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Residents Share Reactions to 'How the Monuments Came Down' at Premiere Event

a group of people on a lawn looking at a large screen
The crowd at Maymont for the premiere of How the Monuments Came Down. Photo by Aarron Saldivar.

Last night, the Richmond community gathered at Maymont Park for the premiere of How the Monuments Came Down. The film, produced by Field Studio in association with VPM, chronicles the long history of white supremacy and Black resistance in Richmond.

Guests enjoyed live performances from Butcher Brown, a Richmond-based jazz fusion band, food provided by the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, and a pre-screening panel discussion. The Afrikana Film Festival and The JXN Project partnered to host the event that celebrated the influence of Black culture and arts in Richmond. 

Attendees had a range of reactions after the screening. KB Brown, who produced art during racial justice protests last summer, said, “I’m hoping that the film will bring us together as a Richmond community. You know the work's not done, we have a lot to do.”

How the Monuments Came Down guides viewers through a visual timeline of how the legacy of the Confederacy helped shape one of the most distinctive streets in Richmond. The feature-length documentary captures the evolution of Monument Avenue — and the city as a whole — through the telling of descendants, activists and historians.

One of the changes the film documents is the destruction of Jackson Ward, “the Harlem of the South,” a center of Black commerce until urban planners destroyed it for a highway in the 1950s.

“I knew the highway went right through the middle of a thriving Black neighborhood, and our grandma lived right at the corner of 1st and Duval,” said Darlene Williams. “The highway is right in front of her house, Sixth Mount Zion is down the street and it just tore up the whole neighborhood, for no reason.”

This truth came as a sort of historical revelation for attendees like Maya Ebrahimnejad, who said it impacted her perspective on I-95: “I travel it on a daily basis but I didn’t know the reason it was really put there.”

Ebrahimnejad added, “I left this film really educated on how systemic racism, slavery and the history of Richmond came about.”

For many, the film provided a better understanding of how the monuments and systemic racism have shaped Richmond and it offered a trajectory for where the community is headed.

The film airs to the public on July 1 at 8:00 p.m. on VPM PBS, Facebook and YouTube.