An Open Letter to the Honorable Mayor JoAnne Bush, the Lake Village City Council and All Who Have Ears to Hear:
Symbols and Sentiments of the pro-slavery, hate-filled, confederacy reared its ugly head on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, in Lake Village, Arkansas, during a 5:30 p.m. public hearing on a Petition to Change the Name of Confederate Street to Sgt. Thomas Armour Street. This Petition for the street name change launched by Rev. Demetria L. Edwards, Attorney at Law, was signed and is supported by well over a majority of citizens of Lake Village who reside on Confederate Street.
The petition seeks to remove a glaring reminder of a painful past when humans were regarded as property and erect a praiseworthy symbol which posthumously honors a local hero, highlights a community servant and celebrates a true patriot: Sergeant Thomas Armour, Jr.
Beginning in 1967, Mr. Thomas Armour, Jr. selflessly served in the United States Army. Further, Mr. Armour bravely served in the Vietnam War where he sustained life-changing injuries. Although Sgt. Thomas Armour, Sr. lost both of his legs while serving our nation, he continued to stand tall as a resident of Lake Village, Arkansas, a citizen of the United States of America and a veteran of the United States Army. Sergeant Armour's spirit always shone brightly with patriotic fervor as he proudly waved the American flag from a makeshift memorial in his own yard. As a community servant, Sgt. Armour freely and compassionately assisted anyone in need, personally provided financial assistance when requested and was an avid supporter of the Lakeside School District and its athletic program. Supporters underscored Sgt. Armour's commitment to service as a veteran and commitment to community as a servant leader.
Although the Petition is overwhelmingly supported by the African-American residents who reside on Confederate street, (100% of the residents of Confederate Street in Lake Village are African Americans), all of the naysayers at the public hearing were White individuals who mostly lived outside of the city of Lake Village. The common sentiments among many of the naysayers were statements like: "I don't have a racist bone in my body but..."; "We don't have a race problem in Lake Village . . . we all get along" or "Changing the confederate street sign will cause a race problem." Other naysayers prefaced their remarks with the all too familiar expression: "One of my closest friends is Black..." One White pastor prefaced his opposition to the name change by stating that he pastored a multi-cultural church; yet, he and others continued to spout references to "ya'll's history and our history" which evidenced disunity and a disconnect. (Parenthetically, I must say that I thought we were talking about -OUR- American history and not a skewed account of some sort of bifurcated, dichotomized revisionist UNhistory.) The most common position reiterated among the naysayers was that the street name should remain in order "to preserve history." Folks who stealthily wrap their harmful words and destructive views in bales of cotton do not soften their hurtful blow.
The Petitioner and the supporters of the street name change are seeking to provide the City of Lake Village with an opportunity to take symbolic steps toward righting a heinous, historical wrong, healing some deep-seated hurts and rehabilitating a fractured municipality.
I invite the eyes of a nation to closely observe my hometown, the small city of Lake Village, Arkansas. Do we live in a nation that would require Jewish citizens to live on Hitler Avenue to preserve history? Do we live in a nation that would require descendants of Abraham Lincoln to live on Assassination Avenue to preserve history? Do we live in a nation that would require survivors of 9/11 to live on Osama Bin Laden Boulevard to preserve history? Why then should the African-American citizens of Lake Village, AR (or any citizen) be required to live, drive or walk on Confederate Street, a street name which is inscribed with a painful reminder of the torture-laden acts of slavery? Is it to preserve history???
I contend that an accurate story about the confederacy belongs in museums and history books to be studied not on street signs to be lauded!
According to the 1860 census, slaveowners owned over 7500 slaves in or around Lake Village where cotton was King. THAT is the History of Lake Village. That is not a history about which residents of the city of Lake Village should be proud. Accordingly, I strongly urge the City Council to make history again by writing a new chapter in the annals of the City of Lake Village. It is time for the City of Lake Village to be on the right side of history. It is my hope and the hope of the supporters of this Petition that the Lake Village City Council will approve this Petition for A Street Name Change and seize this opportunity to commence a healing process and honor a local hero. It is our hope that Mayor JoAnne Bush and the Lake Village City Council will respectively support and approve this Petition to Change the name of Confederate Street to Sgt. Thomas Armour, Jr. Street.
The Lake Village City Council will vote on this petition on November 10, 2015 at 5:30 pm at Lake Village's City Hall, 210 Main Street, Lake Village, AR. Come All and Be One!
Rev. Demetria L. Edwards
Attorney at Law