Obstruction and Distraction to Prevent Change

 Hi Friends!

I have been so saddened by the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Michele L. Norris’s words really hit home for me.

I learned so much by reading this article by Felicity Menzies called “Nine Cultural Value Differences You Need To Know” at her blog Include-Empower.com. I appreciated the way it highlights the different ways different cultures VALUE things like individualism, power, uncertainty, time, gender, etc. It established a way to consider perspectives that differ from one’s own through a cultural lens, rather than a judgemental one.

Many of those in this group voted for Parisa Dehghani-Tafti for Commonwealth’s Attorney last November. Resistance to her reform agenda, that the voters overwhelmingly supported, has been swift. Here’s the latest coverage in the last week:
- Parisa Dehghani Tafti writes “Why I am fighting for prosecutorial discretion in Arlington” (Washington Post, 8/21/20)
- Washington Post Editorial Board writes “Judges are trying to reduce a reform prosecutor’s powers. She’s right to fight back.” (8/28/20)
- Tom Jackman writes “Arlington prosecutor goes to Va. Supreme Court against judges who challenge her new policies” (Washington Post, 8/28/20)

For those following the campaign to retire the Arlington County logo and other symbols that use “Arlington House” as its representation of our county:
- Julius D. Spain, Carolynn Kane, and Emma Violand-Sanchez write “Arlington County’s progress on race and social justice is poisoned by its official logo” (Washington Post, 8/14/20)
- Matt Blitz writes “Robert E. Lee’s Name Is All Over Arlington County. Now There’s A Push To Replace It” (WAMU, 8/10/20)
- Kelsey Jones writes “Rep. Beyers proposes legislation that could replace Arlington County’s logo” (Local DVM, 8/24/20)
- And related, Sydney Trent writes “At Arlington House, a push to remove Robert E. Lee’s name from the home he once occupied” (Washington Post, 8/24/20)

Recent attention has been paid to the health disparities in communities of color during the pandemic. As you might expect, health disparities are rooted in systemic racism and are perpetuated by those same systems in the health care people receive, the access they have to health care resources, and their living environments.
- Lola Fadulu writes “Black men in D.C. are expected to die 17 years earlier than White men. Here’s why.” (Washington Post, 8/27/20)
- Arlington County conducted a similar study and released the results in April 2019, showing a 10 year difference in longevity depending on what neighborhood a person resides in. Destination 2027 is working to take action to address those disparities.

The sports walkouts last week are worth acknowledging:
- Thomas Boswell writes “Athletes have the power to help America get it right, and they’re using it” (Washington Post, 8/28/20)
- Jerry Brewer writes “NBA players set a new standard of civil disobedience. Now there’s no going back.” (Washington Post, 8/27/20)

I don’t normally write about the current president because the number of offensive things he does daily would take over this work. However, I was struck by Paul Musgrave’s “Busy work: Trump’s secret political weapon: Wasting his opponents’ time” (Washington Post, 8/14/20) because it calls attention to a common theme — obstruction and distraction to prevent change. We see this tactic all the time in our efforts to dismantle systemic racism. Recognize it and keep pushing against it. It cannot endure against the groundswell of voices that are increasing in power every day.

- Petula Dvorak writes about “When ‘back to school’ means a parking lot and the hunt for a WiFi signal” (Washington Post, 8/27/20)
- Kara Harris writes “There’s a Movement to Defund School Police, Too” (CityLab, 8/24/20)
- Integrated Schools released two new podcasts, “Reopening Schools and Equity” (8/5/20) and “Checklists and Merit Badges: JPB Gerald on Whiteness” (8/19/20)
- The Learning Policy Institute released “Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond” (8/25/20)
- Aaron Mak writes “How Teachers Are Rethinking the Way They Talk About Race in America” (Slate, 8/28/20)

- Peter Rousselot writes “Peter’s Take: New Restorative Justice Group Launches Expert Panels” (ArlNow, 8/26/20)
- Arlington Public Schools is working to ensure that every student has access to reliable internet at home.
- Arlington County is working to prevent evictions and feed families.
- View the recorded “Panel Discussion on the Digital Divide and Community Broadband in Arlington, VA” hosted by ArlFiber and the ArlDems Black Caucus on 8/21/20.

- The Arlington Police Practices Work Group is hosting a community conversation TONIGHT from 6:30–8:00 pm. I’m sorry I didn’t share this sooner — video may be available afterwards.
- White Awake has a “Roots Deeper Than Whiteness” course from October-November 2020.
- Service Never Sleeps is offering more virtual Allyship Workshops in September and October.
- Challenging Racism is offering a discussion on How to be an Antiracist on September 20 and 27.

A few more resources:
- Theresa Vargas writes “An enslaved person’s words provide painful context for mayor’s post about Biden picking ‘Aunt Jemima as his VP’” (Washington Post, 8/15/20)
- The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) has some great resources and is in the middle of hosting its virtual annual conference via a series of webinars.
- Cassie Miller and Howard Graves write “When the “Alt-Right’ Hit the Streets: Far-Right Political Rallies in the Trump Era” (SPLC, 8/10/20)
- Virginia Humanities shared that their “Short Film About Virginia Slave Dwellings Receives Regional Emmy” (you can view the film on their site).
- I heard about an amazing organization called Get Shift Done, which connects skilled shift workers with non-profits with needs, focusing on distributing food and meals to people in need. It was created out of the challenges of the pandemic and is having a big impact.
- Patrick Sisson writes “Can Planting Trees Make a City More Equitable?” (CityLab, 8/28/20), coupled with Brentin Mock’s “Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting” (CityLab, 1/11/19). People may think they know what will make something more equitable, but if those who are supposed to benefit most from the changes are not consulted, then the changes are not truly for them.

Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Internet Access and Virtual Learning

 Hi Friends!

I hope you’re all healthy and that those of you gearing up for the unique school year aren’t feeling too anxious. This week, I’m going to talk about issues related to internet access and its impact on equal access to information and opportunity as well as challenges related to virtual learning. More resources on many topics and events/action items are below.

Please read Moriah Ballingit’s “‘A national crisis’: As coronavirus forces many schools online this fall, millions of disconnected students are being left behind” (Washington Post, 8/16/20). For this discussion, I’d like to establish a few points:

- I am in favor of reopening schools ONLY when it is safe for everyone to do so, and I strongly encourage everyone to continue following social distancing and other guidelines to ensure that this happens as quickly as possible. Virtual learning is inherently inequitable, but it is the best option we have right now, so we need to ensure that we work for equitable education using every method we have available, adjusting for the realities we face in a pandemic.

- I approach this work not out of pity or white-saviorism, but from a desire to raise awareness so that we can all make more informed choices about how and where we advocate, so we make different assumptions about what Arlington students have access to, and so we can see a bigger picture of the barriers facing our students and our community members so we can work to remove those barriers.

- It is worth working on both short- and long-term goals to address systemic inequities. Action will happen MOST quickly if the people with the most power and privilege in a community advocate for it. Raise your voice, ask questions, and express a sense of collective responsibility for ensuring that everyone in our community has what they need and deserve!

Besides the general equity issues that we all need to be aware of, there are three internet access topics I’m going to cover:
(1) The essential nature of internet access and the current barriers to equitable access;
(2) Barriers to access on APS devices; and,
(3) Privacy and dignity concerns for virtual learning.

Internet Access:
The current internet access options for low-income families in Arlington are inadequate. MiFi devices provided by APS have a time limit for how long they can be used each day. Comcast Internet Essentials has significant barriers for signing up, particularly for families who might be sharing housing arrangements with another family or who have had any issues paying bills in the past. Both of these options are limited in their bandwidth, making live virtual learning inaccessible. Arlington County is working on solutions to this issue, both short- and long-term (such as a community-owned broadband cooperative and broadband authority). There are potentially significant legal barriers to making this happen, particularly from Comcast and Verizon, so our leadership needs to know that this is a community priority with significant support across Arlington. There will also be larger financial expenses for older buildings that are not yet wired and likely other challenges that come up. Please advocate to Arlington County Board members and express support for the need to take the steps necessary to ensure that all of our neighbors have access to essential high-speed internet service in their homes.

APS Device Barriers:
APS devices currently block certain platforms, creating barriers for students who want to access tutoring and other educational tools provided outside of APS’s network. There are several community organizations working hard to provide students with free tutoring and educational support services to supplement the virtual learning they will receive from APS this year. However, there are significant barriers to access because APS devices are heavily locked-down in terms of what programs and platforms they can use. This isn’t so much of an issue if you have an alternate device at home, but as you might imagine, many of our students will only have an APS device and will therefore be prevented from accessing these additional supports. Some organizations are spending precious funds to purchase alternate devices so students can access their content. Please advocate to APS Engage and School Board members and ask about what options there are for addressing these barriers.

Privacy and Dignity:
Please read Christina Caron’s “How to Protect Your Family’s Privacy During Remote Learning” and look particularly at the infographic created by Dr. Torrey Trust about “Using Video to Assess Student Attention in Virtual Class Meetings” to understand some of the equity implications for students engaged in virtual learning (see the “Why Does It Matter?” section in particular). Virtual learning may make many of our students particularly vulnerable to shame, bullying, discomfort, or trauma unless intentional steps are taken to mitigate these situations. There are also significant privacy questions about how virtual learning is different from in-person learning:

- What happens if a teacher observes drug paraphernalia in a student’s home?

- What happens if a student appears visibly intoxicated during a video chat?

- What happens if someone engages in abuse of another person in the background during a video chat?

- Can law enforcement access recorded or live video in a student’s home to search for an undocumented relative?

- What happens if students take screenshots or video of a student’s home circumstances and use them to bully that student?

- What happens if personal information is heard in the background during a video chat and is recorded?

- What information is being collected about a child participating in virtual learning? What control do parents have over what is collected and how it might be used?

Please advocate to APS Engage and School Board members to ask about their policies on privacy during virtual learning and how they are preparing their staff to respond to this new teaching environment in a way that prioritizes respect and dignity for our students and their home circumstances.

- Lisa Lednicer writes “Organizing For Change” about local activists Anika and Yolande Kwinana (Arlington Magazine, 8/17/20).
- Lynn Borton interviewed Ryoko Reed for her “Choose to be Curious” series, called “Curiosity & Education Equity, with Ryoko Reed” (8/19/20)

Participatory Defense with Life After Release, September 3 at 6 pm
Ancestors Watching Vigil, honoring those killed by police in DC, MD, VA, August 27 at 6:30 pm
- Service Never Sleeps is accepting applications for their Fellowship program (apply by October 31)
Sign up to be an election defender with SURJ (kick-off meeting is August 31)
- Sign up to help with Census Palooza II in Arlington County on August 29
Volunteer at the polls on Election Day
Buy a Neighbor School Supplies campaign ends TODAY!
Missing Middle Housing Research: Ask the Authors Event on September 2
APS School Board Work Session on School Resource Officers on September 3
- Support the continued effort of the Arlington Community Corps to provide diapers to community members in need (they have moved their wish list from Amazon to Target).
- EmbraceRace is hosting a webinar called “Parents Who Lead on Racial Justice in Their Communities” on August 25
- SURJ is hosting “The Get Together” and episode 1 is called “White Women on Defunding the Police” on August 24
- Sign the petition to support the Native American Voting Rights Act (via the Lakota People’s Law Project)
- The Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition is hosting a “National Call on Coronavirus and Homelessness/Housing” webinar on August 24 and every Monday after that.

Voting Rights:
- Derrick Johnson writes “Voter Suppression Is Back, 55 Years After the Voting Rights Act” (Politico, 8/6/20)
- Nancy Abudu writes “The State of Women’s Suffrage — 100 Years Later” (SPLC, 8/18/20)
- Sarah Green Carmichael writes “The Ugly, Unfinished Fight for Suffrage” (Bloomberg, 8/16/20)

- Linda Jacobson writes “With Nation Focused on Reopening Schools, Biden’s Choice of Kamala Harris as Running Mate Could Renew Attention on Integration” (The 74, 8/12/20)
- Greg Smedley-Warren writes “TEACHER VOICE: ‘With 85 percent of our students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, a major concern in our district has been a lack of access to technology and the internet’” (Hechinger Report, 8/13/20)

More Resources:
- Jeanne Theoharis writes “Understanding today’s uprisings requires understanding what came before them” (The Washington Post, 8/11/20)
- Virginia State Conference of the NAACP Call to Action on Police Reform, Criminal Justice and Addressing the Effects of COVID-19.
- SPLC’s Sounds Like Hate podcast’s first chapter, part 1 is called “Getting Out
- Vanessa Williams writes “Residential segregation plays a role in coronavirus disparities, study finds” (Washington Post, 8/17/20)
- Kriston Capps writes “One-Third of American Renters Expected to Miss Their August Payment” (CityLab, 8/7/20)
- Candace Howze writes “If You Think Calling Us ‘Angry Black Women’ Is An Insult, You’d Better Think Again” (HuffPost, 8/21/20)
- Jessica Guynn and Brent Schrotenboer write “Why are there still so few black executives in America?” (USA Today, 8/20/20)
- The full content of Arlington County’s Missing Middle Housing Study: Research Compendium is now available.

It’s not about any one of us individually. It’s about all of us, together.

Listen. Amplify. Follow.

“Normal” Is Not Coming Back

 Hi Friends,

Happy weekend! A quick reminder to register for our Allyship Workshop with Service Never Sleeps on October 26. I know that seems a long time from now, but space is limited and we’ll be opening up access to the broader community soon, so if you want to reserve a spot, please do so!

I am coming to the realization that returning to “normal” is not possible. It’s not going to happen. It’s something I need to stop looking for or working towards. Instead, it’s time to see the significant loss and change as an opportunity. This is the time to embrace large-scale systemic change. This is the time to rethink how we feed people, educate people, house people, provide services to people, take care of our environment, transport people, care for and treat people. This is the time. Now. Every day going forward.

This is the time to leave our bubbles of ignorance behind.

So many things are changing around us without our permission or control. This is a time of tremendous upheaval. It’s understandable to hang on to the way things used to be. It’s understandable to try to grab control of anything within reach. You’re not alone in these impulses and desires.

My eldest, now 8 years old, has had a tough week, feeling really strong emotions and having great difficulty controlling her reactions. I watch her follow the pattern of frustration, seeking control, physical flailing, raising her voice, raging against the world. My heart both breaks for her and is energized for her. I recognize all of the emotions she is feeling. I acknowledge that the world is not what she thought it was, and the betrayal of reality and the fear of the unknown are so real. I share my solace in what remains intact — our relationships, our humanity, our resilience. Our ability to adapt and change in new circumstances, to create better things out of loss, to stand up and demand that we all do better.

I hope you will find encouragement in my updates. I hope you will find yourself both better informed and energized to meet the next challenge. Many people and families are struggling and are in harm’s way and there is much work to do. Many people are already stepping up to provide services, food, educational support, information, etc. to support people in need. It’s going to take a community-wide effort to ensure that no one falls through the cracks as we move forward towards recovery. Find your spot in that effort.

I am so energized by recent communications and efforts at APS. Superintendent Dr. Durán addressed APS staff in a kick-off event this past week that I was invited to attend in my role with CCPTA. The event included a video by APS students of color who spoke clearly and forcefully about equity and what that means to them. Dr. Durán built on their voices in his message to APS staff:

- Equity is a verb.
- The goal is an equity mindset, not just an equity lens.
- Equity is more than color or race, it is everything.
- Equity can be a unifier.
- Every student by name and by need.

Our new superintendent is focused on the social-emotional needs of our children during this difficult time. He is creating culture change by being explicit about the improvements APS can make and about taking responsibility for serving every student and meeting each student’s needs. He is approaching equity from a perspective of plenty, not a culture of scarcity. He is creating the change we need in Arlington and I am very encouraged by his work so far.

This is not to say that there won’t be challenges or that we can rest easy. Culture change is difficult and takes time. We each play a role in moving it forward, in our interactions with APS staff and other parents, in our advocacy for change. I love the idea of an equity mindset (rather than a lens, which can be removed) that evolves over time as we learn new things and incorporate better understandings of equity as we do this work.

One of the ways to have an equity mindset is to ask these questions (from the Arlington County Equity Resolution):

- Who benefits?
- Who is burdened?
- Who is missing?
- How do we know?

Practice this — like in your next conversation about who in the house should empty the dishwasher or sweep the floor. Start looking at your everyday decisions and consider them in this light. Start thinking about how people in different circumstances might answer these questions.

Thank you for engaging in this work in everything you do.

- Roge Karma writes about “How cities can tackle violent crime without relying on police” (Vox, 8/7/20)
- Peter Rousselot writes “Peter’s Take: APS, County Should Collaborate on New Instructional and Childcare Options” (ArlNow, 8/12/20)
- Stephen Abbott had a Q&A session with Mark Warren about how to “Dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Remove Officers from Schools” (Beacon Broadside, 8/4/20)
- Sara Hendren writes about “The Forgotten History of How Accessible Design Reshaped the Streets” (CityLab, 8/5/20)
- Ibram X. Kendi writes “The American Nightmare” (The Atlantic, 6/1/20)
- SURJ NoVA shared “Free Them All Fridays” related to ICE detention centers
- Ibram X. Kendi writes “Patience Is a Dirty Word” (The Atlantic, 7/23/20)
- Alia Wong writes “The simple intervention that could lift kids out of ‘Covid slide’” (The Hechinger Report, 8/10/20)
- Imani Perry writes “Racism Is Terrible. Blackness Is Not.” (The Atlantic, 6/15/20)
- Kriston Capps writes “One-Third of American Renters Expected to Miss Their August Payment” (CityLab, 8/7/20)
- Jennifer A. Richeson writes “Americans Are Determined to Believe in Black Progress” (The Atlantic, September 2020)
- Liz Vinson writes “‘Courage can be Contagious’: Four women lead an impassioned movement to rename schools honoring Confederate leaders” (SPLC, 8/7/20)
- Mychal Denzel Smith writes “Incremental Change Is a Moral Failure” (The Atlantic, September 2020)
- Emily Hanford writes “What the Words Say” (APM Reports, 8/6/20), also available as a podcast.
- Ibran X. Kendi writes “Is This the Beginning of the End of American Racism?” (The Atlantic, September 2020)
- Ryan Songalia writes “How Activists Brought Black Lives Matter to NYC’s Most Conservative Neighborhoods” (Vice, 8/4/20)
- Kate Wagner writes “The Secret History of America’s Worthless Confederate Monuments” (The New Republic, 8/6/20)
- Brentin Mock writes “The City Planners’ Case for Defunding the Police” (CityLab, 8/6/20)
- Bulletin 4 of the Missing Middle Housing Study in Arlington was released on August 4, 2020.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center has a new podcast, “Sounds Like Hate
- Mark Finstrom writes “OPINION: Five ways to achieve equity in remote learning” (The Hechinger Report, 8/10/20)
- Laura Bliss writes “The Disparate Financial Impact of the American Justice System” (CityLab, 8/11/20)
- Jennifer DePaoli, Laura E. Hernández, and Linda Darling-Hammond write “Supporting a Restorative Opening of U.S. Schools” (Learning Policy Institute, 8/5/20)
- The 2020 Inclusive Schools Week Theme is “The Time for Inclusion is Now” (December 7–11)
- Learn from Dr. Joy Angela DeGruy, whose “research focuses on the intersection of racism, trauma, violence and American chattel slavery. She has over thirty years of practical experience as a professional in the field of social work. She conducts workshops and trainings in the areas of intergenerational/historical trauma, mental health, social justice, improvement strategies and evidence based model development.” There are a couple of videos near the bottom of her main page worth watching.

- A reminder of the Buy a Neighbor School Supplies effort happening through Volunteer Arlington.
- The Alliance for Housing Solutions is looking for volunteer assistance in governance/legal review.
- The League of Women Voters is looking for volunteer assistance with voter registration and outreach.
- If you’re looking for local volunteer opportunities for children, youth, and families, check out this listing.
- Mary Papenfuss writes “NAACP Plans Virtual March On Washington To Press For Police Accountability” on August 27–28 (HuffPost, 7/20/20)
- Consider joining the DMV De-Escalation Collective, which has online trainings
- OAR has Community Chats on the first Tuesday of every month. They are also hosting a series of 3-month virtual anti-racism and racial justice cohorts starting in September. The description of the program is worth reading even if you can’t participate!
- Contribute to the Give 8/28 campaign led by the Young, Black & Giving Back Institute (YBGB)
- Participate in An Antiracist Teach-In, August 16–22 (virtually)

- Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (endorsed by Oprah, CBS News, 8/4/20)
Local titles from The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington:
- Dr. Alfred O. Taylor’s Bridge Builders of Green Valley/Nauck
M.J. O’Brian’s We Shall Not Be Moved
- Wilma Jones’ My Halls Hill Family
Robin Stombler’s As We Are
- Charlie Clark’s Hidden History of Arlington County
- Loki Mulholland and Angela Fairwell’s She Stood For Freedom
Buy your books from:
Mahogany Books
Loyalty Bookstores

Listen. Amplify. Follow.