ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Augustine City Commission approved seven nominees to a committee tasked with adding context to a Confederate memorial.
City Manager John Reagan recommended the nominees to the city’s new Confederate Memorial Contextualization Advisory Committee. The new members are academics and community leaders from various backgrounds.
Although a decision was recently made by city commissioners to keep the Confederate memorial in place in the center of the Plaze de la Constitucion, they had to narrow down the list of applicants for the committee that will be tasked with adding a display to better explain the history behind the Civil War display.
News4Jax spoke with committee member Tom Graham about what the display will say.
"(It should) say something about St. Augustine as a slave society, St. Augustine during the Civil War and to say something about the people of St. Augustine," Graham said.
Late last year, 40 people applied over a six-week period to be a part of the volunteer committee.
Reagan said it wasn’t easy narrowing down 40 applicants to seven.
“What they all have in common is a desire to improve the community; to help fundamentally use this as a continuing effort to improve the reduction of race, hatred, bigotry -- things that are bad in our community that still exist," Reagan said. "But the future is bright, and they all share the desire to make it a better community.”
While some support the memorial’s presence in the heart of downtown, others have been vocal about wanting it gone.
“When you’re in a place that does not have the will to really do what’s right and fair for everyone, all you can do is simply continue to fight," Rev. Ron Rawls, of St. Paul AME.
Reagan said none the opinions are wrong. He said he hopes the added context will explain how and why people feel so strongly about this monument.
“We all can see the same thing and interpret it differently. So for example, if I wrote the number 6 on a sheet of paper, you would see a 6, I would see a 9. We are clearly looking at the same factual element, but we see it differently and that’s what’s happening with this discussion,” Regan said.
The group plans to hold a meeting to start brainstorming ideas and hopes to have something in place by May.