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Opponents: Richmond ballpark would be built on slave-trading site

Proposed Richmond ballpark

Opponents of a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark say the proposed site did indeed host slave trading and are calling on the City Council and Mayor Dwight Jones to scrap the project.

A letter from local activists, along with accompanying documentation, comes as the City Council will consider a first step in the ballpark approval process at Monday’s meeting. The letter, signed by 24 opponents of the ballpark, asks that the council reject the proposed ballpark because it would be built on the sites directly related to the slave trade, including one where Solomon Northrup, whose story was recently memorialized in the move 12 Years a Slave, was held for 24 hours. The letter reads in part:

However, a YES vote will clearly imply that the part of that proposal calling for a baseball stadium in the heart of what was once this country’s second-largest slave-trading district is acceptable.

Yes, Mayor Jones has insisted that there are no slavery-related sites in the footprint of the proposed ballpark. As has been reported, he based his stand on incorrect information he received from City Council’s Slave Trail Commission. In fact, four such sites have been identified within the stadium footprint and seven more within the overall Shockoe Bottom development area. (Please see the attached file for a list of slavery-related sites in the area. Those within the stadium footprint are highlighted in yellow.) This information comes from Richmond historian Elizabeth Kambourian, whose preliminary map from 2000 was used – without her permission – to justify a Shockoe stadium.

Perhaps some of you have seen the Oscar-nominated movie “12 Years a Slave,” based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup. In his book, Mr. Northup describes a night he spent in Goodwin’s slave jail, located on 17th Street between Grace and Broad – within the footprint of the proposed stadium. That section of the book is also attached.

This is far from a purely local issue. Richmond has an official sister-city relationship with the city of Ségou in the West African Republic of Mali. Most of the people torn from Africa and brought to what would become the United States were from the old Malian Empire. Attached is a letter that the Honorable Ousmane K. Simaga, Mayor of the City of Ségou, has written to Mayor Jones, pleading with him not to dishonor the memory of his ancestors by allowing developers to build a stadium on land where his people were bought and sold like cattle….

Please take the time to review this material before you cast your vote on Monday.

And then – please – ask yourself if you really want to mark this year’s Black History Month by voting for a resolution that says that none of this history really matters.

Whether this affects the vote remains to be seen. We’re at the point now where this has little to do with baseball and everything to do with the politics of race and memory. The fear that atrocities of the past will be forgotten is very real; the desire to move on to the future with development and create jobs in a city where the unemployment rate is above the national average is also very real.

RELATED STORIES: Votes on new Richmond ballpark set to start next week; Flying Squirrels add more locals to ownership; Richmond ballpark revenues could be used for other purposes; Richmond ballpark opponents: Map used to justify location is inaccurate; Richmond purchase of Diamond: Making way for Shockoe Bottom ballpark; Alternative plan pitched for Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom: No new ballpark; Flying Squirrels lease: $1.7M annually; naming rights could lower that number; Squirrels ballpark plan include hotel, apartments, grocery; Richmond quietly positions for new ballpark; Activists: Ballpark not best use for Shockoe Bottom; Poll: Squirrels home should be built next to current ballpark; Richmond: No vote on ballpark location; Flying Squirrels: Fans don’t know what they are missing; Richmond committee: Don’t put ballpark location to vote; Richmond ballpark location may be decided by voters; New Richmond ballpark: on or off?; Shockoe Bottom gaining momentum as Flying Squirrels ballpark site?; Progress made on new Richmond ballpark: McEacharn; MiLB squirrelly about new Richmond ballpark; Flying Squirrels: New ballpark still a priority; Flying Squirrels extend Diamond lease, setting stage for ballpark improvements; Experts: Downtown ballpark could revitalize Richmond; Squirrels: No plans to leave Richmond “at the present time”; Didn’t take long: Opposition rises to Richmond Shockoe Bottom ballpark siteRichmond ballpark discussion shifts back to Shockoe Bottom; Manchester in play as well; Richmond: Yes, we really do intend on building a new ballparkBudget issues postpone Squirrels ballpark to 2015 at the earliestNew Richmond ballpark by 2014?; DiBella: Time to start talking new ballpark; Flying Squirrels throw out first offer on new ballpark


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