Letters to the Supervisors
A Letter from the Editors
August 31, 2020
Dear Readers of Yalobusha Review:
We’d like to tell you a little about what’s happening in Oxford, Mississippi, from where we work and write and publish this journal. Oxford is a small town, but there are smaller. It is a college town, a football town, a town of art and history—Civil Rights, the Blues, Faulkner—, a town built on land that belongs to the Chickasaw Indian Nation, and a town in which a thirty-foot Confederate monument stands in the center.
In July, the five white men on the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to keep this Confederate statue in its place on Oxford’s square. This decision, in spite of the numerous protests, letters and emails written by their constituents demanding otherwise, seemed to them the right thing to do.
In early August, our fiction editor sent an email to Lafayette County Supervisor, David Rikard, who voted in favor of keeping the statue. She sent him a video by filmmaker and Oxford resident Rex Harsin in which twelve Oxford business owners state why they believe the statue needs to come down. In response, Mr. Rikard emailed to say that the video only stated the opinion of 12 people, which is “not nearly anywhere close to the opinion of 50,000 people/business owners in this community” and therefore, he said, the video was “most certainly biased.”
Mr. Rikard is right, in one sense. There are many others in Lafayette County, beyond those featured in the video, who support the removal of the confederate statue. Through a new project titled “Letters to the Supervisors,” we at Yalobusha Review seek to highlight these voices and dispel the notion that the removal of the statue is supported by only a few. It is not.
Over the coming months, adjacent to our regular focus on fiction and poetry, we will publish letters written by community members and addressed to our local government in support of the removal of the statue. We hope that this archive will serve as concrete proof of the wide array of residents who insist that we remove Oxford’s monument to white supremacy. We know these monuments are only surface symbols of deeply-embedded anti-Blackness in this community and in our country at large. But as artists, we also know that a society’s most visible symbols have a very real and lasting impact on our shared perceptions and values. Our work is only beginning, and it must not stop here.
A final note—until very recently it was believed that any decision regarding the removal of the statue was up to the Board of Supervisors, as the statue rests on county property rather than city property. That has now been disputed, though it has not yet been made clear what this new information might mean. If you are interested in learning more about the organizations and people on the ground in Oxford fighting for the removal of the statue, please follow Take it Down Oxford and subscribe to their email list for updates on weekly protests being held in front of the statue.
In activism as in literature, we believe that the more voices being heard, the better. The Oxford that we believe in and strive towards is one rooted in community and a respect for all, and not in symbols of hatred, exclusion and white supremacy. This is why we, and so many others, believe that the statue on the Square must go.
Letters from the Oxford Community