What We Want the Future to Know About 2020

Janice Underwood and First Lady Pam Northern place items in new time capsule Photo credit: Bob Brown/Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Several  commenters to the previous post on the removal of the Lee Monument expressed interest in the items that were placed in the new time capsule that was to be placed in the base of the former Lee Monument.

According to a news release from the Governor’s office, these are the items:

  • “Ballerina at the Lee Statue” photo.
  • Expired Vial of COVID-19 Pfizer Vaccine and CDC Vaccination Record Card.
  • National Geographic Special Issue “2020 in Pictures” with cover image of Lee Monument in Richmond, VA .
  • “Black Lives Matter” sticker.
  • Collection of Michael Paul Williams’ Pulitzer prize-winning columns on Monument Avenue.
  • “Writing a new history” Kente cloth worn by the Commissioners of the Congressionally chartered 400 Years of African-American History Commission and Ghanaian emissaries that participated in the 400th commemoration of 1619 at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument.
  • “New Virginians” booklet with portraits of 24 immigrants whose interviews formed the core of the Library of Virginia’s 2020 exhibition.
  • General Assembly Acts of Assembly from the 2020 Special Session.
  • Virginia is for Lovers “pride” pin and sticker .
  • “the protagonist” poem in uncontracted Unified English Braille written by Laura Minning.
  • “Better Together” LED Board coded by middle school girls at Patrick Henry Community College.
  • VA Ratify ERA sash and ERA 2020 pins.
  • “YOU ARE NOT ALONE” pink heart print found on Broad Street in front of the Institute of Contemporary Art on May 30, 2020, after a night of protests in Richmond.
  • Election Officer Badge for 2020 General Election.
  • “Monument Avenue” Hip Hop Album by Noah-O and Taylor Whitelow
  • Prayer beads left by a family member who passed away from COVID-19
  • Danville Public Schools “First Lady” face mask.
  • Photos of the June 4, 2020, press conference announcing the removal of the Lee Statue taken by Jack Mayer.
  • Steel railroad spike talking piece found near African Ancestral Burial Ground in Shockoe Bottom and used to promote conversations on racial healing.
  • Photos and fliers from “Stop Asian Hate” protests in May 2021.
  • Program and video from the dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard featuring a keynote from former Congressman John Lewis.
  • Letter describing VUUs history and commitment to the Richmond community.
  • Photo of the Virginia State Police at 14th and F Street NW in Washington helping DC Metro Police Department patrol the city for unrest after the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
  • Essays and poems from Arcadia Middle School students reflecting on the experience of being a student during a pandemic.
  • Senate Resolution Commending the League of Women’s Voters agreed to by the Senate on February 6, 2020 to commemorate LWV’s centennial and the centennial of the 19th amendment.
  • “Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Monument is Coming Down, Thanks to Me and Black Women Like Me” July 10, 2021 Teen Vogue article.
  • Hard copy of the Virginia Poet Laureate Luisa Igloria’s work “Dear America” presented during Governor Ralph. S. Northam’s commemoration of Juneteenth in 2021 at Fort Monroe.
  • Gifts from the dedication ceremony from the Mattaponi and Pamunkey nations, hand painted gourd rattle and hand crafted earrings with sturgeon scale and beading.
  • Booklet which outlines Virginia’s first One Virginia Plan for Inclusive Excellence.
  • “Rumors of War Wasn’t a Rumor” photo lithographic plate with oil-based ink & sealant created by Marshal Turner, Jade Gibbens, and Studio Two Three.
  • Copy of the LGBTQ Richmond Walking Tour created by Blake McDonald.
  • First Presbyterian Church Session 2020 minutes approving the formation of a Dismantling Racism – Building The Beloved Community Advisory Group,
  • Video of the One Commonwealth Many Virginians: Uniting in Interfaith Prayer for Healing and Unity event.
  • Piece of tarp from the unveiling of Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War Statue and photos from the unveiling event.
  • Document describing selected student submissions from the Governor’s Inaugural Black History Month Historical Marker Contest.
  • “Post-Colonial Love Poem” by 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winner Natalie Diaz.
  • New Legacy Postcard created by Marc Cheatham and Noah Scalin.
  • List of artifacts in the previous capsule as described in a Richmond Dispatch article dated October 26, 1887.
  • Photo collage of individuals who contributed artifacts to the new time capsule and thank you note.

My Soapbox

The items placed in the time capsule were chosen by a committee comprised of “historians from the Richmond region’s leading historical and cultural museums and members of Governor Northam’s cabinet.“ Given the makeup of the committee, it is not surprising that many of the items were suggested by Governor Northam, First Lady Pam Northam, or components of the Office of the Governor.

The overall scope of the items is obviously narrow. I would have preferred a broader sampling of Richmond and Virginia society. However, in the official document that will be included in the time capsule, the Governor made his intent clear:

“The creation of this new capsule is a response to the Virginia represented in the old capsule, which promoted Lost Cause mythology and only represented the stories and experiences of a small segment of society. It is also a representation of the Virginia today, one rooted in our values of inclusion, equity, and diversity. The items selected were chosen to tell the stories of courageous groups who fought for a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society, while honestly portraying the work that still remains. This means that the capsule focuses on the story of race in Richmond, but also represents the incredible diversity of Virginia and the path forward as we address historic justice in the Commonwealth.”

One problem with this statement: As of around noon today, work crews still had not found the old capsule.