The Charlottesville Clergy Collective will host a forum Aug. 12 to mark the sixth anniversary of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally. The event, which will include accounts of the day from Collective members and small-group discussions, will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Carver Recreation Center.
The forum’s themes come from the book “Standing Up to Hate: The Charlottesville Clergy Collective and the Lessons from August 12, 2017”. The title features accounts of the rally from members of the Collective, as well as how the event impacted their experiences in the following years.
Michael Cheuk, editor of “Standing Up to Hate” and Charlottesville Clergy Collective member, said the organization hopes Saturday’s forum — Moving Beyond August 12 Together — will promote advocacy for racial justice and equity in the Charlottesville area.
“On the sixth anniversary [of the Unite the Right rally], we came to the conclusion that it was not enough just to look back on what happened,” Cheuk said.
The event will include three brief dialogues about the impacts of the rally, with two speakers describing their experiences on Aug. 12, as well as a faith leader explaining the effect of the event on local religious groups. Additionally, a video will provide background on the history of Market Street Park’s Robert E. Lee statue, and the event will conclude with small group discussions.
“Standing Up to Hate” regards the rally as an indicator of the aftereffects of America’s history of slavery and notes the presence of systemic racism in many of the country’s institutions. It argues that while a solution to systemic racism is difficult to identify, it must be intersectional and all-inclusive.
“We needed to be more intentional about looking forward, and how we, together with other faith communities that are part of the Collective and beyond, might be able to play a part in promoting and advocating more for racial justice and equity in our area,” Cheuk said.
The “Unite the Right” rally held Aug. 12 was a protest orchestrated by white supremacists against the city’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee that formerly stood in Charlottesville’s Market Street Park, then known as Lee Park. The rally turned deadly when white supremacist James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters on the Downtown Mall, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer.
The rally was precipitated on Aug. 11 by torch-wielding protesters who marched down the Lawn and were met by counterprotesters — many of them students — eventually dissipating after a police response.
Cheuk said he hopes that the forum will present ways for Charlottesville congregations to address community needs that are identified in the event’s small group discussions.
“We’re hoping that [the forum] would be just a small step toward clarifying what possible actions that individuals and faith communities can take in the future,” he said.
The event is free for the public with RSVP.