This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.
At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.
Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.
Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.
Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.
That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.
Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.
“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”
Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.
Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.
“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”
Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”
A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.
Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.
“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”
Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.
“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.
Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.
Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.
A paperwork snafu may prevent a local House of Delegates candidate, Matt Rogers, from going up against fellow Democrat Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).
Rogers, who recently wrapped up 3.5 years serving as Chief of Staff for Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and is running to unseat Hope, reportedly failed to meet a filing deadline for two documents, according to the State Board of Elections.
As a result, he may not be on the June 8 Democratic primary ballot.
The challenger tells ARLnow that he mailed these documents to the state last June, but did not use certified mail, “which was a huge mistake.” Now, he is calling on the SBE to grant a deadline extension so these filings can be fixed.
“Having worked in these circles for a number of years, I was well-aware of the elements of filing and the responses from the State Board of Elections and their habits of communication with candidates — especially incumbents — having been on the receiving end of their entreaties,” he writes in a blog post.
The SBE met on March 31 to discuss candidates who requested an extension, including pastor and Richmond City Councilmember Mike Jones. According to Virginia law, such an extension would be applied to all candidates, not just those making the request, said David Nichols, the Elections Services Manager for the Department of Elections, during the meeting.
Ultimately, that board did not grant one, breaking with past decisions.
“I’ve made my position pretty clear on this matter: The failure of candidates to comply with statutory filing requirements places this board in a very unfair position,” SBE Chair Bob Brink, a former state legislator from Arlington, said during the meeting.
Brink said he has urged both the chairs of the state Democratic and Republican parties to ensure candidates comply with filing deadlines.
“I stressed that while the board had granted an extension of the filing deadline in the past, there was no assurance it would do so in the future,” Brink said.
🚨: I am officially requesting that @VAElect exercise its authority under VA § 24.2-503.
It's 2021. We should be making it easier for people to vote and run for office, not harder. pic.twitter.com/MOQd4VL3Ym
— Matt Rogers 🏛️ (@MattForDelegate) April 1, 2021
🚨: The growing evidentiary record shows that numerous legislators owe their incumbency to the gracious deference summarily denied to three Black candidates on Wednesday – which mutes the voices of well over 100K Virginians.
— Matt Rogers 🏛️ (@MattForDelegate) April 2, 2021
In Virginia, partisan candidates for elected office are required to file paperwork declaring their candidacy with their local political parties, Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. Those parties must confirm with the Virginia Department of Elections which candidates have filed this paperwork.
“Arlington Democrats did that for all candidates who filed paperwork with the local Democratic party in connection with the upcoming election to represent the 47th District in the House of Delegates,” Caiazzo said.
As a courtesy, when Arlington Dems sent that notification to the department, the organization copied all candidates who filed paperwork with the local party, she said. But Rogers’ alleged misfiling is separate from the local process she described.
“Separately, candidates are required to file a different set of paperwork with the Department of Elections,” she said. “Local political parties play no role with respect to that separate filing requirement.”
Rogers is one of eight candidates who could be barred from being on the ballot due to paperwork problems.
During a Virginia Board of Elections meeting this week, the head of the Virginia Department of Elections told the three-person panel these candidates “just didn’t get it in on time.”
“At the end of the day, people didn’t get them in, I don’t think it was a lack of information sharing or knowledge sharing on our part,” Christopher Piper, the commissioner of the department, said.
County Still Prepping for Preservation Hearing — “Even though the razing of the Rouse estate may be at hand, the Arlington County government’s historic-preservation staff is taking the steps necessary if public hearings on preservation of the site go forward in April… But nearly all parties now expect that the buildings on the 9-acre site will be razed before those hearings occur.” [Sun Gazette]
Preservationist Compares Estate to Auschwitz — Tom Dickinson, who’s leading the charge to save the Rouse estate, directed the following statement to the County Board over the weekend, referencing the likelihood that enslaved people built part of the estate: “If you, the board, do not intervene to stop this destruction of this sacred site, your individual and collective legacy will be stained forever by a lack of honor and respect for those who labored and suffered to create these structures at this site, and the desecration of them… It would be the equivalent of allowing the destruction of the crematory ovens at Auschwitz.” [Sun Gazette]
Northam Further Easing COVID Restrictions — “Governor Northam has further amended Executive Order 72 to modify public health restrictions in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19. These changes come as Virginia’s vaccination rate is steady and case counts are fluctuating. Effective April 1, limits on social gatherings will increase from 10 to 50 for indoor gatherings, and from 25 to 100 for outdoor gatherings.” [Arlington County]
NAACP Head Receives FBI Community Award — “FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) Steven M. D’Antuono is pleased to announce Mr. Julius Spain, Sr., as the recipient of the 2020 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for WFO. Mr. Spain serves as President of the Arlington Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).” [FBI]
Arlington Free Clinic’s Vaccination Effort — “Officials and community organizations are scrambling to close this racial gap in vaccine access. One such organization is the Arlington Free Clinic, which serves uninsured adults, many of them undocumented immigrants, in Arlington County. The clinic is holding vaccination days twice a week and working with other local social service organizations to develop an alternate pathway for low-income communities of color to get vaccinated.” [WAMU]
Former AP Bureau Chief Dies — “Charles Lewis, a former Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press and The Hearst Newspapers who tirelessly advocated for the release of AP journalist Terry Anderson from kidnappers in Lebanon, died Saturday. He was 80. Lewis, of Arlington, Virginia, died at a hospital from complications from cancer.” [Associated Press]
New video and audio is shedding additional light on the controversial encounter between Arlington police officers and a Black photographer in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.
Bodycam footage of the Dec. 21 encounter and audio of a neighbor’s call to police, which prompted the incident, were released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Arlington branch of the NAACP. The media was shared tonight with ARLnow.
During the call, an unidentified female neighbor tells police that the photographer, who was at the time sitting in his parked BMW, was taking photos of the gate to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, as well as “neighbors and people that are walking by.”
“We confronted him and he just wouldn’t engage… he’s just sitting there taking pictures,” the caller says. “I’m not sure if that’s illegal but it’s kind of creepy.”
The caller later reports that the photographer was “smiling and walking down the street, taking more pictures,” and then “engaging with a lady,” adding that “they apparently know each other.” She also noted that he had a “camera with a large lens.”
The man in question was Marlon Crutchfield, a professional photographer who’s retired from the military. He was hired by a family on the block to take holiday photos.
In a Dec. 23 Facebook post, Crutchfield said he was confronted by a neighbor — apparently the caller’s husband — but declined to answer his questions.
“Over the years I’ve had several run-ins with nosy neighbors concerned that a Black man was parked in their neighborhood,” he wrote. ” Well… the other day I was in Arlington parked waiting for an appointment when a man came over and asked me if I needed any help, of course I didn’t. I informed the gentleman that I didn’t need any assistance. Honestly — I was offended. Every Black person￼ knows what this means.”
“After the gentleman didn’t get the response he expected, he reached out to a few other neighbors one of them called the police,” Crutchfield wrote.
Bodycam footage released by the Arlington County Police Department shows three ACPD officers and three military police officers responding to the scene after the call. One Arlington officer knocks on the door of the house in which Crutchfield was shooting photos and asks to speak with him.
(Arlington police had just implemented body-worn cameras the week before the encounter.)
During the four-minute encounter, Crutchfield insists that, contrary to what the “very nosy neighbor” told police, he was just holding his camera and wasn’t taking photos of the base. He briefly flashes the officer an ID card — implied to be a military ID card, but edited out of the video — and says he knows better than taking photos of the military base.
“I’m offended,” Crutchfield says to the officer. “I’m at work… you’re interrupting my job.”
The officer asks the photographer, who is still holding his camera, to present identification.
“This is very racist, and you should know better,” Crutchfield says in response, refusing the request. Eventually, the homeowner also begins talking to officers, saying that “he’s with me” and agreeing that the call to police was “racist.”
(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Police Department says the officers who questioned a Black man for taking photos in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood acted properly and professionally.
The Dec. 21 incident, which sparked headlines and a strong condemnation from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, happened after police were called to the neighborhood by someone who found real estate photographer Marlon Crutchfield to be suspicious.
In a Facebook post, Crutchfield said he was confronted by “nosy neighbors,” who then called police when he declined to explain why he was taking photos. Several officers arrived and, in a brief interaction that was video recorded, Crutchfield refuses the officers’ request to hand over an ID. Shortly after that, the officers appear to leave.
In response to a series of questions posed by ARLnow, a police department spokeswoman explained the series of events leading to the encounter, and defended the officers’ actions and the need to respond the call, which was placed by someone only identified as “a community member.”
“At approximately 10:35 a.m. on December 21, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person and vehicle in the area of Southgate Road and South Orme Street,” ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said. “The reporting party advised dispatch that the male subject had been taking photos of the Southgate entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and people walking provided additional information that the subject had left the area of the entrance and entered a nearby residence.”
Clark said the response was justified based on the information provided to police.
Military installations are considered high value targets and events around the world, to include the events of September 11, 2001, have shown this to be true. If someone is taking photos of these areas, it is certainly cause for concern, and is worthy of reporting to law enforcement for investigation based upon guidelines published by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The area by the base is posted with signs prohibiting photography and, for this reason, the base was notified of the report the department had received.
The Department has a responsibility to respond to calls for service, investigate the circumstances, and determine appropriate action. Dispatched calls for service are based upon preliminary information provided by the reporting party and follow-up investigations may identify additional, or different, information than initially provided.
We recognize the emotional impact this incident has had on the involved individual The Department is committed to the principle that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect and we will work with the community to achieve balance between ensuring the safety of our community and the ambiguity involving what may be considered suspicious.
Asked if officers should have done anything differently, ACPD defended their actions and professionalism.
The Department stands by its response to this incident. In order to ensure public safety within our community, officers have a duty to respond to dispatched calls for service and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding them. Efforts to address crime in our community are most effective when they involve strong collaboration and partnerships between law enforcement and the communities and citizens they serve.
While the behaviors described to ACPD were considered suspicious in nature given all of the circumstances, it was determined that no local crime had been committed, officers cleared the call without taking further action, and the entire interaction with the individual lasted under four minutes.
We appreciate that what constitutes suspicious behavior can be ambiguous, but we must work together to ensure police are notified of suspicious behaviors that could represent a threat to our community, while at the same time ensuring that the focus remains on the behaviors of a person and nothing else. […]
Our officers conducted themselves in a professional manner and came to the determination that no local crimes had occurred.
The Arlington NAACP, however, said in response that the police department should have investigated the origin of the initial complaint, which they claim was embellished in order to provoke a police response.
“ACPD should have started with the alleged witnesses before harassing a professional photographer and embarrassing him by pulling him out of the home where he was an invited guest and interrogating him in front of his client,” the organization said to ARLnow, in a statement.
“The police asked for the victim’s ID before even explaining why they were there or even asking him if he was near the base or what his activities were before entering the clients home,” the organization said. “That is sloppy police work guaranteed to elicit an emotionally charged response. Asking for ID first and only is a racially laden request in the Black community.”
Columbia Pike Resident Goes Missing — “ACPD seeks the public’s assistance locating Ms. Amanda Aniston, last seen Dec. 12, 2020 in the 1200 blk of S. Courthouse Rd. She is described as a Black female, brown hair, brown eyes, approx. 5’9″, 140 lbs. She may be in need of medical services.” [ACPD]
Did False Report Lead to Police Encounter? — “The head of the Arlington NAACP, Julius D. Spain Sr… said he would seek a meeting with Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and ‘if someone needs to be charged with making a false report, so be it.’ Crutchfield said in his complaint that ‘the neighbor who called the police lied about me taking pictures of the military base nearby to trigger a police response.'” [Washington Post]
Early Voting ‘Here to Stay’ — “Arlington is likely to provide a number of satellite centers for early voting in the 2021 general election – but how many there will be, and where they will be located, remain open questions. ‘Early voting is here to stay,’ predicted county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer, briefing Electoral Board members during a Dec. 16 meeting.” [InsideNova]
County May Help With Caucuses — “Find yourself in need of holding an election? The Arlington County Electoral Board soon may be able to help. Board members voted 3-0 on Dec. 16 to move forward on a policy that would allow political parties and, potentially, other groups to rent equipment and use election-office personnel during their own elections… Those doing the renting also would have to reimburse the cost.” [InsideNova]
New Rosslyn Apartment to Be Temporary Hotel — “Penzance Cos. is bringing in a pop-up hotel startup to help fill a portion of its massive mixed-use project on the western side of Rosslyn. Kasa Living is looking to use 100 units at The Highlands at 1555 Wilson Blvd. as temporary hotel rooms, according to a new filing from Penzance with Arlington County planners. The fully furnished apartments will serve as short-term rentals offered up by Kasa for up to seven years.” [Washington Business Journal]
Christmas Eve Scare for Barcroft Residents — “Missile into occupied dwelling… 4600 block of 9th Street S. At approximately 3:56 p.m. on December 24, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victims were inside a residence when they heard a loud noise and observed an object had been thrown at a window, causing it to break.” [ACPD]
The Arlington NAACP is decrying an incident in which a Black man was questioned by Arlington County police last week for photographing a house.
The incident happened on Monday, Dec. 21, in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood, near the Air Force Memorial. A video and an account of what happened was posted on Facebook and first reported by Blue Virginia.
Marlon Crutchfield, a professional photographer who specializes in real estate, was photographing a client’s home when, according to his post, a “nosy neighbor” started to question what he was doing.
“A man came over and asked me if I needed any help, of course I didn’t,” Crutchfield wrote. “I informed the gentleman that I didn’t need any assistance. Honestly — I was offended. Every black person￼ knows what this means… I am retired from the US Army with a Bronze Star. I am also a former Federal Law Enforcement Officer. I’ve taught my kids through the years to be good citizens to be good people in general but it seems as though things change￼ slowly.”
Crutchfield said police started showing up after the encounter, apparently called by another neighbor. He posted a video of the police encounter, during which he declines an officer’s request to hand over identification.
“Have you seen me commit a crime? Has anybody seen me commit a crime?” he asks.
The homeowner with whom he was working can be heard questioning why police were called and calling the situation “very racist.” Eventually the officers leave as Crutchfield goes back inside the home.
“Have a great day, sir,” one of the officers says.
“NEVER have I been so embarrassed. It was hurtful and demeaning in so many ways,” Crutchfield later recounted on Facebook. “It could’ve gotten a lot worse… we’ve seen this many times as of late. It’s time for change.”
Photography is not a crime, though police in Arlington frequently respond to calls about “suspicious” people seen photographing buildings in various parts of the county. The Arlington branch of the NAACP said there’s no reason why multiple police vehicles would need to respond to such a “nonsensical call,” as happened last week.
“We are looking into this incident,” the local NAACP branch said in a press release. “We spoke with the citizen who recorded the video and the Acting Chief of Police. Additionally, we have shared the public video with selected officials of the Arlington County Board, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, three elected leaders of the Virginia General Assembly representing Arlington County, and the County Manager.”
“We have also issued a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for all documents and police recordings related to this incident,” the organization added.
Additionally, NAACP Branch President Julius Spain, Sr. and First Vice President Kent Carter issued a statement about the incident, saying that “it is a time to stop dispatching police to calls like these.”
“It is not a crime to be Black,” Spain and Carter say. The full statement is below.
Police Called for Man Spitting on Bus Passengers — An incident on a bus prompted a police response Thursday afternoon. Per ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage: “At approximately 1:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject on a Metro bus in the area of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street. The suspect left the area prior to police arrival and a search by responding officers returned with negative results… The call for service alleged the subject was acting disorderly and spitting on individuals on the bus.”
Arlington Company Is Among Fastest-Growing — Ballston-based Hungry is the fastest-growing technology firm in the D.C. area and the 18th fastest growing tech company in the nation, according to a new list from Deloitte. Another Ballston tech company, Evolent Health, ranked No. 402 in the U.S. [Deloitte]
NAACP Statement on H-B Incident — “We are pleased that the principal took swift action to notify families and meet with affected students and that the Superintendent followed up with a letter to APS families with an honest depiction that did not minimize the significance or harm it caused. This act of racial violence is the latest and most egregious in a progressive pattern of racist incidents occurring within our schools.” [Press Release]
Grant to Help Local Tourism Recover — “Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of state grant funds.” [Arlington County]
ACFD Hosting Kids’ Bedtime Stories — “We are extremely excited to host our 4th Virtual Bedtime Story/ Fire Engine Tour! Spots are limited and previous events have maxed out quickly. If you are interested in joining please email [email protected] Can’t wait to see you Monday night.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]
Gondolas Gaining in Popularity — “Air gondolas — ski-lift-type conveyances that have become common sights in South American cities like Medellín, Mexico City and La Paz — could one day dot the U.S. urban landscape, some transportation planners say.” [Axios]
Nearby: Car Plows Into CD Cellar — The CD Cellar store in Falls Church was damaged after a car came crashing through one of the front windows earlier this week. “Someone thought we were a drive-thru record store,” CD Cellar quipped on social media. [Facebook]
The Arlington branch of the NAACP is calling for an independent investigation into an inmate’s death inside the county jail last week.
The incident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 1 at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. Darryl Becton, 46, was found unconscious in his cell and later declared dead on scene by paramedics after resuscitation efforts failed.
Becton, a D.C. resident, was being held on an alleged probation violation following his conviction on a felony “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” charge last year.
The death is being investigated by the Arlington County Police Department. A separate law enforcement entity — the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office — manages the jail, but the NAACP says a different agency, like Virginia State Police, should conduct the investigation.
“It has been reported that in Arlington there has now been at least three deaths in the past few years at this Detention Facility,” said NAACP branch president Julius Spain, Sr. “It is time to find out the reasons why. Transparency, accountability, and review are extremely critical. The public deserves to know.”
The NAACP sent the following letter to the county’s sheriff, acting police chief and other top officials, as well as members of the media.
Arlington Branch #7047 calls for a full AND independent investigation (to include policy, procedural, and criminal violations) into the death of Mr. Darryl Becton, 46, who died on October 1, 2020, after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility. Releasing the results of the investigation to the public immediately is paramount to promoting transparency and public trust in our community. The results of the autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determining the cause and manner of death should also be released to the public immediately.
Mr. Julius D. Spain, Sr., President of the branch stated, “Any death in the custody of law enforcement officials should require an independent investigation with full public disclosure. It has been reported that in Arlington there has now been at least three deaths in the past few years at this Detention Facility. It is time to find out the reasons why. Transparency, accountability, and review are extremely critical. The public deserves to know.”
Mr. Kent D. Carter, Vice President of the branch who serves as chair of the branch criminal justice committee added, “the Arlington Branch NAACP intends to push county leadership to include a review of ACPD/Sheriff Office collaboration and custody and detention policies as part of the work on the recently established police practices group.” Mr. Carter continued, “this death raises yet another area that we on the committee should be expected to analyze in order for our work to be meaningful.”
The deaths of inmates over the last few years in the local Detention Facility are overly concerning. The public needs to know what policies and procedures have been implemented to prevent inmate deaths.
Furthermore, while we understand Arlington County Police Department will investigate, we feel strongly that incidents of this nature should be investigated by an independent outside agency such as the Virginia State Police.
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A month and a half ago, the Arlington branch of the NAACP publicly called for the county’s logo to be changed. Over the weekend, members of the County Board voiced support for that change.
Arlington’s logo, along with its flag, depicts Arlington House, the county’s namesake that sits atop a hill in Arlington National Cemetery. The house was built by enslaved persons in the early 1800s on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s adopted son.
The house was later home to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who married into the slave-owning Custis family, before the property was seized by the federal government during the Civil War and ultimately turned into the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery.
Julius Spain, Sr., head of the Arlington NAACP, spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting and reiterated the branch’s call for the logo to be nixed — saying it should be done as soon as possible, rather than after a prolonged process.
“Let me be perfectly clear: atrocities were committed in the area of Arlington House,” he said. “That is a fact, and for that reason alone that should be enough.”
Spain’s remarks were supported by a half dozen other locals during the virtual meeting, including former Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.
Recently-elected County Board member Takis Karantonis was the first to respond to Spain’s comments and the most forceful in agreeing that the logo has to go now.
“It is nothing more and nothing less than a plantation house, and we cannot look away from this,” Karantonis said. “This simply cannot represent our government. For sure it doesn’t represent me and I don’t think it represents any of you, my colleagues, the County Manager, our civil servants.”
Karantonis then held his County Board business card up to the camera.
“I cannot say that Black lives matter today, in this summer of 2020, and at the same time pull out a business card with a plantation house printed on it,” he said. “So I believe this is urgent and compelling, and we can… retire this logo. It is time to move on from this.”
Other County Board members who spoke agreed with the need to change the logo, but did not commit to doing so as quickly as hoped for by Spain.
“It’s critical that we begin this community conversation,” said Katie Cristol.
“Arlington’s seal and logo must be replaced as soon as is reasonably possible,” said Matt de Ferranti. “Both are visible representations of a building that’s principal legacy is as a slave plantation, and thus must be replaced to be consistent with the inclusive, diverse community we aspire to be.”
De Ferranti said the Board needs to consider the process and standard for replacing the logo, while also remaining focused on other racial justice matters.
Christian Dorsey, the only Black member of the Board, said the county must deal with systematic racism, including the logo, in a comprehensive manner.
“I’d take perhaps a broader view that there are other symbols and names in our community that predate the confederacy, that postdate the confederacy, that are nonetheless symbols of systemic racism and oppression,” Dorsey said. “To address one without addressing the other to me is beneath the capability of our community to actually move forward with a symbolic and a substantive approach to dealing with systemic racism. I hope people will be patient.”
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county’s logo will be the topic of further discussion during the Board’s meeting on Tuesday. Arlington is also planning community roundtable discussions on systemic racism, and has kicked off an effort to rename Lee Highway.
Spain, meanwhile, said that the county flag and street names are not nearly as meaningful as the county’s chosen logo, and the latter should take priority. In a letter, he said the Board should be able to remove the logo within 2-3 months.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County should change its logo and seal, the local branch of the NAACP says.
The civil rights group says the logo’s use of Arlington House — the former home of and a memorial to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — is “divisive and racist.”
Enslaved people were forced to build the Greek revival style mansion, which overlooks the Potomac and was the centerpiece of a plantation that utilized slave labor. Until it was seized during the Civil War, Arlington House had primarily been the home of descendents of George Washington. The house is now a National Memorial and part of Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington House, the NAACP said in a letter to the editor this afternoon, is “a symbol of a slave labor camp.” The “racist plantation symbol” should be removed, as it “divides, rather than unites us,” the branch said.
The call to change the logo — which adorns the county flag, website, parks and other county-owned property — comes amid a national reckoning about race, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent national protests.
Prior to the protests, the Confederate-inspired names of Jefferson Davis Highway and Washington-Lee High School were changed in Arlington. The county is also in the early stages of renaming Lee Highway.
In 2018, the County Board responded to a resident’s request for the logo to be redesigned by saying that the Board “will certainly give the matter more thought as budget and staff resources become available in future years.”
Reached for comment today, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that the county has received numerous requests recently to change everything from the logo to the names of buildings, bridges and streets.
As for changing the logo, the county is “happy to consider it,” Garvey said, but only after a community engagement process — “a good solid conversation with everyone in Arlington.”
“When you take something away, you have to put something in its place,” Garvey said.
The letter to the editor was written by NAACP Arlington Branch President Julius Spain, Sr., as well as branch member Carolynn Kane and former Arlington School Board member Dr. Emma Violand-Sánchez. The full letter is below.
Arlington County’s most prominent symbol is its logo and seal. A symbol that is everywhere … on government correspondence, uniforms, buildings, vehicles, websites. A symbol of a slave labor camp. A symbol of the southern plantation economy designed to ensure White privilege and Black subjugation. A place that the National Park Service named, “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.” This is the symbol placed in the center of our flag. A divisive and racist branding of our diverse, usually progressive community. It is a symbol that divides, rather than unites us. Yet, despite community members bringing this problem to their attention, it appears that the County Board is uninterested in changing its logo. Instead the County proudly states in its manual that this symbol reflects its “values … identity … traditions;” and tells residents that there are “good sides” to this racist plantation symbol.
We ask, how can the County have courageous conversations on race, tackle the inequities in Arlington, heal the deep historical wounds here or enact its platform to address racial inequities when it will not confront and change its own symbol? If it refuses to acknowledge its own blindness to the logo’s meaning, it cannot. The County Board must end its embrace of this symbol of Black bondage, oppression and pain. The County’s Robert E. Lee Memorial logo, flag and seal needs to be “retired” and a new era of inclusiveness and equity ushered in immediately. We call on the County Board and County Manager to stop delaying, put this item on the Board’s Agenda, and vote. Now.