Arlington, VA

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year that presented revelations for many, and left almost all of us with unanswered questions.

As we cautiously step into 2021, decisions loom about everything from police-community relations, schools, COVID management, economic development, political leadership, and race. As a community, we have a responsibility to act on many of the conversations that we started. Memories are often short, therefore we should pause to recognize that we took several positive first steps, specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Financial investments — Minority communities have long stressed the need for increased financial investments in sustainable organizations which serve underrepresented groups. As noted in a June 2020 Washington Post article, Bank of America pledged $1 billion to fight racial inequality in America. Tech companies have invested in Black Lives Matter, the Center for Policing Equity, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp and other entities engaged in racial justice efforts. Businesses in other industries have also announced significant investments.

NEXT STEP: Follow the impact of these dollars and rebut claims that investing in minority communities is discriminatory. See the recent case in Oregon.

Diversity statements- – While a statement is just words, we can be hopeful that there was also positive intent in the flurry of press releases,  social media posts and black squares declaring commitments to diversity and inclusion. In 2021, we must hold those who made the statements (and posted squares) accountable.

NEXT STEP: Did your organizations, employers, or favorite companies issue statements? What steps have they taken to fulfill the meaning of the statements? How will you help with the implementation?

Support for Black businesses — The Economic Policy Institute stated in 2017 that average wealth for white families was seven times higher than average wealth for Black families. By supporting Black businesses, you are also supporting Black families, and helping to decrease the gap. The current list of Arlington Black businesses is paltry, but it is a start.

NEXT STEP: Encourage an African-American in Arlington to start a business and help them strategize about access to capital, support the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, or patronize an Arlington Black business.

Acknowledging and Celebrating Juneteenth — Juneteenth is “the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.” Juneteenth is now officially a recognized holiday in Virginia, and Nike, the Washington Post and many other companies now observe it. 

NEXT STEP: Plan now how you will commemorate Juneteenth this year.

Policing and criminal INjustice reform — The General Assembly passed a number of reforms in 2020 including creating Marcus alert mobile crisis co-response teams to mental health incidents, prohibiting no knock warrants and neck restraints, and allowing localities to create citizen review boards. Arlington County also created the Police Practices Work Group to provide recommendations to the County.

NEXT STEP: Be vigilant and ensure appropriate and complete implementation of new laws and policies, and continue to support additional reforms in line with your beliefs.

If you made progress last year, whether you read a book about race, had a deep conversation with a friend about inequality, or recognized your own implicit bias, congratulate yourself on taking that first step, and continue accentuating the positives in 2021. 

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

I often receive questions about how to broaden an organization’s membership whether it be race, age, or talent.

As I have written previously, we are challenged with having the same people across our associations which stifles the growth of some of our residents, organizations and the community as a whole.

This summer, many white people were asking what they could do to help with race relations. A continual concern among our Arlington organizations is the “graying” of our membership, and the difficulty attracting younger members. Some organizations are concerned whether they have the numbers to compete with other larger organizations. Other organizations do not feel their members have the technical expertise to succeed.

In Arlington County, we love our organizations. With over 50 advisory boards and commissions, over 80 member groups of the Arlington County Civic Federation and numerous additional civic groups which cover a variety of interests, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

We pride ourselves on civic engagement and much of that is done through associations. Decisions are made at the organizational level which have weight with our local government. Organizational leaders generally have entree with elected officials and the media. We routinely honor our community groups and their members for their service. We identify people by their organizational involvement.

I have two simple first steps:

Hold a join Zoom social event with an organization that is different than yours. The group could represent a younger demographic, have more or less racial diversity, have more or less organizational history, have a different focus, etc. These informal opportunities to engage with new people are valuable to us as individuals and our organizations.

It’s been several months since America had our most recent awakening about the status of structural racism. I don’t think many were surprised to hear that the majority of the respondents so far in the County’s Dialogues on Race and Equity (DRE) survey have been middle-aged white women. My guess is that some non-white middle aged Arlingtonians believe that this survey is simply not for them, yet the County is seeking a more diverse sample of the community. The County’s DRE includes conversations across groups.

Invite a prospective member who fits the profile of a person to your next meeting or event or to speak about a topic of interest. I spoke to the Arlington Rotary Club a few months ago and I was invited to be a member on the spot. I have thoroughly enjoyed connecting with people whom I probably never would have met. I would not have likely sought membership with Rotary, but I have already reaped tremendous rewards.

We often view our organizational shortcomings as huge insurmountable challenges which may require years of work, funding, or are just simply uncomfortable. I encourage you to take that first step, and just ask.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

In the 1985 version of “Brewster’s Millions” starring Richard Pryor and John Candy, Pryor inherits $300 million, but as a condition of accepting it he has to spend $30 million in 30 days.

As a way to spend the money quickly he jumps into a divisive political campaign for Mayor of New York City, but then encourages everyone to vote for “None of the Above” as he says none of the candidates are worthy of being elected. He withdraws his candidacy, and voters end up choosing “None of the Above,” forcing a new election.

In 2016, 25% of voters said they did not vote because they didn’t like the candidates or the issues. Other reasons include feeling like their vote won’t matter and not knowing the issues well enough.

Many of us were raised to believe that voting is a right and a responsibility, and teach our children the same lesson. Yet nearly half of the nation’s eligible voters, approximately 92 million, hardly ever vote. In Arlington, we have an especially high voter turnout, with goals of 90% this year, but who are the people who don’t vote?

Non-voters are diverse. Stephen Hawkins, More in Common’s global director of research noted that, “the Disengaged would look like a Greyhound Bus Station. There are right racists and black inner-city low-income folks.” Vote Like A Woman has focused their strategy around the fact that 1 out of 3 eligible women are not registered and 53% of chronic non-voters are women.

The solution may be complicated. A February 2020 Politico article highlighted the results of the Knight study, which “indicates that voting is a social behavior and that any effort to mobilize a significant number of chronic non-voters will require complex, long-term interventions and a more nuanced understanding of this poorly understood portion of our electorate.”

Political campaigns tend to focus their resources on frequent voters due to limited time and money, therefore exacerbating the feeling of “being left out” and discouraging many from voting. Vote Like a Woman’s strategy is to engage women both 1:1 and in groups, strive for creativity in reaching nonvoters, and be honest about our current political systems.

Voting is a function of several factors, and maybe we will never reach 100%, but we can become a stronger community by listening and attempting to address the concerns of non-voters. They may have a valuable perspective just by virtue of them being non-voters that could make our community even more inclusive, and help us reform our own local political system.

Tomorrow night I am bringing together Dr. Stephen J. Farnsworth, Director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington; clinical psychologist Dr. Linda McGhee; and racial and gender justice organizer Krystal Leaphart to talk about how we can encourage more people to vote. Moderated by educator, consultant and radio host Kevin E. Boston-Hill, this session will also provide strategies to have these critical conversations. You can join this discussion “None of the Above” on Wednesday, October 28 at 6 p.m. on Facebook.

As of October 24, Arlington had surpassed 80,000 votes out of 178,532 registered voters, so we are well on our way to record turnout. It’s easy for us to laud ourselves for doing our civic duty and being responsible. Chances are we feel heard, engaged, and valued. In “Brewster’s Millions,” Pryor’s character tapped into a sentiment by addressing it head on. In Arlington, let’s boldly confront the issues that our nonvoters have and do more to listen to those who believe “None of the Above” is their only choice.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Earlier this month I attended the Arlington Historical Society (AHS) virtual event on the private school desegregation case, Runyon v. McCrary.

According to the AHS website, “the US Supreme Court outlawed racially segregated public schools in 1954, but whites-only private schools flourished throughout the South for decades. The Supreme Court’s 1976 decision extending the ban on racial segregation to private schools involved a segregated pre-school here in Arlington.”

As I was reminded of the behavior of Arlingtonians in the 1970s regarding attitudes about exclusivity and discrimination in education, I thought about how some of these attitudes still persist today. As we begin to conclude the 100 year anniversary of Arlington being named Arlington, it’s natural to think about how Arlington has, or has not, changed during that time.

Join this conversation hosted by Arlington County government today at 7 p.m. to learn more. It’s also an opportunity to discuss  where Arlington will be in five, 20 or 100 years, and how we can be intentional as a community about getting there.

I moved to Arlington in 2004, and have been involved in several community activities. While Arlington has grown, one observation I have made over the last 16 years is that the same people are involved in several leadership roles and organizations. While most people in organizations understand that a small number of people do the bulk of the work, as we move into the next 100 years, Arlington should grow our leadership table.

We should consider:

Actively fostering succession planning and limiting your time in one role. Organizations should have policies in place which encourage members to participate in different committees, shadow leaders, and provide opportunities for members to socialize with leaders and members across the organization. We should also encourage members to advance in leadership instead of remaining as general members, and begin the process of identifying someone to take your place. While we generally believe that if people have the time and talent they should not be denied the opportunity to serve, we should consider how that affects our community over time.

Creating a culture of impact and productivity instead of busyness. We tend to reward people who are “busy,” and have long resumes with additional leadership roles. We should focus on the impact made during time spent with an organization, and begin to use that as an indicator of whether someone should be offered another role. When you are offered the opportunity to serve, consider whether you should suggest someone else who is qualified.

Intentionally recruiting new leaders outside of your network.  It is generally easier to socialize with people who are like you. That’s one of the many reasons that white parents wanted their children to be in segregated schools up until 1976, and why many still want their children in segregated schools today.

I am the first to admit that I have fallen into the trap of being perpetually “busy.” Yet as I have grown in leadership, I have realized the importance of actively seeking and mentoring new leaders for the long term success of our organizations and Arlington. We should encourage each other to evolve into new roles at a higher level within Arlington, transfer our skills to the state or national level, or step back.

Those simple steps could go a long way in embracing new thought leaders and fostering change in Arlington during our next 100 years.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On August 28, the world lost an outstanding talent. Actor Chadwick Boseman, known for playing iconic Americans including Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and James Brown, as well as T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Panther, died at age 43.

His career was lauded for several reasons, one being the way he personified influential characters. Black Panther, in particular, has an important symbolism, especially today, a widespread appeal, and inspires people of all ages to embrace Black pride. As an artist, he brought characters alive which inspired us all to learn more.

Governor Northam recently announced that Arlington Public Schools was one of 16 Virginia school divisions where students will have an opportunity to take an African American history elective course. The Virginia Commission on African American History in the Commonwealth recently released their report with recommendations for improving the student experience, enriched standards related to African American history, and necessary professional development and instructional support for teachers. These are long overdue yet welcome expansions to our curricula.

If you have recently been by the Arlington Arts Center/Maury School on Wilson Blvd., you may have noticed that the lawn currently features “Passage”, an exhibit which “explores themes of conflict, marginalization and the power dynamics of race.” According to Arlington Magazine, this exhibit includes 26 ships made of driftwood from the Chesapeake Bay, “evocative of the slave vessels that brought artist Lynda Andrews-Barry’s ancestors to Virginia’s shores centuries ago.”

The Maury School was named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, a U.S. Navy officer who became Secretary of the Navy of the Confederacy under Jefferson Davis. His naval navigation systems “significantly reduced the length of ocean voyages and allowed for more efficient trade and transport–of goods and people.”

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

August 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment. As we reflect on the courage and tenacity of the suffragists and women’s rights leaders who secured the right to vote for primarily white women, it’s hard not to question the racism (and the sexism) of the movement.

Some argue it is not fair to judge those who lived in a different time using a modern day lens. Yet, there are several examples of those who took the unpopular positions of demanding equal voting rights and integration. Others argue that the white suffragists made strategic and political decisions to not support Black voting rights in order to secure passage of the 19th amendment. Yet, it took another 45 years after the passage of the 19th amendment to pass the Voting Rights Act, and some organizations continued to restrict their membership to whites only.

Arlington has several connections to suffragists and women’s rights activists. Sojourner Truth is well known for being one of the leading abolitionists and Black suffragists. Arlington County Library notes that in 1865, Truth accepted a position with the National Relief Association at Freedmen’s Village in Arlington Heights at the intersection between Columbia Pike and South Joyce Street.

According to a March 2018 Arlington Magazine article, in 1920, Gertrude Crocker, a noted suffragist and treasurer for the National Woman’s Party, opened the Little Tea House on Arlington Ridge Road. In the years that followed, the famed restaurant (which closed in 1963) was one of the first Arlington establishments to allow racially mixed groups to dine together.

While not “suffragists” in the traditional sense, as we commemorate the mission of earning the right to vote for women, it’s important to recognize the work of women who pressed for civil and women’s rights throughout the 20th century.

Arlington native Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, is a Civil Rights icon who participated in over 50 sit-ins and demonstrations by the time she was 23 years old, and happens to be white. For her actions she was disowned by her family, attacked, shot at, cursed at, put on death row and hunted down by the Klan for execution.

Another face of movement was the “colored women’s clubs” which were precursors to Black sororities (my own sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. is also celebrating our centennial this year) and organizations like the Links, Inc. and National Coalition of 100 Black women. While Black sororities are social and often host luncheons and galas, we are also professional organizations who all have missions to promote scholarship, service and political/social action. Democratic Vice Presidential pick Kamala Harris is a member of one of the largest Black sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Links, Inc., whose members have actively supported her throughout her career.

Pauline Ellison moved to Arlington in 1956, at a time when racial segregation was the norm. Ellison served on the Civil Service Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee, and the Arlington Community Foundation board of trustees. She was also a national president of The Links, Inc.

Voting rights is only one step towards equality. As you tune into or read some of the  hundreds of webinars, Facebook chats or news articles on the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, take some time to reflect on what equality meant on August 26, 1920, and what it means today. While not perfect, Arlington has our own examples of women who refused the status quo. Whether it was as a abolitionist, suffragist and business owner, civil rights activist, or local leader and the president of a Black women’s organization, their courage and tenacity also provides excellent examples of how we can continue the march to true equality in Arlington.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” — Brene Brown

Those of us who are working to intentionally increase diversity in Arlington are consistently striving to achieve the right balance, in the right way, at the right time. Which diversities are the right diversities? How do we measure progress on diversity? Are diverse people held to a different standard? Are they sometimes expected to be twice as good, but also given more allowances when those in power are searching for diverse representation?

I believe it is important for those with underrepresented backgrounds to see people who look like us, in all fields. I believe that it’s important to have diverse political and ideological views represented to find the best solution. I also believe that how we live each day, in conjunction with our experiences, may give us a unique perspective on life and affect how we approach challenges. The challenge is how we get here.

When I founded Virginia Leadership Institute in 2006 (now known as Vote Lead Impact) our goal was to increase the number of Black elected officials in Virginia. We strived to make the number of African Americans serving in public office, from school board to Congress, proportional to the percentage of African Americans registered to vote in the Commonwealth.

Proportional representation is just one way to measure whether we have enough diversity. While working towards that goal, it is also important to consider the diversity among the groups of people we are recruiting, as no group is monolithic.  We may never reach full diversity in Arlington (no matter what our definitions of diversity are) but as we strive for it, here are a few points to consider.

Acknowledge our privilege  No matter what your privilege may be, we have to acknowledge it as we bring new people on board. It is easy to become comfortable in our circles. If we recognize the need for more diversity, inclusion comes after we identify our own circumstances and embrace those who are different.

Avoid tokenism — When we feel like we will be publicly scrutinized for our lack of diversity, it’s tempting to just pick anyone who would “check the box”, without looking at their qualifications. In the long run, selecting the most qualified person who meets all of our criteria, including diversity, is the best option.

Build a pipeline — Developing a pipeline should be a critical component of our growth strategy. Whether we are engaging youth and teaching them about our issue area, holding formal training on how to lead in our field or organization, or recruiting underrepresented populations to serve on subcommittees before joining the board or leadership, it is important to actively prepare future leaders.

Consider our recruitment methods — A common concern with increasing diversity and inclusion is that we can’t find the right people. Before beginning recruitment, we should expand our networks to develop relationships with new groups by intentionally reaching out to organizations and leaders in that community. Many organizations are adopting versions of the Rooney Rule, a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.

Focus on retention — We often put work into recruitment, but not on retention. We can help retain diverse team members by addressing problems immediately, confronting our personal biases and those of our team members, and structuring opportunities for members to learn from each other.

Ultimately, Arlington will have to determine our own calculus on which diversities we prioritize, and when and how we measure progress. As a start, we must sustain the dialogue and action that we have begun, no matter how uncomfortable it may become or how vulnerable we may appear.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

John Lewis was a 23-year-old leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he delivered his speech at the March on Washington in 1963. In his speech he criticized political leadership, highlighted the plight of citizens victimized by police brutality and called for changes to voting laws.

“To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we must say that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually but we want to be free now,” Lewis said. Today, our youth are leading the way with that same urgency.

Lewis exhibited leadership skills at a young age and was a mentee of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1965 he led the march across the Edmund Pettus bridge (hopefully soon to be the John Lewis bridge) and would be beaten so badly that the physical scars lasted his whole life. “Bloody Sunday” became a turning point in the civil rights movement, proving to leave emotional scars on our nation for decades.

Lewis served in several more community organizing roles, in the Carter administration, on the Atlanta City Council, and was elected to Congress in 1986. He will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most instrumental leaders in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I am serving as an advisor to a campaign simulation program run by Running Start to give female high school students access to political training. Anyone who has spoken with a student these days knows how bright and motivated they are. Many of these students are ready to take the reins of leadership whether it’s handed to them or not. We have a role as community leaders to help prepare them and facilitate their learning outside of the classroom. We should:

Encourage creativity and confidence. John Lewis’s original speech was toned down but he had enough confidence to include his true thoughts. Our youth are often unhindered by our life experiences of failure. Encourage them to speak their minds with confidence.

Place student representatives and young professionals in leadership roles. Arlington organizations should consider how we can integrate youth into leadership positions. We should be prepared to teach them critical skills about the organization and encourage them to develop their own leadership styles.

Support youth-led organizations. We should also provide a space for more youth-led groups to address community concerns. Current organizations could create separate affiliate organizations or junior boards and provide them the resources to thrive by leading their own initiatives and giving them an equal seat and vote in larger coalitions.

Make the necessary organizational changes. Meeting times and traditional formats may need to be adjusted to be more inclusive of people with all backgrounds. I recently facilitated a session for new members of the Virginia affiliate of a national organization. A millennial was very candid about ways to accommodate younger members including changing meeting times and locations, adding virtual engagement, striving for authentic recruitment, and increasing social media presence. It is hard for us to complain about the lack of youth involvement when we are not listening to their concerns.

Ensure succession plans are in place. We have several community leaders who bring a great amount of expertise to our organizations. We should not assume those leaders will be here forever, and we should proactively create plans for the next generation.

Have a positive attitude. Younger leaders have so much to bring to the table. Frankly, many of us come off as ornery, unwilling to pass on knowledge, and unwelcoming. A positive attitude about their engagement and the future of the organization could go a long way.

History will judge that young man who stepped up to the podium in 1963 kindly. His tenacity, spirit, fortitude and willingness to get in “good trouble” have made us a much better nation. In these similarly changing times, we must find, support and encourage today’s young leaders to leave their own transformational legacy.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

In the last several years there has been more conversation around historical symbols and their meaning. How should we address monuments, streets, fight songs and buildings if they cause pain to some people but are a source of pride, tradition and patriotism for others? Until our most recent period of national racial discourse, there was a debate.

In the last several weeks, monuments have been taken down and drenched in paint. Governments have moved quickly to vote on name changes. Sports teams which had previously resisted mascot name changes are suddenly reconsidering past decisions under the weight of corporate pressure. Now that more people are recognizing the pain of systemic racism today, the voices and feelings of the oppressed are being heard loud and clear.

Research suggests that some symbols may cause psychological harm. On July 6, 2020, the New York Times Idea of the Day: Racist Mascot Psychology noted, “that a team of leading psychologists once conducted an experiment to see how popular images of Native Americans affected Native American high school and college students. The students mostly used positive words…but when the researchers then asked a series of follow-up questions… students who had seen the images reported lower self-esteem and more negative views of their community compared with a control group of similar students who had not seen the images.” The mascots “function as inordinately powerful communicators, to natives and non-natives alike, of how American Indians should look and behave.”

Around 2009 I was at a Black friend’s house and I asked her young son what was special about Barack Obama’s presidency. My friend interrupted me and said, “I don’t want him to think anything is ‘special’ about Obama being the first Black president, I want him to believe (at least for now) that it is normal to see a Black man as president.”

That comment stuck with me because I realized that while his election was an accomplishment for a country that has struggled with racial inequality, we should learn how to master the delicate balance of celebrating successes while normalizing them, especially for children. There is a positive psychological impact of living in a world where we are not an “other”, where people that look like us are part of the conversation and leading.

Examining street names or even the name “Arlington” to determine whether they should be changed is only one step. We have to plan for how we will teach an inclusive history to all residents, not just students, how we will normalize the inclusion of underrepresented groups in our current community, and how we will work to create symbols and positive representation which will benefit us all and not cause harm.

Arlington Magazine’s handling of the recent Extraordinary Teen nominations is a model for all of us. Whytni Kernodle with the Black Parents of Arlington and others noted that the annual recognition did not include students of color this year. On July 2 Arlington Magazine announced on its Facebook page that they would be changing the selection process to include a diverse and inclusive five-person panel,  would add a question about race so the panel could ensure the teens that are chosen represent the entire community, and would be proactive about reaching out to a broader network for nominations.

I believe that many of our current Arlington institutions could learn from the changes that Arlington Magazine is making. While they may seem small to an organization or body, collectively, they will prove to represent Arlington well as we evolve to be a more inclusive community.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

While the Black community has experienced disproportionate deaths as a result of COVID-19, the pandemic has left us all with clarity about the lack of value of Black Americans to the larger society.

Until 1865, Black bodies, minds and souls were an official currency in our capitalist society. The remnants of the peculiar institution of slavery, which exist today in the form of institutional racism, may be withering away slowly. Yet today, there is more energy from white Americans to demand change, including, more support for our lives and our businesses.

If you are not Black, why should Black businesses matter to you? Aside from wanting to support a more racially just society, and benefit from additional diversity as a consumer, frankly, it becomes more difficult over time for whites to segregate from Blacks. Black families are disproportionately living in poverty, and poverty creates a number of social problems, which affect us all.

Last week I moderated a virtual panel discussion on economic empowerment in the Black community. The panelists further elaborated on several important issues and barriers critical to Black economic empowerment.

Fear — African Americans have often been discouraged from entrepreneurship, even as a “side hustle”, due to the risk and lack of access to capital. COVID-19 is an excellent example of when additional income sources would have been helpful to a population that was largely out of work due to social distancing restrictions. Consider encouraging Blacks who are proficient in an area to pursue business training and start a business.

Business Directories — Business directories which highlight Black businesses are necessary. As Randy Philip, owner of the Washington Insurance Consulting Group and one of the cofounders of the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce noted quite simply, “We can’t support them if we don’t know who they are.” Race blind initiatives may result in policies and ideologies which prevent us from knowing who to support. If you know of a Black-owned business, share them with ARLnow.com to be listed in this directory of Arlington Black businesses.

Preparing Youth/Role Models — All of the panelists agreed that preparing our youth was critical to encouraging entrepreneurship in the Black community. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce recently shared this blog post by Eshauna Smith from the Urban Alliance on the importance of supporting future entrepreneurs. “You can’t be what you can’t see” is a common refrain used when encouraging any unrepresented population to excel. We should connect Black youth with entrepreneurs for internships and encourage Black entrepreneurs to speak at career days and other youth events.

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