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The Mechanicsville Local Letters to the editor: Week of 8/5/20

The Mechanicsville Local Letters to the editor: Week of 8/5/20

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Lee’s treatment of slaves said to be cruel

It is quite disturbing to see so many uninformed or twisted history buffs in our community -- especially when people claim that Robert E. Lee was not a slave owner and found slavery to be repugnant! Not only was Lee a slave owner but a cruel one at that.

There was almost a slave revolt at the Arlington Plantation due to him. Lee had many writings and later interpretations of some of them were wrong.

People are confusing history with sentiment.

Lee’s reinterpretation of a will, when he inherited slaves, meant that he kept them enslaved instead of freeing them as stated in the will.

He felt painful discipline was necessary for their well-being! That slavery was bad for white people, good for black people, and they must wait for divine intervention. Their own opinions that they might not want to be slaves didn’t enter his mind.

By 1860, he had broken up every slave family but one on the estate. Many had been together for decades and Lee’s slaves regarded him as the worst man they had ever seen!

Michael Key

Doswell

Supervisors accused of being bullies

Retaliation seems to be the name of the game these days. We see Donald Trump send Michael Cohen back to jail when he fears Cohen will release a book about him. His fixer decided to think for himself and Trump can’t take it. That decision was overturned in court and Cohen is now a free man again.

We saw something similar if you watched the hilariously comic -- yet sad at the same time -- Hanover Board of Supervisors meeting held on July 22.

In a tribute to the past, we heard the daughter of Jack Ward say something similar to this isn’t her father’s Hanover, and in those exact words so did Canova Peterson.

Would we want this to be the Hanover of their fathers? Both men would be in their late 80s, 90s or older and that would represent a segregated Hanover.

Mr. Peterson spoke of bullies, that our school board was bullied into their decision.

The bullies appeared to be this board of supervisors as they threatened school board members and Dr. Michael Gill [superintendent of Hanover County Public Schools] with rethinking their decisions.

After a glowing review for Dr. Gill just a month previously, all of a sudden he has fallen out of their good graces simply by removing the names of the schools more quickly than they thought he should. Some people even called for his resignation. That, sir, is bullying! If people don’t think as you do, your solution is to get rid of them.

Throughout the meeting you could hear, you didn’t vote as I told you to vote and therefore you were wrong. Why do we need a school board if they are just told what to do by the board of supervisors?

Once again, people outside of Hanover reviewed the recorded meeting and wondered what century that meeting took place. This, sir, is where the lack of leadership exists.

Leadership is inclusive of dissenting opinion so that we can come to great decisions. It is not the parroting of one to another.

I wish to thank the four members of the school board for getting into “good trouble” as the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis would say.

I am grateful to Mr. Bob Hundley, Mrs. Ola Hawkins, Mr. Sterling Daniel and Mrs. Kelly Evko for doing the right thing for all students and the future economic growth of this county.

Perhaps people won’t mind sending their students to these two schools now and we can turn around our declining school enrollment.

It was clear when the board of supervisors spoke whose schools they thought the two schools belonged to. It was clear when they stated “our county” whose county they feel Hanover belongs to.

The rest of us pay taxes like you do and we should be represented as well. They are our schools and our county as well. My family has been in this county as long as most of yours have been and my service and the service of other members of our family to our schools is comparable to any of yours.

I actually heard someone almost in tears about their child’s ring matching their diploma when black kids for years have not purchased rings because of the shame they feel. It was OK to force them to not have a class ring because no black person wants to wear a Confederate ring, but now you are so concerned about a matching ring and diploma.

Where is the compassion for others? How many of you still have your high school rings?

So, apparently the retaliation begins. The fixers are no longer following orders.

The first will be Mrs. Evko, who has so disappointed Mrs. Sue Dibble that her single sin of agreeing to change the names of schools to represent all students may bring down the ax on her tenure on the school board. Mr. Daniels has a bit more time before he is shown the door, simply for having compassion for others. Check in June 2021!

This Hanover County Board of Supervisors even tried the “okey dokey,” the wink and nod.

Why can’t you just wait until we build new schools? Sorry, we know you have no intentions of building new schools anytime soon. Where is the proof that this is a realistic goal of yours? There is none. No land, no proposal for land, nothing!

This is the 21st century, it is not your father’s Hanover any longer, we have grown into a community of people who want peace, racial justice and equity for all. This is what you should represent!

Pat Hunter-Jordan

Mechanicsville

Reader asks about minority representation

As I read through the headline article, “County supervisors react to removal of school names”, I thought to myself: Who is representing the minority of students that are impacted negatively every day by these names/mascots/symbols? After all, they are called the minority for a reason.

The 2018 vote on the topic showed that 24% of people surveyed thought the names should be changed then, perhaps that represents the minority most affected.

If the topic was bullying, we would listen to the minority that are bullied, not the majority who are bullies or stand by and allow it to happen.

I wasn’t surprised to see an elderly white male pictured on the cover, and the comments from Canova Peterson. (I am an older white male, to be transparent). He wants to delay the name change until the schools are moved, or some other non-specific future date. That is near the same as voting no on the change.

And to the person calling for the resignation of Sterling Daniel and Kelly Evko, I ask why we would remove the two newest members of the Hanover County School Board who have voted their conscience?

We need board members who look at the current times, and vote how they see it, not some sense of loyalty to who appointed them, disregarding the latest information on the topic up for a vote. Diversity of thought is critical to growth.

I agree with and support the vote of the Hanover County School Board. And I stand for the minority that has been disregarded on this topic for years.

I also understand the point of Wendy Yeoman, who is concerned that current students, especially seniors, will feel like they don’t have an identity for their school. However, I will sit my 16-year-old son down and explain the issues that have led to this change, and I believe that he will be proud that our county made this decision once he understands the impact to others.

Don Tuttle

Mechanicsville

Resident didn’t know about life in Klanover

I live in Atlee. Like many families, we moved to Hanover within the last 10 years for the schools. I remember announcing to some friends where I was moving and having them look at me in disbelief. One of them asked, “Why are you moving to Klanover?” At the time, I thought the characterization was unfair. I didn’t realize what I was getting into.

From flaggers at the Christmas parade to Ku Klux Klan recruiting unchecked on public property to Confederate school names, Hanover is viewed as backward and completely out of touch on racial justice issues. Thankfully, there are positive signs of change.

I want to publicly applaud school board members Sterling Daniel, Kelly Evko, Ola Hawkins, and Robert Hundley Jr. for voting to change the Confederate school names. I appreciate their courage to go against the vocal residents that can’t seem to get far enough beyond their own point of view to realize that those names hurt all of us.

I fully support these school board members and I urge everyone of racial conscious to get behind and support these school board members as well.

Heather Greenwell

Mechanicsville

SJMS, L-DHS alumna not proud of names

I've taken The Mechanicsville Local all over the U.S. and abroad growing up, and I still have clippings from any time I had the honor of being in the paper.

I grew up in Mechanicsville and went to (soon to be former) Stonewall Jackson Middle School and Lee-Davis High School.

I'm proud of my hometown and the education I received here, but I'm not proud of the names of these schools. There are so many parts of Southern culture and heritage to memorialize and honor that pre-date and long out-last the short-lived Confederacy and these three men who waged a war against Americans to defend the practice of enslaving others.

Renaming the schools will not change that history, but keeping them the same is like insisting that we live in that history.

We can learn about these men in textbooks so they don't need to be standing over us at our public schools.

It's 2020 and I appreciate the members of the school board who voted in favor of changing the names and allowing us to create a legacy that more fully represents the residents of this community.

Alexa Oswald

Mechanicsville

‘... no longer my father’s Hanover’

Following the Hanover County School Board's decision to change the Confederate names of two schools, there was an outcry at the Hanover County Board of Supervisors meeting to change the school board's decision.

Mrs. Angela Ward, the adult daughter of former county Supervisor Jack Ward (supervisor from 1991 to 2007), decried the school board's decision and said, "This is no longer my father's Hanover." Bingo! So true! It's not your father's Hanover.

Hanover is a county that is trying to prepare students for the future, trying to prepare graduates to take their place in colleges with diverse student populations.

It is a county that is hoping to groom students for jobs in major corporations that are pledged to support a diverse workforce.

Are top-flight colleges and international corporations going to wonder if a graduate of a high school called Lee-Davis is prepared to fit into a diverse workforce or a diverse student population?

As a child in the late 1950s when two new consolidated county high schools were being planned for either end of Hanover County, I heard my parents discuss the countywide controversy at the time ... whether two new fancy highs schools were even needed and what they would be called.

The controversy had nothing to do with the name Lee-Davis. The schools were still segregated then, so no one complained about the name Lee-Davis.

But there were some in both ends of the county decrying the fact they would be leaving their high schools behind ... no more Beaverdam High School, no more Montpelier High School, no more Washington-Henry High School.

But, eventually, parents came together and did what was best for their children's future.

Once again, we need to consider what is best for our children's future. We lead by example and maintaining a school name that stands for the fight to preserve slavery is not preparing anyone for the future.

As the lady said, it's not your father's Hanover!

P.S: Supervisor Canova Peterson, you also spoke out against the school board's decision to change the Confederate names of our schools. You were baffled and dismayed. You and I attended the same church and sung in the same choir for decades. I know if any of our county schools were named after an anti-Catholic activist, you would be the first to speak out because of your concern for your children attending a school that made them feel less worthy than their peers. In the fog of the name change war, don't forget the simplest of all ethics adages: Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.

Toni Radler

Ashland

Thank you for changing school names

Thank you to our Hanover County School Board members who stood up and represented all of the students of Hanover County by voting for the school name changes.

Christine Eubanks

Mechanicsville

DEQ should deny permit after hearing

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held a virtual public hearing the evening of July 20 for the Wegmans’ draft Virginia Water Protection (VWP) permit. For solid reasons, the permit should be denied.

If the format alone were not sufficiently exasperating, the stubborn adherence of Wegmans to its faulty wetlands data pushed citizens’ ire to the stratosphere.

Speakers advocated for environmental and racial justice for the Brown Grove community; residents spoke to existing stormwater flooding in heavy rains; and wetlands and soils professionals pointed to errors in the wetlands determination that resulted in under calculation of the wetlands acreage. All solid points credibly made.

Residents have asked for an independent wetlands determination to be performed. Will it happen? For the sake of an honest process, it should.

Removing vegetation, moving soil around and installing stormwater detention structures contribute to environmental degradation. Wetlands are ecosystems that support wildlife, water quality improvement and flood control, among other benefits.

The State Water Control Board and DEQ should not be pestered and bullied with a flawed argument by Wegmans. A decision based on solid data must be made for the good of the public and the environment.

Pattie Bland

Beaverdam District

Democracy still alive and well in nation

As we’ve seen these past few weeks, democracy is still alive and well in our country. From the national level, with the issues of returning to school and COVID-19, to the local level, with the name changes of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School, people are making their voices heard.

Lucky for us, as citizens of the U.S., we have this privilege to advocate for causes that we believe in and make changes in our communities.

However, on a global scale, not everyone is afforded the same opportunities. Globally, 132,000,000 adolescent girls are not enrolled in school and women in general are largely underrepresented in the politics of their communities. The ability to be represented in politics and make changes in your community is a chance that everyone should be afforded, regardless of the country you live in.

The Girls’ Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development Act (LEAD act) is an opportunity for the United States to address these issues. It will implement and follow measures to increase adolescent girls’ participation in democracy, human rights, and governance on a global scale.

It is crucial that we advocate for those in developing nations to be afforded the same chances of political engagement that we are.

Calling and emailing Congress in support of this bill will alert attention to this large issue.

Additionally, supporting the Borgen Project [which fights global poverty] as a whole will help alleviate these barriers to development and aid them in making poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Caroline Drumheller

Mechanicsville

School board asked to allow NAACP to fight

(Editor’s note: The following was addressed to the Hanover County School Board. We received the email on July 17.)

Ladies and Gentlemen of the board:

On Tuesday, June 23, you will meet to deliberate an issue that the world will, literally, be watching: whether or not to change the names and the athletic mascots of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. I emphatically implore each of you, as you make your decision, to consider the lesson your actions will teach the world.

In recent weeks, a domestic/international terrorist movement, led by Black Lives Matter through the implants of Antifa activists, has wrought havoc and destruction across the Commonwealth and the world.

In the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd, a man whose autopsy toxicology report found was high on fentanyl and methamphetamine, as well as being COVID-19 positive, these “protests” are claimed to be for the end goal of racial equality and social justice. This violent movement has exhibited blatant disregard for law and order. In many communities around our country, their efforts have been supported, and even encouraged, by state and local elected officials.

A prime example of this is evidenced by the felonious destruction of city property, the city’s war memorial to American Confederate dead, by mob force in Portsmouth on June 10. In addition, this riot resulted in the severe injury of a protester. This riot was incited by State Senator Louise Lucas, who, prior to this violent scene, very flippantly told police that they were to stand down.

Participants in the riot included many members of the Portsmouth Public Defender’s office. These actions are in direct violation of Virginia Code 15.2-1812 protecting all war memorials in the Commonwealth and is a felony.

Almost as disturbing as the riot is the viral BLM video in which a young female filming the riot is saying, “Senator Louise Lucas is on the scene … democracy at work!”

Exactly how is this democracy? The lesson Senator Lucas is teaching the youth of her community is that if you cannot attain your goals peacefully and legally, just take to the streets and destroy public property; mob force and violence are appropriate to influence the rest of society through fear and intimidation to meet the end.

This board has previously addressed the issue of the name change. An online poll was conducted, finding approximately 70% of the residents of Hanover wanted both the names of the schools in question, and the names of their mascots to remain the same. The board voted accordingly.

Earlier this year, the Hanover NAACP filed a Federal lawsuit in an attempt to reverse the will of the majority of the residents. The judge dismissed the complaint; as you are aware, the NAACP has appealed this decision.

It is very appropriate, as this is a school board matter, that the underlying issue here is lack of education. The virtues of Lee, Jackson and Davis can easily be researched online and the participants of this movement refuse to do so. All three of these men served heroically and honorably in the U.S. military prior to the outbreak of the War of Northern Aggression, and were each devout Christian Gentlemen.

The military prowess of Lee and Jackson are still studied to this day. After active service in the U.S. Army, Jackson was a mathematics professor and Military Cadre at VMI prior to the war.

After Virginia succeeded from the Union, Lee was approached and offered command of Union forces. His words were not, “I cannot accept; I have to fight to uphold slavery.” To paraphrase what he, in fact said: “I cannot turn my sword against Virginia”.

Upon his surrender at Appomattox, Lee issued issued General Order No. 9, in which he praised his men for their devotion and honor and advised them to return home to be as good of men as they had been soldiers.

After the war, Lee himself served as an educator in the capacity of president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University).

Of Lee and Jackson, Booker T. Washington, a former slave was quoted in 1910 (during the “Jim Crow era”):

The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday school were Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall Jackson.” ... Where Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson have led in the redemption of the Negro through the Sunday school, the rest of us can afford to follow.

As for Davis, in addition to his service to the U.S. military, he served in the U.S. Congress, representing his home state of Mississippi. He served as U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. He feverously worked in the U.S. Senate immediately prior to the outbreak of the war to prevent it from happening.

When war became inevitable, Davis had accepted command of the Mississippi Army. He was at home when he was sought out to become the president of the newly-formed Confederate States of America. Davis reluctantly accepted this offer; he did not want it.

For his treatment of Chief Black Hawk and his tribe upon their capture during the Black Hawk Indian Wars, the then 20 year-old, newly commissioned U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Davis was praised by the chief himself:

We started for Jefferson Barracks in a steam boat, under charge of a young war chief (Lt. Jefferson Davis), who treated us with much kindness. He is a good and brave young chief, with whose conduct I was much pleased.

In short, be careful who believe to be a hero. Lincoln, “The Great Emancipator”, issued the Gettysburg Address in 1863. If you dissect the wording based on the laws at the time, Lincoln’s address effectively freed no one.

Furthermore, he was a huge proponent of the Liberian Project of James Monroe’s. By his actions in the Illinois Legislature, and later as President with his use of Federal funds attempting to colonize Central America with free slaves, it is very evident that had Lincoln not been assassinated, every American of African descent would have been deported.

This terrorist movement is saying, through words, they want what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted, which is right and just. However, their use of the violent and evil tactics of Malcom X to achieve what Dr. King laid down his life for speaks volumes.

In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says, “Judge not lest ye be judged”. The actions of Lee, Jackson and Davis, particularly prior to the War of Northern Aggression, speak for themselves through the quotes of their “enemies”. These quotes, readily available by a simple Google search, show them to be educators, soldiers, and political leaders. Each of these men, through their actions, exhibited a devotion to God and their individual countries, as they were defined at the time, with documented fair treatment to those the less fortunate.

History ignores the facts of the socio-economic climate of the time. Everything these individuals did as soldiers and statesmen was well within the bounds of law and social acceptance, for their time. Compare that to a movement claiming the wants of Dr. King but resorts to the violent, militant and illegal tactics of Malcom X to achieve its end. I wonder how these actions will be judged by future generations.

When it is blatantly obvious that the majority of Hanoverians want the names of the schools and mascots to remain the same, I implore you not to bow to the whims of what is, truly, an unjust movement led by violence and pure evil from outside this community.

To change the names of these schools and mascots would be in stark contrast to the will of the majority of Hanover residents. What statement would that make for “educating” youths of the world?

It is my hope and prayer, that this board will focus on the lessons taught, not the names on the bricks and mortar of these schools. Let the NAACP continue its fight, peacefully and legally, in the court system.

God Bless the Commonwealth,

Andrew Bennett Morehead

Old Church

Resident asks why Goodwill has reuse areas

I am wondering why the Goodwill has been allowed to take over the reuse areas at some of the county landfill sites. I do not recall seeing any notification of a public comment period related to granting them this right over other charities.

The reuse sites should remain unconnected to a specific charity so that any citizen can leave or take items for reuse.

If someone wants to donate to the Goodwill, he/she can take it directly to the Goodwill stores.

I have had items that are completely reusable but the Goodwill worker at the landfill refused them and told me my only option was to throw it in the dumpster.

Allowing the Goodwill to operate at the landfills is giving them the inside track when they really already have the inside track with their large, very commercial stores. They have pretty much monopolized the charity resale market.

Teresa Jacobsen

Mechanicsville

Supervisor disappointed by name changes

(Editor’s note: The following was addressed to “Dear Members of the School Board for Hanover County Public Schools”.)

Over the last several months, there have been ongoing conversations and a lawsuit about changing the names of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. As the Hanover County School Board had previously voted to retain the names until such time as the schools would be relocated and with Senior United States District Judge Robert E. Payne dismissing the lawsuit, many assumed the matter was settled.

That obviously was not the case. As the protests and the Black Lives Matter group took over the headlines in our area, your board showed signs of wavering from your original decision.

I started getting numerous inquiries from citizens, not only from Mechanicsville, but throughout the county asking me what could be done about it. I explained to each constituent, whether they were for or against the name changes, that the Hanover County Board of Supervisors had no authority over making that decision.

I explained that the decision could only be made by the school board and that they needed to make sure your members had their input.

I also publicly stated numerous times that, in spite of the all the noise, we were not arguing about changing the names we were only talking about a time line. I have often stated that the names of the schools would be changed upon relocation in accordance with current school board policy of not naming any new schools after people.

Also, knowing that the board of supervisors has been supporting your efforts to obtain a new site for this relocation, I have been clear about that being the appropriate time to make the name changes. That action would have respected both sides of this issue. With that in mind, I have publicly stated on numerous occasions that "Now is not the time".

On July 12, I left town for a four-day outing in Pennsylvania. I learned by email that night that the board had voted to reverse their previous position and opted for changing the names of these schools. It was obvious that my position did not prevail.

As you would expect, I was personally disappointed; but, that's not the first time I've been on the losing end of a proposition. On the other hand, when I got back in town and found out that the school system had proceeded in less than 48 hours to remove every exterior trace of these schools' names and emblems, I became very upset.

I am surprised that you could be so disrespectful of those citizens, students and alumni who did not want the change. You could have at least given them some time to visit and reminisce before wiping out what for many were special memories.

Nevertheless, the deed's been done. The names of the schools have been eliminated, but their history has not.

It is important now that we move forward in a positive way. That way requires that new names be determined soon and with broad public input.

I also strongly suggest that each school prepare a prominent public space dedicated to recording the history of each of these schools in proper context. That history should begin before Lee-Davis and Stonewall and include the predecessor schools, Battlefield and Washington & Henry high schools that merged to form the current student bodies.

This should be a living history display that celebrates the excellence of who we are and how we got here. It also should allow for new history to be added to the continuum as we move forward.

We must not erase Lee-Davis and Stonewall from the school histories but add to them as they continue to grow and prosper under the new names, whatever they may be, going forward.

All citizens matter and history is what it is. It should be remembered and learned from.

All students have the right to know the full story of their alma mater. What pride they take in their school should be based on who they are today with full knowledge of the schools’ trajectory through history.

Everyone has strong ties to their school days and the schools they attended. Some of the memories are good, some not so much -- but there will always be emotions attached.

Please remember that moving forward.

W. Canova Peterson

Mechanicsville District

Representative Hanover County Board of Supervisors

Reader: history being revised not acceptable

So, according to your July 22, 2020, editorial, "acceptance is the word of the day"?"

I normally take time to compose a letter, but in this case it is not necessary. This off the top of my head:

Who are you, coming from West Virginia, telling us whose ancestry in Hanover County goes back hundreds of years to "accept" what we know is a false interpretation and revision of our history and to accept the injustices that flow from it injustices that are perpetrated by those with a radical leftist agenda or by the purely ignorant?

My earliest direct ancestor in Virginia was the merchant, John Burnett, the son of Sir Thomas Burnett, who was given a Charter from the King of England and Scotland in 1635 to be "my sole tenant from Scotland to supply the plantations of Virginia."

My Hanover County family participated in the Revolutionary War. One died at Valley Forge from the bitter cold. Many fought in the War Between the States. My maternal great-grandfather had a mini-ball taken from his body, before laying down his arms at Appomattox. He was the only Confederate soldier from Cold Harbor, and served for nearly three years.

My paternal great-grandfather fought for the North for three years. You can find his name, Charles Reardon, on the 10-foot-tall granite monument to the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Bloody Angle on the Gettysburg Battlefield. So I cannot be accused of prejudice for either side.

But the fact is the War Between the States had nothing to do with slavery. Three-fourths of the cotton consumed in 1860 in the U.S.A. was processed in New England textile mills. Three-fourths of the money in the Federal Treasury came from the South, and three-fourths of that money was spent in the North.

Abraham Lincoln clearly stated in his debate with Stephen Douglas that blacks were inferior to whites. And he wanted to colonize them to Central America or Africa. No such words or sentiments can be found in the words of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson.

The great Charles Dickens wrote on March 16, 1862, after touring the U.S.A. that, "Every reasonable creature may know, if willing, that the North hates the Negro, and until it was convenient to make a pretense that sympathy with him was the cause of the War, it hated the Abolitionists and derided them up hill and down dale..."

Please write, Ms. [Melody] Kinser, if you will, an editorial explaining to we the people of Hanover County why the four Hanover County School Board members were justified in defying and denying the clear will of the people of Hanover County in voting for the school name change when the people voted by a margin of 84% to keep the names?

After you do that, please do we the people of Hanover County a favor by going back to where "acceptance" means surrender. Acceptance to injustice is not in our vocabulary.

Michael T. Reardon

Mechanicsville

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