Press Club
Juneteenth event in front of county gov’t HQ in Courthouse (via Arlington County/YouTube)

(Updated at noon) Sunday is Juneteenth and Monday is the federal holiday in observance of it.

A number of events are planned in Arlington to mark the day, which commemorates the emancipation of freed slaves. Many county facilities will also be closed on Monday due to the federal holiday.

First up is a Juneteenth Peace Rally that’s happening today from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. next to the AMC Theater at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse. The rally is organized by the Arlington Black Employees Council.

More events are planned this weekend and next week, including:

From an Arlington County email sent yesterday afternoon:

Arlington County celebrates Juneteenth this year by recognizing the contributions of Black Americans to our society, and specifically to our community. We are committed to preserving and honoring the history of those who sacrificed and paved the way for progress while ensuring equitable measures are implemented for the future of Arlington’s Black communities. Our work to forward racial equity in our governmental processes, investments and actions honor their resilience and reward their excellence.

About Juneteenth: Short for June Nineteenth, it marks when Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to declare that more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state (which was under Confederate control during the American Civil War) were freed through the Emancipation Proclamation made effective in 1863. It is an annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. and was officially declared a federal holiday in 2021.

County government offices, libraries, community centers and Covid vaccine and testing sites will be closed on Monday. Metered parking will not be enforced. Trash and recycling collection, however, will happen as usual.

Metrorail will operate on a mostly normal schedule on Monday, while buses will operate on a weekend schedule that varies by route, according to WMATA.

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Flyer for the 2022 Virginia Black History Month Gala (courtesy photo)

The Virginia Black History Month Association plans to host its first event with an in-person component since the pandemic began in Crystal City.

The group’s annual gala, normally held in February, was pushed to June after the area recorded a high number of Covid cases due to the Omicron variant.

“We decided to move it to Juneteenth because that is the second African American-recognized holiday,” VaBHMA President Bill Jones said. “So we moved it to June 19 to celebrate Black history and Juneteenth, and then we got a bonus when we realized that June 19 is also Father’s Day.”

The event, which has been held since 2000, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel (1700 Richmond Highway).

“This is the first time we’ve had a face-to-face event since 2020,” Jones said. “We came back into the ballroom again in 2022.”

Attendees can choose to attend in person inside the ballroom or watch the event from their hotel rooms, according to the gala’s website. There will only be 500 tickets available because of the pandemic, Jones said.

The keynote speaker for the gala is Lynn Toler, former judge on the TV show “Divorce Court.” The master of ceremony is Julius D. Spain Sr., the president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP.

The theme for the gala this year is Black Health and Wellness, in accordance with the national theme for Black History Month in 2022. The theme aims to acknowledge the legacy of Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, as well as the “activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well,” like building medical schools and community clinics, according to the gala’s website.

The guests of honor and keynote speaker were chosen for their connections to the gala’s theme, Jones said. A seminar on health and wellness in African American communities is slated for the first day.

A determination on when the event will be held next year will be made in November, Jones said.

“There’s a chance that we could also host the 2023 event in June if the [Covid] number’s going to be high,” he said.

Apart from the gala, the association is also planning a health fair later this year to promote important checkups to underserved communities, Jones said. He mentioned field trips to African American historical sites as other possible events the association may hold, as well.

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington County will observe Juneteenth — which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. — for the first time as an official county holiday this Friday and Saturday.

The holiday celebrates the day when the nation’s last enslaved people learned of their freedom following the Emancipation Proclamation. The Arlington County Board voted to make Juneteenth a county holiday in late April of this year.

Since the June 19 holiday falls on a Saturday this year, certain offices and services will be closed Friday as well. All Department of Motor Vehicles offices and the county courthouse will be closed Friday, while libraries and community centers will be closed both Friday and Saturday.

Parking meters will not be enforced on either Friday or Saturday.

Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County Samia Byrd said she hopes residents take the time off to educate themselves about the day.

“I encourage people to take the time to participate in an event, activity or celebration that allows for reflection and learning more about Juneteenth and the history and events surrounding it,” she said.

In celebration, the Arlington Black Employees Council is hosting a Juneteenth Peace Rally today (Thursday) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bozman Government Center stairs with speakers and performers. The event, following up on a similar event last year, will be live-streamed on the county’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Byrd also suggests taking the day to bolster organizations working toward racial equity and supporting Black-owned businesses.

“Support organizations that continue to advocate for justice and liberation or volunteer for an organization,” said Byrd. “Patronize Black businesses. Enjoy fellowship and celebrate freedoms we have while considering what more can be done.”

This time last year, the county made headlines for sending Black employees to powerwash Black Lives Matter chalk art in a local neighborhood on Juneteenth, something for which the county soon apologized.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced last year that he would make June 19 a state holiday, giving all state employees a paid day off. Meanwhile, Congress voted yesterday (Wednesday) to make June 19 a federal holiday, and President Joe Biden’s signature today will make Friday a day off for many federal workers.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) On Friday, Arlington County workers — dispatched after a resident complained — power washed away a girl’s Black Lives Matter chalk art from in front of her Boulevard Manor home. After an uproar, the county later apologized.

A memo from County Manager Mark Schwartz, sent to county employees on Saturday and obtained by ARLnow, shows some of the internal soul searching that followed the incident.

The memo says that Schwartz first heard about what happened due to “an inquiry from the press” — ARLnow first asked the county for comment around 10:30 a.m. He learned that the sequence of events started when “a resident complaint about ‘graffiti.'” Then he saw the photos of county employees erasing quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among other phrases and drawings.

“A series of flowers, hearts, and quotations focusing on understanding and the sanctity of Black lives had been removed by 3 county employees — all 3 are Black,” Schwartz wrote. “What was first described as graffiti removal became obviously something very different. My heart sank. How could this have happened? On Juneteenth of all days? I was sick.”

Schwartz says he asked himself a series of questions, including how those involved in the incident were doing and “In the time of pandemic, why are our limited resources being used to remove chalk from the street?”

He concluded that the employees and family involved, as well as county taxpayers, are all owed apologies. He personally delivered the apology to the workers. Among those to reach out to the family were Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey and Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel.

Schwartz ruminated on how the incident could have taken place despite the county’s focus on equity. He focused both on how the employees involved did not feel empowered to question their orders, and how the county has created a complaint-based system of resident services.

“Calling the ‘authorities’ is the wrong way to address our concerns as neighbors and community members,” Schwartz wrote. “This should be reserved for cases where our safety is at risk.”

The workers involved were not empowered “to make a judgment better than stipulated by the letter of the policy,” the county manager wrote. “The way we currently operate, it is too hard for employees to question what they are asked to do under a policy that is blind to feelings, nuance and the world we live in.”

Other notable questions raised by Schwartz in the memo include:

  • “Was this possibly the worst example of how we ignore equity in doing our work?”
  • “[Does] our complaint driven enforcement efforts lead us to address concerns (regardless of how serious they are) by some residents for any problem that frustrates them, while larger problems that affect our residents go unaddressed?”
  • “[Are we] intentional about reaching impacted residents during public engagement processes, or only those who show up regularly?”

In the memo, Schwartz notes that the county will soon be hiring a Chief Equity and Diversity Officer, who will report directly to the county manager.

“This will take some time, but it is an overdue step,” he said.

The full memo is below.

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Morning Notes

Juneteenth Rally in Courthouse Today — “Please join the Arlington Black Employees Council for a 2020 Juneteenth Peace Rally on Friday, 11a-12p, outside at the Bozman Gov’t Center. The event will include a George Floyd tribute and recognition of victims of violence.” [Twitter]

Police Investigating Columbia Pike Robbery — “At approximately 1:24 a.m. on June 17, an officer was flagged down by the victim stating they had just been robbed. The investigation determined that the victim had exited a business when two unknown suspects approached him. One of the suspects struck the victim with an object appearing to be a firearm, causing him to fall to the ground. The suspects searched the victim’s person and fled the scene without taking anything from the victim.” [Arlington County]

ACPD Helps the Homeless During Pandemic — “In April, Arlington launched a homeless outreach coalition to help identify unsheltered individuals at high risk for COVID-19 and connect them with available resources and services. The coalition is comprised of stakeholders from the Police Department, Department of Human Services, and Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN). ” [Instagram]

Coronavirus Signage in Rosslyn — “The Rosslyn Business Improvement District decked out the neighborhood with a variety of light-hearted messages as part of an awareness campaign launched this week to encourage social distancing as the region loosens stay-at-home restrictions imposed to fight the spread of Covid-19. Through the messages — which are stamped to the sides of trash cans, in the windows of office buildings and on public benches — the BID hopes to remind people not to let their guard down.” [Washington Business Journal]

Backyard Blues Fest on Saturday — “CPRO is planning an alternative Backyard Blues Festival on June 20 from 5-7 p.m. Arlington community radio station WERA 96.7 FM will play a curated selection of blues while various local restaurants will offer special discounts on food and drinks, which can then be enjoyed in one’s backyard or patio with the radio cranked up.” [ARLnow]

Nearby: Falls Church Closes for Juneteenth — “In keeping with Governor Northam’s declaration designating Juneteenth as a state holiday, the City of Falls Church will also observe the holiday. City of Falls Church Government administrative offices will be closed. Employees who staff essential programs and services will work as scheduled.” [City of Falls Church]

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Morning Notes

Big Response to Small Biz Grant Program — “Those hit hard by the pandemic can receive help through the small business emergency grant program. More than 1,100 businesses have applied, [County Board Chair Libby] Garvey said, and at least 63% of them are owned by women or minorities. ‘With an additional $1.6 million, we can provide grants to a total of 400 businesses, more than 50% of those that… were eligible,’ Garvey said,” during her State of the County address Tuesday morning. [WTOP, Zoom]

Chamber Presents Valor Awards — Also on Tuesday, “awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel and first responders. Fourteen honorees were recognized for their courageous, and often lifesaving, actions in the line of duty. Leadership of all respective departments submitted nominations for the honorees, based on their performance over the past year.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce, InsideNova]

Road Closures for Grad Parades Tomorrow — “On Thursday, June 18, the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Section will support Senior Graduation Parades for Wakefield High School and Washington-Liberty High School. Traffic around the schools will be impacted at the below listed times. The public can expect to see increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.” [Arlington County]

CivFed Wants More Open Space — “The president of the Arlington County Civic Federation on June 13 delivered his message quietly but bluntly: The county government needs to put much more emphasis on acquiring land for parks and open space before the window of opportunity closes. Allan Gajadhar handed County Board members a Civic Federation resolution calling on the county government to better balance open-space and passive-recreation needs with facilities for sports and active recreation.” [InsideNova]

COVID Cases Among DCA Construction Workers — “Employees with 17 contractors working on Reagan National Airport’s massive capital improvement project have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a staff report issued ahead of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s upcoming board meeting… The most recent positive result was confirmed June 7.” [Washington Business Journal]

Juneteenth May Become State Holiday — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday that he will support legislation to make Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a state holiday in Virginia. He gave executive branch state employees the day off Friday — June 19 — in recognition of the event. On that date in 1865, federal troops told enslaved people in Texas they had been freed, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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