Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Black History Museum Asks for Help in Conservation Effort — “The Alexandria Black History Museum (BHM) is asking for help from the community. The museum hopes to apply for a conservation grant from the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM)… From Jan. 11 through 20, people can vote for their favorite artifact on the top ten list. The artifact with the most votes will win the People’s Choice Award and $1,000 toward conservation work on the artifact.” [Zebra]

Nothing Bundt Cakes to Open on Duke Street — “Nothing Bundt Cakes is opening its first Alexandria location. The bakery will open at 4553 Duke St., replacing a Subway sandwich shop in the Shoppes at Foxchase in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Goodwin House to Receive Second Dose of Vaccine This Month — “375 people were vaccinated last month and are awaiting their second dose on January 19. Bagley hopes they’ll vaccinate more people once Governor Ralph Northam initiates Phase 1B, which will allow CVS and other pharmacies to distribute vaccinations.” [WDMV]

Alive! Feeds Hundreds at Food Distribution Event — “Alive!, an Alexandria, faith-based community organization, held its first large scale food distribution drives of the New Year.” [WJLA]

Northam Says Year-Round School is Possibility — “In a press conference this week, Governor Ralph Northam said, ‘One of the things we are entertaining is perhaps year-round schooling for the next year. Perhaps adding increased days this summer. To really help our kids get caught up.'” [Zebra]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria Living Legend Lillian Patterson, a fourth-generation Alexandrian and former curator of the Alexandria Black History Museum (ABHM), is planning to host an annual workshop with the museum this weekend to discuss the holiday Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is a holiday with roots in America’s Black community celebrated from Saturday, Dec. 26 to Friday, Jan. 1. The holiday incorporates several traditional African festivities and celebrates principals like unity and collective work and responsibility.

The ABHM is planning a virtual how-to workshop at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.

“Learn how to do your own celebration as former ABHM curator, Lillian S. Patterson, and ABHM volunteers Cathy Riddick-Brown, and Linda Haughton, show you the origins, concepts, and practices of Kwanzaa,” the museum said in a press release. “You will hear about principals, symbols, fun activities, and more that will enchant you all year long.”

The day will also include a reading of the Kwanzaa story Seven Spools of Thread.

“Participants must register in advance for the free Kwanzaa How-to Workshop,” the museum said. “After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. This will automate the receipt of the Zoom link and a reminder an hour before the event begins. For more information contact 703.746.4356.”

Photo via soulchristmas/flickr

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With photos, signs, artwork and letters, the City of Alexandria is documenting Alexandria’s response to the death of George Floyd.

The Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) and the Alexandria Black History Museum have been collecting artifacts for months and are asking for photos from the public.

“George Floyd’s life mattered,” wrote Audrey Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum. “His life story matters. His murder matters. He became part of a horrible trinity on May 25th when his killing came shortly after the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. This trinity is just the most recent example of America’s horrible legacy of racial terror deaths.”

Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25, and the event sparked outrage throughout the country, including in Alexandria. Portions of the city were shut down during the summer for protests and vigils, and the event even turned the spotlight on the Alexandria Police Department.

Due to the pandemic, donated objects will not be accepted until city museums reopen, according to OHA.

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The Freedom House Museum is planning for a spring opening, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria.

City Council will receive the news in its legislative meeting on Tuesday. The Office of Historic Alexandria will be unveiling its 2020-2025 strategic plan to Council, and the museum is being planned to open this spring.

According to a staff presentation, there will be temporary exhibits and the museum will begin a public engagement process over restoration plans and the interpretation of the site.

Alexandria completed the purchase of the former slave trading headquarters at 1315 Duke Street in March, but the pandemic forced museums across the city to close.

The building was the headquarters for five successive slave dealing firms between 1828 and 1861, including Franklin and Armfield, which was one of the largest domestic slave trading firms in the country.

“Freedom House is vital to telling Alexandria’s story,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in March. “What happened at 1315 Duke St. had a terrible and lasting impact on America. Freedom House encourages us to speak truth to power and delve deeper to confront the hard, honest truths about race, class and equity in this country.”

The only museums currently open are the Alexandria Archaeology MuseumAlexandria’s History Museum at The Lyceum and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.

These museums are still closed:

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After eight straight days of walking on foot from Charlottesville to Washington D.C., a small group of faith leaders and their followers stopped just short of their pilgrimage in Alexandria to talk about their journey and the need for a racial reckoning in the country.

Audrey Davis, executive director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, welcomed the audience and told them of the city’s history with slavery and inequality.

“We really have so much African American history and so much social justice history,” Davis said. “We have two slave pens, and we were sort of ground zero for the domestic straight slave trade for importing slaves into the deep south.”

The group of about 20 walkers with Faith in Action, the Congregation Action Network and DC Unity & Justice Fellowship were escorted by police along U.S. Highway 29, which is still called Lee Highway in Fairfax County after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. As they marched, they repeated the names of Black victims who have been shot or killed at the hands of the police, including Brianna Taylor and George Floyd. They also had a new name to recite during their march —  Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by police in Wisconsin on Sunday.

“The walk is about racial reckoning, resolve and love,” said Pastor Troy Jackson of the Ohio-based religious advocacy group Sojourners. “We’re here embodying our faith. I think that the political parties are all broken, and that what we are doing is appealing to a higher calling in people’s hearts.”

Rev. Walter Clark, assistant minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, said that society needs to atone for unfair practices against Black Americans.

“There are 400 years of hatred and sin to undo and we gather because we know that none of us can do it alone,” Clark said. “Let us go forth and begin the work of atonement together.”

The march will end tomorrow at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

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City Councilman John Taylor Chapman never learned Alexandria’s real African American history in school, and now he’s teaching everyone who will listen. After a coronavirus-related hiatus, his Manumission Tour Company is officially back on track with in-person tours of Alexandria’s Black historical sites.

“I did not feel that I knew some of the stories that I’m telling now when I was growing up,” Chapman told ALXnow.

Alexandria’s history is full of stories of heroism, adversity, tragedy, defeat and triumph, and for the last four years, Chapman has led tours teaching residents and visitors about the city’s African American experience.

“The word Manumission means to be freed by a piece of paper,” Chapman said. “For us to name the company as such opens up a conversation when we chat with people about what we do. It’s an opportunity to talk about the struggle freedom in Alexandria, which was one of the biggest slave ports in the country.”

The next tour, which is limited to nine people for social distancing, will be held outside the Barrett Library on Friday, June 27, to talk about abolitionists, runaway slaves and free Blacks in the city before the end of the Civil War.

One of the people who received such a piece of paper was Moses Hepburn. The Alexandrian was born as a slave in 1809 to one of the owners of a plantation on Shooters Hill, which is now home to the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

“His aunt ended up purchasing his freedom when he was a young boy, and he was sent to school in Pennsylvania,” Chapman said. “When his father died, he left him a great bit of money. Moses became quite wealthy and became a big developer in the city and helped build some of the initial African American churches in the city.”

Other stories include Dominic Bearcroft’s popular tavern — known for its juicy crabs — in a building right across from City Hall. Bearcroft was one of the first African Americans to get a business license in the city.

“One of the things you figure out very quickly about these individuals is that their lives were very complex,” Chapman said. “The things that they had to deal with, the hoops they had to jump through is all very humbling.”

Alexandria’s slave trade peaked between 1820 and the start of the Civil War, Chapman said.

“Prior to that we were a colonial town,” he said. “There was slave trading as early as the 1700s, but the peak of it was when Franklin and Armfield put down roots here, establishing the slave trade and really blowing up their business. During the 1800s they were one of the top slave traders in the nation.”

The Freedom House Museum now occupies the former Franklin and Armfield headquarters.

“Alexandria became a haven for African Americans to escape the south, and we had an influx of African Americans toward the back end of the Civil War,” Chapman said. “After the Civil War, Alexandria had segregated areas of town and segregated schools.”

Fraternal organizations grew and prospered over the years, including Universal Lodge 1, and so did church groups and later the Departmental Progressive Club.

“We’re not a perfect community,” Chapman said. “We still have folks that are still struggling in school, particularly certain racial and ethnic classes. There are certain groups that are still struggling a little bit more with a lower standard of living, and it’s frankly reflective of what we’re seeing across the nation. We still have a ways to go, even though we want to be a progressive and inclusive community.”

Photo via Manumission Tour Company/Facebook

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Morning Notes

ACT for Alexandria Calls COVID-19 a Racial Issue, Sends $900K to Nonprofits — “To work towards a community where all Alexandrians have an equal chance of living prosperous, fulfilling lives, we must work together to address systemic racism. That is a tall order. But together we can make a difference. Your support of the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund is an important step. That support allows our community to better respond to the needs of our neighbors facing overwhelming challenges.” [ACT for Alexandria]

Beyer Finds Fault in Indicted Fairfax County Police Officer — “This officer’s actions were unjustified, and he failed his oath to protect and serve. Body-worn camera footage clearly shows he escalated the situation with unnecessary violence against an unarmed black man.” [Twitter]

Police Disproportionately Use Force Against Black Alexandrians — ” Force is used against black males more than any other group, according to numbers compiled by the police department and acquired through a public-records request… In the most recent report, which covers 2019, 54 percent of the instances of use of force was against African Americans. That’s significantly higher than the black population in Alexandria, which is 23 percent.” [Gazette]

Alexandria Black History Museum Executive Director Makes Statement on George Floyd’s Death — “All keepers of African American heritage pledge to forever say George Floyd’s name, preserve the history he represents, and educate the public about the millions of brilliant minds lost to hate in America.” [Zebra]

Alfred Street Baptist Church Pastor Marchin in D.C. on Sunday with NAACP — “We want to personally invite ALL believers to join Pastor Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Collaboration with the NAACP for a Prayer Walk for Peace and Justice on this Sunday, June 14 starting at 6am ET. We’re gathering at the NAAMHC and walking to the newly named Black Lives Plaza, NW in Washington, DC. Visit our website to register.” [Facebook]

Joe Theismann’s Restaurant Reopens — “The restaurant will be open for take-out and delivery via online ordering at Theismanns.com, delivery via select third-party apps, and walk-in patio dining. The restaurant will debut an adjusted menu for lunch and dinner, and will be open Sunday through Thursday from 12 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12 – 10 p.m.” [Theismann’s]

Hundreds Sign Petition to Rename T.C. Williams High School After Petey Jones — “Additionally, we believe the name should be changed to honor one of the men who participated in giving the school that reputation, and who worked as a longtime employee at T.C. Williams High School.  Petey Jones died in 2019 of prostate cancer.  We believe that T.C. Williams should be renamed after him.  Please sign this petition if you agree.” [Change.org]

New Job: Assistant Magazine Editor — ” Content creation and coordination for national trade association magazine, including reporting, writing, editing and contributing to monthly print edition (circulation 40,000) and weekly digital newsletters.”[Facebook]

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The Office of Historic Alexandria announced this morning (Tuesday) that it will be shutting down immediately and taking most of the city’s museums with it.

“Due to a shortage of staff and volunteers as well as low attendance, the Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) has decided to close its sites to the public starting March 17,” the OHA said in a statement. “Public programs at OHA sites through April 12 have been canceled or rescheduled.”

The OHA noted in the statement that the office is reaching out to anyone who made reservations for events or tours at the locations to reschedule those.

“Due to the changing nature of the situation, we are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates on our website,” the OHA said.

According to the statement, the following locations will be closed:

The OHA shutdown is part of a broader sweep of closures across the city, from restaurants to lodgings, as many in the city are self-quarantining.

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Morning Notes

Gusty Winds Expected Today — “The Flood Watch has been cancelled, but now the wind is the next possible hazard… The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Gusts of up to 50 mph are expected.” [ARLnow]

Architects Chosen for Potomac Yard Redevelopment —  “Five architectural firms have been selected to design the nine buildings that are planned for the first phase of the North Potomac Yard overhaul, including the Virginia Tech campus. The use of multiple firms, similar to the choice made by the developers of The Wharf on D.C.’s Southwest waterfront, is meant to avoid having a neighborhood of buildings that look too alike.” [Washington Business Journal]

Dollhouses Tell Story of Alexandria’s Black History — “The story surrounding the Johnson Pool took center stage at the debut of Robin Hamilton’s documentary ‘Our Alexandria,’ about a set of dollhouses created by Linwood M. Smith and Sharon J. Frazier that reflect life in Alexandria’s African American community years ago in Old Town.” [Zebra]

HIV/AIDS Symposium This Weekend — “The City will host a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Symposium, Feb 8, 8am-noon. Free HIV testing. Get Educated. Get Involved. Get Tested. Get Treated.” [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

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African American history is an integral part of Alexandria, and the port city will take an expanded look at the topic this year, according to the city’s tourism bureau.

Audrey Davis, executive director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, said that all African American interpretations will be expanded throughout multiple sites.

“So, you can go from Alexandria archaeology to Gatsby’s Tavern to Fort Ward to the Black History Museum, to all of our sites to learn about African Americans and the impact that they had on the city,” Davis said. “There’s so much more exciting history to come focusing on African American history. So, join us on this journey.”

Among the sites is Freedom House at 1315 Duke Street in Old Town, which is being purchased by the city. Freedom House was the home to five different slave dealers between 1828 and 1861 and was once the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States.

Visit Alexandria highlighted the year ahead at its annual meeting at the Carlyle Club on Friday, Jan. 24. Claire Mouledoux, vice president for communications for Visit Alexandria, said that the Office of Historic Alexandria is also supporting a community initiative to develop an African American Heritage waterfront trail, which will launch this year.

“This self guided tour will be presented as an online story map and will highlight people places and neighborhoods from a diverse period of time in Alexandria its history,” Mouledoux said.

The trail will include a north section, which will launch first, and the South section launching later, ultimately featuring more than 20 stops along the water.”

In March, the city will also welcome the new art installation “Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies” by Olalekan Jeyifous at Waterfront Park. The artwork will incorporate African American quilting and textile traditions to tell the city’s story as a merchant and manufacturing hub.

Additionally, the Manumission Tour Company will also feature a new tour telling the story of Alexandria’s history with the Underground Railroad. Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman owns the company and will give visitors tours by using writings of abolitionist William Still and Underground Railroad participants talking about where they lived in Alexandria, when and how they escaped and who helped them.

The city will also claim its Equal Justice Initiative monument in solemn recognition of its two documented lynchings. Alexandria is one of the first communities to claim its monument from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

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