SEE RESIDENTIAL HOUSING AVAILABLE NOW
Let's tell Hampton's true stories
By David Squires, firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-4639 Daily Press
8:17 p.m. EDT, July 20, 2011
I'm often envious of our forefathers. They had the benefit of untouched beaches, seafood in abundance, crops that grew from chemical-free soil and a burning yearning for freedom.
But let's not kid ourselves. We have at least a couple of advantages, particularly right here in Hampton.
And I'm not talking about YouTube and Facebook.
We have an opportunity — about six more days — to note our opinion about a national park at Fort Monroe. And if we are successful at getting the park, we have an opportunity to let local people help tell the true stories of our history.
We're apparently off to a decent start.
About 800 people attended two public hearings Tuesday at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, from politicians to scholars to regular people. They reiterated stories that should be a part of all history books — that Hampton was the landing point for the first Africans to in the New World.
And some of them retold the contraband story of Fort Monroe.
While 800 people is a lot of support, it's not a mandate.
As far as can be determined, all of the official folks are in agreement on this. From U.S. Reps. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott and Scott Rigell and U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner, to state Dels. Jeion Ward, Mamie Locke and Mamye BaCote Even Gov. Bob McDonnell is on board.
But the government still needs to hear from you.
You have until July 26 to voice your support at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/fortmonroe
Robin McCormick, a communications strategist with the city of Hampton, said people at the hearings came from "from all walks of life."
"There is no opposition to it. Absolutely none," she said. "Everybody wants it.
"The Secretary of the Interior said if you want this, we need to see community support. It's in the hands of the White House and Congress."
So let them hear from you.
This could be a historic opportunity for anyone who voices support.
Suppose the government decides to preserve some of the comments for future visitors to the park to read. Think 50 years down the road, and your grandchild sees that John Q. Tidewater voiced support for the park that the child is visiting with their school.
The city of Hampton has cast a wide net to gather voices from everywhere. The city manager's office has contacted all city managers in Hampton Roads. Hampton schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Shifflette sent an email to all schools employees.
McCormick says Hampton has also contacted the local Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, environmental groups, Civil War groups, preservation groups, garden clubs and others to have their members make their feelings known about a national park in Hampton.
As the city notes: "The fort tells two significant chapters in African-American history.
"In 1619, the first Africans arrived in the New World at Point Comfort. Nearly two and a half centuries later, three slaves — Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker and James Townsend — rowed across the harbor from Norfolk, seeking asylum. The Union post commander, acting without authorization, refused to return them to their owner, calling them 'contraband of war.'
"That decision at Fort Monroe was a crucial step toward emancipation of all enslaved African-Americans. Thousands of slaves escaped to "Freedom's Fortress," many serving the Union Army."
If you are still wondering why you should care, remember that a national park about our national heritage instills community pride, which feeds personal pride.
Also, the park would provide avenues for enriched recreation and enriched education, both of which we could use. A good story is better told and better learned when there are personal and local tie-ins.
But don't just comment: Spread the word. Our forefathers didn't have the benefit of all of the technology that we have.
So let's put that technology to good use. Text your friends. Tweet them. Facebook them. Put them in your Google+ circle.
(Think Paul Revere tweeting: "The British are Coming! The British are Coming!")
Spread the word to your friends, family and Fav 5 to go to the website and tell federal officials that Hampton needs and deserves a national park.
We can forgive our forefathers for not getting all of our history right.
But can we forgive ourselves if we fail to pick up the momentum and tell the rest of the story?