Franklin County activist questions racist statue

Published: Jun. 27, 2020 at 6:30 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Bridgette Craighead wants to see some changes.

“We just want to get out the message that we love you, and we don’t want to live in a county where we feel like we don’t belong,” she said.

She’s gathered a diverse group to start with removing the statue of the Confederate soldier in front of the Franklin County Courthouse.

“It’s a symbolism of hate,” Craighead said. “And we’re done with that. That’s done.”

“This Confederate statue,” said Penny Edwards Blue, who joined Craighead in front of the courthouse. ”We’re reminded of that on a daily basis and then the way we’re treated on a daily basis, and so forth, so we’re reminded of that every day.”

So when Craighead heard about a small lawn statue of a stylized Black figure holding a watermelon at a local roadside stand, Craighead felt she had to do something.

“I don’t go in being negative and wanting to fight, because that’s easy,” Craighead said of her approach to the business. “That’s real easy. I want to go in and like, why are you continuing to make these statues?”

At the register was Lori LaVel.

“She needed to get her anger out so she could think clearly about how to make changes to, you know, share what she needs,” LaVel said.

“I wasn’t going to do any damage,” Craighead explained. “I knew that – I didn’t want to go there and, because it’s so easy. I could go there and mess the place up so easy.”

Instead, they talked.

“We have a lot of work to do,” LaVel said on a recording Craighead put on Facebook.

“Yes, we do,” Craighead answered.

And they decided the statue should go, first by Craighead buying it.

“That is hurtful,” she said as they negotiated.

“If you want to buy it, then you should,” LaVel answered.

But then LaVel made it a gift, in a small gesture to help.

“And then, when she gave me the permission to break it, I took advantage of that and I smashed it, and I wanted to smash it into a million pieces,” Craighead remembered. “But it wouldn’t so I picked it up and I did it again, and I picked it up and I did it again. And I was like: Why won’t it break? Break!”

“Some people are still attached to the old history and the old images,” LaVel said. “But they’ll let go of them eventually when they realize they’re not going to lose everything.”

Craighead said, “It felt real good. It felt real good.”

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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