At Monday’s City Council meeting, September 9, 2019, I had to face the fact that for some people, there will never be an expiration date, or enough markers placed, or an end to talk of reparation, an issue raised during the public comments. Life is filtered through the dark lens of the past.
Growing up in the North, I know I have a different perspective, but that doesn’t make me wrong. None of us living today are remotely responsible for slavery in this country nor lived a life as a slave. Yet we choose to remain captured in that past, a past we poke at as if it were a bear we must keep riled and angry. We even have a convenient image, a metaphor for maintaining a racial divide; the railroad tracks that separate Nash and Edgecombe Counties.
I know people strongly identify with one side of the track or the other, they talk in these terms, weigh and measure in these terms. The rationale for a project like a hotel, parking, and mixed-use development is predicated on the past. Never you mind that there are problems associated with these kinds of projects. Never mind about dubious line items that raise red flags, or any other reasonable concerns: The past dictates that Edgecombe County deserves this project. If only half the energy, leadership, scheming and planning spent on the Atlanta Street corridor in these last months had been spent on Main Street after the Peter Varney years, it wouldn’t be in the state it is.
Because I am a board member of the Twin County Hall of Fame and know their good intentions, I am saddened by Councilman Knight who raised the issue of the Civil War Monument that offends him to now include Mr. Ricks of the Ricks Hotel era because of his association with the monument. Mr. Ricks will be inducted in the Hall of Fame in November. Knight strongly objects to this inductee and a portrait of Mr. Ricks added to the exhibition in the public space of the Event Center. Agreed upon at the opening of the Event Center, this is where the Hall of Fame inductee portraits are displayed. It is a beautiful exhibit enjoyed by all who pass by. Each inductee is honored for their particular contribution to the life and times of Rocky Mount. These good folks now remembered serve as an inspiration to us. Still, at this Council meeting, the past shook its long angry finger once again.
If only we could light a candle and place it on the altar leaving the past in God’s hands to repair and heal. We could become the lead story on the evening news. Rocky Mount North Carolina, has opened a walking, jogging, and bicycle bridge over their railroad tracks that divide Nash & Edgecombe Counties. The bridge is a symbol of the two counties working, playing, living and prospering together. The counties will no longer allow the railroad tracks to separate the community’s spirit and common goals. They have ‘laid themselves down’ for one another. The famous John Legend was on hand for the celebration and sang his beautiful rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water –
Why can’t we slip the negative constraints that bind us to the past, and become an inspiration to this weary world? We need a bridge, either literally or symbolically, over troubled water that the community is willing to lay itself down for. That bridge is the future! Our future and those who come after us. Will the younger generation still be lugging the burdens of the past with them, or allowed to live to the other side of this divide: the past finally resting in peace?
Take an extra minute to read an earlier post: Rocky Mount and the Railroad – Can’t Be Separated
PLEASE scroll down to read the thoughtful reply from Monnique Taylor who has taken the time to write her wise and careful words in this matter. I’m grateful!