Charlottesville Tomorrow is the recipient of the 2023 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Award in Citizen Service.
CEO and Editor-in-Chief Angilee Shah accepted the award at the Foundation’s annual Founder’s Day celebration on Thursday. She was presented the award by Jason Rezaian, award-winning writer and journalist for The Washington Post. Rezaian became The Post’s Tehran bureau chief in 2012 and in 2014, he was arrested on unsubstantiated charges of espionage. Rezaian gave a keynote address as the 2023 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalist in Citizen Leadership.
“We’ve invited Jason to present our second Citizen Service award and honor our own local press, Charlottesville Tomorrow,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, President Emerita of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The award is given to a “local organization that reflects our community’s commitment to civic service.”
Shah gave remarks on the need for greater representation in the media, the text of which is below. The event was also live streamed.
This is the second year the Jefferson Foundation has made this award. The 2022 Award in Citizen Service was presented to the International Rescue Committee in Charlottesville and Richmond.
Here is the text of Shah’s remarks.
What is the value of a story?
Here, at Monticello, there is immense power in the descendents of those enslaved by Thomas Jefferson and his family. These families insist that this cruel injustice be given its proper place in how we understand ourselves.
But what is especially beautiful to me is the bravery of families, historians and archivists who also insist that we preserve the humanity of those who were enslaved. They insist that those who were not afforded humanity in life be seen as people — people with their joys and sorrows and nuance. They insist that this humanity be written into history.
Thanks to these efforts, we know more names and more about the powerful legacies of those who laid the bricks, grew the food, raised their families and lived in this place.
I think about the power of how we tell our stories everyday.
Virginia today is more than 40% people of color. Census counts tell us we are about 20% Black, a fast growing 10% Latino (Hispanic in the Census) and almost 10% Asian. Indigenous people are almost certainly under counted in our surveys. More and more people recognize their heritage in more than one of these labels.
We have power in the variety of cultures and languages and faiths that call this place home.
But 280 years since Thomas Jefferson’s birth, I wonder — 280 years from today — how our descendants will understand the histories we’ve handed down. Will they have a rich record of the stories of this diverse place? Will they look back and say that we did our best to move toward justice in how we tell our stories?
I’m immensely honored to accept this award on behalf of Charlottesville Tomorrow. Thank you to the Jefferson Foundation for this recognition of your nonprofit local newsroom. This is a mark of achievement for our staff, our amazing board of directors and, most of all, the large community of people in central Virginia who every day bravely tell their stories, who help us all understand their truths.
I have only just taken the helm of this team, that is re-imagining the purpose and power of local news. As we build to create an institution for our communities, I hope our work can be part of the brave tradition of insisting that we are seen.
I hope our descendants find that, together, we told a rich and full story of our time. Thank you.