Arlington, VA

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

I feel a shift in Arlingtonians’ desire to increase communication.

Whether it’s reaching out to our government officials, advocacy organizations, fellow residents, or media platforms, there is less acceptance of the status quo, and more impetus to tell someone how we feel.

Since we must often communicate virtually, we have to find a way to communicate effectively, including expressing dissent, sadness, and joy, all through computer screens. Some of us may find this more difficult, and some may actually prefer the lack of in person communication.

In recent weeks I have also been more aware of an increase in general, as well as the facets of dissent. Brene Brown’s recent conversation with President Barack Obama focuses on the tension of opposites, or the ability to hold two competing ideas in our minds. This is an important aspect of leadership, and if we can hold more than our own ideas in our minds when we disagree, it will help us reach more viable, long-term solutions.

As our communication changes, how we disagree might also change.  In today’s culture, it’s easier to disagree anonymously and online. Researcher Arthur Santana showed that anonymous comments on news sites can be classified as “uncivil” around  53% of the time, compared to just 29% for not anonymous comments. Psychologist Sherry Turkle says we are rude because we tend to dehumanize each other online. As we don’t see the immediate effect of our words on the other person, we don’t choose our language carefully.

We should all consider ways that we can disagree more effectively, and remember that we are communicating with a person with thoughts, feelings, and sometimes, good ideas.

Start interactions by connecting, and truly seeing others as people. While this is simply good manners, some people respond better to social connections as opposed to plunging into the topic of the discussion. Especially with virtual communication, it may be even more important to try to connect to see how people are really doing as people, before any conversation, whether there is discord or not.

Look at the situation holistically. While your perspective is just as important as anyone else’s, I would encourage those who are truly concerned about moving the whole community forward, to think about other perspectives and the big picture. Consider thinking about how we can work together for a common, larger solution, and factor that into your ideas.

We need better arguments. In his October 2020 article, Erik Gross notes that, “better arguments are about prioritizing relationships and listening passionately, paying attention to context, embracing vulnerability, and making room to transform. Arguing, if done right, can humanize those that we disagree with and bring people together in the common pursuit.”

Think. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. said, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” In order to disagree respectfully, we have to think more than if  we speak from the top of our heads.

We are on the cusp of tremendous growth and change in Arlington. These daily interactions as we seek to embrace new people and ideas will inevitably result in conflict. When we choose to intentionally and respectfully disagree, and dare to take the time to see others as people, and everything they bring to the table, we create a better Arlington for us all.

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.

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.

Soon after the nation began to quarantine after COVID-19 hit in March, it didn’t take long for advocates and pundits to prognosticate on the effects on the elections and campaigning.

Combined with the US Post Office crisis, it looked as if the elections would be just one more oddity to add to the list of disastrous outcomes of 2020. With only 49 days until Election Day, and three days before early in-person voting starts in Arlington, voting advocates are working overtime to build energy and turnout to achieve our desired results.

Historically, Virginia has been at the forefront of voter suppression, yet in the last few years — and as recently as earlier this year — legislation, executive actions and court decisions have rolled back decades of discrimination and unfair wielding of power to secure desired political outcomes. This year, innovative advocacy groups and campaigns have effectively adapted to our current social distancing norms, and proven the power of a determined citizenry.

Lifting Barriers — In 2020, the General Assembly voted to revise the voter ID restrictions. A recent prospect.org article noted, “Studies have shown that strict voter ID laws, like the one Virginia had implemented, disproportionately affected minorities, people with low incomes, and the elderly. It’s also unclear how voter ID laws would prevent the voter fraud that GOP lawmakers insist they want to avoid.” The legislature also voted to make Election Day a state holiday, which may encourage the private sector to follow. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters of Virginia to temporarily suspend the witness requirement for absentee ballots. Absentee ballot drop-off boxes will also continue to be used across the commonwealth, and Arlington will have five early voting satellite locations.

Energy — One would guess that a natural casualty of a socially distanced election season would be energy. Politicians often draw their energy from crowds of people who in turn feed off of each other. I have worked with Network Nova and the Virginia Grassroots Coalition starting with the June 2020 Women’s Summit (Experience), to test ways of building virtual energy. These groups are also leading “Vote Early Win” and #voterchallengeva, which will encourage voters to challenge someone else to vote early and share who they are voting in honor of. We are also organizing “Drive the Vote” (caravans of cars through low turnout neighborhoods) and more social media groups based on affinities. Several groups are also leading webinars and virtual rallies to motivate and educate voters.

National efforts — When We All Vote is an initiative led by former First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage voter participation. It relies on relational organizing and provides tools for users to tap into their own networks via their app, and recruit teams to promote voting. This is one of several large scale efforts in conjunction with celebrities to increase participation.

The Virginia Public Access Project has found that voter registration has returned to a normal level this year, noting an increase in apps over paper. In particular, the League of Women Voters of Arlington has been focusing on voter registration and voter turnout by targeting low turnout and unregistered households, as well as registering voters in full PPE using a QR code.

Arlington has a strong track record of  high voter turnout and engagement, and in the 2016 general election Arlington had an 82.6% turnout of active registered voters. I plan to vote on September 18 in honor of my great grandmother who was never able to vote. This year, let’s do more than vote on Election Day. I challenge you to vote early and also vote in honor of someone else. When we challenge, we win. #voterchallengeva

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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