A giant photograph of four Black children who made history in Arlington was just installed in the new wing of Dorothy Hamm Middle School (4100 Vacation Lane), which is close to being completed.
The mural honors Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman and Gloria Thompson, who set foot in Stratford Junior High School on Feb. 2, 1959, officially ending the practice of segregation in Arlington Public Schools.
“What a beautiful tribute and celebration of four amazing APS students!” School Board member Barbara Kanninen said on social media.
“It’s such an awesome, hopeful story,” said Ellen Smith, principal of the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.
Smith is excited for her students to see history come to life at their school, which opened in September 2019 while construction on a new addition continued. Once the last touches on the wing are finalized, the school will be 100% complete.
The middle school weaves in history through its name — after Dorothy Hamm, a key figure in the charge to integrate Arlington Public Schools — plus installations recounting the history of racial integration, Smith said. Gone is the old identity as a segregated school named after Stratford Hall, the plantation where Confederate general Robert E. Lee spent his childhood.
From the beginning, the architectural team and Arlington Public Schools wanted to incorporate into students’ experience the idea that kids and the community advocated for integration, she said.
“The retelling and knowledge of this story is part of our mission as a school,” Smith said. “I expect it to be a part of students’ lived experiences every year.”
A new commemorative walk outside will have illustrated panels retelling the story of integration. Inside, historical artifacts from the Hamm family will also be on display.
Smith plans to recognize the first day of school for Deskins, Jones, Newman and Thompson every Feb. 2. Additionally, the school curriculum will include the topics of integration, civil rights and social justice, she said.
Although the building has changed uses since the four entered it 61 years ago — most recently housing the H-B Woodlawn program since the 1970s — the interior configuration has largely stayed the same, Smith said. The biggest upgrades include the new name and a new wing to the west of the school, which is a few finishing touches away from being completely done.
After the H-B Woodlawn program moved to Rosslyn, work began to convert the building into a neighborhood middle school. Construction started in early 2018 and continued after Smith opened the school last September. Just seven months later, students were learning remotely due to the pandemic, and the pace of construction has accelerated without students present, the principal said.
The new wing features a new library, a small gym and 15 classrooms, including a family consumer sciences (previously known as home economics) classroom and a makerspace.
“The architectural team did a fantastic job: It’s very bright, geometric and light-filled,” Smith said.
(Updated at 10:30 a.m. on 12/02/20) Arlington is seeking diverse voices in its Dialogues on Race and Equity, but so far the biggest group of respondents have been middle-aged white women who are relatively affluent.
Arlington County Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd and Challenging Racism Director Alicia Jones McLeod, who are promoting a new questionnaire on the topic of race, see this as a sign to keep pushing for broader participation.
“It has been interesting… we are seeing predominantly white women, middle aged, homeowners completing the assessment,” Byrd told the County Board last week. “So we really, really want to encourage everyone — so we can hear all of the voices that we typically do not hear — to complete the assessment.”
So far, 69% of respondents were white, but not of Hispanic origin. Hispanic people accounted for 7%, and Black or African American people accounted for 9%. Asian or Pacific Islander representation rests at 4.5% and American Indian or Alaska Native rests at 2.2%. Another 4.5% marked “other.”
Women represent 60% of respondents, and men 31%, with 8% preferring not to answer, and less than 1% marking gender non-conforming or not listed.
“We want to understand the full Arlington experience, or Arlington as experienced by everyone, so that we can continue to move forward,” Byrd added, in a conversation with ARLnow yesterday.
On Monday, the assessment was released in Mongolian and Arabic. It is being pushed via social media, email and the distribution of hard copies. The assessment closes on Dec. 31 and results will be presented to the County Board in the new year.
About 1,200 assessments have been completed since the survey went online on Oct. 12, as part of a broader initiative from Arlington County and Challenging Racism to engage community members in dialogues on race and equity, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
More than 200 people have participated in a second component of this initiative — a series of six conversations — the last of which is set for Dec. 9.
The preliminary under-representation of people of color, immigrants and non-English speakers mirrors the feelings that participants have expressed about the Arlington Way, housing and Arlington Public Schools. Participants have frequently mentioned barriers that lead to under-representation in government processes, home-owning and APS gifted programs.
Byrd said the assessments and discussions will lay the foundation for her work with county officials and the community to dismantle systemic racism, where it exists, in Arlington County.
That work involves undoing the lasting effects from when unequal treatment was codified in law, Byrd said. While those historic policies no longer exist, they erected barriers that keep Arlingtonians from accessing housing, education, health and wealth to this day, she said.
“None of us here created the system, but we’re all a part of it, regardless,” she said. “Race is the center of it.”
In the assessments and conversations, many Arlingtonians identified the Arlington Way — a catch-all phrase for citizen engagement in local government — as an area where the means of participation disadvantage people of color, those who rent and those who do not have the luxury of time to participate in lengthy, iterative decision processes.
“The Arlington Way means different things to different people, but generally it is about engagement: how people interact with, and who has access to, decision-making, decision-makers and resources; who is at the table when those policy decisions are being made; who can weigh in when policy decisions are being made that affect everyone,” Byrd said.
The pandemic has, at least temporarily, resulted in one notable change to the Arlington Way: more public meetings are being conducted online, rather than in person, thus making it more feasible for some to watch or participate. Before, participation in in-person meetings might have required some combination of booking a babysitter, requesting to work a different shift, waiting for public transit, and sitting in a crowded room for hours on end.
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The company, at 1515 N. Courthouse Road, trained eight creators to make video collections specifically depicting people of color and members of the LGBT communities doing everyday activities. These reels are part of a campaign, Re: Stock, which was launched to address the need for videos of people with different racial identities, sizes, abilities and sexual orientations.
“Sourcing from authentic places will lead to authentic footage and authentic representation,” said Sydney Carlton, Director of Brand Marketing at Storyblocks.
The first batch of videos were released starting in mid-October. Although the pandemic delayed the launch from this spring Storyblocks aims to double its diverse content by the end of 2021 and quadruple it by the end of 2022.
The push comes after years of feedback from clients asking for more diverse footage, since existing footage tends to skew towards white subjects and straight couples.
“We were receiving hundreds and hundreds of comments for more people of color and more same-sex couples,” Carlton said. “It really ran the gamut, but it was loud and a lot.”
A recent company survey found that 72% of users — who include independent filmmakers, advertisers and journalists — said diverse content is important for their projects, but people of color are represented in just 5% of Storyblocks’ current digital library.
“You can only find happy white women eating salads,” Carlton said.
The problem is primarily due to location and access, since most stock video contributors hail from Eastern Europe, where creators do not have the same access to a diverse array of subjects, she said.
The first collections were produced by Monica Singleton and Samson Binutu. They focused on Black families educating their children, Black teens and adults in romantic relationships, family dinners at home and Black women enjoying the outdoors.
“These are things people do every single day,” Carlton said. “That’s the power of the campaign.”
In a statement, Singleton said her personal experience searching footage libraries made her excited to join the project.
“In the past when I’ve looked for certain stock footage or music, it’s been really hard to find representation for people that look like me,” Singleton said.
Future Storyblocks projects will focus on people with from other racial identities, and with a range of body shapes and sizes as well as abilities. Going deeper, Carlton said the goal of Re: Stock is invert stereotypes of who plays board games, does homework with their kids, and lives together.
“That’s where you instill a sense of humanity in people,” she said.
New Italian Eatery Opening Soon — “Antonio Ferraro, whose Napoli Pasta Bar in Columbia Heights was named a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in 2018, is opening a new market concept in Arlington’s Pentagon Row. Napoli Salumeria is specializing in grab-and-go-style meals, including Neapolitan street food (fried mozzarella and focaccia), homemade pastas, and sauces. Expect classic sandwiches, including cheesesteaks, Italian subs, and sausage and peppers… the hope is to open the market late next week.” [DCist]
Arlington ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Still On — Jason Foster, a former pro football player who lives in the Courthouse area, remains a contestant on ABC’s ‘Bachelorette,’ though Bachelorette Clare seems focused on another beau: Dale, who the other contestants spent part of Tuesday’s episode roasting. [Washingtonian]
Some Skeptical of County’s Race Conversations — “James Moore is an Arlington community activist and owner of a 60-year-old neighborhood barbershop in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood. ‘Our communities in Arlington will want action more so than just conversation,’ Moore said. Moore said he would like to see the county support Black people living in the community by providing more mental health and housing resources.” [The Wash]
Kid’s Skatepark Petition Gets 600 Signers — “I would like for the Arlington county board to add a new skatepark to our area. As you may have noticed the Powhatan Springs skatepark is starting to get very crowded and is hard to ride around without bumping into other people. This park is actually becoming dangerous with all of the people riding in the bowls at one time.” [Change.org]
Chamber Names ‘Best Business’ Honorees — “Last night, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 34th Annual Arlington Best Business Awards at the Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington, D.C., in a hybrid format that allowed attendees to join in person and virtually.” [Press Release]
Arlington Among Top Places for Nature Lovers — A list of the “best places in America for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work” has ranked Arlington No. 21, between Scottsdale, Arizona and Tampa, Florida. Seattle ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]
County Launching Race Conversations — “Today, Arlington County launched a new effort to address racial equity and disparities in our community. Called Dialogues on Race and Equity (DRE), the effort is part of the County’s broader commitment to racial equity… DRE will include a series of virtual community conversations with individuals, nonprofit organizations, civic associations, faith organizations, and businesses.” [Arlington County]
Local Nurses Hold Food Drive — “Nurses at the Virginia [Hospital] Center are going above and beyond to give back to the local community… Nurses launched the ‘Together We Can’ campaign where they collected canned goods. All together, they collected 10,000 cans and donated them directly to the food assistance center.” [WJLA]
Virtual 5K for Local Nonprofits — “A coalition of three homeless-outreach organizations – Community Lodgings, Bridges to Independence and Homestretch – will be hosting their third annual 5K “Home Run for the Homeless” in a different format this year. Rather than running as a group on the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail this year, participants will be able to run where they choose anytime from Oct. 10 (which is designated World Homeless Day) to Oct. 31.” [InsideNova]
Penthouse Sold in New Rosslyn Tower — “The sales team for Pierce announced strong early sales for The Highlands‘ luxury condominium tower… Strong early interest in Pierce has resulted in over $18.7 million in sales by The Mayhood Company since launching sales in August, including the sale of one of two top-of-the-market penthouse residences.” [Press Release]
Theater Holding Virtual Halloween Event — “Synetic Theater will hold its annual ‘Vampire Ball’ in a ‘virtual’ setting this year, with participants enjoying the festivities ‘from the comfort of your own crypt.’ The event will be held on Friday, Oct. 30 from 8 to 10 p.m.” [InsideNova]
County Launches COVID Dashboard — “Just launched: Arlington’s COVID Data Dashboard with comprehensive information on cases by age, race and zip code; trends in % pos testing; date of symptom onset; and more. Track the course of the pandemic with us, here. And stay safe and mask up!” [Twitter, Arlington County]
Shirlington Parking Challenges — “Shirlington has significant amounts of surface and garage parking, but much of it is restricted during working hours to ensure employees have a place to park. (Many, though not all, of those spaces become available to the general public after 5 p.m.) ‘There’s lots of parking – [but] what’s there isn’t allocated very well,’ County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said.” [InsideNova]
Justice Reform Discussion Tomorrow — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee (Arlington Dems) and Arlington Young Democrats will host a Facebook Live forum at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 23, in advance of a special session of the General Assembly set to begin Aug. 18 that will largely be devoted to criminal justice reform.” [Arlington Democrats]
New Chief Race and Equity Officer Discusses Role — “This position focuses on leading, coordinating and overseeing county organizations and partnering with the community to advance racial equity. To me, this entails focusing on systems and our organizational structure and really how racism presents itself — in our policies, our practices, how we interact and engage with the community.” [Arlington Magazine]
New Office Tenants in Ballston — “CropLife America, The Fertilizer Institute and the Agricultural Retailers Association have signed a 15-year lease for 25,564 square feet to co-locate in Ballston Exchange, a 776,000-square-foot mixed-use office and retail mixed-use project.” [Commercial Observer]
Other School Systems Go Online-Only — Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Montgomery County public schools are joining Arlington in going online-only to start the semester. [DCist, WJLA, Loudoun Times-Mirror, Bethesda Beat]
Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster
Byrd, a long-time county employee who previously worked in the Department of Community Planning, Housing and a Development, will oversee work “to inform the County’s development of its plan for addressing race and equity issues.”
A University of Virginia graduate and Hampton, Va. native, Byrd said she is looking forward to the challenges ahead in the new role.
“The time is past due to dedicate and commit our time, resources and effort to advancing race and equity in achieving Arlington’s vision of a diverse and inclusive community,” she said in a statement. “It is an opportunity we should not take lightly or as a response to the moment, and one I approach with humility.”
More from a county press release, below.
As the Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County, Samia Byrd will lead the County’s work to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion both internal and external to the organization. This includes guiding and facilitating the development and implementation of important policies and practices through an equity lens.
“Samia will be instrumental to helping Arlington better understand the cracks in our foundation,” stated County Manager Mark Schwartz. “I am excited to have her in this new leadership role as we identify the solutions moving forward to ensure that everyone in Arlington has the same opportunities regardless of the color of their skin, their education level, their housing type, their job, or the Arlington ZIP code where they live. I am honored that she will take on this work. She will bring a deep sense of commitment, faith, and insight to a subject that is profoundly, at its core, about what type of community we want to be.”
Ms. Byrd will continue to oversee and manage the County’s coordinated work with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government (COG) Racial Equity Cohort comprised of Senior County and Arlington Public Schools staff, to inform the County’s development of its plan for addressing race and equity issues. This includes working closely with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all, to help guide the development of a racial equity tool later this year.
Once developed, the racial equity tool will be used in guiding policy, practice, program and budget decisions and offer new strategies for achieving racial equity outcomes in Arlington. Ms. Byrd will also have a pivotal role in developing and implementing a Countywide Racial Equity Action Plan.
A banner featuring a collage of photos of Yorktown High School seniors was intended to celebrate the class of 2020, but instead it is being decried as racist.
The banner has since been removed and Yorktown’s principal has apologized, after the controversy blew up on social media yesterday. At issue: the banner uses class photos to form an image of the Yorktown logo, but singles out students of color to create the black outline of the logo.
“I thoroughly don’t understand how Yorktown put forth such a racist banner,” said one student in a social media post. “I understand they were trying to do something nice for the seniors, but the execution was horrible. [People of color] shouldn’t be the outline and there are better ways to highlight the Y.”
“They really used us as the shading cmon now,” said another.
An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said the banner was generated by computer software that creates composite images using hundreds of individual photos, grouped to correspond with colors in the background image.
“A computer program grouped and placed senior portraits over an image of the front of the school and the YHS logo,” said Frank Bellavia. “The printer sent a proof to the school by email, so it was difficult to see how the photos were placed to create image.”
Yorktown principal Kevin Clark said in an email to students and parents that “upon realizing our oversight, we immediately removed the banner and notified the printing company of this issue.”
“This banner does not appropriately reflect our graduating class or our values, and we sincerely apologize to any student who felt offended or marginalized,” Clark said. “We do not condone any activity or imagery that offends our students.”
The outgoing co-editor-in-chief of the Yorktown Sentry student newspaper reported on the controversy via Twitter last night.
Yoni Yohannes, an African American senior who noted the shading on his Instagram story earlier today, said it is “covering [students of color’s] faces and is showing the white students in the light.” Yohannes also said he finds the banner “shocking and disappointing.”
— Joseph Ramos (@joseph_ramos2) May 20, 2020
The banner also does not include all members of the class, but repeats the photos of certain students.
— Joseph Ramos (@joseph_ramos2) May 20, 2020
Yorktown is the least diverse of Arlington’s high schools, with non-white students accounting for about a third of the student body.
The full letter from Clark is below.
Arlington’s resident extreme endurance athlete has pulled off another improbable feat.
Michael Wardian was among the participants in the “Backyard Quarantine Ultra,” a virtual race conducted via Zoom and social media. The race kicked off Saturday and attracted worldwide attention for its unique format — it challenged runners to run about 4.2 miles on the hour, each hour, and broadcast it via the video conferencing app.
What started with 2,300 runners from 50 countries quickly became a battle of attrition. By day two, it was down to just two: Wardian, 45, and Czech runner Radek Brunner.
A TV crew from WJLA showed up to film the spectacle as Wardian repeatedly ran the same loop around the Arlington Forest neighborhood, where he lives, to the cheers of neighbors.
With the round-the-clock race dragging into its third night and surpassing the 250 mile mark, the audience grew.
Finally, at 11 p.m. last night, Brunner — who was running inside on a treadmill — made a mistake: not starting in time when the horn sounded. He was disqualified and Wardian crowned the champion after he completed his loops. He had competed for 63 hours, had not slept, and ended up running a total of 262.52 miles.
“It was a real honor and privilege to be a part of something beyond my imagination,” said an exhausted Wardian, who came a few hours shy of a world record after the race ended.
Just wanted to say thank you to the amazing athletes & community that created 63 hours of racing I’ll never forget. 🙏 to everyone especially Radek for pushing me beyond anything I thought possible. #quarantineBackyardUltra pic.twitter.com/DwwOCzmyL7
— michael wardian (@mikewardian) April 7, 2020
Congratulations flowed in from all corners of the globe, including from his hometown.
— arlingtonva (@ArlingtonVA) April 7, 2020
The popular annual Four Courts Four Miler race, scheduled for this weekend, has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.
The St. Patrick’s Day-themed race usually takes runners from Courthouse, through Rosslyn, down Route 110 and back. Instead, organizers announced today that it has been called off and those who signed up will have their registrations deferred until 2021.
Previously planned road closures will now be lifted.
The race website posted the following message:
In alignment with government officials, as well as our desire to create a safe environment for our runners, volunteers, staff, city services, and community, we are cancelling the 2020 St. Pats Run Fest and moving participants to the 2021 event. This includes all events (Saturday’s Four Courts Four Miler and Sunday’s 10K + 5K).
All runners will be automatically deferred into the 2021 St Pats Run Fest (3/13-3/14, 2021). If you deferred prior to this announcement and paid a deferral fee your deferral fee will be refunded. Shirts and medals for challenge participants will be available for pick up at Pacers Clarendon or Pacers 14th Street through the end of March.
We appreciate the support of the running community and especially the hard work of our municipality and medical partners. This was a very difficult decision for our team but one we felt was necessary for the well-being of our community.