Arlington, VA

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

The Network NOVA Friday Power Lunch recently focused on how little lies, or misinformation, can grow into bigger lies if they go unchecked.

Lowell Feld, editor of Blue Virginia, noted that the Washington Post made the case that one fifth of Democrats were being challenged by far left challengers in the 2021 House of Delegates primaries.

After analyzing the data, he found that there were only four challengers who were running to the left of the incumbents. He asserted that there is a common refrain in the media that the Democratic Party is at war with its “left wing/progressives” and this story fit the narrative. This “misrepresentation” can help shape a false narrative and impact other issues.

He also mentioned the idea of false equivalencies. For example, lies and misinformation spread through the radical conservative community and led to the January 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. Furthermore, a ridiculous comparison was made between the attack and the earlier Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. The police response was much different for the BLM protests, and included tear gas, detentions and multiple arrests, which likely falsely fueled the public perception of the intent of the protestors.

When one side promotes racial justice and one side promotes white supremacy, we have to be clear that one is right and one is wrong. Yet, they were presented as if they were two equal sides of an issue, which also means that we feel we have to give them equal time and attention.

If gone unchallenged, this cycle changes how we think of the issue, and fuels supporters on the side of the “wrong” issue. It makes it harder for those on the side of the truth to recognize that they are in fact supporting the truth, and not just the opposite of the other side.

It’s obviously not always simple. For example, similar to any cause, there are some rogue Black activists who have strayed from the original BLM mission. Highlighting the few bad actors on any issue is a misrepresentation. It changes public perceptions, our individual conversations and thinking, and muddles policy.

Arlington is debating several issues as a community. We have already made a concerted effort to engage community voices as we reform our police practices, and are in the process of selecting a new police chief.  I challenge us all to remember why we are talking about police reform now, and push back if we see the coverage or conversations switch to a different narrative. We have also recognized a need to reform zoning laws through the Missing Middle Housing Study. Due to the history of housing discrimination and links to systemic racism, we know some may want to hold on to a system which has allowed them to thrive. As we continue to discuss these and other issues, it is important for us to check the facts, and challenge how views are presented in all forums.

The manner in which we handle each conversation, in addition to the outcome we seek, helps define who we are. A part of that process is expressing our views in a number of ways including through traditional media, social media, events, speeches and informal dialogue. We should all be aware of false equivalencies and misinformation that have insidiously shaped the narrative and coverage, and do our part to root out all lies, whether they are “sweet little lies”, or not.

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.

As a long time Arlington resident, I have seen citizen engagement from several angles.

I remember my first interactions with Arlingtonians upon moving here, and I definitely felt there was a reluctance to accept me immediately. Compared with my experiences with meeting new people in Alexandria, it felt like our Alexandria neighbors were more open to facilitate engagement and new perspectives with new members of their community.

One of my goals is to seek out community members who may not be engaged and encourage them to find their niche in Arlington. I also try to help organizations find ways to engage more residents at a systemic level.

One of the hallmarks of an inclusive community which fosters belonging is how we accept new ideas. As we emerge post COVID, after reflecting on what worked and what did not work in the “before times,” we should consider how we can encourage even more innovative ways to make our community stronger.

The origin of our ideas. We are often encouraged to funnel ideas through the Civic Federation and the County Board. While these can be effective, we should analyze whether there are other recommendations which come through other channels which do not make it to these bodies. We should be very clear to all residents about how to recommend new ideas.

Comfort in recommending new ideas. We should analyze how people feel about their opportunities to engage when they arrive in Arlington, and determine how those who have been here longer can connect with our new residents to make them feel welcome and involved. We should look at what methods work, and which do not. While I refer people to our existing institutions, I would like to have more confidence that they will be encouraged to stay active and engaged after joining, and that their ideas are heard.

Build on our current work. I have heard rave reviews of the Neighborhood College program. According to the Arlington County website, “Neighborhood College is a free civic leadership development program for Arlingtonians that helps participants become more effective community activists and leaders. Since its inception in 2000, nearly 400 Arlingtonians have graduated from the program, and many have gone on to become neighborhood leaders, members of advisory groups and commissions, officers in their civic associations, County Board members, volunteers at nonprofit organizations, local activists, and more.” We should continue to develop this program to encourage and grow the pipeline of engaged residents.

Provide training for community organizations. Arlington County has a great track record with diversity outreach. I was on the Diversity Dialogues Task Force several years ago, and we have made a concerted effort to engage organizations and individuals with Dialogues on Race and Equity. I would posit that there is an opportunity to provide similar general organizational outreach training. If the County government does not take the lead, we should provide a forum for organizations to share best practices on recruiting new ideas.

It is easy to say that information is accessible on a webpage, or that those who really want to be involved will find a way. This is not the best way to ensure that we have a consistent flow of new ideas and the structures to support them. We never know where the next big idea will come from that will revolutionize Arlington. When we push ourselves to constantly innovate and support new ideas, we become a better 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.

Last year I joined a coalition of women’s organizations as a part of Vision 2020, which aims to increase the number of women who participate in the political process by voting and through public service. Vision 2020 had a goal of a record-breaking number of eligible women voting in the November 2020 national elections.

Over the last several months, I have also been engaged in a number of discussions analyzing next steps for women and political participation after the centennial of the 19th amendment. In order to increase the number of registered women across the nation,  women voting advocates in San Francisco, CA have challenged Arlington to participate in a pilot program and develop strategies to register every eligible female Arlington voter.

As a community that values civic participation, we should do more to consider why some decide not to register to vote. We should not congratulate ourselves on a high rate without considering why the people who aren’t registered have decided to opt out of this specific activity.

I would be curious to know whether not registering to vote is a predictor of other behaviors as well, and if these nonvoters have a particular perspective that we don’t generally consider when we focus on soliciting voters’ opinions. I addressed this in an October 2020 column, Community Matters: When “None of the Above” is Your Only Choice.

Arlington County does a great job of providing election information online. The General Assembly has expanded voter access by removing the witness signature requirement, making it easier to vote by mail and early in person absentee. Voter registration is often available at new citizen ceremonies. Organizations like the League of Women Voters of Arlington spend a large proportion of their resources on voter registration.

Despite these successes, we should consider whether we are being unintentionally exclusive.

We should do more to learn about the Arlington residents who are not registered to vote, and determine their concerns. Once we determine what their specific concerns are, we should try to address them. In Arlington, there are approximately 8,000 women who are over 18 and not registered to vote. If they are otherwise not eligible, we should determine that and strategize about how we can remove barriers.

More organizations should include voter registration in their civic engagement efforts. The State Board of Elections has facilitated voter registration training for groups, and provided QR codes for volunteers. We should also continue to diversify outreach efforts, and expand multicultural voter registration efforts.

Organizations should teach their members to address the behavioral barriers cited by nonvoters. Strategies could include discussing the specific impact certain local elected officials have on the issues they care about, as opposed to federal leaders, which are often vilified for partisanship. For those who feel they don’t know the issues well enough to vote, we should solicit their opinion on the key issues, and empower and value their perspective. We should also steer them towards resources which outline the candidates’ platforms.

While voter registration is not compulsory in the US, considering our nation’s history and current actions to suppress voter participation, Arlington should do even more to ensure that we have maximum participation in the electoral process. The work we do in Arlington to register that small remaining number of voters, could assist other localities in increasing voter registration and participation. If you are interested in participating in our pilot challenge program, please email [email protected].

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.

Over the past several months I have researched my ancestry online, connecting with 3rd and 4th cousins whom I have never met. In that research, through old news articles and death records, I learned and confirmed stories of domestic violence and murder in our family in the early 1900s.

These revelations have increased my interest in learning more about and preventing intimate partner violence.

For the past nine months I have led my sorority’s international domestic violence policy efforts and have become more frustrated with the slow progress in eliminating this deadly issue. Understanding that it is a complicated problem, I use every avenue to remind myself and others of the impact that it has on our communities. According to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, every 9 seconds, another woman in the U.S. is beaten. Of course, women aren’t the only victims; men are simply less likely to report the abuse.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization expired in 2018, and the 2021 version was reintroduced recently by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). The reauthorization is a priority for President Biden who has led its reauthorization since 1994. The new bill builds upon the previous versions of VAWA, aims to improve access to housing for victims and survivors, protects victims of dating violence from firearm homicide, and helps survivors gain and maintain economic independence.

During the 2021 General Assembly session, HB 1992 was introduced by Delegate Kathleen Murphy, and prohibits a person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm. The prohibition expires three years after the date of conviction, at which point the person’s firearms rights are restored, unless he receives another disqualifying conviction. A person who violates the provisions of the bill is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. A similar bill that was introduced by Senator Barbara Favola which would have made it a Class 3 misdemeanor, was defeated by the Senate. HB 1992 is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Domestic violence doesn’t only affect the perpetrator and the survivor. It can have a lasting impact on family members, and we can eradicate intimate partner violence by starting with our youth. The Centers for Disease Control program, “Dating Matters”, is designed for local entities (e.g.,health departments, boys and girls clubs), and employs evidence-based strategies and a community-driven approach to educate youth, parents, educators, schools, and neighborhoods about healthy relationships to stop dating violence before it starts.

We are extremely fortunate to live in a community that has invested resources in addressing domestic violence, and COVID-19 has placed even more families at risk. Doorways’ 24-hour domestic and sexual violence hotline provides an immediate, safe response for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Arlington County’s Project PEACE is a coordinated community response dedicated to advancing the most effective and efficient array of education, prevention, protection, and support services to end domestic and sexual violence in our community. You can learn more about Project PEACE online.

There are too many people who still believe that domestic violence is the “dirty little family secret” that we can’t address. If you or someone you know needs support because of intimate partner violence please reach out to Doorways 24-hour hotline at 703-237-0881 and the Arlington County Police Department at 9-1-1.

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.

This year, I was honored to be named a 2021 “Strong Woman in Virginia History”, along with four other outstanding Virginians, including fellow Arlingtonian Evelyn Syphax. I must admit that the award challenged my idea of history and how we celebrate.

I was impressed by looking at past honorees that the Library of Virginia and Dominion Energy, the program sponsors, seem to have consistently recognized Virginians at all stages of their lives.

The program is designed to engage students by providing a class of school aged children  an opportunity to speak with the awardees, and learn more about their lives. The Library also sends posters featuring the honorees to schools and libraries throughout the Commonwealth.

As we reflect on Black History Month and embark on Women’s History Month, I challenge you to think about your process of viewing, teaching,  promoting, and integrating history into your leadership roles, throughout the year.

Look at history holistically and critically

I was speaking with someone last weekend and they noted that people tend to look at recent history, and not consider how we got to that point. History can also be complex. For example, we are taught about the Civil Rights Movement without understanding the short term progress made during Reconstruction. If you are trying to strategize about how we move forward as a nation, you should understand both.

Avoid compartmentalizing

For so long, we have forced all the black history into February, only highlighted women during March, etc. We should use these months as a reset or kickoff to  yearlong commemorations and discuss how we can integrate knowledge learned throughout the year.

Focus on living history

We should continue to celebrate those who are currently living and making history. Examining their accomplishments in real time is instructive, and can also add another dimension to our study, by viewing them and their work as evolving, instead of static.

Make it relevant

When we have an opportunity to discuss or commemorate a historical event, compare it to current events, or have a discussion about how it may be similar or different. For example when discussing social services or early transportation planning, we might continue to mention leaders like Ellen Bozman, and use that opportunity to reflect on the challenges she faced and her contributions.

Remind youth that they are making history

We should do even more to focus and celebrate youth accomplishments, and what they mean in the context of current events. When recognizing community members, we should consider also honoring a youth, and even including their perspective on the nominating committee.

Include a community engagement perspective

Many of our organizations honor people who are making history, and similar to the Library of Virginia’s Strong Men and Women of Virginia History award, we should consider how we will educate people about their accomplishments beyond a press release or awards ceremony.

Many of us are excited about and pressing for rapid change. I fear that change won’t happen unless we get everyone up to speed on what we have already experienced. It is critical that we put our current challenges in context, or history will truly be forced to repeat itself.

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 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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