This is a guest post by Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy of Charlottesville, Virginia.
It’s been a tough month for the city of Charlottesville. As Vice Mayor, as the only African American on the city council and as a person, I know that it will take Charlottesville — and the rest of the country — time to heal. As we look back the violence that occurred on August 12th, we must confront the bigotry and hate that still haunts our country, and find a way to build the infrastructure for a better tomorrow.
My community is resilient. When we fall, we always get back up. Long before I even thought about running for office, this city helped me grow as a man. It taught me that we don’t have to look the same or come from the same background to respect and support each other. And even in my darkest days, this community was patient with me, demanded more of me and pushed me to become the change I wanted to see.
In January, I introduced a $4 million Equity Package, which the Charlottesville City Council passed unanimously. The package put $4 million into marginalized communities — including: $2.5 million to public housing redevelopment, a line item of $50,000 for GED training for all public housing residents, $5,000 for a new scholarship for students to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a grant for the creation of a new Ethnic Studies course within our local schools, a new position for a youth opportunity coordinator and much more, coupled with the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. Three weeks ago, what we witnessed a violent and racist reaction to a conscious effort to make our society more inclusive and equitable.
Charlottesville is special to me, but it’s important to recognize that it’s not an anomaly. As communities across the country work to make change for underserved populations, as we work to make our parks, city budgets and everyday lives more equitable, we will see hate and those who feel threatened lash out.
It is imperative that we use this opportunity to assist and prepare other localities, civic institutions and community leaders on how to handle these situations—before and after any violence. I will continue to fight for equity in every space in Charlottesville, as other city leaders should in their community. We can and will overcome this, but we have to work together and learn from each other to do
Today, I pray for Charlottesville and for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We must all work together for a stronger future.
About the author:
Dr. Wes Bellamy is the Vice-Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia and the youngest individual to ever be elected to the Charlottesville City Council. His primary focus is on improving the lives of those who lack resources and positive role models in their lives. He currently serves as the President of the national award winning 100 Black Men of Central VA, is an adviser for the Collegiate 100 Black Men of Central VA (UVA Chapter), serves as Co-Chair of the Charlottesville Alliance for Black Male Achievement (CABMA), and is an African American Teaching Fellow. He currently serves on the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board and the Charlottesville Police Citizens Advisory Panel. He has also served on the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee.