News & Politics

Charlottesville Mayor’s Explicit Poems Stir Heated Discussion

The compositions by mayor Nikuyah Walker are . . . unusual.

Charlottesville's city hall. Photograph by Flickr user Alex Proimos.

Two poems by Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker have drawn national attention. Walker posted the first poem on her Facebook page Wednesday (the same day she popped a screenshot on Twitter):

After the post was reported to Facebook and removed, she posted a longer, different version:

Is this better? I’m asking the person who reported my short poem to FB.Charlottesville: The beautiful-ugly it is. It…

Posted by Nikuyah Walker on Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Walker, an independent, was elected to Charlottesville’s city council in 2017 and won a second two-year term as mayor in January 2020. (Charlottesville, like most Virginia cities, uses a “council-manager” model that limits a mayor’s powers.) She’s the first Black woman to serve as the city’s mayor.

Walker has so far allowed her poetry to speak for itself, declining comment to news organizations about her intention with the poems. (She has not yet replied to an interview request from Washingtonian.) City spokesperson Brian Wheeler didn’t comment on the poems but told the Charlottesville Daily Progress he had no reason to believe Walkers’ accounts were hacked.

Walker’s words have been something of a gift for conservative media organizations. Michael Payne, one of Walker’s colleagues on the council, objected to the post, telling a local TV station, “I’ve heard from multiple community members who have been survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence, and seeing this kind of language is just extremely hurtful to them.” On her Facebook page, Walker said Payne had “crossed the line” and described his reaction as “white fragility.”

Another councilmember, Lloyd Snook, told the Daily Progress he believed Walker was “clearly speaking about, and from, a pain that she feels that I can never feel.”

It’s unclear if any single incident prompted Walker’s poems.

Walker’s poetry isn’t the only speech causing controversy in Charlottesville lately. The University of Virginia has restricted the size of signs students may post on its central “Lawn” after students posted signs that used frank language to criticize the school.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.