Arlington, VA

Deputy County Manager Samia Byrd has been promoted to the new position of Chief Race and Equity Officer, Arlington County announced today.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Congratulations flowed in from all corners of the globe, including from his hometown.

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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.

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) A series of underground bicycle races is coming back to Crystal City next month.

Throughout the month, several races will weave through the parking garage at 201 12th Street S. The sixth annual event series, organized by the Crystal City Business Improvement District, is billed as “the area’s only underground bike race.”

The race hosts warned on the registration website that racing inside with low ceilings and concrete pillars can take a few minutes to get used to.

“This is a training race,” said the website. “Our main goal is to get everyone out riding in a fun and competitive setting.”

Spectators will be able to catch the races on the sidelines and hang out at a lounge area, which will provide a viewing area and feature happy hour drinks and bites from Acme Pie.

“Friends, family, and those too timid for the saddle can always catch the excitement from the comfort of the sidelines while enjoying a beverage from the event’s pop-up bar,” the BID noted.

Each day of racing will have three categories: a beginner race, a women’s cup, and a cup open to men and women aimed at racers who already have some experience. Each race is scheduled to last 35 minutes with a limit of 50 participants. The fee to enter is $20.

Races are scheduled for five successive Tuesdays:

  • March 3
  • March 10
  • March 17
  • March 24
  • March 31

The final will have a different setup. In addition to the beginners’ race, the March 31 race will feature a relay race, an “anything goes” race, and a fixed-gear bike race. For the anything-goes race, the only limit is that the vehicle can’t be motorized.

If you’re wondering what racing underground feels like, in 2017 a participant rode with a GoPro.

Photo courtesy Crystal City

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The 14th annual Arlington Turkey Trot 5K returns tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday, prompting road closures.

The race will kick off at 8 a.m. at Christ Church of Arlington (3020 N. Pershing Drive) in Lyon Park. The church first organized the race in 2006.

This year, over 4,000 runners registered, selling out the race before online registration was scheduled to close.

All proceeds from the event benefit local charities like the Arlington Food Assistance Center and the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

“Over the course of 13 years, the Trot has generated nearly $800,000 to help Arlington County residents in need,” according to the race’s website.

The following roads will be closed from 6:30 a.m. until approximately 10 a.m., per a county press release:

  • Pershing Drive from Washington Blvd. to N. Glebe Road
  • N. Oxford Street from Pershing Drive to 5th Street N.
  • 5th Street N. from N. Nelson St. to N. Oxford Street
  • N. Nelson Street from Pershing Drive to 5th Street N.
  • N. Highland Street from Pershing Drive. to 9th Street N.
  • Washington Blvd. from 9th Street N. to Arlington Blvd. (eastbound lanes only)
  • N. Fillmore Street from Washington Blvd. to 3rd Street N.
  • 3rd Street N. from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Blvd.
  • N. Bedford Street from Arlington Blvd. to Brookside Dr.
  • N. Brookside Drive from N. Bedford Street to Washington Blvd.

Street parking will be restricted and temporary “no parking” signs will be placed along the route. All vehicles parked in violation of the signs will be ticketed and towed, according to Arlington County Police.

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The annual Army Ten-Miler race returns this weekend for the 35th year in a row, prompting several road closures.

Runners will hit the pavement to compete in this 10-mile race on Sunday, October 13, following a route that starts and ends at the Pentagon and takes runners into D.C. via the Key Bridge, and back to Virginia via the 14th Street Bridge.

The race course is set to avoid the Memorial Bridge again this year, after detouring from the under-construction bridge for the first time last year.

Participants will be released in waves, with athletes in the Wounded Warrior division kicking off the day at 7:50 a.m.

The Arlington County Police Department announced a long list of road closures in a press release earlier this week.

The department said it’s planning to coordinate closures the day of the race together with the Virginia State Police, U.S. Park Police, and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

The closures include:

  • Route 110, between Rosslyn and Crystal City, will be closed in both directions from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 2:00 p.m. Motorists may use the George Washington Memorial Parkway as an alternative.
    • There will be no access to southbound Route 110 from N. Marshall Drive
    • The public may access Arlington National Cemetery from N. Marshall Drive
  • I-66 westbound will be closed from Washington, D.C. to N. Scott Street from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 10:00 a.m. Motorists may use the George Washington Memorial Parkway or Route 50 as an alternative route.
    • To access I-66 westbound, enter from N. Scott Street in Rosslyn.
  • I-66 eastbound, Exit 75 will be closed from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 10:00 a.m.
  • North Lynn Street, from Gateway Park to the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge will be closed from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 10:00 a.m.
  • The exit for Route 29 North/Key Bridge from the George Washington Memorial Parkway will be closed from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 10:00 a.m.
  • The Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge will be closed in both directions, with no vehicular access from 4:00 a.m. to approximately 10:00 a.m.
  • I-395 HOV northbound from Crystal City to the 14th Street Bridge will be closed from 6:00 a.m. to approximately 12:30 p.m.
  • Eads Street from Army Navy Drive into the Pentagon/ northbound I-395 HOV lanes will be closed from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 12:30 p.m.
  • I-395 southbound HOV exit to S. Eads Street / Pentagon South Parking lot will be closed from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 12:30 p.m.
  • Route 27 in both directions from George Washington Memorial Parkway to I-395 will be closed from 7:00 a.m. to approximately 10:00 a.m.
  • Army Navy Drive from S. Eads Street to 12th Street S. from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • 12th Street S. from S. Eads Street to Long Bridge Drive from 8:00 a.m. to approximately 12:00 p.m.
  • Long Bridge Drive will be closed from 12th Street S. to Boundary Channel Drive from 8:00 a.m. to approximately 12:00 p.m.
  • Boundary Channel Drive will be closed from 8:00 a.m. to approximately 12:00 p.m.

Race attendees are encouraged to use Metro to get to the race via the Pentagon or Pentagon City Metro stations.

Those traveling by ride hailing services like Lyft, Uber, or Via are asked to use the drop-off point for runners at Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street.

Photo via Flickr Pool/Rob Cannon

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Arlington will soon be studying how to factor racial equity in policymaking thanks to a new resolution passed this weekend.

The Arlington County Board unanimously adopted a resolution its meeting this past Saturday, September 21, committing the county to gathering data on racial inequality in Arlington, creating a “scorecard” to track progress made, and designing a tool to help officials consider race during policy and budget decisions, among other actions.

The three-page resolution is part of the county’s participation in a training program with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national racial justice organization from University of California Berkeley’s racial justice institute and activist organization Race Forward.

As part of the the nine-month program, county officials will design the racial equity tool for policymaking, aimed at improving currently unequal policy outcomes based on race.

“Arlington County has achieved great success in attaining ‘secure, attractive, residential and commercial neighborhoods’ with engaged citizenry and resilient, sustainable communities, but recognizes this is not the experience of all Arlingtonians,” reads the Saturday resolution.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said that many “grassroots” efforts have existed in Arlington to address racism and unequal access to resources, but that’s an imperfect system.

“We weren’t hitting everything,” he said. “It was not comprehensive.”

“The pervasiveness and the systemic nature of inequity in our society means you can’t pick and choose where you want to make a difference,” added Dorsey. “You have to actually make that difference enterprise-wide, community-wide.”

Board member Katie Cristol praised county staff for their work on the project, and said staff buy-in was essential because everything local government does from “filling pop-holes to renewing library books” touches themes of racial equity.

Officials noted during the weekend discussion that the commitment to equity is designed to build on the county’s existing equality initiatives dedicated to housing, health, childcare, and internet access. Research previously found a 10-year life expectancy gap between some Arlington residents depending on where they live and that students of color faced higher rates of obesity, teen pregnancy, and lower rates of care for mental health.

“Simply put, it’s about meeting people where they are,” Assistant County Manager Samia Byrd said of the new initiative. “And beginning to open doors to provide access to pathways that have been traditionally or systematically blocked.”

Byrd said Arlington will assemble an interdepartmental task force to address racial inequities that will include Arlington Public Schools, which has faced accusations of racial bias in student discipline, and settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over inadequate support for English-language learning students.

“The vast majority of our history is one where government has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequities,” said GARE Director Julie Nelson. “And so for us it’s really important for us to recognize what our vision is, and what our values are, and to act accordingly.”

GARE currently works with local governments in around 40 states, including Virginia and Maryland, according to its website.

“The current paradigm is challenging the premise of equality and instead considering equity,” Byrd noted.

“Frankly this is a step forward for the families that [the Arlington Food Assistance Center] serves,” said AFAC’s Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng.

“This isn’t about feeling good,” said Board member Libby Garvey. “It’s about making it better for everybody.”

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Clarendon Day and two other festivals will take to Arlington streets on Saturday, prompting celebrations, road closures, and delicious food all around.

The massive Clarendon Day street festival which draws tens of thousands of attendees will run from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. this Saturday, September 21, and will feature food trucks and booths from vendors like donut maker Good Company, live music, arts and crafts vendors, and dance performances.

The annual Clarendon Day races will also return. Participants can sign up for the 5K race at 8 a.m., and a 10K race at 9 a.m. starting at Wilson Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, with both finishing in Rosslyn at Wilson Blvd and N. Fort Myer Drive. Runners also have the option of running both races.

Children can take part in their own, 713-foot race around the plaza driveway of the Market Common. The race, which starts at 9:30 a.m., welcomes parents along with kids and does not require separate registration for both. All kids who join the race will be awarded for their participation.

Registration costs $15 for the “Kids Dash” race, $45 for the 5K, and $50 for the 10K. Runners interested in both the 5K and the 10K can pay $55 for both races.

ACPD will close several streets from 3 a.m. until approximately 10 p.m. to make room for the festival, including:

  • Wilson Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and N. Garfield Street
  • Clarendon Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and N. Garfield Street
  • N. Highland Street between Washington Blvd. and N. Hartford Street

Police will also close additional roads for the races from 5-10:30 a.m.:

  • Wilson Boulevard, between N. Garfield Street and Route 110
  • N. Kent Street, between Wilson Boulevard and 19th Street N.
  • The entirety of Route 110 northbound, from Route 1 to Wilson Blvd. Southbound lanes remain open to traffic.

Elsewhere, near Columbia Pike, police will close 9th Street S. between Walter Reed Drive and S. Highland Street from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. to make way for the Prio Bangla Multicultural Street Festival, which celebrates pan-Asian and Latin American cultures and runs from 12-9 p.m.

The all-day festival will feature vendors with traditional foods, as well as handcrafts, clothing, and jewelry, paintings and henna art, and representatives from local businesses.

“By simply the trading and transferring of ideas, customs, beliefs, cultural habits etc. between diverse cultures living here in the USA, we would be able to accomplish our vision of living in harmony in this community,” organizers wrote on its event page.

Meanwhile, the newly renamed Green Valley neighborhood will also be throwing a celebration of its history and culture from 12-6 p.m. at Drew Elementary School (3500 23rd Street S.)

The community party will feature a DJ, a basketball tournament at 2 p.m. for youth and service workers, as well as a fish fry and barbecue.

“Today, residents pride ourselves on being part of a community where all are welcome,” organizers wrote in an email announcing the event. “Despite development, migration and gentrification that have altered the demographics drastically, we are determined to retain our unique identity as Green Valley continues to be one of ‘Arlington County’s Finest Communities.'”

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The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Arlington Public Schools parents Amina Luqman-Dawson and Robert Dawson, following the publication of our article, Group of Black Parents Say Racial Disparities in Arlington Schools Need to End.

For parents with black children in Arlington Public Schools, hope and wariness accompanies the experience. Like other families, we have hopeful expectations about our community’s excellent schools. We read the headlines. APS Named Top School System in Virginia for the second year in a row. Four of our high schools are ranked in the top 2% of schools nationwide. We hope our children will also be beneficiaries of that excellence. Yet, the data tells a different story. It tells a tale of (at least) two school systems in one County. One which offers countless advantages to white children, the other which offers far less to black children.

The tale unfolds in APS’s own published data recently compiled by Black Parents of Arlington. In one story, a white child enters APS, and from the first years in school, that child has a one in four chance of being identified as gifted. By middle school that child has a 46% chance of being of being labeled gifted. 46%! That “gifted” child will be, at times, clustered with other “gifted” students, and will ultimately end up in higher-level classes which are disproportionately white. Just as the white child’s high intelligence will be presumed, that child’s innocence will also be presumed, with a far lower likelihood of being suspended than their black and Latinx counterparts.

For instance, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, despite a 32% white population, white students account for only 9% of suspensions, and at Yorktown High School, despite a 65% white population, white students constitute only 28% of suspensions. In their course work, the white child has about a 90% chance of taking at least one AP/IB course and around an 80% chance of passing at least one AP/IB exam. The white child will almost certainly graduate on-time, but more importantly, has around an 80% chance of graduating with an advanced diploma, best suited when applying to competitive colleges and universities. For white students, the tale of APS is often a great one.

In contrast, the APS tale is quite different for a black child. It begins in elementary school, where a black child has only a 12% chance of being identified as gifted. By the time that child reaches middle school, it rises to 21%. As the child’s gifted identification is lower than the white child, her/his presumption of guilt is far higher. For example, in suspensions at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, despite a black population of 17%, black children received 82% of suspensions. At Washington and Liberty High School, despite a 9% black population, black children constituted 43% of suspensions. APS data only reflects the most punitive sanction, suspension.

We still don’t know about disproportionate uses of other disciplinary measures, such as detention, in-class and in-school sanctions that disrupt a child’s learning and define how black children see themselves. In their course work, about 62% of black students will take at least one AP/IB course. However, a black child has only a 30% chance of passing one of those course exams. Is it any wonder; after they’ve been over disciplined and under educated relative to their white counterparts? Although it’s highly likely a black child will graduate on-time, it’s not likely that child will leave APS with an advanced diploma. Only 46% of black children graduate with an advanced diploma. The tale of APS for black students isn’t quite as bright.

The data also shows that prospects for black students may differ depending on the APS schools they attend. For the past two reporting years, SOL disparities in math and reading between black and white students are relatively small (a 0 to 10-point difference) in some elementary schools, including Arlington Traditional, Long Branch, Randolph, Campbell, Carlin Springs and Arlington Science.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Several parents with children in Arlington Public Schools have formed a group to address what they say are persistent racial disparities in the county’s school system.

The group, Black Parents of Arlington, shared a pamphlet with public data on issues like discipline they say show how APS students of color are being left behind. Together, the members plan to advocate for solutions and support other parents of color in running for PTAs and APS advisory positions.

“Yes we are happy to know that the majority of black students are taking at least one AP or IB class,” said BPA member Amina Luqman-Dawson. “However, it is really sobering to see that the pass rates are at 31%.”

Another area where disparities exist: standardized testing. The latest results from state-mandated Standards of Learning tests show disparities between white, Asian and multiracial students on one side, and black and Latino students on the other side, the Sun Gazette reported Tuesday.

Members said they were proud of APS’s high on-time graduation rates, but pointed out that APS data indicates only about 46% of black students earned advanced studies diplomas over the last three years — compared to around 82% of white students.

“We’re not looking for just passing, we’re looking for excellence,” said Luqman-Dawson, who lives in Shirlington and works with education policy and non-profits.

Another data set highlighted in the group’s pamphlet is the rate at which white youth versus black youth are entered into APS’s Gifted and Talented Program: 12% percent of black students in 2017-2018 entered the program, compared to 25% of white students.

“We are not only looking at how black students are being negatively stereotyped,” said Luqman-Dawson. “I think you’re also looking at how white students are being favorably viewed.”

In response, Arlington Public Schools acknowledged the issue and said it is continuing to work to close what it described as an “opportunity gap.”

“We agree that there is a gap that exists between student groups,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said in a statement today (Wednesday). “We have a professional commitment to close the opportunity gap, and this is a top priority for APS and the School Board.”

Bellavia said APS needed to make more improvements, but highlighted some the school system had made, including:

  • Increasing the graduation rate of black students
  • Increasing the pass rates of mathematics standardized tests for black students
  • Hiring a Diversity Officer with the fiscal year 2020 budget
  • The APS Mathematics Office holding four parent-teacher sessions for black families

The school system has previously faced scrutiny for its discipline rates, racist reactions to a diversity sign in Yorktown High School, and more recently, for backlash after a teacher unknowingly-planted cotton. In May, APS also signed a Department of Justice settlement over inadequate support for English-language-learning students and their families.

BPA member Sherrice Kerns, who lives in Penrose and works as a policy analyst, pointed out in a Tuesday interview that these findings mirrors national data about racial disparities in schools. 

“APS is certainly not immune to these sorts of disparities,” she said.

“This is not unique to Arlington,” agreed Bellavia in his statement. “School systems across the country have been addressing this challenge for a long time.”

Today, BPA’s members say they hope to work together on several problems, including:

  • Closing the achievement gap between black and white students
  • Making staff cultural competency training mandatory
  • Updating discipline policies to ensure black students are not excessively punished nor unfairly prosecuted

Members of the group all told ARLnow that they hope BPA can help advocate for other parents of color who don’t have time for nighttime meeting and advocacy. They also are seeking to boost membership in PTAs among black parents. The group is planning a cookout for parents interested in joining BPA on Sunday, September 8 at Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) from 3-5 p.m.

“One of the our goals is to bridge the gap between the parents who aren’t able to show up to meetings,” said Luqman-Dawson.

The members said overall they support APS, with several mentioning they moved to Arlington because APS was highly ranked and offered quality programs. But since then, Luqman-Dawson said it’s been “sobering” to see racial bias even at the schools as good as the ones in APS.

“It’s hard to send a child to school thinking that they are going to be victims, or going to be poorly judged,” she said.

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