Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria City School Board on Thursday (September 17) will consider moving forward with changing the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School, which is named after Confederate leader and noted oceanographer. The placeholder name would be “The Parker-Gray Rosemont School.”

Maury was the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the first hydrographer of the U.S. Navy. He was also special agent for the Confederacy during the Civil War and has a statue in Richmond. The School Board received a petition from at least 100 signatures from city residents on August 6, less than a month after the board unanimously directed Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., to begin the name change process for T.C. Williams High School.

“Matthew Fontaine Maury was a confederate officer who fought in support of slavery,” states the petition, which was signed by Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein. “While his efforts in oceanography were noteworthy, his actions surrounding the Civil War and slavery were indefensible.”

The petition continues, “He attempted to negotiate a slave trade from the United States to Brazil in order to help his fellow southerners who would lose a great deal of monty if they lost their ability to sell their slaves. He invented an early version of the torpedo which was used by the confederates to sink Union ships. He tried to create a New Virginia Colony in Mexico after the Civil War where slave labor would continue with a new label of indentured servitude. He convinced nearly 4,000 confederate soldiers to defect before his plan was thwarted by unrest in Mexico.”

The T.C. name change will go before the board next spring, and the board will have to decide on a timeline for a public engagement process and a public hearing for the potential Maury name change.

“It looks feasible to run the two processes together (in the spring),” ACPS Executive Director of Communications Helen Lloyd told ALXnow. “However, the board and the superintendent will have to make that decision.”

Photo via ACPS

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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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If all goes according to plan, Alexandria City Public Schools will begin a public engagement process in September and October to educate the public on who Thomas Chambliss Williams was, followed by a vote on whether to change the name of T.C. Williams High School.

The actual vote on a new name would be chosen next spring after a vote on whether the name should be changed in December, according to ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., who reported the news to the school board in a virtual retreat on Wednesday.

“People are not really thinking about a name change… they’re reading about the election, they’re reading about COVID,” Hutchings told the Board. “That’s where everybody’s focus is.”

Last month, the board unanimously voted to approve the process for changing the name of T.C. by next spring. T.C. is the largest high school in Virginia and is named after former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was a segregationist and discouraged school integration.

“I think by the spring, if the board approves to change the name of T.C. Williams, then we can use from January to the spring to come up whatever the new name is going to be,” Hutchings said.

Marc Solomon is one of the community leaders behind the group Rename T.C. Williams Now trying to get the name changed. He says that the name should be stricken immediately.

“It’s unfortunate that ACPS is continuing to go down the path of most resistance,” Solomon said. “We hope Dr. Hutchings will reach out to our organization to cooperatively address concerns and retire the name of T.C. Williams immediately, and spend the rest of the time picking a new name.”

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Morning Notes

Levine Says Murder Suspect Should Have Stayed Behind Bars — “Simply put, I think the judge made a tragically wrong decision here.” [Blue Virginia]

Lynching Victim Honored in Old Town — “121 years to the day after a mob lynched young Benjamin Thomas, the successor of the Mayor who made a half-hearted plea for due process and the successor of the “City Sergeant” (@AlexVASheriff) who failed to project Benjamin, stood at the corner and laid wreaths in his memory.” [Twitter]

Eviction Proceedings Halted Until Next Month — “On August 7, Governor Ralph S. Northam (D-VA) announced that starting Monday, August 10, a statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings will go into effect. The moratorium, which passed by a 4-to-3 vote, runs through September 7.”  [Zebra]

School Board Approves Virtual Learning This Fall — “Students, unlike during the spring semester, will be graded on finished work. They will also receive simultaneous lessons in subjects, as if they were in the classroom.” [Zebra]

ACPS Kicks Off ‘Kindergarten Prep’ — “ACPS is adjusting the format of the traditional Kindergarten Prep summer session in response to the current pandemic.”
[Facebook]

Del Ray Company Donates Soap to Casa Chirilagua — “We are so grateful to Truly-Life Eco Gifts for donating 200 bars of handmade soap to Casa Chirilagua — even during these challenging times, our small businesses are so generous!” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Mostly clear. High, 92F, Low 73F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Automotive Finance Manager — “BMW of Alexandria has an opportunity for a motivated, hard-working, enthusiastic Finance Manager to join our team.” [Indeed]

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It was another busy week in Alexandria.

Our readers overwhelmingly responded to Sunday’s protest at the Alexandria home of acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and the story has more than 380 comments. This week also saw its first homicide, which occurred in the West End, in addition to a number of crime events in the Braddock area.

Not included in our weekly list is late-breaking news on Friday that Alexandria City Public Schools want a virtual-only school year starting in September. Residents have been waiting throughout the summer for the school system to make up its mind, and ACPS has conducted numerous virtual chats with students, parents and staff over the last several weeks.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Activists Protest at Alexandria Home of Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf
  2. BREAKING: Police Investigating Homicide in West End Residential Community
  3. Former APD Officer Peter Laboy Gets His Driver’s License Seven Years After Being Shot in the Head
  4. Just Listed in Alexandria
  5. Students and Residents Putting Daily Cover Over T.C. Williams High School Name
  6. BREAKING: Flooding Reported in Parts of City, AFD Responding to Multiple Emergency Calls
  7. Shots Fired Tuesday Night in Braddock Neighborhood
  8. Alexandria Delegate Wants City to Fire Officials or Police Who Espouse QAnon Theories
  9. Save the Tree Petition at T.C. Williams High School Garners Nearly 1,000 Signatures
  10. Man Injured in Violent Carjacking in Old Town
  11. COVID-19 Update: Deaths at 57, Case Count at 2,735 in Alexandria

Have a safe and fun weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Students at T.C. Williams High School and city residents are placing a tarp over the school marquee every day to obscure the name until the school board votes to change it next spring.

“I don’t want to graduate from a school that is represented by a racist name,” T.C. rising senior Sarah Devendorf told ALXnow. “I don’t want to put it on my diploma, and it’s shameful because we are such a diverse liberal community.”

In a protest last week, students were told by ACPS officials that if they continued placing covers over the marquee that they would face legal action.

“The adult chaperones of the student protest were informed in advance that students would face no legal consequences, police involvement, or school disciplinary actions by holding their protest as they had notified the school in advance,” T.C. principal Peter Balas explained in an email to the community. “However, what actually transpired during the protest turned out to be different from what was discussed with the adult chaperones in advance. The chaperones and organizers had been advised that any action to cover the marquee could be seen as defacing public property.”

Protestors have continued to place covers over the marquee at various times of the day.

Balas also said that since Black Lives Matter protests have erupted throughout the city and country, that he, in fact, marched along with T.C. students in recent days in Old Town. He advised students to work through him should they want to organize another protest.

Earlier this month, the board unanimously voted to consider changing the name of T.C. by next spring. T.C. is the largest high school in Virginia and is named after former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was a segregationist and discouraged school integration.

The school is best known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which focused on its 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity.

Courtesy photo

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After two years on the market, the boyhood home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Old Town has been sold for $4.7 million, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The 8,145-square-foot Potts-Fitzhugh House at 601-607 Oronoco Street went on the market in 2018 for a much higher price — $8.5 million.

The Georgian-Federal home was built in 1795 and takes up approximately a half-acre. It is also part of the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion has six bedrooms, four bathrooms and two half bathrooms, according to the Washington Fine Properties listing.

The Daughters of the Confederacy recently removed the Appomattox monument in Old Town amid racial and social unrest following the murder of George Floyd — also after the state legislature authorized the city to remove it. Additionally, Alexandria City Public Schools is looking at changing the name of T.C. Williams High School, since Williams was an avid segregationist.

Lee was the commanding general of the Confederate Army for the final three years of the Civil War. His family touted a fine Virginia pedigree, since his father, Light-Horse Harry Lee, was the ninth Governor of Virginia and who also served as a cavalry officer in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Recent days have not been sympathetic to Lee, as there are efforts underway to have his statue removed in Richmond and for his name to be stricken from West Point buildings.

ALXnow has not confirmed the name of the buyer.

Photos via HRL Partners with Washington Fine Properties

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Alexandria’s development of a community police review board is too insular and groups representing the city’s minority populations are not being consulted, says Alexandria NAACP President Christopher Harris and community advocates.

“It appears to be an insular process,” Harris told ALXnow. “I would think that at the least out of courtesy you would reach out to the NAACP to get feedback and input, given that most of the people affected are members of the African American community.”

Harris added, “I think Tenants & Workers United should be included as well. They represent the Latino community. They deserve to be included in the conversation, but it appears that no one cares. these decisions are being made unilaterally in my opinion. you can’t have unaffected communities making decisions for the affected communities.”

Harris is also a member of the executive board of the Alexandria Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which is currently the only public body that looks at police summaries of closed internal investigations.

The spotlight got turned on the police during the pandemic when a third of patrol officers were sent home to telework, followed by national unrest over policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Protests erupted throughout the city, as King Street was shut down and protestors railed against unfair police practices. Brown would later join participants at a vigil in front of police headquarters, and later wrote a letter to the community stating that things do, in fact, need to change.

“It is my sincere hope that we finally address these issues – in policing, in the criminal justice system, and the socioeconomic arena,” Brown wrote. “We need to heal!”

At the meeting on June 9, members of the City Council, Police Chief Michael Brown and the city manager discussed how the roles of the new review board and the Human Rights Commission might overlap. As previously reported, Brown said that the concept of a review board had a negative connotation and requested that he and the city manager draw up a proposal.

“I do not disagree with the concept of oversight,” Brown said. “I may be mincing words here, but a ‘review board’ as it’s phrased in our world, in policing, has a very negative connotation.”

Monika Jones Chapman is the former chair of the Human Rights Commission, and along with former Commissioner LaDonna Sanders, wants an independent auditor to be included in the new review board. Chapman is also married to Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman.

In a letter to the editor sent to Alexandria publications, Chapman and Sanders wrote that the AHRC is the only civilian group that receives summaries of closed internal police investigations, and that after committee meetings the summaries are collected by police.

“In fact, these reports are given at the beginning of a meeting and collected at the end,” Chapman and Sanders wrote. “This prevents committee members from conducting thoughtful analysis, obtaining input from the entire commission or community, and conducting trend analysis to make informed recommendations.”

The pair also want greater data transparency over arrests and other confrontations, as 64% of all arrests last year in the city were of Black men.

“An independent police auditor, and collaborating review board, must be independent of law enforcement, have sufficient resources and funding to support its operations, and access to police files and data to make informed recommendations to law enforcement, city council, and the Alexandria community,” the pair wrote.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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A pair of incidents — racist threats at a local martial arts champion and a man spitting at a local coffee house owner — were the prevailing stories Alexandria.

Alexandria Police told ALXnow that a suspect in the incident was found and taken into custody, but ultimately was not identified and “received services.”

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Customer Spits on Old Town Coffee Shop Owner and Vandalizes Store After Being Asked to Wear a Mask
  2. Muay Thai Champ Gets Racist Threats at Jones Point Park
  3. New Mixed-Use Development Sparks Frustration With Density in Parker-Gray Neighborhood
  4. ACPS Has No Comment on Chief Operating Officer’s Vocal Departure
  5. Man Charged With Multiple Misconduct Counts at Old Town Gas Station
  6. Power Outage Covers Potomac Yard and Parts of Del Ray
  7. Arlington-Based Fitness Studio Coming to Alexandria’s West End
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. Here’s What’s Happening July 4 in Alexandria
  10. Update: Alexandria Now Has 2,380 COVID-19 Cases, No New Deaths
  11. Poor Business Revenue Amid Shutdown Leaves Alexandria Government With Empty Pockets

Photo via Abyssinia Market and Coffee House/Facebook

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Updated at 3:45 p.m — The Alexandria City School Board unanimously voted 9-0 on Friday to consider changing the name of T.C. Williams by next spring.

Earlier: Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent agrees that the name of T.C. Williams High School needs to change, and asked the community to be patient with a proposed process that, if approved today by the school board, would result in a report to be acted upon next spring.

“This is the right time to address this,” Hutchings said of the name change. “I think that we as a community have to understand that we have to have a process for any kind of change, from adopting or changing a building or spending dollars in our budget. It’s important for the community to respect the process. The process helps us be methodical.”

The School Board will vote on moving forward with the name change process at its meeting today at noon.

But Lindsey Vick and Marc Solomon organized a petition that went to the board, and they want the name change to be made faster. They said the School Board does not need to engage in a process that will see resolution next year.

“We reviewed all the policy documents before we started this petition,” the pair said in a statement. “Nothing in school board policy precludes them from voting to eliminate the name T.C. Williams by end of year. We respect a robust process to pick a new name. However, the time has long past to decide whether to change the name.”

As previously reported, Thomas Chambliss Williams was a racist and segregationist who advocated against integration. Multiple efforts to have the school name changed have failed in years past.

Hutchings said that the school system is committed to rooting out systemic racism.

“One advantage of having a solid process is allowing our public to speak on a decision that the board has to make,” he said. “I think that as a school division we have been able to speak the truth about who T.C. Williams was.”

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Alexandria City Public Schools have acknowledged that Thomas Chambliss Williams was a racist and segregationist, and on Friday the School Board will decide on moving forward with the renaming process for T.C. Williams High School.

On the table is a proposal to begin the renaming process by directing Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. to initiate a public engagement process this fall, followed by a report with recommendations next spring.

According to the motion going before the board:

It is well documented that throughout his tenure as Superintendent, Thomas Chambliss Williams exhibited racism, fought to maintain segregation in ACPS, and promoted the school division’s massive resistance to desegregation efforts. This is inconsistent with the forward-looking vision and values expressed in the Equity for All 2025 Strategic Plan.

I THEREFORE MOVE, pursuant to Section III.B. of Regulation FF-R, that the School Board officially consider the request to rename T.C. Williams High School. Accordingly, the School Board hereby empowers the Superintendent to initiate the public engagement process, outlined in Section I. of the regulation, to solicit community feedback and possible nominations for renaming T.C. Williams High School.

There are roughly 4,000 students who attend T.C., and it is the largest high school in Virginia. Last month, in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations after George Floyd’s death, the Alexandria City Public School system condemned systemic racism, and a petition to rename the school was submitted to the board. More than 170 people signed it, including Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein.

Williams was the superintendent of the city school system from the 1930s to the 1960s and was a segregationist who advocated against integration.

Lindsey Vick and Marc Solomon are leading the new fight to get the school renamed. Two previous efforts to change the name failed, and Vick and Solomon want a faster resolution.

“While we understand the enormous challenges in reopening, we cannot accept an extended process to simply decide to change the name,” the pair told ALXnow in a statement. “We believe the school board can vote to remove the name immediately and have a new name chosen by the end of the year. Neighboring districts and districts across the nation have acted faster. Alexandria can, too. Our children are watching.”

The current placeholder name is Tubman-Chavez High School.

“Harriet Tubman was a black female freedom fighter and César Chávez was an important Latino civil rights activist,” notes an ACPS staff report. “[They were] incredible Americans whose names would honor our high school while allowing it to keep the initials ‘T.C.’ They would provide representation to students who do not see their heritage adequately in Alexandria schools’ names… This name change can preserve most branding, allow students to still be part of ‘T.C.,’ and remove this stain on our history.”

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Morning Notes

Mayor Decries Hate Incidents in Alexandria — “‪Two sad examples of hate in our community this week. ‬This is not who we are as a City. We reject those that would spew hate and target members of our community.‬ ‪I hope that any violation of the law will be addressed aggressively by City, State and Federal officials, as applicable.‬” [Facebook]

Beyer Says Trump Doesn’t Care About Children — “Trump’s approach all along has been to pretend a miraculous end to the pandemic is just around the corner. He doesn’t have a plan. He isn’t going to lead. He doesn’t care about making schools safe for children and educators. It’s so important to get this right.” [Twitter]

The Tall Ship Providence Now Open — “Tall Ship Providence is open for Private Tours, Private Lunchtime Tours, and Happy Hours.” [Tall Ship Providence]

Food Distribution at Charles Houston Recreation Center on Thursday — “ALIVE!, in coordination with Washington Street United Methodist Church, Royal Restaurant, ARHA, and the City of Alexandria, will distribute bags of shelf-stable groceries and boxes of produce on Thursday, July 9 from 4 pm – 5:30 pm, or until supplies run out, at the parking lot of Charles Houston Recreation Center.” [ALIVE!]

There’s a New Phone Support Line for Alexandria Parents — “Phone lines are answered from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Monday through Friday. Assistance is available in English and Spanish. The person will be there simply to listen or provide guidance on more complex issues.” [Zebra]

Old Town Ghost Tours Are Back — “Follow an 18th century costumed guide by lantern light through the charming streets of Alexandria’s historic district, Old Town. On this entertaining tour you’ll hear ghost stories, legends and folklore.” [Visit Alexandria]

New Job: Dog Daycare Supervisor — “We are looking for individuals that are responsive to our customers, but also that are able to follow the rules and monitor staff that are directly supervising the dogs in our care. You will be on your feet a good majority of the day so please don’t apply if that is a problem.” [Indeed]

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