Residents, council say mayor needs to move faster to take down symbols of the confederacy in a majority black city
TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: They are monuments to slavery and terror. Gleaming reminders set in manicured parks of the darkest chapter in our country’s history. But why are they still here? It’s a question residents say troubles them. RESIDENT: Taking it down, it gives you closure on a lot of things. GRAHAM: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she has chosen to let others decide what to do with them. MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Everyone’s looking for the right thing to do in the circumstance. I’ve put together the commission that the council is going to have a public process as well. GRAHAM: Earlier this month she designated a task force to study the issue. Today we asked her why. RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think it’s essential as we take a look at how we will represent our Confederate history moving forward to have public conversations about that. And the council process will allow for that to happen, as well as the commission that I put together with [chap] and the Baltimore Office of Promotion of the Arts. GRAHAM: But while the mayor deliberates the city council is taking action, however small, to erase some of our city’s racist symbols. It may seem strange that in a majority African-American city that we have a park named after Robert E. Lee, one of the most notorious generals of the Civil War. In fact, there are monuments and statues celebrating the Confederacy throughout Baltimore City, which is why city leaders have come forward and said it’s time for change. SPEAKER: So it should not celebrate, in this case, a very treasonous action of sedition against America and Americans. GRAHAM: At City Hall the council will introduce a bill Monday that would change Robert E. Lee park to Lake Roland Park, a move that appeared to have broad support among members. SPEAKER: We wouldn’t be in a predominantly Jewish city and have a bunch of Hitler stuff around town, so I think we should treat it the same way. GRAHAM: They also seemed uncomfortable with the stone and bronze reminders of our state’s bloody past. But Council President Jack Young says even using the name Roland Park, this city’s elite white neighborhood is fraught with historical tensions. CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT JACK YOUNG: Roland Park was set up as a segregated community where they didn’t want blacks at. So now–I understand that’s the issue. STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: What do you mean that’s an issue? YOUNG: Well, they said that it was set up to keep blacks out. GRAHAM: Roland Park once banned not only African-Americans but Jewish people as well, with discriminatory regulations, which is why Baltimore residents say the time for debate is over. SPEAKER: It’s really a [nonsense] to even take them down. I mean, Maryland is part of the South, part of the North. But how deep I don’t know. GRAHAM: That in order for the city to move forward, it must reconcile with the truths of its past. In Baltimore this is Taya Graham, Stephen Janis, and Megan Sherman reporting for the Real News Network.
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