After about two months of planning, events for the city’s inaugural Unity Days are set to begin with an exhibit at the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society and a walking tour and discussion.
Unity Days coincides with the second anniversary of unrest in Charlottesville and will preempt any other activities proposed for the sites of the white supremacist rallies from May to August 2017 that culminated in the deadly Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12 of that year.
The city is offering the Downtown Mall; Fourth Street Northeast and Southeast; and McGuffey, Market Street and Court Square parks as sites for Unity Days events. Events for other locations need a special event application, an application fee (unless waived by the city) and a submission of the request at least 30 days in advance if no street closures are needed. If an event needs street closures, the request must be made 60 days in advance.
Unity Days is centered on Aug. 11 and 12, but each month in what is being called the Summer of Unity has a general theme. May is designated for a look at the area’s history of race relations; June will focus on addressing institutional oppression; a focus on community and neighborhood leaders is planned for July; and August is reserved for remembrance, education and inspiration. The events are a mixture of activities unique to Unity Days and other events — such as the Festival of Cultures — that are now “under the Unity Days umbrella,” said Charlene Green, manager of the city’s Office of Human Rights.
The goal is for people to “understand we’re not just focusing on the tragedy that happened in August . … Charlottesville is not perfect. It has its issues with race and poverty and socioeconomic status,” Green said. “But it’s much more than that, and we’re hoping that through Unity Days we’re able to educate people about Charlottesville through their history, its history and through the ways in which we’ve had people, past and present, to focus on social justice in ways that have allowed some things to change, for us to inspire people to get involved and create ongoing action around the issues people have significant concerns about, like housing, unemployment and education.”
On Friday, the Historical Society is set to launch its exhibition, “Charlottesville’s Attic: The Story of Us.” The event coincides with First Fridays and features artifacts from the society’s private collection. Items on display will include artifacts from the Bren-wanna, an integrated, African American-run restaurant and nightclub on U.S. 29; a bottle from the Monticello Wine Co.; and cameras owned by local photographer Ed Roseberry. The free event runs from 5 to 7 p.m. at the historical society’s building at the corner of Second Street Northeast and Jefferson Street.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, University of Virginia professor Jalane Schmidt and Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, plan to lead a walking tour of Charlottesville’s Confederate statues. The event starts in Court Square and will be followed by a discussion at the Central Library.
The full calendar of events for Unity Days activities in May is located at charlottesville.org/unitydays. Planning for June, July and August is ongoing, and programming proposals are being accepted on the Unity Days webpage.
“We’re in the works for planning what’s going to happen for June, July and August still,” Green said. “We wanted May to be as vibrant and robust as possible to start to generate interest so that people are aware that Unity Days is happening and the purpose and that they’ll feel some sort of sense of wanting to participate.”
For more information on Unity Days or the meetings, contact city staff facilitators at UnityDays@charlottesville.org. Community members interested in helping with planning should email UnityDaysPlanning@charlottesvi
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