The Charlottesville I Know Is Not Defined By White Supremacists

We are becoming one of the most “woke” cities in the country.
09/25/2017 04:55 pm ET

I want to first and foremost thank you all for your prayers and support over the past few weeks. While it has been tough, I firmly believe with every fiber in my body that we will get through the aftermath of the Charlottesville attack. The city that has helped to groom me into the man that I am today is resilient and persistent. We will get through this rough period, and come out even stronger and more unified than before.

I want to take a moment to talk about the Charlottesville that I don’t think the national media truly understands. To some we are a quaint, beautiful college town with around 50,000 people that is perfect for weddings, has a lot of great wineries and beer, and affable people.

To others, Charlottesville is one of the most covertly racist places in the country. The same city where people come to get away and enjoy a small piece of heaven, is also a place some can’t wait to escape because it feels like the foot of systemic and economic oppression is consistently stepping on their necks.

The media images of violence and anarchy in our city hurt so much because this place has helped me grow as a man.

My grandmother always told me, “Don’t judge people based off of what they say, but by the bearing of the fruit on their tree.” While I love the city of Charlottesville, I am only the 8th African-American city councilman in our city’s history. We have not had a person of color serve on the Albemarle County board of supervisors since 2003. According to reports, a quarter of our city lives below the poverty line, and you can take a guess as to what race most of them belong to. To many in our community, the attack on August 12 was not a surprise.

HuffPost is hitting the road this fall to interview people about their hopes, dreams, fears ― and what it means to be American today.

Even with all of the issues that we have, the media images of violence and anarchy in our city hurt so much because this place has helped me grow as a man.

The people of this city, long before I thought about running for office, taught me how someone doesn’t have to look like you or share your ideology to love and support you. This place is so special because the people have taken me in as one of their own, been patient with me, helped me slow down, supported me in my darkest times and encouraged me to be one of their leaders. 

We are becoming one of the most “woke” cities in the country.

This is my home. I’ve grown so much because of this city. I am a husband and a father of three daughters. And I have changed. I’ve become an advocate for the LGBTQ community, I regularly volunteer at the sexual assault resource center here in Charlottesville, and since becoming vice mayor I’ve helped start a female empowerment mentoring program. I am the president of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, a mentoring organization that works to decrease the achievement gap in local schools.

Even though I pass a particular gentlemen holding a “Wes is a Jackass” sign on my daily jogs through the city, I’m also stopped by people from every demographic who remind me that the love outweighs the hate. We are committed to making this city stronger together.

I strongly believe in and will continue to fight for equity in every space throughout Charlottesville. I now know that we have a lot more allies from a variety of backgrounds who are awakening. So when people take over meetings, express themselves loudly in all spaces, react with vigor and conviction about the need for all people to be treated fairly, I am proud. We are becoming one of the most “woke” cities in the country.

When you hear me condemn Donald Trump for empowering and emboldening white supremacists groups, know that it’s personal.

That’s the Charlottesville I know. So when you hear me speak with passion and conviction, when you hear me say that these cowards do not get to define who we are, when you hear me condemn Donald Trump for empowering and emboldening white supremacist groups, know that it’s personal. Thank you again for your support. Keep Charlottesville in your prayer. We are imperfect people working to create an equitable system for all.

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