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Mural of Langston at Sport Fair (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The recently-renamed Langston Blvd is getting a larger-than-life mural of its namesake, Black abolitionist John M. Langston.

The public artwork commemorates the struggle for racial equality in Arlington and the renaming of Route 29, previously named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Work on the outdoor public art is set to finish within the next week and a half, Langston Boulevard Alliance executive director Ginger Brown said. The mural adorns a wall on the side of swimming store Sport Fair (5010 Langston Blvd), which was chosen for its location in the historically Black neighborhood of Hall’s Hill, as well as its visibility from the road.

The new name and mural pay tribute to Langston, who was Virginia’s first Black congressional representative and served as the first dean of Howard University’s law school and the first president of Virginia State University.

It will also incorporate the places and moments in Arlington’s history of racism and racial progress. The Langston Boulevard Alliance says it worked with the artist, D.C. native Kaliq Crosby, to include depictions of Arlington’s Freedman’s Village, established after the Civil War, the segregation of the Hall’s Hill neighborhood and the integration of public schools.

“There is a significant piece of the mural that… came [about] during the design process,” Brown said. “The historic John M. Langston School will be included in the mural. It is the school where all of the Hall’s Hill children went before the Stratford School was integrated.”

About a block from the mural, the elementary school for Black children operated until Arlington County closed it in 1966 as part of its desegregation plan. Today it is the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street), which also houses alternative high school programming.

A ribbon cutting for the mural, which was co-sponsored by Arlington Arts and Arlington Economic Development, is slated for later this week. Crosby has completed other racial justice and civil rights-themed murals in the D.C. area, including a recent mural of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman in Dupont Circle.

The Langston Boulevard Alliance will celebrate the renaming of the corridor next month with a pair of public events on Saturday, Oct. 2: a walking tour of Langston Blvd’s racial history and a fall festival at Woodstock Park featuring food, music and family-friendly activities.

There will also be an art gallery featuring the works of local Black artists at Dominion Lighting (5053 Langston Blvd) from Oct. 2-31.

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Morning Notes

Police Chief’s First Community Convo — “ACPD looks forward to engaging with the community at our first Community Conversations with the Chief at @MegamartMarket on Columbia Pike” today. [Twitter]

Registration Next Week for Fall Rec Classes — “As it begins to ramp back up after more than a year of COVID-caused pullbacks, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has set registration dates for its fall programming. Online registration for classes begins Aug. 4 at 7 a.m. (gymnastics) and 7:30 a.m. (all other programs) for county residents.” [Sun Gazette]

New Name for Lee Hwy Alliance — “The Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) Board has unanimously voted to rename itself the Langston Boulevard Alliance (LBA), following the change in the name of the roadway itself that was approved by the Arlington County Board on July 17.” [Press Release]

Gun Brandishing in Pentagon City — “At approximately 10:55 a.m. on July 23, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered the business and requested services. When the employee asked for his information, he became irate and was escorted out of the building by security. A short time later, the suspect walked by the store and lifted up his shirt to expose what appeared to be a handgun and threatened to shoot the employee before leaving the area. Arriving officers canvassed the surrounding area with negative results. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]

Street Sweeping Schedule — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “The County street sweeping schedule is out for 2021-2022. Longbranch Creek: Prepare to hail the big brush truck Aug. 10, Oct. 12, April 12 and June 14.” [Twitter]

Chasten Shops at Pentagon City Mall — “‘We’re going to take those out the maximum,’ Chasten [Buttigeg] says, pulling at the thigh area of a new pair of suit pants two weeks later as he turns to examine himself in a three-way mirror at a Nordstrom in Arlington… After the Nordstrom stop, Chasten faced the good and bad of his new reality while trying to return some new purchases at Banana Republic: One star-struck salesperson wanted a photo with him, and another wouldn’t credit his account without a receipt.” [Washington Post]

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Lee Highway is no more in Arlington. It’s now Langston Blvd.

The County Board voted unanimously on Saturday to rename Route 29 within Arlington’s borders, following the recommendation of a Working Group (and county staff) on a new name.

As we previously reported:

County staff have selected “Langston Boulevard” from the finalists submitted by a task force, which was charged with replacing both “Lee” and “Highway.” Currently, Route 29 in the county is named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose name was removed from one of Arlington’s high schools and whose house is being removed from the county logo.

Previously, the task force recommended Loving Avenue as the name, in honor of the interracial couple whose landmark U.S. Supreme Court case inspired the film that bears their name. That was nixed after the couple’s descendants objected.

The new name honors John M. Langston, an abolitionist, attorney and member of Congress whose name is also on an Arlington schoolcommunity center and civic association.

Langston was the first dean of the law school at Howard University, the first president of Virginia State University, and the first U.S. representative of color from Virginia.

The new name “better reflects Arlington County’s values, promotes equity, and is welcoming to all people who work on, live on, and/or visit the corridor,” the county said in a press release, which also touted the nearly year-long public process involved in selecting a new name.

“The Working Group created an objective set of evaluation criteria to ensure that the public process of selecting a name was transparent, inclusive, and reflected a commitment to the values of public engagement in Arlington,” the county said. “With the new name of Langston Boulevard, costs for new signage are estimated at $300,000, subject to final design and determination by VDOT.”

“We’re throwing Lee Highway in the dustbin with Jefferson Davis Highway,” said County Board member Libby Garvey. “It’s a great day.”

There was one notable dissenting voice on the renaming, as noted by County Board watcher Stephen Repetski. Local history activist Bernie Berne, who previously called renaming the corridor “political correctness” and part of “a culture war that’s been going on since the Civil War,” spoke out at the meeting.

Berne asserted that Robert E. Lee was unfairly denigrated during the renaming process, prior to the Board’s unanimous vote.

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Swim meet at the Dominion Hills pool in 2013 (photo courtesy Dennis Dimick)

The swim and dive teams at the Dominion Hills Pool are ditching the “Warriors” team name and moving away from Native American motifs.

The Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association Board of Directors started soliciting suggestions from swimmers, divers, coaches and families on Friday, according to an email to team families, shared with ARLnow.

“We decided to stop using Native American imagery at our pool and the name ‘Warriors’ for our swim and dive teams,” the board tells ARLnow in a statement. “While the name ‘Warriors’ has several meanings and by itself is unobjectionable, the teams have used it in connection with Native American themes. The Board decided to solicit ideas from the members for a new name and mascot.”

It started de-emphasizing the use of the name this season, according to an email to team families. The pool’s board is open to a name that would permit members to use existing gear, which bears a feather illustration.

“We recognize that there may be some disappointment as we make this transition but we are excited to select a new team name and mascot,” the email said. “Team names that would be appropriate to use with a feather mascot have the added practical benefit of allowing us to continue using the feather on existing team gear.”

A committee of team representatives and board members will review the submissions and recommend a new name to the full board, which aims to announce the new name at a banquet on Saturday, July 24, according to the email.

The Washington Football Team — which nixed its former name one year ago — is making a similar play as it narrows down options for a new name and logo, to be chosen early next year.

“Feedback from across communities we engaged clearly revealed deep-seated discomfort around Warriors, with the clear acknowledgment that it too closely aligns with Native American themes,” WFT president Jason Wright explained in a blog post.

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“Loving Avenue” is out and “Langston Boulevard” is in as the likely new name for Lee Highway in Arlington.

The renaming is on the Arlington County Board agenda for this Saturday, but County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending it be deferred until the Board’s July 17 meeting, to allow additional time for public feedback and for more precise cost estimates.

County staff have selected “Langston Boulevard” from the finalists submitted by a task force, which was charged with replacing both “Lee” and “Highway.” Currently, Route 29 in the county is named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose name was removed from one of Arlington’s high schools and whose house is being removed from the county logo.

Previously, the task force recommended Loving Avenue as the name, in honor of the interracial couple whose landmark U.S. Supreme Court case inspired the film that bears their name. That was nixed after the couple’s descendants objected.

The new name honors John M. Langston, an abolitionist, attorney and member of Congress whose name is also on an Arlington school, community center and civic association.

From a county staff report:

With the Arlington County Board’s support in July 2020, the Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) embarked on an extensive planning and public engagement effort to recommend a new name for Lee Highway in Arlington. This process culminated with a final report in December 2020. At that time, the selected choice for the renaming was “Mildred & Richard Loving Avenue.” However, in vetting the selection by way of conversations with direct descendants, it was determined that the family was not in support of the name’s use. With foresight, the LHA Working Group process included a list of other top choices for renaming. The second ranked choice, and current recommendation, is John M. Langston Boulevard.

The recommendation is being further abbreviated, to “Langston Boulevard,” to assist with operational considerations including wayfinding; character limitations on existing signage; and to avoid undue financial costs which would be incurred if the entire name were to be included as part of the existing sign portfolio managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). If the name is longer, VDOT has indicated larger signs would be needed to accommodate all the letters, and the sign structures will need to be redesigned and constructed.

The current estimate for new “Langston Boulevard” signage along Route 29 is about $300,000.

Hat tip to Ginger Brown

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Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is looking to rename the post office on N. George Mason Drive after Jesus Collazos, a beloved postal worker who died of the coronavirus.

Collazos left the poor neighborhood of his childhood, Barrio Obrero in Columbia, for the U.S. in the 1980s. He settled in Arlington with his wife, where he delivered mail for 25 years and they raised a family, the Washington Post reported last year. He was known for responding to letters to Santa Claus and for his friendly presence.

Collazos retired in 2019, and in 2020, was diagnosed with lymphoma. Before treatment could begin, he died of COVID-19 at 67.

“The Congressman found the story of Mr. Collazos’ career and tragic death during the pandemic extremely compelling, and given his service as a mail carrier it made natural sense to try to rename a postal facility in his honor,” said Aaron Fritschner, the communications director for Beyer’s office.

The post office at 2200 N. George Mason Drive serves the 22207 zip code. Beyer’s office is currently seeking local input, including discussions with Arlington County and nearby civic groups, Fritschner said. So far, the local feedback has been “very positive.”

Yorktown Civic Association President and County Board candidate Mike Cantwell said his community’s support for renaming the post office on Nextdoor was “overwhelming.”

“I personally didn’t know him and I just wanted to say after reading all those comments, I fully support renaming the post office for him,” Cantwell said. “It’s amazing to see one person so beloved by the community.”

On Nextdoor, residents remember Collazos for the way he went the extra mile to help elderly residents and always knew someone who could help with a home improvement project. They also were overwhelmingly supportive of the renaming.

“Jesus Collazos was a neighbor,” said one resident of the Leeway Overlee neighborhood. “We called him the ‘Mayor of 24th Street.’ Sorely missed and it would be such a great tribute to his contributions to our community to name a post office in honor of him.”

A Tara-Leeway Heights resident recalled how Collazos helped her mother later in life. He came up to the door, knocked and opened it, announcing himself and putting the mail on the TV stand.

“My mom thought so highly of him,” she said. “He just did stuff like that. He was a person who really ‘saw’ those around him.”

Another poster from Tara-Leeway Heights said Collazos was well-connected in Arlington.

“If we needed the name of someone to help with anything having to do with the house, he knew someone,” the poster said. “He made us all feel like we were his friends. We miss him terribly. He made such a positive impact on everyone he met.”

Another commenter recalled that when Collazos developed lymphoma, neighbors inscribed their well-wishes and prayers on a canvas, which “was carried and placed in front of his home.”

Some residents said the post office may not live up to Collazos’ legacy. The building has been plagued by undelivered and missing mail and packages, as well as some reported instances of stolen mail.

“I would hate to see a taint on his memory for ignored and continued issues at this particular [post office],” said a Yorktown poster.

But Cantwell said if the renaming goes through, there will be a big spotlight on the post office.

“Only good things happen when you have a big spotlight on something like this,” he said.

Collazos also delivered mail in the 22205 zip code, but that post office is already named for Preston King, a WWII fallen soldier, Cantwell said.

Renaming the N. George Mason Drive post office will require federal legislation.

“The renaming of federal buildings is a function of Congress, so the next step here would be legislation offered in Congress,” said Fritschner.

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Morning Notes

Book: Bezos Helped Steer HQ2 to Arlington — “According to “Amazon Unbound,” a new book by Brad Stone that looks at the last decade of growth at the company, employees overseeing the HQ2 search winnowed the choices to a top three list that included Chicago, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina. When it came time to make a final choice, Bezos dismissed months of research by going with his gut and selecting Arlington and Long Island City in Queens.” [Washington Business Journal]

Democratic School Board Caucus Underway — “Voting in the Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board Endorsement Caucus opened at midnight today through a nationally recognized electronic voting platform that will allow Arlingtonians to conveniently, anonymously and securely cast their ballots from mobile devices or computers 24/7 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday (March 23)… Arlington Democrats will also offer 32 hours of in-person voting on May 18, 19 and 22, at four locations across the county.” [Arlington Democrats]

CivFed Studying Arlington’s Form of Gov’t — “The Arlington County Civic Federation’s study of the community’s form of governance will include nearly three months of online meetings to look at issues ranging from how to conduct elections to whether County Board and School Board members should be elected in districts… The effort, agreed to by Civic Federation delegates late last year, is dubbed ‘TiGER’ (Task Force in Governance and Election Reform). It has been assigned to study and possibly proffer changes to the county’s 90-year-old governance structure.” [Sun Gazette]

Layoffs Hit Rosslyn-Based Rosetta Stone — “None of the employees interviewed knew exactly how many people were laid off at the Harrisonburg office. IXL also laid off workers at Rosetta Stone’s Arlington and Seattle offices, as well. Employees told The Citizen that while a few were spared, ‘almost everyone’ in Harrisonburg was let go… Eric Bates, an IXL spokesperson, issued a statement to The Citizen saying, ‘while Rosetta Stone is moving in a new direction, the changes we are making at the company will ultimately help it grow.'” [The Citizen, Geekwire]

Two Hurt in North Arlington Crash — “Police and firefighters on scene of a T-bone type crash at the intersection of Lorcom Lane and Old Dominion Drive, near the Lee Heights Shops. Initial reports suggest two people suffered minor injuries, including a pregnant passenger.” [Twitter]

Secret Service Flying Drones Around Area — “The U.S. Secret Service will be conducting drone flights ‘in the greater Washington, D.C. area’ over the next two weeks, the agency announced Monday. The Secret Service said it will conduct the drone flights in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. The drone flights will take place from Monday, May 17 through Monday, May 31.” [Patch]

YouTube Star Responds to DCA Petition — “JoJo Siwa says she’s a big fan of the movement to remove Ronald Reagan’s name from an airport in favor of her … telling us it would be the SICKEST THING EVER!!! We got the YouTube star at Craig’s in WeHo Wednesday night and asked about the petition to change Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to the JoJo Siwa Washington National Airport. JoJo says she’s on board with the change, telling us it’s the best idea she’s ever heard in her life. The petition’s already got 33,000 signatures and counting.” [TMZ]

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Morning Notes

School Reopening Protest Tonight — “Arlington parents frustrated by Arlington Public Schools’ unwillingness to add more in-person instructional days this school year will rally ahead of the next school board meeting to let their voices be heard… [from] 5:30-7 p.m., ahead of the next Arlington County School Board meeting.” [Press Release]

Arlington Gets ‘Tree City USA’ Designation — “The Arlington County government on April 30 will receive its 24th annual ‘Tree City USA’ designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation, honoring the community’s efforts in tree planting and preservation. The award will be presented at the county’s annual Arbor Day celebration, an affair downscaled due to the pandemic but slated to be held at Carlin Springs Elementary School.” [Sun Gazette]

County Thanks Vax Volunteers — “We want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to the staff and volunteers at our vaccination sites. From supply chain management, to organizing a visitor line, to giving the shot itself, we’re grateful for this amazing crew for all they do to make it happen!” [Facebook]

Petition to Rename DCA Goes Viral — A Georgetown University freshman’s online petition to rename Reagan National Airport after teen singer, dancer and actor JoJo Siwa has received more than 3,000 votes. [Change.org, DCist]

Photo courtesy Leslie Koch

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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.

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Cardinal Elementary School is the official name of the new school under construction at the Reed site in the Westover neighborhood.

During the Arlington School Board meeting Thursday night, members unanimously chose Cardinal, a name they expressed a preference for during a meeting in March.

Last month, a naming committee presented the School Board with two possible names: Westover Village and Cardinal. The former was a last-minute addition in response to feedback a naming committee received in a survey, through NextDoor and neighborhood email lists.

Board members did not debate the name options further last night. During the previous School Board meeting, they strongly opposed Westover Village due to the possible association with Westover Plantation. It was owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The best way to learn from this history is to not continue to allow it to live in the names of our institutions, especially the names of our schools, where students are meant to learn,” Board Chair Monique O’Grady previously said.

When the naming committee first met to brainstorm new monikers, members initially nixed Westover on those grounds, too. The top five names were Cardinal, Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport.

The committee had also already ruled out names of people, living and dead. Members reasoned that it would be better to avoid names of people whose character could, later on, be called into question.

That meant the school site’s current name — for Dr. Walter Reed, an Army physician who studied and treated yellow fever — was out. The name had, however, been mentioned 133 times, according to a community survey.

The no-people rule also excluded McKinley. Most of the students who attend the new school, at 1644 N. McKinley Road, will move from McKinley Elementary School, with others moving from Tuckahoe Elementary School.

President William McKinley is associated with imperialist policies that hurt Indigenous people, such as buying the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico and annexing Hawaii.

Cardinal Elementary School will open this fall and will accommodate around 725 students.

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A last-minute possible name for the new school under construction at the Reed Elementary School site did not go over well with Arlington School Board members.

Members of the Reed School naming committee presented their top two choices, Westover Village Elementary School followed by Cardinal Elementary School, during the regular school board meeting last night (Thursday).

Westover Village is a new addition borne from feedback the committee received in a survey, through NextDoor and neighborhood email lists. Cardinal was one of five names the committee had initially planned to choose from — the others being Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport.

“The Westover name recognition came from the hope that this school would be a community-based school and a neighborhood school,” McKinley Elementary Assistant Principal Gina Miller said.

The committee decided to push past the possible association with Westover Plantation, which was owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The committee felt naming it Westover Village alleviated the concern of Westover due to concerns of connection to the plantation,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.

Arlington School Board members, however, disagreed. They condemned using the name Westover for the new school at the Reed site — even with “Village” tacked on, the name still bears the association with Westover Plantation, they said.

“I do understand that the community is so excited to have a community school once again,” Board Chair Monique O’Grady said. “With that fresh start, however, I think it’s imperative that we look at our values, our push to ensure that we have equity, that we embrace all students, that they feel safe and valued and that we do not continue to raise up the name of institutions that built their success on the backs of people of color.”

Arlington has “far too many examples” of holding onto historical references that need to be left in the past, she said.

“The best way to learn from this history is to not continue to allow it to live in the names of our institutions, especially the names of our schools, where students are meant to learn,” she said.

Board members Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy and Board Vice-Chair Barbara Kanninen raised similar concerns and voiced their support for the name Cardinal. They are slated to vote on the name on Thursday, April 8.

Diaz-Torres recalled the Wakefield High School students who alleged racist behavior on the football field less than three weeks ago.

“I understand the rationale conceptually of adding the word Village to separate the connotation with the Westover plantation but that doesn’t erase the fact that Westover would be at the front of the name,” she said.

Diaz-Torres added that she is “disheartened that members of civic associations decided to encourage rejecting the preference of 1,100 community members” over the 73 who suggested Westover in the comment section of the survey.

The new school at 1644 N. McKinley Road will open this fall and will accommodate 725 students. Most of the students will move from McKinley Elementary School, with others moving from Tuckahoe Elementary School.

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