Tuesday, July 5, 2022

‘Say Their Names’: These signs on Ironbound Road show a local church fighting for racial justice

The Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church has placed signs on their property on Ironbound Road supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. (WYDaily/Gabrielle Rente)
The Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church has placed signs on their property on Ironbound Road supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. (WYDaily/Gabrielle Rente)

Drivers heading down Ironbound Road in Williamsburg might just find themselves passing by a row of signs with the names of killed African Americans on them.

The Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church recently placed seven signs along their property on Ironbound Road in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, said Jessica Sapalio, the church’s social justice co-chair.

The first sign reads “Say Their Names,” followed by four doubled-sided signs that list the names of African Americans who have been killed both recently and throughout American history. The last two signs read “WUU Believes” and “Black Lives Matter.”

“We consider it a total moral outrage,” Sapalio said. “As a faith community, we want to end these and other injustices that people in our community have been facing for far too long.”

Sapalio said the church also has a number of other social justice efforts, such as a group examining the local court systems and church representatives taking part in the new Williamsburg-James City County Coalition for Justice.

The series of signs are just the newest way the church wants to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and those who have been impacted.

“One of our principles that our faith is really founded and focused on is the inherent dignity and worth of all people,” she said. “We work hard to uphold these principles because we’re a community based on deeds rather than creeds.”

The signs will be changed every so often with new names. Sapalio said the names will be chosen based on historic research by members of the church. 

The first set was inspired by the death of George Floyd in May, which sparked a national outcry against police injustice and brutality of African Americans. 

Sapalio said the goal of the new signs is to get the community to better recognize systems of injustice.

“This area has played such a historic role in the history of white supremacy,” she said. “We feel it is super vital that our community form a new path that’s based on justice and love for all people.”

Since putting the signs up, Sapalio said there has been a positive response from the community, both through Facebook messages and by people driving by.

James City County Police Deputy Chief Stephen Rubino said they have received no complaints about the signs and provided no further comment.

Sapalio said the church is dedicated to justice and the signs will remain in front of the property indefinitely. 

WYDaily multimedia reporter Gabrielle Rente contributed to this story.

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Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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