There! I've written my letter to Mayor Dwight Jones in my hope to #SaveShockoe. If you are like me and can't read my handwriting, find the typed version on my Facebook page.
Write (type, really) your own letter by using the template at: http://savingplac.es/1lrZDwr (Click on the blue "Call on Mayor Dwight Jones and Richmond's City Council) #haveyoursay
Save Shockoe Bottom | Letter to Mayor Dwight Jones
Dear Mayor Dwight Jones,
My name is Lupita Nyong'o. I am an actress, best known for my portrayal of Patsey in Steve McQueen's film, 12 Years A Slave, based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup.
I learned recently that the "Revitalize RVA" program intends to construct a minor league baseball stadium, among other commercial structures in Shockoe Bottom, over the archaeological remains of America's second-largest slave trading center. I write to ask you to withdraw your support of such a venture.
Evidence of America's slave history simply must be preserved, as the legacy of slavery affects all American people. The tactic of the enslaver was to systematically erase all memory of the African's past; let us not repeat this ill by contributing to the erasure of his past in America too. Though this history is ugly and unjust, Shockoe Bottom is a site of conscience, a place where we can bear witness to the human rights abuses of slavery, learn from the lessons of history, and spark a conscience in people so that they can choose the actions that promote justice and lasting peace today.
And yet you are no stranger to the cause for education and the advancement of society through knowledge. On top of being an accomplished scholar yourself, during your term as mayor, you have seen to the construction of four schools in Richmond. I am confident that these schools are intended to engage students in understanding and interpreting our shared history, stimulating their minds about social issues that concern them, and promoting humanitarian values. A preserved Shockoe Bottom can be an integral part of these students' unique educational experience.
Historical sites like these are valuable not only to Americans, but to the entire world that engages with America. I, for one, originate from Kenya, and had it not been for the preservation of slave history on the plantations in Louisiana and within the walls of museums that I visited, my immersion into Patsey's life and lifestyle would not have been as deep nor as empathetic as it was. I may not have been as equipped to portray her and thus contribute to the cinematic heritage that we now have in the movie, 12 Years A Slave.
We would be appalled if a casino was built over Gisozi in Rwanda, a mega mall was constructed over Robin Island in South Africa, or new condos were erected through the gates of Buchenwald in Germany. Let us therefore not have a baseball stadium sit atop the legacies of slavery at Shockoe Bottom.
I urge you to set aside the baseball stadium plans and, instead, fully involve the public in determining how best to commemorate the past of slavery at Shockoe Bottom.