When I came to the Richmond area in 1996, I thought the phrase “A man’s a fool to go south of the river” was funny.
I didn’t know about – or have any care about – historic and otherwise regional culture.
I had only been in Richmond twice since 1963. The first time was in the very early 70’s. From the back seat perspective of a my dad’s Ford Fairlane that I was riding in as a kid; driving through Richmond was – to me at the time – a very dirty place full of statues. What did I know?
The second time was a dinner engagement in 1984 at Peking Palace. It was night. I remember the lights from the city as I drove past on I95.
Now it’s 2022. In 26 years, I ended up getting acclimated and immersed enough to at least have a sense of the area and be vested enough to have an opinion about how poorly the history of the region has gone arguably under utilized, under capitalized, and discarded. A rejected historic uniqueness vanished in exchange for a fleeting and dishonestly coerced group think mentality that can only invite decay and fail because it’s very premise is one of misdirection and erasure.
You might have to re-read the above to get a sense of what I’m saying. Before the radical left took hold, the city was (to me, since the point of 1996, an outsider) a somewhat clean if not a very cool place; Sa’ad El-Amin nonsense aside. I’m thinking of the Riverwalk and Carey street of the mid to late 1990’s.
I used to like Richmond. I don’t anymore. The new phrase for me is “I ain’t going into Richmond. Period.”
In the link below, you can hear John Fredericks describe an interesting idea he calls “MANA 2040”.
He proposes not doing anything (on monument avenue) until the popular woke outrage finds a settled place of generational distance.
If the podcast is down by the time you see this, a full text transcript follows.
WRVA’s John Fredricks:
This is our prime-time half hour: The largest audience that we get – as people are headed to work – and I normally make sure that we get the best guests we possibly can in this half hour about the pressing issues before us, and I think I’ve only done this once in the 8:30 half hour in the five years that I’ve been doing the show.
And that was probably 3.5 years ago when there was a lot of discussion was about bringing citizens together to talk about Monument Ave – and to get citizen input.
Remember when people cared about citizen important input, and Levar Stoney gathered together people?
Of course, he did not listen to anything that the citizens shared with him. Their conclusion was that we take down the Jefferson Davis monument on Monument Ave and re-contextualize the other. I mean that seems quaint, right? Remember that whole story? And then we went through 2020; and the violence in the streets and the destruction – I think illegally because, you know, the vote from City Council came in the wrong order.
Remember this: How I’ve said all along as a native “Richmonder” and as somebody who cares about the citizens here? Who cares about the (not just the history of our community and of our state in our country) but about the future that we have together?
I think you’ve got to do these things the right way. And it’s not going to make everybody happy.
Like, if you take down the statues; If you vote on City Council to take down the statues on Monument Avenue – I was going to be mad. I mean, I told Mike Jones when he used to come on the show – I’m going to be angry if that’s what you do. But if you vote on it, if you do it the right way, I can handle that.
What I can’t handle is if you get the mob to go out and do it for you, and then pat them on the heads and ignore their illegal behavior.
If you do it illegally yourself, which is exactly what Levar Stoney did; His own lawyer told him you are about to break the law, and he said to hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway. And the citizens of Richmond, the people who live in Richmond, voted for mayor, rewarding him by re-electing him.
So, I’ve kind of been waiting.
You know, I’m not an elected official. I’m not trying to run for office. I’m doing a radio program!
I’ve been waiting for somebody else to stand up for God’s sake and say, can we stop this?
Can we stop this behavior? We’re destroying our opportunity for shared prosperity in Richmond, VA.
We are poisoning everything that was good. When I moved back here full time five years ago one of the things that kind of excited me was Richmond wasn’t as sleepy as it had been when I went off to DC, you know, 10 years at channel 8 (meh) And then it went away, I was like, wow! You know Scott’s edition is coming up in their own with their bars and restaurants… It seems like it’s a safer place than it was in my teenage years. You know, you’re not going to get a bullet in your head if you’re down in Shockoe Slip or Shockoe Bottom, which always caught up in in the back of my mind when I was down there.
Yeah, I’m not waking up every morning and cutting on the local news (that I used to anchor) and seeing news of bullets flying through the through the streets the way they had been. So, I really thought things were turning in the right direction in Richmond – and then 2020 happens. And, I gotta tell you, I think we allowed something really evil to occur here.
And it can happen in any community. I mean, I’ve been a consultant in places where the “Mob” ran things. Whether it was an organized mob of business people or whether it was street thugs who exacted their penalties on people who they didn’t agree with – And we don’t want that here… And I think we’re dangerously close to that occurring. And my admonition would be – as someone who at this age in my life has seen a lot of stuff in a lot of different places around the world – is we’ve got to get it under control. And we’ve got to stop focusing on the divisive issues and start focusing on business development and cleaning the city back up and getting a renewed spirit of optimism both in the business community and within the society here.
Because I got people in the counties who would like to lop off the city of Richmond, And you know, that’s kind of like cutting off your own leg or your arm!
That’s bad, that we’ve gotten to this point.
So back to Monument Ave – and I was hoping somebody else would do this, but no one else seems to be, you know, no one wants to talk about the Confederacy. No one wants to talk about that;
They want to be liked. They want to be… “People”, when they mention my name as an elected official, I want them to like me!
You know what? That’s not your job. Your job is to take on these tough issues and try to solve them.
Levar Stoney knows that… you think he’s not losing any sleep over me on the radio!, me saying what an boob he is – what an idiot he is… What a bad job he’s doing! I think he’s very happy that he’s pleasing the people that he needs to please – who were not the people we need to worry about in Richmond – and not the ones that are going to make this community prosperous. He’s catering to a different collection of folks. It just so happens that’s where he’s getting his votes from.
So look; instead of us spending the next two or three years, or five years, blowing through millions of dollars, arguing about what statues are appropriate – listening to some moron from the VCU Arts School… No offense, but come on!
Is that where we’re going? We’ve traded in the finest French sculptures of a century ago for someone who’s studying “pots” at VCU to tell us what statues go up.
I’m sorry, that’s not a hard decision for me to decide who we should be looking to – and it’s not the VCU folks at the moment, Forgive me.
Instead of going through all of that, and blowing through money and everybody being angry…
And I’ll tell you right now, there is no idea that’s coming from Levar Stoney and his cronies, or quite frankly, anybody on the Richmond City Council – that’s going to please me.
I’ve seen too many great avenues around the world. And too many great pieces of art in the greatest museums around the world for me to think that this bunch of idiots is going to come up with something that’s going to work.
So let’s step back. My name calling aside; let’s step back and pause here.
My proposal is that we do something called:
Mana 2040. M-A-N-A: The Monument Ave Neutrality Agreement 2040.
That means we as a community, say that for the next 20 years from 2020, when the statues came down – to the year 2040, we let Monument Ave sit as it is.
No new statues. You know, I wanted to write a check for the 1st $1000 to put up a statue to Doug Wilder; ’cause I thought that would help tell the full story of Richmond, but no one was interested! Instead, they wanted to tear things down instead of build things up. I think that’s really important for people to remember.
Some people want to “Build” and some people want to “Destroy”.
I want to build.
But in the absence of a collective community mindset that wants to build… Let’s step back and pause.
And, in 20 years from the time the statues came down… in 2040;
Look, I’m not going to be on WRVR – God knows I’m who knows well I’ll be here tomorrow. In 20 years, I’m pretty sure I won’t be on WRVA. Maybe in [my] retirement? I don’t know. Levar Stoney – most likely will not be mayor.
I don’t think he’s going to be governor either. But whatever happens in 20 years, he probably will be irrelevant to all of this. We’ll have a brand new City Council. Most likely we’ll have new city leaders; We’ll will have new president of VCU. I hope we’ll have new leaders in this community who hopefully are not poisoned with what has occurred in the last several years here in Richmond.
I pray we get leaders who want to grow this city, improve it, make it financially successful, not catered to crazy people on either side of the spectrum, but certainly not on the spectrum that wants to tax and spend and cater to the lowest common denominator of our society.
But whatever. I don’t know what the future will hold, but in 20 years it’ll be a different group of people.
Let’s pause, let’s acknowledge that Levar Stoney and his crowd won. The statues are gone. Maybe he’s right. Maybe removing the statue of Robert E Lee will cause the African American community in Richmond to flourish. They’ll no longer have that specter of the Confederacy looming over them.
I don’t think so, but you know what, let’s see. But let’s not take other action. Let’s focus on a positive agenda for Richmond. And that doesn’t make me happy. I’d like to see Monument Ave be the tourist attraction that it was. And I thought it was a beautiful Ave.
So let’s just plant flowers. No protest stage, no additional signage, no renaming things for “Street Thugs” or for people who got into a conflict with the police. I mean just let’s leave it as it is. Enjoy it as it is, plant flowers and people go out and walk their dogs and go for a jog like I used to do when I lived at Lombardi, and leave it alone. And stop fighting these fights and focus on how we in our era -in 2022 – Richmond, VA – can make this a better place.
I promise you that we’re not going to make Richmond a better place by re fighting the Civil War on a regular basis, we’re not going to make Richmond a better place by focusing on the things that supposedly everybody hates – like slavery and segregation and Jim Crow…
That’s not going to make us a stronger community, and the obsession with those issues, is killing us.
So, will you join me?
By this afternoon we’ll have some social media elements that you can share, and I hope you’ll talk to your elected officials and to people in the Community about this.
Let’s put it on pause for 20 years so a different generation; Hopefully a group that’s not as poisoned as we are… can make the decisions about what Monument Ave will look like.
Hey, if you want this to be a good place for your kids and grandkids, let’s put this behind us please. And look for a way to build Richmond and the surrounding community economically and socially instead of constantly being in this battle.
MANA 2040 – the Monument Ave neutrality agreement I’ll be talking more about it over the coming days.
Thanks, John. Maybe I’ll be agreeable to driving down in to Richmond in twenty years. At this point it doesn’t seem far enough in the future. Goochland is looking fully and totally good enough to me right now.