Tell Governor Northam to extend the eviction moratorium and provide real, lasting rent relief

by Dan Moshenberg

Like the rest of the country, Virginia is facing an eviction crisis. This is the week to stand up and speak out or stand by as our neighbors are evicted en masse.

On June 28, Virginia’s eviction moratorium ends. On June 29, eviction courts will re-open, and their schedules are already packed. Today, June 25, Governor Northam announced a rent relief program which, while it provides some assistance, will take time to implement. Tenants will need time to wade through the application process. Time is of the essence. Governor Northam has the authority to prohibit evictions until the rent relief package is fully funded and implemented.

Please join New Virginia Majority, the Legal Aid Justice Center and Virginia Poverty Law Center in asking the Governor to prohibit evictions now. Call Governor Northam’s office and ask him to extend the eviction moratorium. To call Governor Northam: 804-786-2211, select option 1 for his voicemail.

Locally, Tenants and Workers United is organizing in the Arlandria community, where the double hit of Covid-19 and job loss has been devastating. Our neighbors in Arlandria are worried for the health of their loved ones and the stability of their housing, at least through the pandemic. Across the country, the pandemic and the economic crisis has struck particularly deeply and broadly in communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx. In Alexandria this year, Arlandria has been the epicenter of a double crisis. That crisis does not have to turn into a tragedy. We can turn this around, but to do so, to support our neighbors, we must act. Call Governor Northam and ask him to extend the moratorium.

For more details, check out New Virginia Majority’s response to Governor Northam’s rent relief program and the joint NVM – LAJC – VPLC Letter to Governor Northam[2].

It’s Not That Bad, It’s Worse: a statement of support for Black Lives Matter

Most people get through life by telling themselves “it’s not that bad.” This is a lie. On a recent bonus episode of the Code Switch podcast Kenya Young, executive producer of NPR’s Morning Edition, talks about giving “the talk” to her three black sons. This segment, beginning 27 minutes into the podcast, is devastating. After listening, we reached an inescapable conclusion: if we cannot bring ourselves to take power away from cruelly unequal policing, then we ourselves are cruelly complicit. Continue reading “It’s Not That Bad, It’s Worse: a statement of support for Black Lives Matter”

Transparency in Policing: a good first step

by Jonathan Krall

The death of George Floyd has ignited yet another round of protests. Because the last round of protests seems to have accomplished nothing, the new protests are bigger and the messaging is more direct. Many protesters are asking us to defund the police and are calling for system-wide reforms. Here in Alexandria, Grassroots Alexandria is joining with community leaders to ask for transparency and accountability in policing. As part of an effort led by former school board member Chris Lewis’ initiative Just NOVA, we are asking for both a data transparency ordinance and a substantive community review board. If enough Alexandrians speak out and write to city council, we can accomplish these small steps.

Data Transparency

With your support, Alexandria can enact an ordinance requiring quarterly reporting on Alexandria Police Department data broken down by race, ethnicity, and other factors related to:
1. investigative stops, frisks, and searches
2. traffic stops
3. use of force incidents
4. civilian complaints
5. arrests

On February 27, 2018, the APD presented a Data Refinement and Transparency Plan. As presented, the plan would “capture information on stops, information and assist contacts, community outreach efforts and other activities not currently collected. It will also include subject demographic data related the activity performed by the officer as suggested in the 21 st Century Policing report.” Unfortunately, City Council accepted the new policy without passing an ordinance. The promised reports were not required and have not been delivered. Continue reading “Transparency in Policing: a good first step”

The pandemic continues: what can we do?

by Jonathan Krall

In Grassroots Alexandria, we have reacted to the covid-19 threat by working with allied groups and political leaders on immediate needs (enabling vulnerable communities to access healthcare and rental assistance) even as we work on long-term goals (restorative practices, affordable housing, protecting immigrants). But this crisis is personal. We are in our homes, venturing out only for work, food, and exercise, each in a unique world of deprivations, obligations and opportunities. Some are devastated. Some are relatively secure. At a time when so many are experiencing so much loss, it is up to those of us who have resources of time or money to find ways to share. Even in separation, we are a community.

Time

Volunteer work is a great way to become more connected to your community, even if that volunteer work is 100% telework.

Volunteer Alexandria is seeking volunteers to assist with food distributions and other community needs.
https://www.volunteeralexandria.org/careforcommunity

The Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps needs medical and non-medical volunteers to support the Alexandria Health Department. Want to help with emergency response and recovery? Want to become a contact tracer? The MRC is a good place to start.
https://www.alexandriava.gov/medicalreserve

Tenants and Workers United needs volunteers, particularly to help with online teaching and tutoring. Work can be done from home. Please contact Mia Taylor at mtaylor@tenantsandworkers.org

Money

In the US, wealth is mostly held by white people. We’d say that, in the face of government failure to enact anti-racist corrections, now is time for individuals to step up, but that isn’t true. The time to step up was long ago, when the 40 acres (and the mule) weren’t delivered, or when redlining and segregated universities kept people of color from benefiting from the G.I. Bill, or… But what of the present? And the future? As a famous Washingtonian said, the future is now.

ACT and the City of Alexandria established the ACT Now Covid-19 Response Fund to provide emergency funding to nonprofits that are delivering the critical services and programs that are needed by Alexandrians right now.
https://www.actforalexandria.org/act-now-covid-19-response-fund

Tenants and Workers United. “In the wake of this global pandemic, our community faces a dire economic crisis. Many of our members have had their work hours reduced or been laid off completely. For the undocumented community, there is no social safety net: no unemployment benefits and no stimulus check from the federal government. We believe it’s our collective duty to take care of one another, right now and always.”
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/twucovid-19

La Colectiva is accepting monetary and in-kind donations for NoVA migrant families. If donating food or household supplies, please reach out to them in advance.
https://www.facebook.com/LaColectiVA703
https://lacolectiva.org/mutual-aid

Because the experience of this crisis is so personal, I’ll speak personally. I am saving money by not going out. My employer is paying me to telework and is depositing money into my retirement account with every paycheck. This enormous privilege gives me pause. I am not comfortable with the idea that my wealth is increasing while so many others are suffering.

What is racism?

by Jonathan Krall

All my life, I was was told that racism is caused by terrible people called racists. The label “racist” is so toxic that, among white people, simply raising the issue invites censure. However, as all protesters know, silence = complicity. By identifying racism as systemic, current scholarship on racism offers a way forward. This approach recognizes that racism is so pervasively systemic that it is in the very air we breathe. Scholar Ibram X. Kendi shows us that racist images, racist ideas, and racist messages “are constantly being rained on your head.” How can we not get wet? This scholarship has the power to give us a common understanding of the specific cultural force, racial prejudice plus power, that is racism. With a common understanding, we can see that we are in this together, that we are both infected and affected.

My current views were informed by an undoing racism workshop, hosted by OAR. The two-day workshop (highly recommended) defines racism as racial prejudice plus power. This is a significant shift in thinking. The idea that racism is caused by evil racists is revealed to be nonsense. Yes, toxic white nationalists exist, but they are not in power. They didn’t invent the Republican “southern strategy,” the Democratic “tough on crime” policies, the bipartisan gang databases, the for-profit prisons, etc., etc., etc. Continue reading “What is racism?”

Statement on Restorative Practices

by Sharon

Dear Superintendent Hutchings and Honorable School Board Members,

When I spoke before the School Board last April, I emphasized disturbing data regarding the high number of students who are suspended out of school in ACPS. We at Grassroots Alexandria also questioned the racial disparities and subjective reasons for suspensions. Tonight, I am here to ask for a renewed commitment to Restorative Practices. Grassroots Alexandria members have contacted or met with each of you, and we are convinced of your resolve to see RP emphasized in ACPS. We request a prioritization of RP in the ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan to reflect the ACPS value that “Every Student Succeeds.”

Continue reading “Statement on Restorative Practices”

The expansion of policing

by Jonathan Krall

The pro-bicycle, pro-walking, pro-transit, anti-car-congestion, War on Cars podcast has a really fascinating episode this week on the history of cars, and policing, in the USA. Basically, it says that back in the 1920s and 1930s, widespread use of cars put ordinary folks into the crosshairs of the police in a way that was fundamentally new. This began a tremendous expansion and professionalization of policing.

People familiar with the current civil rights movement (as informed, for example, by The New Jim Crow) may be familiar with the ongoing public debate over the scope of policing. The idea of specifically removing traffic enforcement from policing was, to me, new. It is worthy of serious consideration.

It’s a pretty good example of intersectionality. Worth a listen.

The Arc of History Will Not Bend Itself

by Jonathan Krall

On the Media has done it again. I am once again amazed at their ability to address, with impressive specificity, the toxic “new normal” politics that lie at the heart of my fear for my own future and for our democracy. This time they address the twin myths of “American exceptionalism” and “it can’t happen here,” the “it” being fascism and/or totalitarianism. With guest Andrew Marantz, author of Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, they simultaneously frighten us by diminishing the myth that the arc of history bends naturally towards justice and give us hope by suggesting that many of us are already on a path forward, that path being movement politics. Continue reading “The Arc of History Will Not Bend Itself”

Support Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Alexandria

by Opal

Alexandria City Council Member Mo Seifeldein is proposing an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution to replace Columbus Day in the City of Alexandria. This resolution has also garnered support from Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. Further, Councilman Seifeldein has partnered with members of the Indigenous community on this effort. As engaged citizens of Alexandria who believe in social justice, we can take action and support this important proposal.

Continue reading “Support Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Alexandria”

Alternatives to prison: an opportunity in Alexandria

by Jonathan Krall

In July, Bryan Jackson and Elizabeth Jones Valderrama told us about OAR [1] programs to aid returning citizens (for Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church) and to coordinate court-ordered community service volunteers (for Arlington and Falls Church). OAR works with individuals who were formerly incarcerated. OAR’s evidence-based program keeps recidivism rates low: 11% versus the Virginia average of 23%. One way to reduce recidivism is to keep people away from the trauma if incarceration. In Arlington, thousands are sentenced to court-ordered community service instead of incarceration, connecting citizens to community events instead of isolating and exploiting them. In Alexandria, those numbers are merely in the hundreds. It seems to me that court-mandated community service is under-utilized here in Alexandria. Can we do better?

Action alert: more service and less exploitation
In Grassroots Alexandria we don’t just talk, we act. Please write to the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney with the following message: “I am a citizen of Alexandria and I am asking that we expand the use of court-mandated community service in lieu of incarceration. I understand that, relative to nearby communities in Virginia, alternatives to incarceration are under-utilized in Alexandria. I further ask that alternatives to incarceration be applied so that people of color have as much access to these alternatives as white people. Over-incarceration of people of color is not acceptable. With better policies, we will get better results.”
To contact City Council, click here.
To contact the Commonwealth Attorney, click here.

Continue reading “Alternatives to prison: an opportunity in Alexandria”