(ideas.) Following my op-ed in The Guardian about an idea for what to do with the Confederate carving at Stone Mountain, I connected with a growing and diverse group of people willing to work to make change at the park. We call ourselves SMAC – the Stone Mountain Action Coalition and at the August board meeting of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, I had the honor of speaking on behalf of the group. My three-minute speech is below. Shoutouts to everyone at SMAC, especially Dennis Collard who helped write this. More to come!
Thank you for the opportunity to address this board today.
My name is Ryan Gravel and I’m here to speak on behalf of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition. We are a grassroots movement dedicated to the creation of a more inclusive Stone Mountain Park, centered on the principles of healing, transformation, and progress.
We’re here because we love the Park and we want it to be a place that welcomes everyone. As you know, the nation’s largest Confederate memorial is carved on the side of Stone Mountain, but the Park is so much more than that. It’s a natural and geological wonder that offers opportunities for outdoor recreation and education that are unparalleled in Georgia.
Fundamentally, our Coalition believes, however, that many of the prominent symbols and features at the park, including the Confederate carving, are painful for many visitors and create unnecessary limitations on the kinds of things that would otherwise take place here.
The mountain’s history, reputation, and identity as pro-Confederacy and the birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan also make it a place of controversy, protest, and danger.
The Stone Mountain Memorial Association’s charge by state law is “to maintain an appropriate and suitable memorial for the Confederacy.” It does not require you to maintain a shrine for hate groups or a rally point for violence. What happens here too often is neither appropriate nor suitable for the people of Georgia and you have the power to change that.
What makes an appropriate and suitable memorial to the Confederacy in the year 2020?
We believe Stone Mountain Park can do better – transformed into a place of healing, reconciliation, recreation, and natural beauty that welcomes everyone. And we believe incredible new cultural and economic opportunities can blossom here – but only if you rid this park of its invitation to hate groups and its propensity to attract violence.
That is why the Stone Mountain Action Coalition formed over the last few months.
We are not here to make demands or issue ultimatums.
We are extending a hand of friendship – to collaborate with you, and to be a resource for you – with the goal of making changes at the Park; to transform the park into a more appropriate and suitable place for the people of this state.
This coalition has come together as a diverse group of passionate and dedicated Georgians who stand ready to support this work. And as you might imagine, we have short and long-term suggestions.
There are many things – like retiring the Confederate Flags, renaming the streets, and stopping maintenance of the carving – that can and should begin immediately.
But we don’t pretend to have all of the answers. And we know real changes to the carving itself will require more work.
And so, on behalf of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition, I am here to request a meeting with you to continue this conversation – please let me know who I should talk to about scheduling that meeting.
On a personal note – I’d like you to know that I am a son of the South. I was born in the South and raised right here in Georgia. And in my bloodlines are the best and the worst of the South. I didn’t come here angry. Like others in this coalition, I am coming here with hope. I believe in the South. And in this unprecedented year of national turmoil, I believe the South has a unique opportunity to lead the racial reckoning that our nation is yearning for. And with your help and courage, that work can start right here at Stone Mountain.
Thank you >> Ryan Gravel
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