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W-L Renaming Deliberations Inspire ‘Disgust’ From Some Participants, Pride Among Others

“Washington-Loving” might’ve earned a committee’s blessing as the ideal new name for Washington-Lee High School, but members of the group say the process of reaching that recommendation was anything but smooth sailing.

Two members of the W-L renaming committee even ended up resigning from its ranks, decrying the group’s work to find a new name for the school as a process that was tainted from the time deliberations started this September.

Other members of the committee argue that the group had some passionate disagreements at times, but generally reached a fair consensus on a name for W-L. Regardless of exactly where the truth lies, however, the dispute marks yet another complication in a process that’s been characterized by plenty of fierce debate ever since the School Board’s June vote to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building.

“I am departing with disgust about a morally bankrupt process that has been directed, not facilitated,” Patrice Kelly, a W-L parent, wrote in a letter resigning from the committee provided to ARLnow. “Between the chilling of discussions, the manipulative process, the disregarding of solicited public opinion and the pressure to conform to the unstated mandate, I have concluded that this process is a disingenuous attempt to appear that public input was sought.”

The chief concerns of Kelly and Bill Moser, a W-L alumnus who resigned from the committee once it finished its work last week, are that the committee failed to give any consideration of the prospect of keeping the name the same, or finding another historical figure with the name “Lee” as a substitute.

Both were also frustrated that one of their fellow committee members had ties to the school system, albeit indirectly, which they felt showed that the Board was unduly influencing the process. Dana Raphael, the daughter of former Board member Abby Raphael, represented recent W-L alumni on the committee.

“I won’t say that she orchestrated the process… but I do wonder about the whole thing,” Moser told ARLnow.

Raphael, for her part, feels that such assertions are ridiculous. She says she became interested in the battle over the W-L name when the Board was deliberating the issue this summer, particularly because she’s believed that the name should be changed ever since she was a freshman at W-L.

And as for her mother, Raphael says “she’s had no role in the facilities policy or the renaming,” particularly since she left the Board in 2015.

“Her commitment to public service inspired me when I was in high school to take an active role in my community, in politics and in current events,” Raphael wrote in an email. “I applied to join the renaming committee because I wanted to ensure the process considered the history of the school and the legacy of Jim Crow, as well as ensure we centered a conversation about civil rights.”

Raphael also argues that it wasn’t part of the group’s mission to consider the prospect of keeping the name, noting the group had “no authority to ‘overturn’ or ‘nullify’ the School Board’s decision to replace ‘Lee.'” She added that a neutral facilitator brought on by the school system to guide the process made such a point clear “at every single meeting.”

“It was out of our control,” said Chloe Slater, a junior at W-L representing current students on the committee. “The point was to choose a new name, because that’s what the School Board decided. Some people didn’t understand that aspect.”

Even still, Kelly and Moser were frustrated that the committee was directed to ignore comments submitted in public surveys about the process that pushed for the name to stay the same. Kelly even felt that the committee was dissuaded from any consideration of feedback asking the group to pick another “Lee” to honor.

But Linda Erdos, a School Board spokeswoman and a staff liaison to the committee, says the group decided on its own not to move forward with another “Lee” option.

The committee considered people like “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Robert’s father and a Revolutionary War general, or William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved manservant. Yet Erdos said the group ultimately decided that picking another “Lee” would feel too much like “smoke and mirrors” after the Board’s decision. William Lee, in particular, ended up among the committee’s top choices, but did not advance in the group’s final round of voting.

“We thought, if we’re going to make a change, why not make it be a big one, why not make it be amazing?” Slater said.

Slater, the daughter an interracial couple herself, was quite pleased that the committee settled on a name to honor Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who managed to successfully challenge Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage in court. It helped, too, that replacing “Lee” with “Loving” meets the desire of many students to keep the “W-L” moniker intact, Slater said.

Raphael said she was willing to consider other names beyond those that would’ve preserved the school’s W-L acronym — abolitionist Harriet Tubman was the lone finalist to be considered whose name didn’t begin with “L” — but she believes “Loving” is a fine choice to honor ‘those who fought for equality and equal citizenship.”

“I would be proud to tell people that I graduated from Washington-Loving High School,” Raphael said.

Moser takes a considerably dimmer view of the committee’s recommendation. He felt the group was too “racially fixated,” primarily submitting African American historical figures for consideration, even though the W-L student body has a large Hispanic population as well.

He also sees the “Loving” name as a “totally inappropriate and ridiculous” and viewed it as “a joke as far as I was concerned,” considering that he doesn’t think much of the Lovings and their fight to end the interracial marriage ban.

“The rationale for them was they wanted to be happy and they were willing to break the law to do so,” Moser said. “These were not people of high stature. They didn’t accomplish anything other than being in an interracial relationship.”

Moser’s skepticism regarding the Lovings aside, Erdos believes the committee’s deliberations were generally quite civil. Given the legal wrangling and political battles that have so far marked the renaming process, she says that was (generally) a pleasant surprise.

“I really was bracing for some difficult meetings,” Erdos said. “But, quite honestly, I was surprised it went as well as it did.”

The Board plans to discuss the name change for the first time on Dec. 20, and vote on Jan. 10.

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Naming Process for New Middle School Sparks Debate Over County’s Civil Rights History

Arlington school officials will soon decide on a name for the new middle school to be built on the site of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale — but the complex history of the building, and its original name, has divided the community over which option is best.

A naming committee settled on three options for the 1,000-seat school in October, ahead of the building’s planned opening next fall. But that collection of parents and community members hasn’t been able to settle on a definitive recommendation as the School Board gears up for a vote on the matter.

The 28-member committee was instead split down the middle on two options for the building: naming it simply “Stratford Middle School,” or dubbing it “Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building.”

The group initially considered “Legacy Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building” as an option, but that choice fell out of favor as the process advanced. The committee even floated the compromise possibility of naming the building “Stratford-Hamm Middle School,” but stopped short of recommending such an option.

The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, currently houses the H-B Woodlawn program, but was once the site of Stratford Junior High School. That’s believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, lending plenty of historic significance to the site and its name.

But the “Stratford” name itself comes from a considerably darker part of the nation’s past. The name is derived from Stratford Hall, the plantation home of Robert E. Lee and his family in Westmoreland County.

Considering that the school system is in the midst of a contentious process to strip Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School, any association with the Confederate general has the potential to kick off a new firestorm of controversy in the county. Accordingly, some members of the naming committee championed naming the building after Dorothy Hamm, a civil rights activist who helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford.

“The event signified the end of massive resistance in the commonwealth of Virginia and dealt a powerful blow to the opponents of racial equality nationwide,” Ellen Smith, the incoming principal of the new middle school, wrote in a letter to the Board. “While Hamm was the community activist at the forefront of the campaign to integrate Arlington Public Schools, she was not the only community activist that was determined to integrate Arlington schools so that all students would have the opportunity to receive an equal education.”

Smith noted in her letter that the committee was determined to see “Stratford” remain part of the name somehow, in order to maintain “the clear connection between the name of the school” and its historic integration. But by including it only as addendum beyond Hamm’s name, Smith wrote that some on the committee fear it will be “dropped from regular use.”

That’s why many would much rather simply name the school “Stratford.” The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board endorsed such an option, castigating the school system in a letter for even considering the possibility of a name other than Stratford “without any apparent prior consideration of the uniqueness and the historical and cultural significance” of the site.

A special committee convened by Superintendent Patrick Murphy to debate “Historic Interpretation at the Former Stratford Junior High School” reached a similar conclusion, noting that the school has earned inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

“That the Stratford name comes from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee is an uncomfortable part of the history, but not the most important part,” Susan Cunningham, the co-chair of that committee, wrote in an email to ARLnow. “As community historian Dr. Arnold Taylor reminds us, ‘We have to understand where we are coming from so we can appreciate where we are going’… Names matter. History matters. At Stratford, the civil rights history matters most.”

Smith urged the Board to consider the opinions of both the commission and the review board, but otherwise would not take a firm position beyond suggesting one of the two names.

The Board will discuss naming options for the first time on Thursday (Dec. 6), with a final vote set for Dec. 20.

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Beyer Convenes Fourth ‘Women’s Conference’ at GMU Saturday

Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) is gearing up to hold his fourth annual “women’s conference” Saturday (Oct. 13), with speeches planned from groundbreaking female lawmakers and activists.

Beyer has titled this year’s event “Breaking Through: Women Work for Change,” and it will run from 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus (3351 Fairfax Drive).

While Beyer is set to give some opening remarks at gathering, the rest of the speakers will be women.

Del. Danica Roem, the state’s first transgender lawmaker who represents Manassas Park and parts of Prince William County, is set to deliver the event’s keynote address and discuss her work in Richmond.

Beyer will then present the “Clara Mortenson Beyer Women and Children First Award” to Naomi Wadler, an Alexandria fifth-grader who gained national notoriety for organizing protests in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting earlier this year.

Subsequent panel discussions include the following, per Beyer’s office:

Making History in Virginia with the ERA

Megan Beyer — Former executive director of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Lynda Johnson Robb —  Advocate for literacy and the eldest daughter of President Lyndon Johnson
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2nd District)
Bettina Hager — D.C. Director and COO, ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality

Starting a Movement – Mobilizing Support and Driving Solutions

Michelle Millben – CEO and Founder, MGMC Enterprises LLC
Kim Anderson – Executive Vice President, Democracy Alliance
Jennifer Herrera – Virginia Chapter Leader, Moms Demand Action
Miriam Gennari – Environmental Advocate

Gender and the Supreme Court — Understanding the Impact on Women’s Issues

Jill Morrison — Executive Director Women’s Law & Public Policy Fellowship Georgetown University
Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza – Journalist
Emily Martin – Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice, National Women’s Law Center

The event is free to attend, though participants should register online or by calling Beyer’s district office at (703) 658-5403.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Tree Canopy Increases — “Arlington’s tree canopy increased slightly from 2011 to 2016, according to new data, but remains below levels of a decade ago. A total of 41 percent of Arlington’s acreage was filled with tree canopy when evaluated last year, an improvement from the 40 percent from the last time it was studied.” [InsideNova]

Police: Drive Safely This Weekend –Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter, and the Patriots and Eagles will be facing off in Super Bowl LII on Sunday — both are occasions for the Arlington County Police Department to remind residents to drive safely. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington During the Sit-Ins — A Buzzfeed photo essay on the sit-ins features several photos from Arlington. [Buzzfeed]

Green Color in Stream Explained — A dye used in fire department training activities turned part of Four Mile Run bright green yesterday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Thank You to Quantum — Staff from Clarendon-based recruiting firm Quantum Search Partners helped ARLnow’s team move some heavy furniture as we expanded into a new office yesterday. Thank you for lending a hand!

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Beyer to Discuss ‘The Road Ahead’

Beyer event graphic

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is inviting the public to join him in an evening of open discussion at an event he has dubbed “The Road Ahead.”

Beyer says many Arlington residents have contacted his office recently to voice concerns and to inquire about working to “bridge the great divisions that exist in our rich and complex country.”

Issues on the agenda for discussion include health care, immigration, climate change, gun safety, civil rights, and America’s role in the world, among others.

The event will take place at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) on Monday, January 16, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. The event is free and those interested in attending may register online.

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Morning Notes

Oktoberfest beers on the shelves of the Harris Teeter store in Pentagon City as of 8/1/13

Concern Over License Plate Readers — Automated License Plate Readers, or LPRs, are mounted on Arlington County Police cruisers, allowing cops to see instantly if a car driving by is stolen or if its owner is wanted. The police department also stores the data collected by the LPRs for six months, to aid in investigations. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, is concerned about the data storage, saying police departments are “storing everybody’s time, place, and location.” [Voice of America]

Meat Returns to Galaxy Hut — Nine months after switching to an all-vegetarian menu, Galaxy Hut in Clarendon is again offering bacon, pulled pork, beef chili and other meat dishes. While veggie dishes will still be offered, owner Lary Hoffman blames lack of sales for his decision to ditch the vegetarian-only menu. [Washington Post]

No More Playboy at the Pentagon — Army and Air Force Exchange stores, which operate at the Pentagon and Fort Myer, among other military installations, have stopped carrying a third of its magazine collection. Among the magazines no longer available, due to declining interest, are Playboy, Penthouse and American Curves. [Sun Gazette]

NewsChannel 8 to Be National Model — Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying WJLA, plans to use NewsChannel 8, the station’s 24-hour local cable news channel, as a model for markets across the country. Sinclair will create a “hybrid” channel that airs local news produced by local stations and national news produced by WJLA. [Baltimore Sun]

Mobility Lab Wins Award — Arlington County’s “start-up think-tank,” Mobility Lab, has won a top award from the Association for Commuter Transportation. Mobility Lab “researches and creates solutions for transportation options that are cool, healthy, fun, and efficient.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Virginia Square Fountain (Flickr pool photo by ddimick)

Officials See Positives in Voting Rights Act Ruling — Although civil rights activists have expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act earlier this week, some local officials see a few benefits in the decision. Election officials no longer need approval from the U.S. Department of Justice on election matters down to the precinct level. That will allow them to make decisions on the fly, such as extending absentee voting or holding a voter registration drive. [Sun Gazette]

State Reissues Arlington’s Municipal Stormwater Permit — The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) reissued Arlington’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. Arlington is the first municipality in the state to receive an MS4 permit that includes quantitative pollution reduction requirements to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The new permit is in effect through mid-2018, during which time Arlington is required to decrease its share of the nutrient and sediment reductions by five percent. [Arlington County]

Arlington Company Receives $100 Million from Goldman Sachs — Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), a Ballston-based maker of cloud based data analysis software, has received a $100 million minority investment from Goldman Sachs. APT plans to use the funding to open an office in Japan and take on more clients. The company lists Wal-Mart and McDonald’s among its existing customers. [Bloomberg]

Flickr pool photo by ddimick

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Free Event Features Arlington Civil Rights Activist

An Arlington resident lauded for her involvement in the civil rights movement during the 1960s, including a stint in jail, will be featured at a special free movie showing and panel discussion tomorrow (Wednesday).

The Arlington Public Library will host a free screening of the movie “An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Mulholland.” Following the film, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland and her son Loki, who wrote and directed the movie, will take part in a panel discussion. William Pretzer, senior curator of history at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, will also be a part of the panel.

Mulholland, who is white, grew up in the South during segregation and emerged as an activist who fought for the rights of others, much to the chagrin of her parents. In 1961, Mulholland flew to Jackson, MS, to take part in civil rights demonstrations and sit-ins. She was arrested, fined $200 and jailed for three months. Despite her punishment, Mullholland continued her activism, and in 1963 took part in the infamous sit-in at the Woolworth in Jackson, MS.

In some of the historic photos above, Mulholland can be seen at sit-ins and demonstrations that took place around Arlington from June 9-23, 1960. In one, she is sitting behind activist Dion Diamond (who was arrested later that day) at the Cherrydale Drug Fair store on June 10, 1960. The two were part of the Non-Violent Action Group (NAG), which is credited with helping to push most Arlington restaurants to desegregate on June 22, 1960.

Mulholland, a long time Barcroft neighborhood resident, later taught for almost three decades at Arlington Public Schools.

The film “An Ordinary Hero” tells Mulholland’s life story and contains rare footage from the civil rights movement. The film screening and panel discussion will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27 at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd).

Historic photos courtesy of Arlington Public Library and Flickr photostream by washington_area_spark

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