“Get behind the wall, n—–!”
“This is Trump’s America!”
Do these phrases disturb you? They should. That is what I remember hearing from men and women with rifles on their shoulders neighboring their Confederate flags at Travis Park earlier this month, as we rallied to stand against white supremacy.
The events in Charlottesville, Va. have sparked emotion and outrage all over the country. They have especially drawn attention to the reason people were there and got hurt in the first place: Confederate monuments.
This issue is new to a lot of people. All of the sudden we have online maps of all the locations of Confederate monuments. Many people’s online searches are filled with questions about the Confederacy, who they were, and what they stood for.
But for community activists and leaders like myself, this argument is not new, and neither are the efforts of the community.
I want to particularly draw attention to the experience of those who have found themselves directly involved in the fight for the removal of the Travis Park monument, as we find ourselves in a unique position where many will lay false claim to their impact on removing the statue.
The conversation on the removal of the Confederate monument at Travis Park has persisted for years. It is impossible to talk about efforts of the monument without mentioning the likes of Mario Salas who has been stalwart in community efforts for years.
I’ll never forget the hate mail and death threats. I’ll never forget sweating in the heat of the day, carrying crates of water for the community members brave enough to join us in standing against white supremacy. I’ll never forget watching supporters being pushed back by a wall of SAPD bikes. I will never forget coming face to face with Confederate supporters with pistols on their hips and shotguns on their shoulders shouting obscenities at us. I will never forget feeling like I was living out the movies I’ve seen and the books I’ve read about members of the Civil Rights movement growing up.
And I’ll never forget watching my close friend, Michael Murphy, get arrested. I’ll never forget waiting outside of the magistrate’s office for his release. I’ll never forget my heart dropping seeing the bruises on his face and scratches on his neck as he walked out.
For those who weren’t there with us: words can’t describe the things we have seen and the pain we have felt.
I want this statue down as much, if not more, than the next person. We have spent countless hours marching the streets and organizing our community while working beside councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) and Mayor Ron Nirenberg as they work to remove this statue.
There is nothing “weak and indecisive” about working with the community on this issue. In fact, opening this up to community conversation has created space for black voices to be elevated and heard. For the first time in a long time, this has allowed people of color to have a seat at the table in discussing why this monument must come down.
Whatever it takes, this monument must come down. Before we criticize the means in which this happens, we should note that grassroots organizing is working. Our leaders are listening and our voices are being heard. Eastside community leaders have worked to get this statue down for years, and it’s finally happening.
If anyone is to be criticized it should be the racists, the white supremacists, and those who stand outside of City Hall with automatic rifles to instill fear in our community.
When I think about City Council voting on this issue, I’m not thinking about what people think of the process. I think about how many of my ancestors died and were enslaved under the boot of white supremacy. I think of the pride I feel knowing that people like Myself, Mario Salas, Mike Lowe of SATX4, and all the organizations that have supported our collaborative efforts with the City so far, had a direct impact on this monument being removed.
It would be feckless of us to not engage in dialogue with our fellow community members and elected officials. It is our civic duty to do so. Criticizing a community conversation that has been happening long before this issue has ever even been considered by City Council is baseless and counterproductive, as these community conversations can and should continue long after City Council votes this Thursday.
As an activist, I stand with councilmen Treviño and Shaw, and Mayor Nirenberg as they get this statue down. I’m confident that City Council as a whole will make the right decision. This is not because I felt a sudden rush of emotion following the events of Charlottesville. It is because I’ve marched side by side with citizens of San Antonio who held our hands in solidarity as we cried that black lives do matter here. It is because City leadership responded to the community’s call and made efforts to hear our grievances. It is because I sat in those meetings, stood in that park, and marched in those streets with hundreds of the most passionate and heroic citizens of San Antonio.
“It is our duty to fight for freedom, it is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” – Assata Shakur