Arlington, VA

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

Recently I was walking through a single-family neighborhood in South Arlington. As I turned onto the street of my destination I immediately second-guessed my decision to walk instead of drive. I wondered if I would be threatening as an unfamiliar Black person walking down their street.

As many of us have heard through countless testimonials of African Americans since the murder of George Floyd, on a daily basis, Blacks often have to assume that our presence and actions can be construed as dangerous. This is just one example of the effects of racism.

Arlington should be a leader in eliminating racism at all levels and in all spaces. The “Arlington Way” should include steps to actively combat racism. Here are just a few ways we can continue to incorporate anti-racism in the “Arlington Way”.

Take responsibility for your learning — I have heard several Black people over the last few days say, “I am tired. I can’t help white people right now; I am dealing with so many other issues.” It is critical that we talk to each other about race, but we also have a responsibility to read and learn through the vast amounts of information that exists. Arlingtonians should learn about Arlington as told through the perspectives of Black Arlingtonians including Wilma Jones Kilgo author of “My Hall’s Hill Family Neighborhood” and Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, author of “Bridge Builders of Nauck/Green Valley“, and visiting the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.

Speak Up — While it’s hard to admit, white voices are valued more than Black voices. The reason that the conversation/protests around race feel different this time is because so many young white people are involved. Do you have an opinion or a personal story on racial justice issues, police brutality and inequality? Are you able to influence where your organization’s or company’s dollars are spent? You should speak up and consider requesting funding or adding thought leadership to one or more of the many organizations including the Arlington NAACP, Challenging Racism, and Vote Lead Impact, or not invest in organizations which do not support racial justice.

Support Black Economic Empowerment and Advancement — According to Black Enterprise, Black buying power is projected to reach about $1.5 trillion by 2021. I was heartened to see the list of Black businesses in ARLnow and several groups sharing Black business that covered the DC metro area, but it does make one wonder why there are not more Black businesses in Arlington. In a June 6 New York Times article, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and board member of Pepsi questions the authenticity and commitment of corporations that have issued statements supporting racial justice. He notes that “generations of well-intentioned pledges by businesses have resulted in only marginal advancement for the black community. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated grim employment trends, and today fewer than half of black adults in America have a job. Black workers make less money than white workers. That is due in part to the fact that they are more likely to have poorly paying service jobs, but research also shows that highly educated black employees are paid less than their white peers.” We should all advocate for fair wages, and support businesses and corporations which have shown their commitment through action.

Do your part to make sure Blacks are represented — If you serve on boards or commissions, and participate in civic associations, look at the racial diversity. Think about your current practices which may discourage a wide variety of participants including inconvenient meeting times, unwelcoming attitudes, or unwillingness to consider new points of view.

What I find most interesting is that we immediately look to Black organizations and leaders to solve racism, when whites perpetrate and condone it. The solution lies in us coming together. White leaders, white-owned businesses, and white-led organizations need to take an active role. Together, we must ensure the “Arlington Way” continues to complement the protests with sustainable action, and root out racism whether it be overt or implicit.

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.

The organization Women in Government Relations held an excellent webinar last week on fine-tuning one’s executive presence in this new normal.

The panelists who represented national corporations and associations focused on the changing culture due to COVID-19. Specifically, they conveyed how we can look at past outcomes and determine how to achieve similar results now by changing our tactics through intentionality and over-communication.

For example, we previously could easily run into someone in the hall at work, or even go to a meeting for one purpose but also connect with others to communicate. Those interactions may now be harder to achieve in our new age of physical distancing.

While it is not new, this past week we were reminded of the consistent disparities and inequities which exist locally.  Even if there are disputes about how the data is analyzed, recent health data show that the Columbia Pike corridor is overrepresented in COVID-19 cases.

Arlington prides itself on the Arlington Way, a process that aims to ensure opportunity for civic engagement, participation and transparency to address our community challenges. Many look to the government when searching for solutions, but it is critical that we also focus on civil society. The formal and informal organizations in Arlington are an essential part of our culture. We should all question how we can do more as a community to confront and prevent challenges.

As we adjust to the new normal in Arlington, this is the perfect opportunity to rethink our organizations’ role in the Arlington Way. A few recommendations include:

Countywide all sector State of Arlington summit — An annual “State of Arlington” Summit which brings together several sectors of our community could foster and result in regular communication and collaboration. This would build on the great work of several organizations that have conducted similar events including the Arlington Community Foundation’s Shared Prosperity Initiative, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County and many other events throughout different sectors.

Regular communication among organizations — One of the basic lessons of crisis communications is regular updates and more opportunities for communication and feedback. We should continue this COVID-19 practice by intentionally sharing knowledge and raising awareness among organizations, to our members and the broader community on new issues on the horizon through regular online meetings, newsletters, and social media.

Standard (optional) organizational analysis — Groups and organizations should be encouraged to complete a customized Arlington organizational analysis which focuses on the attributes that Arlington values including equity, participation, digital and technological capacity and collaboration. The internal analysis could assist organizations in directing their efforts towards both their objectives and broader Arlington goals, and allow them to measure their progress towards increased engagement in Arlington and their organization.

Formal organizational capacity building and sharing — Organizations are at different levels in terms of experience and resources. Yet the ability of organizations to promote engagement and interaction with different sectors is a critical part of the Arlington Way and Arlington values. Access to online training, webinars and classes specific to achieving organizational objectives, and sharing and mentoring among organizations in Arlington could help strengthen our civil society.

Arlington’s new normal elucidates challenges that have always been present. We should rethink how we view the organizational component of the Arlington Way as a preliminary step in continuing to address the concerns which plague our community. We must be intentional and communicative in order to continue to move Arlington forward and leave a legacy of which we are all proud.

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 have always been intrigued by how organizations adapt. As an Arlingtonian, I am beyond impressed by the outstanding work of Arlington’s organizations and businesses during the pandemic. Due to their leadership and long-standing collaboration, they have thrived in ways that will have a positive impact on Arlington for decades to come.

Coordination — The Arlington Community Foundation was established in 1991 when the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr. observed the work of the San Francisco Community Foundation after the earthquake of 1989. Today the Foundation coordinates critical initiatives including Shared Prosperity and Bridges Out of Poverty. The Foundation’s extensive work with other nonprofit organizations has allowed them to seamlessly provide Rapid Response grants to local organizations during COVID-19.

The Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington was created in early April as a collaboration between the Arlington County Department of Human Services, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) and a number of organizations providing meals to those in need through school PTAs and local neighborhood groups. AFAC is working with the Cooperative to provide groceries that can be delivered to homebound individuals, those in quarantine, and those with active cases. Having a strong organization such as AFAC has been critical during COVID-19 and they are seen as a key collaborator

Resources — Funds, materials, food and other resources have been critical to ensuring our community is served during COVID-19. Amazon contributed $1M to four area community foundations, of which the Arlington Community Foundation received $350,000. Arlington County is giving $300,000 to Arlington Thrive which delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, and has been a leader in Arlington for 45 years. Businesses are offering free meals to seniors, students and families.

Adaptability — Many organizations, businesses and churches did not skip a beat to continue their work despite the social distancing and stay at home orders. The Arlington Committee of 100, founded in 1954 to foster open and vigorous discussion of issues involving all facets of community life in Arlington,  held its April gathering via Zoom. The Rosslyn BID will be holding virtual trivia nights. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is connecting businesses with resources for signage to alert customers about delivery and carryout options. Several organizations and businesses have updated their websites or apps to facilitate ordering and general communication. The League of Women Voters of Arlington has started Pandemic Postcarding where they wrote 1000 postcards to rural African American voters in Virginia for the NAACP.  I am sure dozens of budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses have started making and selling masks.

I recognize that in addition to these formal organizations, there are countless smaller and information gatherings of people who are doing similar work. Oftentimes the collective of these organizations and businesses characterize a community. They can be our vehicles to solve community problems. They represent the fabric of who we are. When times are good, it is easy to forget about the dedication and the innovation it takes to run both businesses and organizations. When challenges arise we expect them to rise to the occasion. It may be months before we fully realize the impact that our businesses and nonprofits are making, but whether we are having a pandemic or not, they deserve our full support.

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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