Landrieu and Bellamy on Confederate statues and racism

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Former Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, and Charlottesville City Council member, Wes Bellamy, spoke candidly about Confederate statues and racism Wednesday night as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Both Landrieu's book, "In the Shadow of Statues, and Bellamy's book, "Monumental" talk about their experiences working to remove Confederate statues, Landrieu in New Orleans and Bellamy in Charlottesville.

"Both Virginia and Louisiana occupied a very pivotal place dealing with our nation's history and slavery," said Landrieu. "So it makes sense for both of us to kind of step up to the plate to start talking about it to do our part to correct the errors of the past."

Their experiences with racism predate the debate of Confederate monuments, however. Landrieu's father was also mayor of New Orleans when he was growing up. His father fought for desegregation, and now he is continuing the work. In 2017, when Landrieu was mayor, he had four Confederate statues removed from New Orleans, but he said the work is not over.

"There's a better tomorrow out there but we have to talk to each other and we got to work through race," said Landrieu. "Can't go around it, you can't go over it, can't go under it, can't ignore it. That doesn't work either."

Bellamy said from his experience, removing the monuments is more than about the statues.

"None of this was about the statue," said Bellamy. "In my opinion, this is all about us as a community coming to grips not only with our past but where we're choosing to go in our future. There has been an awakening of sorts, and we as the city of Charlottesville has been a ground zero of that awakening."

Matthew Gibson, executive director of the Virginia Humanities who produces the Festival of the Book, said the festival is meant to be a place for tough conversations like this.

"The festival is a place where ideas and the exploration of history and society, that's where this happens," said Gibson.

The Festival of the Book will be going on through Sunday.

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