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And Back Again


Gradually, however, the tone of the musings took on a controversial tone, and the Back Page developed its mission, which is to provide a venue for opinions that can't find a home elsewhere in Richmond, for writers who have something to say, especially writers who are voices from our own community.

The variety of these neighbors has been wide ranging from those whose names are familiar to all Richmonders (Doug Wilder, Mary Tyler Cheek McClenanhan, Cliff Edwards, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Rabbi Jack Spiro) to Vickie J. Robinson, who when she was a student at VCU wrote "Remote Control" about the challenge of technology.

Looking back, it's a shock to realize once more how slowly history moves and how the same problems stay with us for decades (if not forever).

In 1988 political scientist Bob Holsworth lamented the "the petty bickering on City Council" and called for more constructive citizen engagement in city politics. In 1991 the page called attention to the severe shortage of nurses (hello?); in that same year Garland Pollard worried about the demise of Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers and the future of downtown. L. Douglas Wilder provided content for nine Back Pages. Two of these he wrote for us; seven were written by VCU political science professor Bob Holsworth.

In selecting our essays we tried not to neglect the world outside of our city. Our writers worried about the environment, and, for too brief a time, environmentalist and McArthur-award winner Donella H. Meadows wrote of her view of these problems. She was a welcome voice on our pages until her death in 2001.

We even had an essay about Iraq in 1991.

Periodically, drugs have been the subject of the Back Page. The"war on drugs" which continues to split those who think this war is silly and that drugs are usually less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, and those who want only medical use or no use at all, with jail time for anyone who uses them.

Our writers worried about children's welfare. And, of course, Richmond's attachment to the Civil War and the display of the Confederate flag showed up at intervals in headlines like "Look Away Dixieland."

Perhaps the most interesting voice who occasionally spoke through the Back Page was the late Dr. William Regelson -- his prophetic mind was far ahead of most of us, and he was usually outraged by an aspect of our culture we had either not been aware of or had failed to take a strong stand on. In 1995 he wrote of women's rights, saying "men have usurped the rights of women for eons, turning them into breeders, temptresses or chattel." He urged the government to allow research using frozen early embryos that are destined to be destroyed anyway, and expressed his horror at the proposal by a major insurance company to pay dying patients not to try unproven treatments -- to choose "money over hope."

As we think about our next 20 years, we hope that the Back Page can continue to be open to ideas, to interest, to outrage, to amuse and to surprise. We will be content if our readers will turn to the final page to see what on earth is there.

We will try not to censor the ideas, but we will hold out for reliably good writing. We will be glad to hear from you. If you have a firm opinion send it along. Just be sure that it is about 900 words in length and is carefully checked for accuracy.

Repps@styleweekly.com or R. Epps, Style Weekly 1707 Summit Avenue, Suite 201, Richmond 23230


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