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Lifetime Learning

My Violent “Welcome” to Charlottesville


Chinwe Oriji loves God, loves people, and hates oppression. She is a Woodson Fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia and a PhD candidate in African and African Diaspora Studies at UT-Austin. She is also the founder of a race and immigration platform at and you can follow her at @ChinweOriji



I was aware. I thought I knew what I was choosing. But I didn’t… Now I do.

I knew I was leaving the white liberal city of Austin that hides the gaze of racism through slogans like “Keep Austin Weird,” which in my mind just means “Keep Austin White” in the most subliminal way. As the phrase upholds its narrative by actively erasing the rich and historical Black and Latina/o cultural presence that has been there way before Austin was ever weird, evident in the immense gentrification and stark racial segregation of the city.

I knew I was moving to a differing same.

I knew Charlottesville was supposedly Austin 25 years in the past. The burgeoning white liberal town encroached in the ghost of racism that’s not really a ghost but an ever present reality. I knew my body would not belong. I knew I would have to go to the greatest lengths to create safe places, safe people, safe spaces.

But I did not know.

I did not know the week I moved to Charlottesville would be a week forever marked with violence and forever inscribed in my memory. I did not know that riot, rage, and death would be my introduction or shall I say induction. I did not know that the city that no one ever knew existed whenever I told someone where I was moving would become the city making national headlines for all the wrong reasons. I don’t know why God chose this to be the week that I entered this space. I didn’t know. I should have known but I didn’t know.

The presence of pain and violence is still hovering. I can feel it.

I felt it as I entered church on Sunday. I felt it as we called out cries of lamentation to God. I felt it through the testimony of my Black brother who recalled witnessing the terrorist attack by a white supremacist who rammed his car through a crowd of counter protestors. I felt it through his cries. I felt it through his eyes. I knew he was forever changed.

I feel pain. I feel numb. I feel shaken. I feel unnerved. I feel. I feel…

But I know there’s hope.

I know there’s hope. And I am constantly reminded of that hope through our tears on Sunday. We found hope in a God that sees, feels, and lives through our pain. We found hope in a God that understands the systemic sin of racism that is in no way limited to the overt instances of anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-everything-that’s-not-them racism such as this. We find hope in a God that stands, falls, and dies with the oppressed. We find hope in Him—an eternal hope that calls us to actively engage in strategic ways to fight against injustice with paradise in mind. Remembering paradise heals me. Remembering Him ignites me. Because ultimately He is my safe place.

I am here. Taking it all in. Still processing. Still breathing. Still broken. But still whole.

Thoughts on “My Violent “Welcome” to Charlottesville

    My Prayers are with you, Charlottesville, and this Country! I can feel your strength through your words, God is definitely with you and He has a purpose for your being there at this appointed time! I Thank God for His Peace and His Love that guides you and The Blood of Jesus that strengthens you and protects you! You are not alone!🙏🏾


    Chinwe. God bless you!
    I stand, mourn, and cry with you. But I more so rejoice because Matthew 24 says that these are the “beginning of sorrows” and “birth pangs”…. As my Jamaican friends say “Jesus ah soon come”…. And I’m glad. There is an end to this hate and madness and sin.
    My favorite psalm says:
    Do not fret because of evildoers,
    Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
    2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
    And wither as the green herb.
    3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
    4 Delight yourself also in the Lord,
    And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
    5 Commit your way to the Lord,
    Trust also in Him,
    And He shall bring it to pass.
    6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    And your justice as the noonday.
    7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
    Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
    Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
    8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
    Do not fret—it only causes harm.
    9 For evildoers shall be cut off;
    But those who wait on the Lord,
    They shall inherit the earth.
    10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
    Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
    But it shall be no more.
    11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
    And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.



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