Newsletter

Alexandria’s Noah Lyles is officially on the U.S. Olympic Team after winning the 200 meter race in the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, on Sunday night.

Lyles ran the race in 19.74 seconds – the fastest time clocked this year in the world — speeding to Tokyo as the second Alexandrian to join the team behind boxer Troy Isley.

The 23-year-old Lyles, a 2016 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, didn’t place in the 100 meter trials, and promised on Twitter that the 200 meter race was going to be “disgusting”. He also plans to run in the U.S. 4×100 relay team, meaning that he could possibly bring home two medals.

Lyles, who was pushed back against competing when the games were postponed last year, gave the commencement address at last year’s graduation at T.C. The winner of four Diamond League trophies told the students that he was bullied in school, and is also dyslexic and an asthmatic.

“Facing those adversities are what got me here today,” Lyles said. “You need to know that you can make it through, because just this time period of 2020 will not be your last, and you can make it to the next one, and the next one and the one after that, and you will look back on the times of 2020 and say, ‘I got through that, and I came out stronger than ever.'”

Keisha Caine Bishop tweeted that the journey to the Olympic team took 10 years of hard work and a lot of support for her son, who won the world championship in the 200 meters in 2019.

 

https://twitter.com/FloTrack/status/1409376810308194307

Courtesy Noah Lyles/Twitter

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What was an intense week in Alexandria. Here is the rundown.

History was made, as the new marquees at Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary Schools were unveiled this week, and the name changes to T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School will go into effect July 1. It’s a victory for civil rights, as the namesakes of both old schools had backgrounds steeped in racism. Maury was a Confederate leader and Williams was an ACPS superintendent who worked intently against racial integration.

City Manager Mark Jinks on Tuesday also announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. Jinks, who made the announcement to City Council, hinted to ALXnow last month that he was seeking retirement. Today (Friday, June 25) is also the last day for retiring Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown, who will be moving to the West Coast to deal with family matters. Assistant Chief Don Hayes is taking over as acting chief until a national search narrows down a preferred candidate for the job.

Law enforcement events also dominated this week’s coverage. On Tuesday, first responders saved a woman experiencing a mental health crisis who was dangling perilously off the Monroe Avenue Bridge, followed by news Wednesday that a suspect was arrested for a West End murder along with 16 others in a massive racketeering conspiracy. On Thursday, a barricade situation in the West End ended peacefully.

In this week’s poll, when asked whether transit improvements would make residents more likely to take the bus, 48% said they don’t take the bus often and won’t likely change their habits; 38% said they don’t often take the bus, although transit improvements might change that; and 14% said that they already frequent the Metro and DASH bus systems.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. JUST IN: Thieves break into more than 60 vehicles in West End
  4. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  5. Massive redevelopment of West End apartment building has neighbors worried about street parking impact
  6. UPDATE: Alexandria first responders save suicidal woman on Monroe Avenue Bridge
  7. City Council emphasizes marketing funding for Alexandria’s ‘Hot Girl Summer’
  8. Mother and boyfriend allegedly beaten by knife-wielding ex in Old Town North
  9. With eviction moratorium expiring, city pushes renters and landlords toward rental assistance
  10. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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In a victory for civil rights, the marquee for Alexandria City High School was unveiled Wednesday morning, replacing the old sign bearing the name of T.C. Williams High School.

It’s been nearly a year since the effort to change the name of Virginia’s largest high school began. The new name will go into effect July 1, as will the official renaming of Matthew Maury Elementary School to Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

“I think this is a great step towards equity,” rising junior Miracle Gross said. “This year more than any I learned what he really stood for and why our community is against it.”

T.C. Williams High School gained international fame for the ‘Remember The Titans‘ film, which depicted the newly integrated Alexandria football players winning the 1971 state championship by bridging racial divides. Ironically, the school itself was named after a staunch racist superintendent who spent years actively working against integrating the school system.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the day would go down in history, and that the school mascot will remain the Titans.

“Once a Titan always a Titan,” Hutchings told the audience of students, administrators, parents and former graduates. “We are proud of our diversity and we realize that that name, Thomas Chambliss Williams, did not deserve to be honored on our only high school in the city of Alexandria.”

Wednesday was also the last day of school, and for the next three months ACPS will work to replace all of the markers with the name T.C. Williams.

“We already started to order the uniforms,” Hutchings said. “It’s going to take us some time to get through all of our marquees as well as all of the signage within the school building.”

School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan said that it’s also a somber day.

“Systemic racism is something that was created with purpose and with resources attached to it,” she said. “And the staff at T.C. Williams fights it every single day.”

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For the second year in a row, T.C. Williams track and field stars Wisdom Williams has taken home the state championship in the shot put.

The Virginia High School League’s State Championships were held at Todd Stadium in Hampton, Virginia, on Saturday.

Williams, a junior, set the state record in shot put with a throw of 47:00-50 — beating her winning throw last year by nearly five feet. She also won in the discuss, throwing 137 feet and four quarters of an inch.

T.C.’s athletics director James Parker says to expect big things from Williams, who started making waves with big throws in her freshman year.

“We’re hoping that Wisdom will be an Olympian,” Parker said.

Titan jumpers David Coles and Joshua Peterson also won top honors.

Coles, who will run at Virginia Commonwealth University this fall, won the triple jump with a jump of 48 feet and two-and-a-half inches; and Peterson won the long jump with a 24-foot-9-inch jump.

 

Courtesy ACPS

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It wasn’t easy having a famous sister, and that’s why Mia Humphrey chose art over science.

The T.C. Williams High School graduate spent years pouring her soul into her red composition notebooks, and last fall released her first album “Project Red Notebook“. Put together, the songs read like a diary.

Two years ago Humphrey’s sister Ana won a $250,000 scholarship for her work in locating planets in distant solar systems. Ana is now at Harvard.

“It was a little hard,” the 18-year-old Humphrey said. “I was a sophomore and my sister was a senior when she started doing all of the crazy science stuff. But we do actually get along very well. We really don’t fight over much things except, like, we share a room, so we go to bed at different times and she’ll be in the room really late and I’ll be trying to sleep. Stuff like that.”

That coming-of-age message is something the younger Humphrey repeats throughout her work, like in her song Summer 17, which Humphrey sang at her high school graduation earlier this month.

Humphrey started writing music in middle school, and for years would play her latest collections of songs for her friends.

“I would say my songs are very heavily focused on lyrics and the music is kind of an afterthought,” she said.

She says that she will continue playing music this fall at Brown University, but will be majoring in modern culture and media studies to pursue a film career.

“Writing is like my therapy,” Humphrey said. “I feel so clouded if I’m not writing and getting out the emotions. Sometimes it’s not through writing music, but maybe it’s poetry and just writing in a journal, but I prefer the songwriting. I don’t know if there’s really a world where I’m not songwriting in the future, at least in some capacity.”

She cites Taylor Swift as her major artistic influence, as well as the 2012 coming of age film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

“There’s this one scene where they go and they’re going through a tunnel in the car, and ‘Heroes‘ by David Bowie is blasting and they stand up in the car and they’re going through a tunnel and the lights are flashing,” Humphrey said of the movie. “I remember when I saw that scene I was going on a road trip somewhere. It was dark and I was just watching the movie on an iPad and I just like felt so many emotions at one time.  I was overwhelmed, and now I want to be able to make something to make people feel  just like that.”

Courtesy ACPS

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It was a surprising week in Alexandria.

Our top story by far was on the venomous rattlesnake found in Old Town on Sunday. The timber snake, which also goes by the name American Viper, was discovered in the 400 block of Gibbon Street — a few blocks from the waterfront. It didn’t bite anyone, and was apprehended by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria’s Animal Services team and later moved to a wildlife facility in Northern Virginia.

This Saturday, June 19,  is also Juneteenth, and the new federal holiday recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S. The City recognized Juneteenth on Friday, and most government offices and facilities were closed. This weekend, the Alexandria Black History Museum is partnering with Washington Revels Jubilee Voices — a group that preserves local Black traditions through a cappella music, dramatic performances and dance — for a virtual Juneteenth Celebration.

Meanwhile, in-person dramatic and musical performances are being planned for July. The Little Theatre of Alexandria is expanding capacity with their new lineup of shows, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will resume in-person performing in a reduced program at the City’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on July 10.

In other good news, a pair of T.C. Williams High School Titans raised more than $4,800 to attend the Outdoor Nationals at the University of Oregon on July 1.

In this week’s poll, we asked readers how they think the millions of first allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent, as City Council will conduct a public hearing on how to spend it on Saturday. After a rash of flooding incidents last year, a majority of the respondents want the funds prioritized for waterway maintenance.

This Sunday is also Father’s Day, and a number of Alexandria businesses are offering unique specials.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  2. Captain Sean Casey wins Democratic primary and is running unopposed for Sheriff in November
  3. Woman assaulted by mob and pepper-sprayed in Old Town North
  4. Man dies of apparent overdose at coworking office in Old Town
  5. T.C. Williams High School’s final graduating class walks the stage
  6. Alexandria Fire Department rescues woman from stalled car, Flash Flood Watch in effect
  7. City launches Duke Street transit overhaul process
  8. For Taco Bamba owner, newly announced Landmark location is a homecoming
  9. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  10. Here’s what to do when you find dead birds amid recent epidemic
  11. Java Grill closed until further notice in Old Town

Have a safe weekend! 

Courtesy AWLA/Twitter 

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A pair of Alexandria track and field athletes are asking for help to get to The Outdoor Nationals next month.

T.C. Williams Titans David Coles and Joshua Peterson will compete in the Triple Jump on July 1 at the Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, which is also where the U.S. Olympic track and field trials are being conducted this month.

But they need help getting to Oregon, and have launched a GoFundMe campaign.

“If you are familiar with the financial side of traveling for sports then you know that things can be very costly,” Coles wrote on the fundraiser page. “We are asking our friends, family, and supporters to please help Josh and I compete in Oregon so we can achieve the dream of competing at the National Level.”

The pair are almost there, having raised $3,575 of their $4,000 goal. They said that the funds will cover their flights, Uber rides, rooms and meals.

“This is a meet we have dreamed of competing and winning in ever since we started taking this sport seriously,” Coles said. “Last year the event was suspended due to covid so we have never gotten the chance to experience a real high school nationals outdoor event.”

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The final graduating class of T.C. Williams High School celebrated their final Titan victory Saturday morning, as 888 graduates were handed diplomas at Chinquapin Park.

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., said that the students have witnessed a profoundly difficult period, including COVID deaths, social unrest following the murder of George Floyd and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“Remember to stand up for your beliefs, but do it with civility and civil discourse,” Hutchings said. “It takes time to build dialogue while understanding our differences. We can still be bold and we can still be courageous, while practicing kindness as the hallmark of our advocacy.”

With the pandemic winding down, the graduates were asked to look at the bigger picture.

“Always remember, the greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose,” said T.C. Black Student Union President Fina Osei-Owusu, who quoted both Myles Munroe and Mark Twain. “Because the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. Every single one of you has been equipped with passion and created with a purpose… Your essential element is your purpose, and the very reason why you exist. It is what you’re here to fulfill. So, I asked all of you to look within.”

Graduate Mia Humphrey also sang to the audience her song, ‘Summer 17‘, which she wrote in quarantine last year.

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come together,” Humphrey said.

This year, equity reared its lens on T.C., which is the largest high school in Virginia. The school is 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. However, the school’s namesake, former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, was an ardent segregationist.

“What gives me hope is you,” school Principal Peter Balas told the sea of graduates in red, white and blue caps and gowns. “You have the voice and the means to change this world. You are Titans, and Titans rise up and take action. You’ve righted the wrongs of history and I know you won’t stop there.”

T.C. Williams High School graduated its first class in 1967, and will change its name to Alexandria City High School on July 1.

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Athlete on the T.C. Williams Swim and Dive Team (photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook)

Despite the unanimous vote of approval to install a new pool at the Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard campus, even the most positive of voices on City Council last night were lukewarm about how they got there.

The Council voted 7-0 in favor of setting aside $12 million in funding, down from $19 million proposed earlier, with Alexandria City Public Schools diverting some funding from a solar panel project.

Like a parent scolding his child for reckless spending, City Manager Mark Jinks warned that the pool proposal is coming in after the budget has already been approved.

“This is a project that is not in the CIP (Capital Improvement Program),” Jinks told Council. “When the School Board made its request, we all acknowledged that pool capacity needs to be expanded… my proposal is to renovate Chinquapin, change the depth of the pool, and shorten it slightly for the right competitive length.”

Jinks said this would allow the city government and ACPS to determine, at a later date, whether to put a pool in somewhere else with greater access — considering the proposed school would be just a few blocks away from the existing Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King Street), the only other indoor aquatics center in the city.

Jinks also warned that diverting up-front funding from the solar panel projects and opting instead towards privatized sources of funding is a short term budget trick that doesn’t save money in the long term, because the business investing in those solar panels up-front will want that money back from output in the future.

“This is using money that was supposed to be used to buy solar panels and put that into the pot,” Jinks said. “It won’t save us money long-term. It’s a budget tactic that works in the short-term but doesn’t help long-term.”

ACPS would also, Jinks said, face an additional annual operating cost of $1-1.5 million and likely up to $5,000 in capital maintenance expenses. While some pools make some of that cost back in fees and being rented out for private events, Jinks says that complicates the idea that this pool is being funded with equity in mind.

Ultimately, the timing of Chinquapin’s announced closure for cleaning– from June 26-Sept. 6 — helped sway some on the City Council toward funding another pool. City Council member john Chapman said angry public emails have flooded in after the closure was announced.

“I do understand and do believe the city has a number of other priorities,” Chapman said. “If we are forced to push, we will push a pool out of the way like we have before. Whether revenues are down or another project that will require our more immediate attention… I’ve seen that be done. That’s what’s leaning me to support a pool. It’s not that this is the perfect thing. I’m not overly excited for the late addition… but I don’t see another tangible alternative to say ‘we’re not going to do one at Minnie Howard, but instead of that we’re going to do this.'”

Jinks said funding for the pool would come in large part from issuing general obligation bunds for a set amount of money, with the City putting its foot down and saying that’s as much as it will provide.

The move was met with praise from ACPS leadership.

“I am truly overjoyed and thankful with the unanimous vote from City Council to provide funding for the aquatics facility at the Minnie Howard Campus,” School Board member Jacinta Greene told ALXnow. “For far too long Alexandria’s aquatics facilities have not met the needs of our ACPS student athletes or the overall community. Now our swim teams will be able to practice and compete in their own regulation size pool and the community can benefit from an additional pool for aquatics activities.”

Photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook

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The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria gave away a record $525,000 in college scholarships this year to 183 graduating seniors from T.C. Williams High School.

The nonprofit made the announcement this week after conducting a virtual ceremony to congratulate the awardees.

“We are so very proud of the next generation of nurses, doctors, business leaders, computer scientists, biologists, and professors who are heading off to college this fall thanks to the generosity of this community,”said SFA Executive Director Beth Lovain. “What I want to convey most is that in a year wrought with challenges, our Class of 2021 SFA Scholars have not only endured, but they have triumphed. They are truly ‘Generation Resilient.’ Through all of the adversity and through all of the challenges of COVID and 2021 they have remained poised and focused; their college dreams would not be pushed aside.”

SFA will also award $550,000 in renewal scholarships to help previous recipients from the 2018, 2019 and 2020 graduates who are now in college.

“I am so grateful and so honored to have been awarded a scholarship and I’m so proud of each and every one of you for being awarded one as well,” said Karam Burjas, T.C. senior class president. “I also want to give a big thank you to all of the donors and people who supported the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria this past year; without your gracious support none of this would’ve been possible.”

The nonprofit has awarded $17 million in scholarships since it was founded in 1986. Last year, SFA awarded $504,000 in scholarships to 181 graduating seniors, in addition to the $550,000 in renewal scholarships.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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