Local woodcarver hopes pieces on display at Military Circle Mall can lead to education

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The leadership crisis in Richmond may be causing one local artist to get some new attention for a piece he created years ago.

WAVY visited with woodcarver J.J. Moore as he was preparing for a showing of his work at a local mall this weekend.

We rumaged through bin after bin in his Norfolk garage, dozens containing nearly 60 completed works. One depicts two firefighters looking down on a third, lying on a gurney, covered.

Moore says the firefighter had just died while trying to save a home. Another piece depicted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the midst of delivering a sermon.

“Actually, I had an opportunity to see him … he came to Philadelphia to one of the churches down the street from my house,” said Moore.  

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And while Dr. King’s message of peace hits home with this former Navy lieutenant, Moore spent at least a month carving one piece that stopped me in my tracks.

A 10-inch high, hooded figure in a white robe, cone hood with eye holes cut out.

A member of the Ku Klux Klan.

The figure had a rope tied around his waist, a shotgun nestled in the crook of his left arm, and a cross, held high by his right hand.

“He had his rope (so) that he could lynch people, and he also had his shotgun, so that could shoot people … but he did all that in the name of his God.”

Moore says he never saw a Klansman in person, but he did experience hate. He says in the 1970s, while a student at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, some fellow students went off campus to visit a nearby community.

Moore says, later that night, he believes some folks from that community visited their campus.

“They came down my freshman year and shot up our campus and dorms.”

Moore is hoping children will see the Klan piece, then ask their parents about it. He says he’ll be ready to help with answers.

Moore is well aware of the state leadership crisis in Richmond prompted by Governor Ralph Northam’s EVMS yearbook photo depicting two people — one dressed in Klan robes, the other in blackface.

He hopes questions will lead to answers that uncover the history behind them. You can see J.J. Moore’s woodcarved figures at Military Circle Mall, near the hotel entrance, now through Sunday.

He’ll be there to discuss his work, Sunday February 10th, 2-330pm

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