Alexandria, VA

Alexandria’s course toward social justice might be long, but hope remains for a better future. That’s the message behind the Alexandria Choral Society’s (ACS) Refuge project, and if all goes as planned the five-movement piece will be performed live next May by members of the T.C. Williams High School choir.

“There’s a lot of mileage that you have to go on that journey for a better future,” Refuge composer Jonathan Kolm told ALXnow. “There’s an uplifting arc of hope, but one that is tempered by difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in.”

ACS Artistic Director Brian J. Isaac said that the piece has been labeled a “crowdsource commission,” because portions of the texts that will be sung by the choir have been chosen by the ACS members and fans in Zoom chats. The texts from the fifth movement will be chosen next month.

“Right now, we plan to present this live in May,” Isaac said. “But if it’s not safe to do so, we will likely release a portion of this and maybe a teaser of one movement or a portion of one movement in a virtual format, and then perform the entirety of this work with T.C. Williams as soon as we possibly can.”

A portion of ticket revenue from the concert will be donated to a social justice charity in Alexandria.

The first four movements will include the following texts:

Photo via Alexandria Choral Society/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Trump Will Use Death of Justice Ginsberg to ‘Steal’ Election — “Last night Trump said he wants to use the federal courts to cheat in November by denying Americans’ lawfully-cast mail-in ballots. This is an open admission that Trump hopes to use the Supreme Court to steal the election.” [Twitter]

Photo: Patagonia Taking Shape in Old Town Theater Space — “Progress continues at former Old Town Theater location – soon a Patagonia.”  [Twitter]

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Coming to Bradlee Shopping Center — “Tropical Smoothie Cafe will open its doors at Bradlee Shopping Center, replacing a spot formerly occupied by B&C Jewelers, which had been a staple at the center for decades before closing in recent months.” [Alexandria Living]

Police Use of Force Forum on Tuesday — “Now, Congress and state legislatures, including Virginia’s, are reviewing and/or passing new laws to address prevention and accountability. So, it’s critical that the public understand what’s being considered.” [Facebook]

Del Ray Poetry Fence Appears on PBS — “What gets me out of bed in the morning is curating my poetry fence for my community… People tell me they come to my poetry fence for solace and inspiration, that their children gorge on cherry tomatoes I plant in the parking strip, [with] a sign ‘Fast Food: Help yourself to tomatoes’ next to my Little Free Library.” [Facebook]

NOAA Predicts Warm Winter — “While last year there was some uncertainty without a El Niño or La Niña conditions, this year NOAA scientists are seeing La Niña conditions that are predicted to last into winter. That means Northern Virginia has a slight probability of warmer-than-normal conditions.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny (during the day) . High 67F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky (at night). Low near 45F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: IT Manager — “New Virginia Majority (NVM), Virginia’s leading civic engagement organization, builds power in working-class communities of color across the Commonwealth. We seek conscious and skilled individuals with a deep commitment to racial and economic justice to join our team. Women and people of color are encouraged to apply. We are equal opportunity employers” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Former Councilman Bob Calhoun Dies — “Bob Calhoun, a former Republican state senator and city councilor, died on Aug. 6 of prostate cancer. He was 83.” [Alex Times]

ACPS Staffer at John Adams Elementary Registration Site Tests Positive for Coronavirus — “The site has currently been closed for cleaning and ACPS will follow all guidelines for ensuring that our facilities are clean and safe prior to reopening. The risk to anyone who was in contact with this individual at the school site has been deemed low, due to the specific circumstances of this case, including proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and physical distancing.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Libraries Reopening on Monday — “The library will move into phase three of its reopening plan by allowing the public to access physical locations. Curbside pickup will remain available on days when libraries are open, and curbside-only service will be offered on Fridays.” [Patch]

Poet Laureate Seeks Poems for BLM Display at Athenaeum — ” We continuously celebrate the creativity of our diverse population in the DMV region and plan to launch an online digital gallery, Speak Your Truth | Black Lives Matter, an exhibition that aims to represent the depth and diversity of the DCD/MD/VA region and its reflections on the activities associated with BLM. ” [Facebook]

Commonwealth’s Attorney Seeks Candidates for Advisory Board — “The purpose of the Board is to provide the Commonwealth’s Attorney with diverse community input and ideas regarding criminal justice reform, and strategies for addressing criminal activity. The Board will consist of five to 10 people who live or work in the City of Alexandria.” [City of Alexandria]

Casa Chirilagua Fundraiser Starts Monday — “For every gift of $50 you will receive a stationary set of 8 original notecards made from Teens Club students’ art (up to four sets). Check out these beautiful cards and keep an eye out for the giving link starting on Monday next week!” [Facebook]

National Night Out Canceled — “Due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and in order to protect the health of our residents and employees, the City of Alexandria has cancelled the National Night Out 2020 celebration scheduled for October 6, 2020.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Scattered showers and thunderstorms. High near 85F. Winds NE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Fitness Manager — “As a Fitness Manager with XSport Fitness, you are the face of the Fitness Department! You are a leader to your personal training staff as well as an assistant to the club General Manager. You will be responsible for building a high-performance team and the financial performance of your club’s fitness department.” [Indeed]

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Creative writing nonprofit Heard is still finding ways to make noise. The three-year-old nonprofit had to shut down a number of its creative writing and art classes for the homeless, domestic violence survivors, and the incarcerated because of the pandemic. Now inmates at the Alexandria Detention Center will soon have back their creative outlet with Zoom classes.

“The jail did contact me and said they are in the process of getting more access to televisions and Zoom capabilities,” Collins told ALXnow. “And they asked me to put a proposal in so we could continue to offer creative writing poetry and visual arts classes.”

Heard now has a dozen community partners, including the Alexandria Domestic Violence Shelter, Community Lodgings, the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Center. It’s also in the process of adding Casa Chirilagua to its mix of clients.

Instructors include former Alexandria Poet Laureate Wendi Kaplan, former Baltimore Ravens cheerleader Tina Kantiano, and TV journalist Alexandra Rockey Fleming.

Heard sponsors an annual writing contest at the Alexandria and Arlington Jails, and also teaches creative writing, journalism, poetry, visual arts, improvisation, etiquette, dance and public speaking.

Collins, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, said she is inspired by the level of creativity exhibited by Heard’s students.

“I always thought their stories were valid, that marginalized communities needed a platform and deserve to be heard,” she said. “There is no commonality among people in detention centers, aside from the fact that they’re incarcerated. There are people with advanced degrees, people who never made it through high school. They are some of the cleverest people I’ve ever gone across, and I base that on reading their written work.”

The untitled piece below the jump was written in August 2019 by Stephen Y. in the Alexandria Jail.

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Morning Notes

T.C. Senior Wins $40K Scholarship — “What does it feel like to get a SURPRISE ZOOM CALL from U.S. Senator Mark Warner, Lisa Collis, and daughters Gillian, Eliza & Madison…telling you that you are the first recipient of the Collis Warner Family Scholarship worth $40,000? Just ask T.C. Williams High School Senior Foziya Mohammed! Mohammed received the call this afternoon…’I am shocked and excited! I was nervous I thought this was a call about some kind of problem with my scholarship application. I’m not nervous anymore! Thank you so much. I would tell all of the younger students at T.C. that hard work pays off!'” [Facebook]

Police Respond to Domestic Violence Service Call — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a weapon violation in the 1400 block of South Highview Lane. A helicopter is assisting and expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

Local Reporter Gets Coronavirus Test — “To my surprise, the ER wasn’t crowded and I got in fast. With the social scene dead, the emergency room would be the most interesting thing I’d do that week. I kind of like the ER. You’re waited on, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle, and you generally feel you’re safe. Although this time was slightly different. The nurse wore a hazmat suit.” [Zebra]

Hops N Shine Hosting Virtual Beer Tasting Tonight — “This will be a Zoom meeting broadcast onto Facebook live for all to see. We welcome you to join us on Zoom to chat about how things are going for breweries, cideries, and restaurants around town, or if you just want to watch you can check it out on Facebook.” [Facebook]

T.C. Seniors Make Fox 5 DC Appearance — “T.C. Williams High School seniors TJ Horton & Amiya Chisolm on Fox 5 DC with Principal Balas this morning talking about the Titan #Classof2020 documentary we’re making. Don’t miss out – record your stories this Friday, May 1!” [Facebook]

New Job Posting: Virtual Insurance Agent — “The Financial Crisis Prevention Center is seeking highly motivated Benefits Analysts to meet with federal employees about their retirement benefits, supplemental insurance, annuities, and fringe benefit discount programs. Hiring immediately part-time and full-time sales representatives. Licensed and unlicensed positions available.” [Indeed]

Carpenter’s Shelter Gets Face Mask Donation — “Thanks to Elegance By Roya Bridal – Alexandria for these beautiful masks made by their atelier and donated to the shelter for the protection of our residents. We are appreciative of your, and all of our donor support for needed items such as masks, Clorox cleaning wipes, and sanitizer.” [Facebook]

Oakville Triangle Plan Comment Deadline is Today — “As a reminder, the online feedback portal for the applicant’s second online engagement posted on April 16 will remain open through tomorrow, April 30. Please take a few minutes to view the second presentation and provide comments.” [City of Alexandria]

Del Ray Cakery Makes Flower-like Cookie Bouquets — “Mother’s Day bouquets! 3 choices DM if interested. $15 each.” [Facebook]

There’s a 500-Piece Lee Fendall House Museum Jigsaw Puzzle — “Feeling PUZZLED about how to spend your time? How about a springtime image of Lee-Fendall House? These 500-piece puzzles are $18, and all proceeds support our preservation and education work. Message us on Facebook, email [email protected]g, or call (703)548-1789 to place your order and arrange for contactless pickup, local delivery (within 1 mile of the museum), or shipping (at cost).” [Facebook]

Old Town Book Club Goes Online This Saturday — “In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.” [Old Town Books]

Alexandrian Creates Haiku Contest for Sister’s 70th Birthday — “Poring over the poems was the closest they were going to get to a family reunion. They picked their three favorites and sent the entire batch to the family to enjoy.” [Washington Post]

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Teacher Runs 20 Miles to See Students — “My daughter really misses school and interacting with her friends and teachers, so when Ms. Shannon surprised her Ellie was overwhelmed with excitement. She couldn’t believe that it was actually Ms. Shannon in person.” [Zebra]

T.C. Williams Class of 2020 Making Documentary — “The class of 2020 is making Titan history. Across the city of Alexandria, Titan seniors will be recording their stories all on the same day, May 1. Here’s how it will work: On May 1, anytime between 12:00AM-11:59PM, seniors will answer these questions in 3 short videos of up to 60 seconds each: What do you love? What do you fear? What do you hope for?” [ACPS]

The Greater Alexandria Virtual Community Job Fair Starts at 1 p.m. — “No need to dress up and leave your house to look for a job, with our virtual job fair we bring the employers to you!” [Indeed]

Sheriff’s Office Swears in New Deputies… At a Distance — “Congratulations to our new deputies who were sworn in today and many thanks to their families who joined us remotely. Sheriff Dana Lawhorne congratulated the recruits and thanked their families, and Clerk of Circuit Court Greg Parks emphasized the tremendous responsibility that comes with public service. He then administered the oath of office to Deputy William Powell, Deputy Dianna Gethers, Deputy Daniel Canniff, Deputy Austin Grant, Deputy Francis Laigo, and Deputy Michael Spitzer. Welcome and good luck to all!” [Facebook]

Pork Barrel BBQ Delivers 50 Meals to Alexandria Hospital — “Thanks to @porkbarrelbbqdelray and @feed_the_fight_alx for sending 50 meals to our heroes at @inovahealth Alexandria!” [Facebook]

DASH Employees Undergo Additional Safety Measures — “We’ve implemented temperature checks for all DASH employees before they start their shifts as an extra precaution to protect the health of our staff and passengers. Stay home. Stop the spread. Buses are for essential travel only.” [Facebook]

ACPS Superintendent Virtual Q&A Today at 3 p.m. — “As we embark on our new journey learning and working remotely, I want to let you know that you are not alone at this difficult time. We will provide you with updates, information and tips every day so that you have the resources to help ensure the continuity of learning among our young people.” [ACPS]

T.C. Student Wins Category in State Science Fair — “Congrats T.C. Williams High School junior Michaela McCormack, winner of the Behavioral and Social Sciences category at the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair. Her research, “Too Cool for JUUL,” tested how sleep and risk-taking are affected by pod-based e-cigarettes (vaping) in both humans and fruit flies. Michaela competed virtually against hundreds of Virginia students from 12 regions across the state.” [Facebook]

ACPS School Nurses Send Message to Kids in Photo Collage — “Ask any student, school nurses are some of the most loved members of our ACPS staff. To remind students just how much they are missed, ACPS created this cheerful photo message. Please share with your children!” [Facebook]

The Hyatt Centric is Still Open in Old Town — “We are open and serving those who need a hotel during this time. We miss our guests and can’t wait to see you soon.” [Facebook]

WEBA Hosting Virtual Business Training at 11 a.m. — “Recovery will be different for each business, we need to start planning now.” [Facebook]

Lawyer Launches Soap Company — “About 18 months ago, she decided to leave law practice and pursue making solid soap bars in environmentally-friendly packaging – and that was how ‘Do Good Soaps and Suds’ was born.” [Alexandria Living]

The Old Town Shop Offers Virtual Tour — “Need to get “out” of the house today? Take a virtual walk through The Old Town Shop & check out our vast array of unique local gifts! Mother’s Day is coming up soon, too. 🌷🌸 We offer safe in-store shopping, over the phone orders, curbside pick-up daily from 12-5pm & shipping.” [Facebook]

It’s Poem In Your Pocket Day — “City of Alexandria Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta invites residents to read poetry in celebration of the National Poem in Your Pocket day. The 2020 ‘DASHing Words in Motion’ Poets have also been invited to read their winning poetry that will be displayed on the DASH buses and Trolleys throughout the month of April.” [Facebook]

Wholistic Hound Academy Offering Online Dog Training — “Arousal: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is a timely 3-session class that can help you and your dog to better co-exist while you work from home, while the kids are home from school, and at a time when your lives are a little more stressed and chaotic during this temporary new normal.” [Facebook]

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C. Thomas‘ story isn’t ordinary, it’s extraordinary. The 39-year-old Alexandria poet has seen his share of adversity, and writing has always made him feel better.

“African Americans are supposed to be this resilient people. We’re not supposed to bend when the wind blows, but that’s just not the case,” Thomas told ALXnow. “Yes, things happen, but we’re supposed to be reinforced steel, but even steel can be scratched.” 

On Friday, Feb. 7, the award-winning poet will take the stage to host “His Story,” an all-African American male showcase sharing stories through poetry. The event will feature the work of 13 of Nazareth, Rodrick Minor, Khalil Houston and Micah Powell. It costs $10 per person to attend and will be held at 7 p.m. at the Athenaeum (201 Prince Street), 

My writing reflects my life,” Thomas said. “I tell people to this day that this is how I kill and bury everything that bothers me — in a poem. Black people have inherited generational trauma from slavery that has passed down through generations and white people have inherited generational guilt. We are viewed as monsters. Despite the color of my skin I can be someone who can help you, but because you have that one idea of me in mind, I can be treated worthlessly, like scum.” 

Writing ended up saving Thomas’ life. When he was 13 years old, he’d resolved to kill himself and began writing a suicide note. That note ended up turning into his first poem, “To Whom It May Concern.”

“I was really going to kill myself, but as I started writing I started to feel better,” Thomas said. “I’m a double target because I’m a black man and I’m gay, but I do not regret anything that I’ve gone through. I used to, but don’t any more, because I wouldn’t be a poet.” 

Thomas, who works in an Alexandria-based dental office by day, is the youngest of five children raised in a two bedroom house by his mother and grandfather in Clinton, Maryland. He faced the death of his mother, Margaret Thomas, when he was just 10 years old, and only met his father weeks before his passing seven years ago.

You have to let the pressure off and I always felt better after writing,” Thomas said. “I’m hoping the showcase will open the minds of those who question a lot of things in the African American community. These writers understand the nitty gritty of what this show stands for.” 

An original poem by Thomas is below, after the jump.

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