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Racking up millions of views this summer, hit HBO miniseries “The White Lotus” follows a group of travelers vacationing at a Hawaiian resort. As they attempt to escape from their problems, their problems instead confront them in ways they never imagined.

This dark comedy, released on HBO Max in July, features stars such as Connie Britton, Steve Zahn and Jennifer Coolidge with screenwriting and direction from Mike White, of “School of Rock” and “Nacho Libre.” It also includes a familiar face locally, whose fame continues to grow: Arlington’s very own Brittany O’Grady.

O’Grady, 25, is a graduate of Washington-Liberty High School who acted throughout her childhood at Drew Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and W-L. She also danced at Arlington Dance Theatre (which has since closed) and Alexandria’s Metropolitan Fine Arts Center. She later performed at regional theaters including Synetic Theater in Crystal City and Ford’s Theatre in D.C., said Monique O’Grady, Brittany’s mother and a member of the Arlington School Board.

Brittany O’Grady, a true triple threat, had her breakout role last year in “Little Voice,” singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles’s Apple TV+ show about her journey as an up-and-coming artist. O’Grady plays the show’s star, Bess, a character loosely based on Bareilles. Before that, she had a supporting role in the Fox series “Star.”

Most recently, she played a woman in love in a music video for “Love Me Now” by Kygo.

In The White Lotus, however, O’Grady’s character explores very different themes of race and privilege. She plays Paula, a college student who has joined her friend’s family on vacation. Although Paula and her friend Olivia (played by Sydney Sweeney) seem like two peas in a pod, their differences come to light as the story progresses.

Olivia comes from a privileged family, headed by the matriarch and high-powered CFO Nicole (played by Connie Britton). The affluent, white family members recognize this but seem unconcerned with the inequity on which they thrive. Paula, who is not white, feels the family needs to be knocked down a peg — though she also benefits from their status, which she doesn’t realize until later in the series.

O’Grady, who is biracial, says this dramatized environment of unchecked privilege was worlds away from her childhood and young adult life in Arlington.

“It was fairly opposite to my upbringing,” said O’Grady. “I loved growing up in Arlington. I am so grateful to the mentors I had when I worked with different companies around the area. I was always challenged. I continue to challenge myself, grow and learn from those around me.”

Being forced into uncomfortable conversations about race and privilege, however, is something she says she’s familiar with.

“I definitely feel like I have experienced circumstances that Paula faced on vacation, like sitting at a table and hearing atrocious, tone-deaf things come out of people’s mouths,” she said, while adding of her drug-using character that “I think we have different hobbies and approach issues differently.”

In the show, Olivia tells her father Mark (played by Steve Zahn) that Paula felt uncomfortable watching the hotel staff — many of whom are native Hawaiian — perform a traditional Hawaiian dance for them at dinner. Mark replies that they shouldn’t feel bad about it because things are the way they are and there’s nothing the family can do about it. Paula is visibly upset by his response.

Paula’s activist spirit is something else O’Grady says she relates to.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Traffic Still Way Down — “New numbers provided to 7News by the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT) show… weekday traffic in Arlington County in June 2021 was still down 26% versus June 2019. But that was an outlier – in Fairfax County traffic was only down 12%, Loudoun County just 8%, and Prince William County was basically back to normal, falling just 3% versus June 2019.” [WJLA]

A-SPAN Rebrands — “What began life three decades ago as the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, or A-SPAN, has assumed a new identity: PathForward… ‘We came to the conclusion that we needed a new name to match all that we do,’ the organization’s board chair, Tim Denning, said.” [Sun Gazette]

Route 1 Makes NYT List — “The New York Times this May compiled a list of ’50s-era American highways being re-thought in an age when environmental concerns and past racial injustices in land use are at the national forefront. Arlington’s section of Route 1, that elevated structure that pierces Crystal City, made the cut.” [Falls Church News-Press]

AWLA Reunites Raccoon Mom and Baby — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Officer Elpers got some amazing footage of this mama raccoon reuniting with her baby this morning.” [Facebook]

Local NAACP Awards Scholarships — “The Arlington branch of the NAACP recently awarded nearly $60,000 in college scholarships to Arlington high-school students.” [Sun Gazette]

Big Donation to VHC — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a transformative gift of $5 million from long-time donor Lola ​C. ​Reinsch to promote the Hospital’s campus expansion efforts.” [Press Release]

Darby Family Visits ACFD Station — “Ashley Darby is having plenty of family fun with her kids this summer. The Real Housewives of Potomac cast member [and Arlington resident] recently took to Instagram to capture their latest outing that left her two-year-old son, Dean, completely ‘lost for words’… ‘What a fun time we had at the Arlington County Fire Station 4 with our friends!’ she wrote in the caption.” [Bravo]

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Arlingtonians may not know Peter Golkin by name, but many have likely seen his tweets.

Golkin is a spokesman for the Arlington Department of Environmental Services, or, as he considers himself, “a 21st century town crier, but without the bell.”

Among other duties, Golkin has run the department’s social media accounts for the last four years. Under his watch, DES’s Twitter account has amassed more than 7,000 followers, which is a lot of followers for a department that focuses mostly on public works and transportation — topics Golkin admits can seem dry.

The social media savant has found that a little humor goes a long way toward people internalizing his announcements, and his wit has even caught the attention of some celebrities, on whom he sometimes relies to spread his messages.

“A lot of government stuff can be real technical or just downright boring,” Golkin said. “If we can make it even slightly entertaining, or if we can just make people pause for two-tenths of a second before scrolling down and absorb some county information, then that’s a good thing.”

Whether it is a timely joke or a goofy graphic, Golkin manages to add humor to even the simplest announcements about COVID-19 guidelines or recycling rules:

Normally upbeat in his social interactions, Golkin does have a nemesis: FOG.

He regularly warns about putting fats, oils and grease down the drain, a big no-no in the world of wastewater management. Such common kitchen waste can turn into a gelatinous solid and clog the pipes, endangering the plumbing of a resident’s home or even their whole neighborhood.

“I think that photo should be the next county logo,” said Golkin of the famous fat-filled pipe image he frequently tweets. “I think all of Arlington could be united by it if we make it official, [putting] it on stationery [and] all the county vehicles: ‘No fats, oils and grease in Arlington.'”

One of the account’s most dedicated fans is none other than Star Trek’s William Shatner. Shatner’s fandom began when Golkin got wind that the Captain Kirk actor was interested in electric bikes. He invited him to come to Arlington to ride the streets.

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(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) In the latest episode of PBS’ Finding Your Roots, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. helped guide six-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald on a tour of her family lineage — a journey that led her to a golf club in Arlington.

McDonald’s trip through her family tree started with her maternal grandfather, whom she credited as a major influencing force on her life. Her grandfather, Thomas Hardy Jones, was described by McDonald as “born into the depths of the Jim Crow era” but managing to build a respected career as an educator in historically Black institutions.

Her awareness of her mother’s paternal lineage ended there, but Gates took McDonald further to meet her great-grandfather: Clarence Jones.

“After stints as a miner and chauffeur, Clarence supported his family and paid for his son’s education by working in a locker room in a segregated golf club in Arlington, Virginia, where it seems he somehow managed to thrive,” Gates said.

Clarence Jones worked at Washington Golf & Country Club, the first golf club in Virginia and a prestigious regional institution that counted presidents Wilson, Taft and Harding as active members.

The club was segregated, however, and Clarence Jones worked at the club but could never play there. Only starting in the mid-1970s were Black and Jewish applicants granted membership, according to a book by former Northern Virginia Sun publisher Herman Obermayer.

Even so, Gates’ team found a newspaper article from the time that profiled Jones, in which he was described as indispensable and well-loved by the golfing community.

“[He is a] shoe shiner, story teller, match-maker, gambler and good friend all rolled into one,” Gates read from the newspaper. “Wherever you go around the nation’s capital, golfers ask about Clarence.”

McDonald said many of those traits described in Clarence Jones were passed down to his son, her grandfather.

Records showed that Clarence Jones’ parents were both born in D.C. shortly after the Civil War, but the paper trail ended there as their parents were likely enslaved.

McDonald said that learning about her great-grandfather was bittersweet knowing that he was held back by the racist institutions of his era.

“There’s a part of me that’s amazed and proud of my great-grandfather,” McDonald said, “but a part that hurts for him too.”

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Lunch-In (Man at Segregated Diner) on the wall of Amy Schumer’s home (photo via Amy Schumer/Instagram)

The struggle to desegregate Arlington occupies not only local historical significance, but apparently a place of honor in the foyer of comedian Amy Schumer.

As noted by the Twitter account of Arlington’s planning office, Schumer recently posted posted a photo on Instagram yesterday that highlights a painting hanging on her wall.

The painting is by artist Julian Joseph Kyle — who specializes in work related to slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement — and based on a photo by Washington Star photographer Gus Chinn.

It shows a Black protestor, Dion Diamond, sitting at a segregated lunch counter at the Cherrydale Drug Fair in Arlington on June 10, 1960. The protester, who was part of an integrated group called the Non-Violent Action Group, is being harassed by white patrons.

Last year marked the 60th anniversary of a series of lunch counter sit-ins in Arlington, during which demonstrators endured harassment from white students, police officers, and Neo-Nazis.

The demonstrations continued through the summer and eventually some stores that had discriminated against Black customers changed their policies and integrating their lunch counters.

Schumer, who has previously faced controversy for making racist caricatures, said in a social media post that the painting hangs by her front door as a constant reminder.

“It’s called Lunch-In (Man At Segregated Diner) it’s by our front door so I see it before I go out into the world,” Schumer wrote.

Image via Amy Schumer/Instagram

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Broadcasting legend Larry King died on Saturday, at the age of 87. Though his status as a television celebrity is well established, less well known is where he rose to fame: here in Arlington.

King moved to Arlington from Miami shortly after his Larry King Show picked up national syndication from the Arlington-based Mutual Broadcasting System in 1978.

King’s show was produced in the Mutual Broadcasting studio at the top floor of the office building at 251 18th Street S., next to the Crystal City Metro station. Back then, the building’s street address was known as 1755 South Jefferson Davis Highway, the Crystal City Underground shopping plaza had recently opened, and the neighborhood was only beginning to emerge as a major commercial center.

“Mutual radio moved to Crystal City when no one was there and nothing was there — there were four buildings and the Crystal underground,” recalls Tammy Haddad, King’s radio producer in the early 1980s and later the founding Executive Producer of his CNN show.

It was from that studio that the late-night Larry King Show was broadcast across the country until it went off the air in 1994. Initially, it aired from midnight to 5:30 a.m., though the hours shifted over the years. The radio show featured an extended interview followed by live listener call-ins, and eventually aired on more than 500 radio stations nationwide.

The quirky program was a hit: King’s following grew so quickly — with millions of listeners staying up into the wee hours — that the open call-in portion of the show would crash the circuits of the entire 703 area code, at least according to King.

When Larry King Live launched in primetime on CNN in 1985, King would drive from the CNN studios in D.C. to Crystal City to host the radio show. Famous for his work ethic, King kept that grueling schedule up for years.

While working out of Crystal City, King lived in the Rosslyn area. For a couple of years he lived in The Virginian apartment building, before moving to the nearby Prospect House condo building, famous for its monumental view of D.C. and the Iwo Jima memorial.

King later briefly moved to McLean before decamping for Los Angeles, according to Patrick Piper, who produced King’s radio show after Haddad. (An Associated Press article from 1991 noted that King was arguing to have one of his divorces heard in Arlington “where he lives and works,” instead of Philadelphia where his estranged wife still maintained a residence.)

Stories from King’s radio days abound.

For one, King was cast as himself in the 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters.

“The people filming the movie Ghostbusters called and asked me to play myself in the movie,” he wrote in his autobiography. “They shot me, cigarette in hand, behind the mike.”

While the setting depicted in the film was definitely the Crystal City studio, Piper wasn’t sure whether it was actually shot in Arlington or on a soundstage. It did look like one of the secondary studios in the office, he said.

Getting to the studio late at night was not easy for the in-studio guests, Haddad remembers.

“The guests used to have to enter the Crystal underground entrance, which was unmarked, it never said Larry King radio show, it never said Mutual radio… and then they’d have to go to the building and [get] let up,” she said. “So you have to really want to be a guest on Larry King to get there.”

Many celebrities arrived via humble Arlington taxis

“We used to send the guests on Red Top Cabs,” Haddad said. “So we pick up Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, you know, all these guys.”

One regular on-air guest was then-Congressman Al Gore, who lived five minutes away in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and would drive himself over to the studio late at night.

“Al Gore and Larry had a special relationship,” Haddad said.

Crystal City might not have been as centrally located as downtown D.C., but King wrote that it helped him stay much more plugged in to national news and media than staying in Miami.

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The latest “Art on the ART bus” installations features public icons with ties to Arlington.

A partnership between Arlington Arts and Arlington Transit, the program enlivens commutes with artwork highlighting three different Arlington-based artists at a time. This December, Art on the ART Bus celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

“It’s my job to make sure there’s art on a bus called ART,” Arlington Arts Curator Cynthia Connolly said. “It’s so fun.”

The newest installation, which went up earlier this month, includes depictions of famous Arlingtonians, including:

  • Actress and dancer Shirley MacLaine
  • Singer-songwriter Roberta Flack
  • Actress Sandra Bullock
  • Actor Warren Beatty
  • Journalist Katie Couric
  • Singer-songwriter and local punk rock icon Ian MacKaye

All six were born or raised here, put down roots in the area, or otherwise became famous while living in Arlington.

MacLaine and her younger brother Beatty grew up in the Dominion Hills neighborhood of Arlington. During her upbringing in Arlington, Flack accompanied her church’s choir on the piano. Bullock, who graduated from what is now Washington-Liberty High School, and Couric, who attended Yorktown High School, were cheerleaders. Beatty played football for W-L.

Connolly and her team drafted a list of famous Arlingtonians and picked those who enjoy the most name recognition.

“There is so much hidden history in Arlington,” she said. “I hope people research this more.”

So does the artist behind the installation, dubbed “Pop Arlington:” Ryan Carroll Nelson, who has a studio in Arlington.

Commuters may notice a punk edge to the art. Both Connolly and Nelson were active in D.C.’s punk scene in the 1980s and 1990s, and their connection to Ian MacKaye is personal.

The heart of the scene was MacKaye’s internationally-known indie record label, headquartered in an Arlington bungalow dubbed the Dischord House.

“People are fanatic about the record label, but everyone thinks it’s in D.C.,” Connolly said. “It’s my duty to remind people it’s in Arlington.”

Punk rockers moved to Arlington for the detached houses they could practice in without disturbing the neighbors, Connolly said. Rent was cheaper and they did not have to worry about their instruments being stolen.

She worked at the Dischord House, which became the subject of her book about the scene. During those years that she got to know Nelson, who earned a reputation for his illustrations by drawing concert flyers, T-shirts and album covers for Dischord.

He also illustrated for Teen Beat Records, also based in Arlington, and founded by schoolmates at Wakefield High School.

“His comic-style approach and hand-drawn text is immediately recognizable, and his flyers are coveted collectables among music aficionados,” notes a press release about the project.

“I’ve known Ryan for a long time,” Connolly said. “It seemed the right fit.”

For this series, Nelson underpainted the panels in black and layered white and color on top — a style reminiscent of the underground comic scene of the 80s and 90s, which often featured comics printed in two rather than four colors.

Connolly also called on the DIY attitude of indie punk rockers and comic creators for the ART bus project, which had a tight budget and had to make due with a number of limitations.

“How do you make it happen? You do original artwork and throw it to the wind,” she said.  “That’s all based on my experience in punk rock.”

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With a mission to create educational, yet fun games, Arlington-based Semper Smart Games has a hit on its hands: a board game called Election Night!

Jim Moran, the creator of Semper Smart Games, is a retired Coast Guard officer and SAT and ACT tutor (no, he’s not the former local Congressman of the same name). Moran turned his passion for helping students learn math into games.

Election Night! was created to give students a better geographical, mathematical and mechanical understanding of the Electoral College. The game, launched as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, has recently seen its sales ranking rise on Amazon, as the presidential election nears.

In 2019, after it debuted, the Parents’ Choice Foundation awarded Election Night! a Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

The company has even attracted the attention of Shark Tank star and FUBU founder Daymond John, who recently interviewed Moran live on Instagram.

Moran told John that the game was made for “age groups eight and nine, but college students are loving it.”

Thanks Daymond John for the great interview! Other than my phone cutting out and then messing up the amount of Electoral Votes California has (If you play the game you will know why I said 48 instead of 55!) you can see the whole interview @thesharkdaymond in his IGTV https://www.instagram.com/p/CEmnF2FHL-l/

Posted by Semper Smart Games on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Election Night! and Moran’s other games — including PlaySmart Dice and Blobby’s Pizza, his newest — can be purchased on the company’s website.

Photo via Semper Smart Games

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Morning Notes

Labor Day Closures — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020 for Labor Day.” Trash will be collected but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]

Library Buildings Remain Closed — “Even as neighboring Fairfax County is approaching the two-month mark for its reopened library system, Arlington officials appear in no rush to bring their library system more than marginally back to life. That means that while Arlington patrons will continue to have the chance to check out books online and pick them up at a central repository, they remain barred from visiting branches or wandering the stacks.” [InsideNova]

Bluemont BLM Protest Continues — “Father, in his red scooter, and son first rolled down the bike path to this corner in Arlington, Va., just after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. They’ve been back most weekdays since, more than 60 times so far, as demonstrators in Louisville and Atlanta marched for justice for Black Americans killed at the hands of police and protests surged following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last month in Kenosha, Wis.” [Washington Post]

Deep Dive Into New Bridge — “The preferred alternative would add a new two-track rail bridge north of the Long Bridge while retaining the existing bridge without modifications. The plan would cost approximately $1.9 billion. The existing span would retain its CSX ownership, and the new span would be Virginia’s.” [Greater Greater Washington]

MU Extends President’s Contract — “Marymount University’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend the contract of President Irma Becerra by an additional five years to 2026. This action comes one year earlier than expected, as Board members felt strongly that due to Dr. Becerra’s significant accomplishments during her tenure, it was important to ensure her continued association with Marymount on a more accelerated timeline.” [Press Release]

Trump Boat Parade Planned — “A boat parade is planned in support of President Trump on Sunday on the Potomac River. According to a Facebook post from an entity known as “Liberty Rally,” boaters will gather just before 1 PM in the Wilson Bridge no-wake zone and then proceed up the Potomac.” [Washingtonian]

Kanye Booted from Ballot — “A Richmond Circuit Court Judge has ruled that rapper Kanye West will be removed from the ballot as a presidential candidate in Virginia. The decision came after an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case and Attorney General Mark Herring accused the West camp of acting fraudulently to get on the ballot.” [NBC 12]

Va. Booze Biz is Booming — “The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority announced Wednesday retail sales of $1.2 billion in fiscal 2020 — a nearly $120 million increase from the previous year and the second year in a row the liquor monopoly surpassed $1 billion in sales.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

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Morning Notes

It’s September — With a flip of the calendar, it is now September. Including today, there are 122 days remaining until 2021. There are nine weeks until Election Day. [YouTube, Wall Street Journal]

NORAD Exercises This Week — “We will conduct air defense exercise Falcon Virgo between midnight and 5:30 a.m. (ET) Sept.1-3 in the Washington, D.C. area. The exercise includes U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft, a U.S. Army C-12, a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter, and a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182T. Some portions of the exercise may involve flights at approximately 2,500 feet and may be visible from the ground.” [Facebook]

The Backstory Behind Chasin’ Tails — Cajun seafood restaurant Chasin’ Tails, in East Falls Church, along with Happy Endings Eatery in Rosslyn, are owned by two brothers who became globetrotting multi-millionaires by playing online poker. [Washingtonian]

Rosslyn Company to Be Acquired — “Arlington language learning company Rosetta Stone Inc. is being acquired by private equity-backed Cambium Learning Group Inc. for $792 million. The all-cash deal announced Monday values Rosetta Stone (NYSE: RST) at about $30 per share, about 87% higher than its closing price on July 16.” [Washington Business Journal]

Long-time Journalist Dies — “William R. Neikirk, an award-winning economics and political journalist who spent nearly 35 years with the Chicago Tribune and served as White House correspondent during the Clinton administration, died Aug. 27 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 82. The cause was dementia and complications from the novel coronavirus.” [Washington Post]

Kanye on Va. Ballot — “Rapper Kanye West has qualified to appear on Virginia’s presidential ballot in November, according to state election officials. Elections officials confirmed Friday evening that West will appear on the ballot as an independent after verifying he submitted 5,000 petition signatures from Virginia voters.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: D.C. Offices Nearly Deserted — “Only 5 percent of office workers in downtown DC were in their workplaces at the end of July, according to a new report from the DowntownDC BID. Economic activity in downtown DC, it found, was 12 percent of what it was the year before.” [Washingtonian]

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Brittany O’Grady, a Washington-Liberty High School graduate, is starring in Apple TV+’s new series, Little Voice.

O’Grady plays Bess King, a singer-songwriter trying to navigate New York City while pursuing a career in music with her earnest songs.

The show is executive produced by Sara Bareilles, J.J. Abrams and Jessie Nelson, and is loosely based on Bareilles’ early days in the music industry. The soundtrack features original songs written by Bareilles.

O’Grady began her acting career in Arlington, with roles in Encore Stage’s 2007 production of The 12 Dancing Princesses and Signature Theater’s The Witches of Eastwick when she was 10.

She graduated from W-L in 2013 and has performed on major D.C. stages like Ford’s Theater, The Kennedy Center and The White House.

O’Grady’s first major television appearance was in a 2014 episode of ABC’s Trophy Wife, in which she plays an abrasive teenager at a mini golf course. She went on to play the main character’s sister in three seasons of Star on Fox, as well as have roles in thriller films Above Suspicion and Black Christmas.

Little Voice, which premiered July 10, has garnered O’Grady attention from some of entertainment media’s biggest outlets. She has done interviews with Vanity Fair, People, Variety, InStyle, E! and The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Amid questions about what it is like to work with Bareilles and how the show’s love triangle will work out, a recurring theme in these interviews is O’Grady’s candor regarding racial issues in the television and film industries.

“Now, as we’re progressing forward, people who are casting for roles, they usually go for… a Black person” with European features they believe to be more appealing, O’Grady, who is biracial, said to InStyle. “And I think that a lot of dark-skinned women in our industry have felt ignored, have felt overlooked, have felt that their beauty has not been appreciated or represented well, and usually only represented by lighter-skinned women.”

O’Grady has also been vocal in her support of social justice issues to her nearly 800,000 Instagram followers.

“Systematic racism… still affects Black people in our country today,” she said in one recent post. “It affects our beliefs, our school systems, and our communities. As a biracial black woman who often looks racially ambiguous to others, I have had minor experiences with racism and it took me till I left home and went to a private conservative college to experience the honest despair my peers have felt their whole lives.”

“If you are indifferent, annoyed or even offended by people addressing racism and racist systems in our country, that is your privilege and your ignorance, she continued. “It’s everyone’s responsibility in our country to address this and fix it, even if you think it doesn’t affect you. Because it does.”

O’Grady’s mother is Arlington School Board Chair Monique O’Grady. In 2017, O’Grady introduced her mother at a campaign event.

The eighth episode of the nine in Little Voice‘s first season is being released today.

Photo via brittanyogrady.com

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