Around 20 middle- and elementary school-age children from a Richmond youth arts program gathered around Monument Avenue's Robert E. Lee statue on Thursday, Aug. 17. For around four hours, they held handmade signs that read "Honk Twice For Love + Peace" and "We Are Family." Amid their excited laughter as a pizza delivery car pulled up, vehicles honked as they traveled through the roundabout.
"We're out here promoting love and positivity for the community, for the world," says ARTS Community Center co-owner Amiri Richardson-Keys. His group provides a channel for people off all ages in Richmond to explore their creative side. But the current gathering, which was co-organized by two other Richmond community groups, is about the children's passion for peace and love, he says.
"We love being out here, we've enjoyed the vibe, the energy, the process," he says. "We've had many people ride by and honk. We've had some who have been a little rude, but the kids have handled that very well. And they understand what it is to show love instead of hate."
Richardson-Keys emphasizes that the group was already scheduled to be at the Lee statue before the events in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, but that he feels the recent violence makes their message more poignant.
"I hope the takeaway is that we all have different views. However, we can still love and still have peace amongst that," Richardson-Keys says. "But it doesn't take hatred, it doesn't take violence to make those things happen."