Remove Monticello name from CH school and street
Equity is a topic that has been a part of critical attempts for change in our CH-UH school district for at least four years now. As a community, we created waves when we brought to the district’s attention the injustices at Oxford Elementary School, and the movement has picked up momentum since.
For those of us who can see the clear lines in our cities, due to demographics and long-standing prejudices, issues of equity do not end with our schools.
As recent developments regarding Black lives pick up speed, much has come to light about the history of our country. It has been white-washed, and I cannot ask for forgiveness for these words that make us cringe, but regrettably are true.
It was recently brought to my attention by my son’s uncle, Pastor Stanley Manning of Christ Centered Church, that Monticello, a plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson, was nothing short of a slave farm. I had to ask myself, how could someone who considered people property end up glorified, with streets and schools named after him? We know that answer, though it was under the guise of being one of our “founding fathers.”
When we look up the history of Jefferson, he is constantly written as a hero and a leader. But can generations who have been greatly impacted by systemic racism, with the root being the slave trade and colonizing of indigenous lands, really hold and honor such a person as a hero? We are at the point where we understand that the plight of the brown person in America is far reaching, affecting us within each institution, ranging from our laws, the lining of our cities and where we can live, our education, and even our health care.
The idea that change must take place is easy as a conversation, but often meets resistance when a call to action requests real change and commitment. Many fold.
I am calling to action a change in our city and our schools: to remove the name of Monticello from our streets and from where our students gather to learn. I will push alone, if necessary—but imagine if, as a collective, we can come together and understand the urgent need to accept the truth of our history and the impact it has on many today. This is a call to action to respect the lives of those who have not had the right to be born with certain privileges; a call to action to no longer honor those who participated in the legal theft and downfall of a people, of a culture.
When we look at the lines in Cleveland Heights, and see where resources are lacking, is it a coincidence that Monticello, the name of a slave farm, is a main road that defines how we live and how we learn?
My guess is, many will feel overwhelmed by this call to action. Many who have stood with Black lives may say, “This is too much,” or “This is going too far.” But if our schools and streets were named after Nazi camps, would we not want to stand up against what many of us can argue has been a slow genocide of a race? In this paradigm there is only one side, and it is my hope that we can all stand together and say, “It is time for a major change.”
Change the name of our school. Change the name of our street. We will no longer honor a slave farm as part of our institutions and our community.
[To receive a version of this opinion from the writer, containing editorial resources from Monticello.org and Smithsonian Magazine, send an e-mail to the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Alisa Bray is a mother, community and district volunteer, an activist, and local business owner.