Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Rest of the Story

Readers who are interested in the true history of our neighborhood — as opposed to the accounts which have been constructed over the last few decades — will want to read local historian and resident Sarah Becker's latest article in the March issue of the Old Town Crier. The article includes a follow-up ("In Reply") to her widely discussed January article demonstrating that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Ms. Becker's quotes from old Washington Post clips touch on a lot of the same issues thrashed out in this blog over the past four years, including crime, public housing, mixed income communities, and education. But the sting lies in the age and content of the stories. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose indeed.

The piece has a black worker at Hopkins House complaining about crime decades ago on Queen Street. (Will Council finally understand — or remember — that concern about crime has always cut across all income and race lines?) And her complaint was about the 1000 block of Queen, not the notorious 1100 block. Do our politicians realize that crime moves around?

There is Melvin Miller quoted on public housing in 1973. demonstrating that despite the passage of 37 years he is still an obstructionist and elitist. Combine that with the quote about education, then ask yourself if the one-time prisoner has actually turned jailor?

There's former NAACP president Ulysses Calhoun admitting years ago that there had been demographic change in the City (where he does not live) and that there were few exclusively black communities left in Alexandria with the numbers to elect a representative under a proposed ward election system.

There are the leaders who, upon the demolition of the former segregated high school, were determined to pin the moniker "Parker-Gray" on something, and when thwarted in attempting to apply it to George Washington School ended up slapping it on unhistorically on this neighborhood.

And so it goes. If you are interested in further reading, check out the Growler's Web site ( where you can find some of the Post articles Ms. Becker cited.

All of these news flashes from yesteryear merely illustrate that civic discourse in Alexandria continues to be dominated by the same players, the same stale attitudes and the same fossilized positions developed years ago.

Is it time to break this paradigm up? And is it already showing cracks?