As a black mother, I am heartbroken to once again grieve the murder of a young black man at the hands of police. George Floyd was slain by individuals who took an oath to protect and serve the public—us. His death recalls long standing themes: lack of police training, a culture that devalues certain lives, and lack of leadership from elected officials, too cowardly or inept to fix things.
My grief for Mr. Floyd, his family, my own children, our beloved community and the nation has found solace in being out in the community this past week.
I have been honored to join amazing Richmonders who stepped up to clean our streets, comfort small business owners (including black owned businesses like Waller Jewelers and dentist Randy Adams), and fed children whose lives were disrupted.
We all applaud those who have taken to the streets and their on-going commitment to justice and equality. We encourage all Richmonders to continue peaceful protests and condemn those who act contrary to our message of unity and peace. This is a historic social justice movement.
This past week, I have focused on being there for the 2nd District, and Jackson Ward, my home. It has not been easy. I have wrestled bricks out of people’s hands. I have confronted young people setting fires and convinced them to help me put them out.I pray for the speedy recovery of the civilian and two officers shot this week and continue to condemn violence on all levels.
In the days ahead we need to work with those who took their voices to the streets, because they felt they did not have one in City Hall, to review policing and training issues in the RPD and address other issues of systemic institutional racism. My work with the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project shows that these issues have stalled inside of City Hall for several years.
It shouldn’t have taken the murder of George Floyd to make our mayor pay attention to the family of Marcus-David Peters or RTAP.
For years I have maintained that City Council should not spend city money nor pass resolutions on items fully within state control. This past week, many things changed. John Mitchell Jr., whose newspaper was based in Jackson Ward, predicted this day would come. He voted against funding the Lee statue as Jackson Ward’s City Council member. I will soon continue his legacy by voting to remove Confederate statues from Monument Avenue.
The hard work, beyond symbolism, is before us. What policies and practices must be put into place to eliminate racial hatred in Richmond? What images and messages should replace those Confederate statues? Groups like RTAP and the Defenders of Justice have been asking these same questions—without answer—for the last several years.
You will hear more from me on these issues in the coming weeks. As we witness the confusion, and acknowledge the voices of those expressing their anguish, please remember that we only will prevail when we are together!
– Kim Gray for Mayor of Richmond