?’ It was out of bounds if you didn’t go to any house to work. And when I was a kid, you went to the back door if you went to someone’s house to work. “

He said: “I think what struck me most [the unveiling] was how good it was received. “Wilder remembered that” the people raised their children, the children. ” Donald Dell, Ashes long-time lawyer and friend, remembers such beauty that he did not even notice that the objections were marginalized at a distance. Baskerville recalled: “It was surreal. I felt as if Richmond was turning a page in its history and began to acknowledge that the Confederate monuments would not be there, but it was not at the point we are now, which is 20-some years later, but was beginning to put a marker on the earth by starting to honor a new generation of people who speak and fight for the truth and support all people. ”

The resemblance of Ashe – the decent, unassuming former Richmond kid Wilder used to see when “the racket was bigger than he was” – stood still at 28 feet for the next 24 years, with Ashe the top 12 on his feet. The only African American man to win the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open stood there, like a tennis racket high and a book taller, four children paying attention to him in DiPasquale’s rendition. The statue became either the first or last depending on one’s direction, about a third of a mile from the next: Matthew Fontaine Maury, the researcher and Confederate naval officer who contributed a lot to the country but also advocated to repair the sin of slavery by forcing slave people to Brazil.

Months into the tranquility, DiPasquale began the statue of former City Councilman Richardson, who had missed the unveiling while imprisoned for a conviction stemming from his fight with drugs. “He couldn’t get to the dedication,” DiPasquale said, “but when he got out of the prison he said, ‘I’d like to go and see the statue with you.’ He looked at it, he said, “This could only happen in America, that a man like Arthur Ashe, who was Arthur Ashe, could stand on an avenue with Confederate soldiers fighting to keep him enslaved!”

Changing foundations

On June 10, 2020, protesters pulled down the statue of Jefferson Davis.

On July 1, a city-leased crane came under “emergency order” from Mayor Levar Stoney (D) to remove Stonewall Jackson before a crowd mostly satisfied.

On July 2, a crane arrived for Maury.

On July 8, a crane found JEB Stuart.

It left two, and since government control Ralph Northam (D) had already advocated the removal of the mammoth, state statue of Lee on horseback, the oldest of the group of 130 years, it seems the Ashe statue can stand powerfully alone.

“It’s incredible,” Dell said. “That is incredible.”

Johnnie Ashe said he had no idea about the last statue-standing concept, but said: “I think, throughout this time, it was really the first instrument of change in Richmond. I really do. I mean true change. Because the statue goes there, it lets business people know that the city of Richmond could be changed. “

“I definitely think it’s powerful, but I have no desire for it to be a focus,” said Luchia Ashe, Arthur’s niece, who also spoke at the dedication, “because the whole is more important. The ideal and changes my uncle worked on during his life are more important than the monuments. So I totally agree that it is powerful that he will be the only one standing; But if change can happen with works, it will be more powerful than the monument standing there itself. “

In the same years, the Lee statue bubbles like a hub. The departed victims of police shootings have appeared in well-made screens with photographs and descriptions. A significant sign has been renamed the “Marcus-David Peters Circle” circle, recalling a 24-year-old Richmond high school biology teacher who was killed by police in May 2018 after a riotous mental health episode on Monday where Peters taught a full set of classes.

His uncle, Jeffery Peters, sat across the street from the Lee statue on a new Friday – in the shade, in a lawn and kept awake. His voice rang with unclear anxiety as he wondered how the police might have come to shoot a naked, armed man, his nephew, who was lunging at an officer on Interstate 95. Some view the case as an exhibition to free the police from the specific information that fits better for mental health professionals.

“I just come here to raise his name, because I don’t want him to be known as the crazy naked black man,” Peters said. “I want him to be known as the intelligent black citizen who paid his taxes and the people he paid his taxes to kill him.”

He deplored all government laws that have left the family even more disturbed. And he looked at Lee’s likeness and said, “As long as the man is up there, the same laws still apply.”

Monumental decency

A mile and a third from Lee, Ashe still stood Friday morning at the 77th anniversary of his birth, his kindness recounted in a thousand remembrances. Dell recalled Ashes’ three-volume series on African-American athletes: “It’s pretty unusual and very, very well done. He was way ahead of all the things we do now. ”

Wilder told of the time when Ashe brought family members to dinner in the main dining room of the governor’s mansion and instructed the younger ones: “I want you to understand something: You are sitting here in a place where the only way you could come to it was to serve [meals]. Don’t let this moment pass you by. Drink it so you can reach your potential. ”

And even a Virginia repeat reporter who asked an ignorant question in Los Angeles got goodness in return. In 1988, near the end of an hour-long interview at UCLA’s tennis courts, the reporter wondered about Ashe’s experiences playing juniors in Richmond. Ashe, who later wrote in his memoir about his determination to refrain from embarrassing any questioner, calmly replied: “Son, you are from Virginia. You know better than that. ”

(He had not been allowed to play juniors.)

“Arthur always thought of a thing,” Dell said. “He always thought more people were good than not.”

And as of Friday, the possibility still flickered that if five other statues ended purified as evil, it could stand alone the goodness that abounds in Ashe.


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