Story at a glance
- Hundreds of Confederate statues, monuments and busts across the United States stand as symbols of those who fought in defense of slavery.
- While some have been removed in recent years, many remain.
- A new effort uses virtual reality to replace these figures with others from the civil rights movement.
Last spring, the nation began a long-overdue conversation over the hundreds of Confederate statues and monuments littered across the country. Almost a year later, one effort is tackling a new question: who deserves to be remembered?
“In their time, white nationalist officials erected statues of Confederate leaders for a reason – to send a message about who should dominate this country, and to put Black people in our place,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, in a release. “In our time, Confederate statues continue to encourage white nationalists who are hell bent on resisting progress. It’s not enough to remove them, we must replace them with symbols of a just vision of America.”
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The civil rights advocacy organization has a few ideas, and they're wasting no time. The Pedestal Project is skipping all the red tape and logistical barriers by using augmented reality to honor three "worthy idols" from different decades of the civil rights movement: former Congressman John Lewis, who died in 2020, Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Chelsea Miller, co-founder of Freedom March NYC.
“The Civil Rights Movement never ended; it has just taken new forms,” Miller said in a release. “It is on every generation to build on the work of those who came before us and unapologetically stand on the shoulders of our ancestors.”
On Instagram, users can now choose from a gallery of statues to project the image in the real world and hear a message from the activists themselves. A website also identifies empty pedestals, where Confederate statues once stood, encouraging users to replace the old with the new.
"Symbols and their substance matter,” said Alicia Garza in a release. “They are a representation of that which we vow to never forget — they are regular reminders of what we value, who we strive to be, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, as a people. There are symbols of racial terror all over our country — Confederate monuments, crosses burning on lawns of civil rights workers, statues to killers and war criminals. But what if there were monuments to our ongoing struggle for racial justice, for dignity, for democracy — not confined inside of memorials and museums, but everywhere that people gather?"
This is just the beginning for the nonprofit, however, which launched a petition for the removal of all Confederate symbols in public spaces, calling for them to be replaced with "beacons of racial justice."
“We cannot allow symbols like monuments to be a consolation prize — they must accompany real efforts to change laws and outcomes for real people, which is why we’re focusing on three of the many heroes fighting for concrete, anti-racist policy changes that will transform our country for the better,” said Robinson in a release.
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