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BEACON PHOTO/ELI WITEK DELAND REMEMBERS — Members of the group Volusia Remembers march with citizens down Clara Avenue to the Noble “Thin Man” Watts Amphitheater at 322 S. Clara Ave. in remembrance of Lee Bailey, a 29-year-old Black man who was lynched near the intersection of Clara and Rich avenues 130 years ago. The group held signs naming victims of lynching, as well as those killed in encounters with police. Soil, seen here transported in a Radio Flyer wagon, was taken from the site nearest to the lynching, and transported to the amphitheater. One jar of soil was used to plant a tree at the site — the other will be on display at the African American Museum of the Arts, located across the street.

I pause and think, “I’m not the one to write this. It’s time to shut up and listen.”

But white people have to do the work of helping other white people see the problems of racial injustice.

DR. WENDY ANDERSON

How do we plan for the restoration and redevelopment of spaces and places that will build bridges, nurture connections, and celebrate and embrace the distinctive cultures of our diverse populations?

Volusia Remembers hosted a historic event on the morning of Sept. 25, memorializing the lynching of Lee Bailey in 1891. The thoughtfully planned ceremony offered an opportunity to look squarely at the violence and hate that are part of our community’s past, and to intentionally promote reconciliation and healing among the diverse populations of our community.

The relocation of soil from the place of terror to a place of hope, followed by the planting of a new tree in that soil that connects both places, and the adding of life-giving sacred water in an ancient libation ceremony used the symbolic connections between restoring nature and building new relationships.

The intersection of racial injustice and environmental destruction is multifaceted. Both involve exploitation of people or places for the profits of a few. Both are driven by a fear of difference or an ignorance of the inherent value of unfamiliar people or places.

Both are clearly evident in our community’s past and present. Both leave those of us who experience the exploitation, or who watch and care, heartsick, angry and yearning to fight back.

The solutions for these two realms of concern intersect, also. Solutions involve listening and learning from others, and taking the time to get to know the names and the stories of people and places that you might have not known or understood before.

Solutions involve protecting and caring for those people and places that are at risk. And solutions involve acknowledging the damage already done, and investing in the restoration of the health and well-being of individual people, lands, and waters — and in creating new shared spaces to facilitate a more inclusive community.

As we move into this next era of DeLand’s growth and development, how do we plan for the restoration and redevelopment of spaces and places that will build bridges, nurture connections, and celebrate and embrace the distinctive cultures of our diverse populations?

First, we must face head-on the painful truths of what we have done and what we have lost. We must agree to forgive and work toward healing. And then we must work together to create a different future.

As we Imagine West Volusia, and we facilitate a discussion about how to build a Better DeLand, we must include a reckoning not just with our complicated history, but also with the ongoing racial segregation and injustice that continue to plague our community.

We must also include more voices in imagining our community’s future than just a few middle-class, middle-aged white people.

A Better DeLand is not just about nurturing economic development while protecting the environment and valuable green space. It is about equity and inclusion and creating a thriving community for all of our residents. In the coming weeks, you will see more diverse voices in this space.

— Anderson is a professor of environmental science and studies at Stetson University, and chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. She has been promoting sustainable community development for 20 years.

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