MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A series of events Thursday marked the one year anniversary of the removal of two confederate statues from Memphis parks.
But a year later, some are finding that the memories of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest are harder to remove than their statues were.
“That pedestal still casts a big shadow over the rest of the park,” said Paul Morris, a former Downtown Memphis Commission president during a panel discussion at the National Civil Rights Museum.
“Do we want to acknowledge any history in that park, or do we want to just make it a really beautiful park?” asked another panelist.
As that debate continues, new divisions are forming.
In a post on Facebook, Shelby County Commissioner and prominent statue removal activist Tami Sawyer claimed Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland was trying to exclude her from events commemorating the anniversary of the statue removals.
“A hard line was drawn by the City of Memphis’ current mayor, and we were not welcome to join in any events which included him,” Sawyer wrote.
She briefly attended the Memphis Greenspace-sponsored panel discussion Thursday evening but left early to go to her own event.
“We shouldn’t have to fight about who gets the recognition of what was a community project,” she said at the Greenspace event.
“I think that for Memphis Greenspace to say that it was all us would not be correct, and I’ve never stated that,” said Memphis Greenspace Director and Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner.
The mayor’s office responded to Sawyer’s post in a statement Thursday night:
“That accusation is untrue and hardly deserves a response. Throughout the entire process, Mayor Strickland has been inclusive noting the efforts of the entire community. Further, the City is not holding any events surrounding the removal of Confederate statues.”
Sawyer told WREG later, “I would say to the mayor tonight: Let’s drop the beef because you can’t get rid of Take Em Down 901’s place in history, and you can’t get rid of my voice.”