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Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Orleans church leaders call for Confederate monument removal

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 1:05 PM

click to enlarge Members of Clergy for a United City stand outside First United Methodist Church to support removing and replacing Confederate landmarks in New Orleans. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Members of Clergy for a United City stand outside First United Methodist Church to support removing and replacing Confederate landmarks in New Orleans.

Nearly 100 pastors, clergy and other faith leaders in the New Orleans area have signed a letter supporting the city's attempt to remove four Confederate monuments. 

"As spiritual leaders of New Orleans, we know the power of symbols, which is why we stand in support of their removal," the letter reads. "In their current state, lacking any proper context, these monuments do not teach us about the past. They reflect a deafening silence about Jim Crow culture."

This morning outside First Grace United Methodist Church (on the corner of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway), several pastors representing the Clergy for a United City said the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has brought the country together to address these symbols' meanings and "their continued existence, for which we are now accountable."

The letter follows two city-santioned public meetings on the statues following the New Orleans City Council's resolution to seek their removal. The meetings, held by the Historic District Landmarks Commission and the Human Relations Commission, hosted several hours of debate. Both commissions recommended to the City Council that the statues (P.G.T. Beauregard at City Park, Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle and a Battle of Liberty Place monument) "may be removed."

The letter admits that many pastors, bishops and archbishops had supported the statues' construction, though they represent "living reminders of slavery, our segregationist past and the still bleeding wound of systemic racism." The group suggests using those spaces to celebrate "the arts, music and industry ... for they point to who we are as a common people and who we want to be."

Pastor C.S Gordon Jr. with New Zion Baptist Church reiterated that removing the statues "is not trying to erase history; it's putting it into its proper context."

Opposition to the statues' removal has come from several groups, including Save Our Circle, specifically looking at preserving Lee's monument at Lee Circle.

Another group, the Monumental Task Committee (MTC), will host a public meeting from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 at Generations Hall (310 Andrew Higgins Drive). In a statement, group founder Pierre McGraw said the forum will present "constructive and alternative solutions" to the statues' removal. The panel will include McGraw as well as Statuesque New Orleans author Ashley Merlin, Michael Bell with Bell Architects, sculptor Thomas Bruno and author Ronald Drez.

The panel will also discuss installing and naming new monuments and adding "informative plaques."

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