Wednesday, July 23, 2014


View and download the special 4-page issue of The Virginia Defender!  The paper distribution begins Thursday evening, July 24.

July 30, 2014

Dear friends,

The struggle over building a baseball stadium in historic Shockoe Bottom has entered a new stage: The Battle of the Barber Shops.

It looks like the business organization Venture Richmond, probably through the Alliance Group public relations firm, has recruited local radio personality Clovia “Miss Community” Lawrence to promote the mayor's development plan in the Black community. Ms. Lawrence is hosting “Up Close and Personal Community Conversations” for the mayor to speak at barber shops on Brookland Park Blvd., Southside Plaza and also at a restaurant in Shockoe Bottom. More such meetings are sure to come.

Following up on Mayor Jones' characterization of stadium opponents as “people who don't look like us” during his Emancipation Day presentation this past January, the goal of this new campaign seems to be to build support in the Black community for the development plan, making it easier for stadium supporters to argue that opposing this for-profit-developer-driven plan is racist.

Ms. Lawrence has written several pieces posted on the websites of local Black-oriented radio stations in which she states that the mayor's plan will result in 1,000 jobs (even Mayor Jones says the figure is 400) and that $30 million has already been raised for a heritage site, which is simply not true.

The main point of the mayor's presentation is that only his plan can produce the money necessary for properly memorializing the slavery-related history of Shockoe Bottom. But City Council has already committed $5 million, with or without a stadium, and the General Assembly has committed $2 million up front and up to $9 million more in matching funds – again, with or without a stadium.

In response, the Defenders have come out with 10,000 copies of a special, 4-page issue of The Virginia Defender, explaining who's behind this new campaign, what's wrong with the arguments and also the benefits of our alternative plan for a Sacred Ground Memorial Park, which allows for all the economic development the mayor has proposed.

We are now distributing this special issue to hundreds of barber shops, beauty parlors, churches, mosques, community centers, grocery stores and more.

We are more than willing to do this work, but we can't fund special issues of the Defender by ourselves. Please help keep this voice of the people alive and strong by making a contribution today – by PayPal at our website (, or by sending a check or money order made payable to “Defender” to: PO Box 23202, Richmond, VA 23223.

Defend Black History! No Stadium in Shockoe Bottom!


Phil Wilayto
The Virginia Defender  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Richmond is now at a crossroads:

Does it offer up its most historic neighborhood to profit-hungry developers only interested in making a quick buck, or do we develop it as a national historic district that tells all its many stories – American Indian, the founding of the city of Richmond, Quaker, Mason, Jewish and, most importantly, the fact that it was from here that hundreds of thousands of Africans and people of African descent were sold into lives of slavery? And the fact that it was this massive trade and the exploitation of slave labor that formed the economic foundation for the city of Richmond, the state of Virginia and the United States itself?

Such a historic district can only be developed as a result of a real community conversation, primarily within the Black community. Some suggestions so far are to lncude parkland, a museum, genealogy center, bookstore, performing arts space, educational conference center and more that would draw millions from across the country and around the world. For those only interested in the money, it would generate far more revenue for the city, its hotels, motels, restaurants and other attractions than a minor-league ballpark that only draws crowds from the surrounding counties – crowds that after the ballgames get right back on the highway and go home. And it doesn't require the city taking on a $100 million public debt that could leave us headed to bankruptcy if the economy falls into another recession.

We are NOT against development. In fact, opponents have developed an alternative plan, one that would bring in much-needed revenue for the City and allow development on the Boulevard and non-sacred areas of Shockoe Bottom while properly memorializing the area where hundreds of thousands of people of African descent suffered, resisted and as a people survived one of the worst atrocities in human history. See an "Alternative Vision for Shockoe Bottom." at

'NO to a Shockoe Stadium - YES to a Historic District!'