"Inclusion Matters!";Local activists call for the end of Lee Jackson Day


    Local activists call for the end of Lee Jackson Day (WSET)

    LEXINGTON, Va., (WSET)---This weekend marks the 130th annual commemoration of Lee Jackson Day in Virginia. The holiday started in 1889 and is only recognized by a few southern states. The holiday is a tribute to Confederate Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

    "Both men, their roots are here and that's why it sort of developed a different characteristic here than in the rest of the state," said Brandon Dorsey with the Stonewall Brigade Sons of Confederate Veterans. Dorsey says the group has celebrated the holiday with a parade for the past 20 years.

    In recent years, the holiday has come with a lot of controversy, its opponents saying it's something that shouldn't be celebrated at all.

    "One of the things that's been very stressful to people of color in our community is the Lee Jackson day weekend," said Robin Leblanc with equality advocacy group CARE Rockbridge.

    Leblanc says Confederate symbols can divide the community.

    "They are symbols that remind people of the enslaving of human beings and these are also symbols that have been used in recent years by very violent actors," added Leblanc.

    People on the other side say it's about history.

    "Neither one of these men and what they stood for represents a threat to the people who act as though they're being hurt by them," said Dorsey.

    The city of Lexington says there has been an increasing push to end Lee Jackson Day but it's an issue that's out of their hands.

    "It's something that we can't get around as a city government. We're not a private organization who can pick and choose who's going to do something on our land," said Marylin Alexander with the city of Lexington.

    In an effort to remain neutral, the city doesn't officially commemorate the day. They say they just make sure people can celebrate safely.

    Those in favor of the holiday say keeping the history alive is important and they hope the other side will understand their position.

    "The main values that Lee and Jackson represent was Christian faith and devotion to duty," said Dorsey.

    Those against the holiday say they will continue to fight for equality.

    "We need to make it clear to our brothers and sisters of color that these are values that matter. Inclusion matters!" said Leblanc. "This isn't about dividing the community, it's about bringing everyone together."

    The Lee Jackson Day parade will take place on Saturday, January 19th.

    CARE Rockbridge will host the Martin Luther King Day Parade on Monday, January 21st.

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