‘The cello gives me a platform’: RPS teacher addresses racism through music as J.E.B Stuart statue removed

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As another Confederate statue was taken down in the city, a Richmond Public Schools music teacher expressed her feelings the best way she knows how: with a bow and cello.

“The cello gives me a platform,” said RPS music teacher Beth Almore. “I think we’re at a crisis in this country but a crisis can really lead to systemic change.”

RELATED: Richmond’s statue of J.E.B. Stuart removed

Almore played songs on her cello as the statue depicting J.E.B Stuart, a Confederate Army general in the Civil War, was taken down Tuesday morning. It was a moment she dedicated to her great-great-grandmother, Rachel Robinson-Burns, who was enslaved. Almore said she never got to meet Robinson-Burns, but she’s thankful her mother did as a young girl. 

Almore played the composition “Spiegel im Spiegel” with a photo of her great-great-grandmother in front of her as the statue of J.E.B Stuart was removed in the distance. 

“The cello gives me a platform,” says RPS music teacher Beth Almore. (Photo: Alex Thorson)

8News observed crews arriving at the statue around 7:40 a.m. Workers blocked off Lombardy Street and Monument Avenue at the Stuart Circle. Nearly an hour later, crews began gathering ropes amidst more equipment trucks arriving at the scene. By 11 a.m. the statue was removed from its pedestal and loaded onto a flatbed truck en route to an undisclosed location, like many before it.

Stuart’s removal comes after weeks of unrest across Virginia and the country.

RELATED: Stonewall Jackson statue removed from its pedestal on Richmond’s Monument Avenue

“If it takes this much effort to get a statue removed, what is it going to take to get systemic racism dismantled in this country?” Almore asked.

She told 8News there’s a common misconception she wants to eliminate.

“A lot of people still think that racism only affects people who break the law and people who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing anyway,” she said. “I have two Ivy League degrees, I am a middle-class person from a middle-class background from an intact African American family that went to church every Sunday. I play classical, western classical instruments and I am still impacted by racism.”

Speaking to 8News, Almore wore a shirt that read “Playing the Cello While Black.” She explained the reasoning behind the powerful statement.

“I’m playing Cello While Black, please don’t shoot me. All I’m doing is playing the cello. Please don’t call the police on me, all I’m doing is playing the cello. I want to make it clear to friends, allies, accomplices, acquaintances, that when I put the cello away, I return to being Black in the United States. I return to being African American and I return to a racist society to where my life is less valuable,” she told 8News. 

RPS music teacher Almore played songs on her cello as the statue depicting J.E.B Stuart, a Confederate Army general in the Civil War, was taken down on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Alex Thorson)

Though Almore has strong feelings about the Confederate monuments, not everyone wants to see the monuments removed. Some groups, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans, argue that history must be preserved even if it’s painful.

A spokesperson for the Sons of Confederate Veterans said last week that the removal of statues makes for a sad time in the city, adding that the group will be working to secure private land to erect their own Confederate monuments.

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