Beckley resident Dr. Kristi Dumas has offered the city of Beckley help with changing the public perspective of the Black Knight municipal park following a controversial decision regarding the seasonal closure of the New River pool, while the Black Knight pool opened to the public.
Dumas spoke before the Beckley Common Council on Tuesday, June 8, about the racist perception of the historical Black Knight — once a popular country club for the city’s white elites.
“Let me say that I realize I do not have the same history with Black Knight as many African-Americans do around town because I am not originally from West Virginia,” Dumas said.
She added that she and her husband had attended many events at the Black Knight before they began to realize the truth.
“The stares and quiet whispers didn’t register for us at first as this is commonplace in most predominantly white spaces we find ourselves in,” Dumas continued. “It took someone in town chastising my husband for wearing a Black Knight bucket hat . . . that we quickly began to understand the angst some around town feel.”
Dumas noted that those with Black Knight are currently doing some great things throughout the city, but those things are not being publicized.
“We can’t rewrite history, but we can tell a different story from here,” Dumas said. “Pools, people, and propaganda positions will quickly consume the citizens and derail the positive momentum of much that is going on in our town. I understand the need for day-to-day decisions to be made in many areas of the city, but all too often those decisions seem curdled in exclusivity, as opposed to inclusivity. The narrative of Black Knight must shift.”
Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold responded that he welcomes input from those willing to help Beckley and the Black Knight move forward, including creating a special committee where folks can offer ideas.
Following the public outcry regarding New River’s closure, Beckley officials held a special workshop on Monday, June 7, to address some of the statements that had been made on social media.
Ultimately, the decision to open the Black Knight pool came down to the fact that the smaller facility could be run with just three lifeguards, according to city officials. The Olympic-sized New River pool needed a much larger staff to ensure the safety of visitors.
Councilmember Robert Dunlap asked Rappold if the city could post a recording of the special workshop meeting to give all residents the opportunity to hear how the decision to close New River Pool came about.
Rappold responded that he will look into posting that special workshop meeting.
Also during the regular council meeting, area resident Christina Baisden spoke regarding the pool and the lifeguard shortage.
She stated that other avenues for finding lifeguards should be pursued by the city. One idea would be creating a partnership with the YMCA.
Additionally, Baisden invited the council to the Beckley Pride event on Saturday, June 12, from noon-6 p.m. at the Beckley Intermodal Gateway.
“Everyone is welcome and it’s going to be a great time,” Baisden said.