September 25, 2022
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Commemorating Shockoe’s history might reduce violence

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RICHMOND, Va — After a violent weekend in Richmond’s East End, those who live and work in the neighborhood said they have safety concerns.

On a warm, sunny Sunday, droves of people took to Shockoe Bottom to enjoy food, drinks, and entertainment. However, some folks said they didn’t feel secure visiting the area due to recent violence.

Early Saturday morning, police said 23-year-old Xavier Brown was shot and killed near Main Street Station.

“I think it would a little bit scary if I came here later in the evening by myself,” said Suzi Bryant.

Bryant said she felt comfortable eating brunch just a block away from where Saturday’s shooting happened. However, she said it’d be a different story when the sun goes down.

“At nighttime, I’m going to be a little more comfortable staying in Scott’s Addition or Carytown,” Bryant said.

Trey Owens, co-owner of the restaurant JewFro, said he’s taking on an extra responsibility as an area business owner to join the fight to end gun violence.

“This is ridiculous. I don’t know what can be said, what can be done,” he said. “We’re looking at options on the table just to at least kind of start a conversation and figure out what we can do as restaurants down here in Shockoe Bottom that attract the people that are coming out.”

Owens believed the troubled history of Shockoe Bottom as Richmond’s center of slave trade has led to generational trauma in the area.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that possibly the history of Shockoe Bottom has something to do with it,” he said. “Human beings were literally bought and sold here. Not too far from here, there was a slave jail. There’s a huge African Burial Ground that’s now a parking lot.”

Owens said properly addressing and commemorating the past could lead to healing and potentially less violence.

The city currently has plans to build a heritage campus memorializing the enslaved in Shockoe, but Owens questioned the pace of the project.

“I’ve been hearing about that since I’ve been in Richmond,” Owens said. “But everything is slow moving, and who knows when it’s going to happen? Somebody should be working on this stuff around the clock. It is, to me, the most important part of the history of Richmond.”

While recognizing the need for urgency, Mayor Levar Stoney has requested patience from the public on the project.

When asked about the Monument Avenue developments during a May press conference, the mayor said, “It’s taking a lot of years to memorialize the enslaved in Shockoe Bottom. The city has a lot of work to do on both fronts. I’m asking for a little patience.”

Owens said he’d also like to see more productive engagement between police and the East End community on ways to combat crime.

“Every Friday and Saturday, they can come out here and block the streets and put police on the streets, but obviously, that’s not working,” Owens said.

Richmond city leaders have emphasized multiple gun violence prevention measures currently in the works.

The plan includes investing in youth-focused programs, mental health support, hiring violence interrupters, a homicide review committee and much more.

Click here and here to read past reports on the city’s plans to prevent gun violence.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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