June 10, 2020
Mayor Grover Robinson City of Pensacola
222 W. Main St.
Seventh Floor of City Hall Pensacola, FL 32502
Dear Mayor Robinson and Members of the City Council:
With this letter I am encouraging you to move quickly to remove the monument with the Confederate soldier that exists Lee Square. With this letter being of public record, I am also asking the many citizens to support you as you move forward to remove the statue. Like any change there will be those that are angry and upset with the removal of the statue. However, there is a greater good to be accomplished.
If today a person or group came before you to request a large monument be built on one of the highest points in Pensacola that included an inscription about Jefferson Davis, topped by a statue of a Confederate soldier, what would the decision be? I am confident while showing empathy for the families who lost a loved one in the Civil War, you would quickly decide that such a monument is not one you could support. I believe the widows and families that supported the building of the statue years ago, with the new knowledge and understanding of the pain caused by it today, would support removing the statue.
We have made so much progress in recent years in Pensacola. In 2019, Pensacola received the Strongest City honor. Verizon named us among the 17 best places to start a business. Palafox Street was named one of the 10 Great Streets in America. We are seeing new life pumped into vacant property. On the horizon is the further recapturing of Bruce Beach, the Downtown Hashtag project, and West Main project. These have potential to bring further investment to the city—both local and from the outside.
The Studer Community Institute is sponsoring a business accelerator called G Beta and the mentorship program taught by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), making Pensacola the first city in the Southeast to do both. These are all geared toward building local companies and keeping talent home.
So many have worked so hard to create a vibrant community that keeps more talent home, attracts talent back, and cultivates new talent. And progress has been made. The yearly Mason-Dixon Quality of Life Survey demonstrates that. Great progress is being made with a long way to go. We still have too many children not ready for kindergarten, too much poverty, and a lack of equal opportunity; but we are aware of these shortcomings and have the passion to address them. We have a citizenry that loves the community. People stand day and night, rain or shine, at Graffiti Bridge not to hurt the community but to make it better.
We have brought in the world’s top experts on creating and sustaining a great quality of life. We have come a long way. One can feel it. In working with companies on creating a great culture, I share that what takes years to build can be lost in an instant. I believe if we fail to remove the monument at this moment, much of what we have accomplished in Pensacola will be lost.
One may say, “yes, and all this progress has been made with the statue in place.” However, today is different. Pensacola is a city that is noticed and followed. Tuesday, I received two calls from national figures who previously presented at CivicCon. They were both stunned that such a monument existed in Pensacola. On the tours of the city, driving them to see the Confederate statue was never part of the tour. Not that is was avoided; rather, I believe it was a denial that it existed. I do not feel this is one of the landmarks we should feature in visitor’s tours, advertise on Visit Pensacola or list in the Chamber brochure; in fact, I have never seen the monument highlighted in any promotional materials.
Pensacola’s progress has put us on the map and people notice what happens here. Both CivicCon presenters shared the perception that in today’s world people notice how communities address things such as Confederate monuments. They noted that most cities that are able have removed these monuments. They made the point that if the statue is not removed, it will hurt Pensacola in keeping young people home and discourage investments in the city. In their talks, they use Pensacola as an example of a forward thinking and acting city, and encourage us to move quickly to remove the statue. I agree with them and I know many of you do too.
The best time to right a wrong is immediately. I encourage you to remove the Confederate monument downtown. I promise I will, and I hope many others, support your action to do so.