Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker drew attention this week with a graphic poem on social media comparing her city to a rapist.
“Charlottesville: The beautiful-ugly it is. It rapes you, comforts you in its cum stained sheet and tells you to keep its secrets,” she wrote in a post originally uploaded to Facebook, according to CBS19. After Facebook temporarily removed the post, Walker uploaded the statement to Twitter; eventually Facebook restored the post to her Facebook wall.
In a second post, Walker wrote, “Charlottesville: The beautiful-ugly it is. It lynched you, hung the noose at city hall, and pressed the souvenir that was once your finger against its lips[….] It is a place where white women with Black kids collects signature for a white man who questions whether a black woman understands white supremacy[….] Charlottesville is void of a moral compass. It’s as if good ole tj is still cleverly using his whip to whip the current inhabitants into submissiveness.”
Walker’s posts drew surprised reactions from many on social media.
“As a former rape trauma counselor I don’t find this helpful. As mayor w/a public acct, this poem is official communication,” Twitter user K.C. tweeted. “But I hear your pain, frustration, exasperation, disappointment, fury, despair, vexation coming with leading a town seeped in 400yrs of white supremacism.”
Others were more critical.
On Thursday night, Walker held a Facebook Live video, where she said she was trying to instigate a conversation, and suggested that the responses missed the point of her posts.
Charlottesville City Councillor Lloyd Snook told The Virginia Star, “Mayor Walker’s poem was posted on her private Facebook page about 12 hours after a City Council work session that inquired into her practices in using her City credit card for purposes not authorized by state or local law. I suspect that this poem reflected her anger at hearing the advice of the City Attorney that she was not allowed to do what she had done.”
Snook said, “But she has never said so. Her statement is most definitely not a statement of City policy. The other four Councilors have all expressed negative reactions, ranging from dismay to shock.”
According to NBC29, Walker has faced questions after she used her city credit cards to buy gift cards to compensate people who spoke to the city council, and on Tuesday, the council discussed proposed guidelines that would allow the city council to pay certain speakers, but the whole council would have to be part of that discussion.
In a joint press statement, Snook and Councillor Heather Hill said, “As White individuals, we can only dimly understand the present-day impact of America’s history of slavery, lynching and sexualized violence toward Black people in general, and toward Black women in particular.”
Snook and Hill acknowledged Walker’s pain and condemned threats made against her. They added, “But it can never be appropriate for our Mayor – as our leader and as our representative – to use terms of sexual violence to characterize the City of Charlottesville. The ‘rape’ metaphor was salacious, but it was also jarring and hurtful to victims of sexual assault and rape, and deeply unfair in how it presents Charlottesville to the world.”
The two councillors acknowledged Charlottesville’s troubled history, including the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally. But they said the city is making progress with initiatives including plans for affordable housing, training for living-wage jobs, and police civilian review boards.
“These initiatives – and many more – are what people should be seeing in the national headlines about the City of Charlottesville,” the statement said. “Our future success depends on the good will and the desire for unity of people of all backgrounds. This poem did not help build that unity.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mayor Nikuyah Walker” by Mayor Nikuyah Walker. Background Photo “Charlottesville, Virginia” by UVA Health System Image Library. CC BY-SA 3.0.