Sa’ad El-Amin's letter to city council on naming of Reedy Creek Bridge

Society for Preservation of African-American
History and Antiquities
24 Overbrook Road
Richmond, VA 23222
Fax 804-332-6551

The Honorable Kathy C. Graziano, President
The Honorable Ellen V. Robertson, Vice President
The Honorable Bruce W. Tyler
The Honorable Charles R. Samuels
The Honorable Chris A. Hilbert 
The Honorable E. Martin Jewell
The Honorable Reva M. Trammel
The Honorable Cynthia I. Newbille

Re: Naming of Reedy Creek Bridge

Dear Members of Council:

In September 2010, a new bridge crossing Reedy Creek was dedicated in memory of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their daughters, Stella and Ruby - all of whom were murdered on New Year's Day 2006 in their Woodland Heights home.  The City Council passed a resolution to allow the bridge to be named for the Harvey family.

According to news reports, Council President Kathy Graziano said the deaths of the Harvey family left a void that remains today and that dedicating the bridge in their memory "is a small remembrance, but a lasting remembrance for all those who cannot be with us today, or ever, except within our hearts, because of violence".

While I do not question the appropriateness of dedicating and naming the bridge for the Harvey family, I am concerned and disappointed that two victims who were also killed by the murderers of the Harvey family, Mary and Percyell Tucker, who like the Harveys also lived in South Richmond, were not included in the dedication and naming ceremony.

The Harvey family was white. The Tuckers were African-Americans.  Excluding the Tucker family's name on the new bridge was not simply an oversight by City Council, but a blatant act of omission which has clear racial overtones.
News reports consistently inferred that the Harveys were the "innocent" victims of a killing spree that ended with eight people dead.  What pray tell was the reason for not including the Tucker family's name on the bridge?  Was it because their daughter, who was also killed with her parents, was accused by the police of being a lookout for the killers when they murdered the Harvey family?  Or, could it be that there was a strong lobbying effort by friends and supporters of the Harveys, which was either absent or muted with regard to the Tuckers?

The alleged involvement of the Tucker's daughter in the murder of the Harveys is no justification for the exclusion of the Tuckers in the naming of the bridge because there was no evidence that Mr. and Mrs. Tucker were involved in the murder of the Harvey family.

Since City Council was the decision maker in the naming of the bridge, lobbying efforts should not have been the basis as to whose names were included or excluded on this public work.

The exclusion of the Tucker family name on the bridge reinforces the unfortunate reality that in the City of Richmond, there is still a double standard by which the value of people's lives and property differs based upon their race.

This perception is reinforced by the way in which news media treated the murders of the Harveys and Tuckers.  The most recent example was the January 1, 2011 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in which the 2006 murders made the front page despite the fact that it was a five-year old story.  The article extolled the virtues and the importance of the lives of the Harveys, while almost nothing was written about the Tuckers except for their names, ages and address.

This double standard treatment is business as usual.  The newspaper gets away with this because it is a private entity operating under the guise of "Freedom of the Press".  Richmond City Council however is a public body which cannot and should not engage in double standards based on race.

The fact that the African-American members of City Council did not pick up on this is disappointing.  It is the duty of all members of Council to assure that its actions are race neutral.

Council's action with regard to the bridge naming brings to mind an incident that Mark Twain used in his book, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". In an episode involving a steamboat accident, Twain wrote: Aunt Sally asked Huck was anyone killed when a cylinder blew up on the steamboat he was traveling on. Huck replied, "No ma'am, only killed a nigger."  Aunt Sally replied, "Well, that's good. You know sometimes people get killed."

Contrary to the views of Aunt Sally, the Tuckers were "people" with the same human value, aspirations and zest for life as the Harveys.  City Council's exclusion of their names from this bridge was inexcusable and suggests that Aunt Sally's way of thinking is still alive and well in a time when we should be light years beyond it.

Fortunately, as human beings we have the capacity to right our wrongs.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said many times, "The time is always right to do the right thing."  In this spirit, and as we near Dr. King's birthday, I urge Council to revisit this resolution and amend it to include the Tucker family name on the bridge.

The Tuckers like the Harveys were the innocent victims of the sick minds that snuffed out their lives. The Tuckers, like the Harveys, deserve to be remembered and to have their names etched on the Reedy Creek Bridge.

In closing borrow a phrase from the title of Spike Lee's 1989 movie, and I ask you to "Do the Right Thing!"

Sincerely yours,
       Sa'ad El-Amin