30-Day Challenge: Alexandria Social Justice Edition!
30-Day Challenge: Alexandria Social Justice Edition!
Build your social justice muscles! As our nation and city come to terms with their legacies of racial injustice, take the 30-Day Challenge to learn, listen, explore, and act to make positive change. Learn about our city’s important African American history to build your base of knowledge. Listen and explore to understand the struggles, triumphs, and legacies of African Americans across the nation and throughout the centuries. Act to bring equity in America and in Alexandria.
This challenge is issued through the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project (ACRP) and is based on the 21-Day Anti-Racism Challenge Bexley Anti-Racism Project. The ACRP is a City of Alexandria interdepartmental initiative managed through the Office of Historic Alexandria that is working to address social justice in our community. Active committees are made up of City staff, residents, faith leaders, and community organizations. Special thanks to the Alexandria Library for their assistance with this challenge.
This challenge was first presented in the summer of 2020, but remains relevant today. This content has been updated so that past events are clearly marked and videos are posted where available.
Day 1: Learn about Race and Racism
The Smithsonian Institution has two great resources to empower your anti-racism journey and inspire reflection and conversation. Reflect on your words and actions in light of these resources and start making a change!
Smithsonian Magazine article "158 Resources to Understand Racism in America.”
National Museum of African American History and Culture - Talking about Race.
Day 2: Explore the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project
Explore the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project page and learn more about Alexandria’s partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI challenges communities to overcome racial inequality by confronting their histories and the City of Alexandria is committed to this important project. These resources include more about how to be involved locally and nationally.
Day 3: Watch "An Outrage"
Watch An Outrage on the history of lynching in the American South. This documentary weaves the perspectives of descendants, community activists, and scholars and serves as both an education tool and a call to action.
The film is streaming free, with a teaching guide and community discussion guide.
Day 4: Visit Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies
See portions of Olalekan Jeyifous’ installation, Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies on view at 1609 Cameron Street, near the Old Town Pool. The sculptural work was installed at Waterfront Park through November 2020.
This installation features symbols representing Alexandria’s merchant and manufacturing past while acknowledging the integral role of enslaved and free Black men and women in the port’s history. Can’t make it out in person? This important piece has been covered by a variety of news outlets. Here’s a very short selection.
- Architectural Digest
- ‘Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies’. Out of the Attic, Alexandria Times, April 4, 2020.
Day 5: Learn about the Domestic Slave Trade
Alexandria played a major role in perpetuating and expanding the domestic slave trade in the United States. Read the Smithsonian Magazine article “Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears” to learn more about the domestic slave trade. The forced march overland to New Orleans began at 1315 Duke Street, now the Freedom House Museum. While the museum is currently closed, visit its website to learn more about the people trafficked through Alexandria and Alexandria’s role in the domestic slave trade. Share something you learned on your social media channels.
Day 6: Participate in Discussion about Race and Education in the City of Alexandria
This program was presented virtually on August 5, 2020 at 7 PM
Join ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings and Georgetown Professor Dr. Douglas Reed as they unpack structural racism throughout the history of Alexandria’s education system and identify pathways toward equity in a post-pandemic world. Share this film with your friends and family and use this community discussion guide to spark meaningful conversations about lynching’s painful legacy and its reverberations in the present.
Day 7: Listen to the 1619 Podcast
In 2019, the New York Times published the groundbreaking “1619” series. Listen to an episode from its companion audio series, hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, that examines the long shadow of American slavery.
Day 8: Join a Diversity Book Club
This program was presented virtually on August 10, 2020 at 7:00 PM
Read Octavia Butler's Kindred and then join the virtual discussion hosted by Alexandria City Public Libraries. The first science fiction title written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity.
Day 9: Join a Black Lives Matter Book Club
This program was presented virtually on August 9, 2020 at 3:00 PM
Read one of the following suggested books and then join the virtual discussion hosted by Alexandria City Public Libraries. Suggested books include:
- So you Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Day 10: Participate in The Legacy of George Floyd Collecting Initiative
Donate your photographs and protest memorabilia to The Legacy of George Floyd collecting initiative through the Office of Historic Alexandria’s Black History Museum.
Day 11: Learn more about Loving vs. Virginia
In June 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving were married in Washington, D.C. but only a month later, were arrested in Virginia and charged with miscegenation, a felony offense. The Lovings brought a suit against the Commonwealth for its ban on interracial marriage and by June of 1967, they received the news that the Supreme Court had decided the case unanimously in their favor. Learn more about this pivotal case through Encyclopedia Virginia and from Alexandria lawyer Philip Hirschkop who worked on the case.
Day 12: Remember Benjamin Thomas
This program was held virtually on August 8, 2020
Participate remotely in the August 8th Remembrance of Benjamin Thomas, Alexandria’s second known lynching victim. As part of this community reflection, share your thoughts, artwork, or creative writing after viewing the information on this In Memoriam page. Email your work to Historic Alexandria. Selections will be posted on the In Memoriam page.
Day 13: Explore BIPOC Resources on Mental Health from ADAA
The American Association of Anxiety and Depression (ADAA) is committed to promoting inclusion in mental health. Explore a broad variety of resources the ADAA posted for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Awareness Month in July.
Day 14: Watch Gladys Davis Interview
The 2020 interview is no longer available online.
Watch Rose Dawson, Executive Director of the Alexandria Library, interview Gladys Davis. Ms. Davis witnessed the 1939 Alexandria library sit-in, and she worked for the Alexandria Library system for over 60 years.
Watch a 2013 interview with Ms. Davis.
Day 15: Participate in Discussions about Race Relations in Alexandria
This program was presented virtually on August 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM
Matt Harris, Chair of the Human Rights Commission, will discuss his experiences on the commission, his personal observations on race relations in Alexandria, and thoughts on how to knit our community together.
Day 16: Read Local African American Stories
Read Oral Histories from Alexandria African Americans compiled by the Office of Historic Alexandria. Learn more about the everyday lives of Black men and women during various periods in Alexandria history. Hear stories of the dreams they fulfilled and the challenges they faced.
Day 17: Understand Bias
Think you’re not biased? Take this hidden bias quiz sponsored by Teaching Tolerance and learn more about yourself.
Day 18: Visit Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial
Honor the memories of African Americans who escaped slavery and took refuge in Alexandria during the Civil War. Watch the National Trust for Historic Preservation video The Forgotten: The Contraband of America and the Road to Freedom and then visit the Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial.
Day 19: Visit Fort Ward to Learn about The Fort Community
Visit Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site. Widely known as one of the largest Union forts in the Defenses of Washington, this land also became home to “The Fort,” a community of formerly enslaved people who settled near the abandoned fort after the Civil War. You can walk The Fort Heritage Trail and consider what this community meant to those who lived and worked here throughout its history. Share your thoughts on social media to raise awareness of this historic African American neighborhood.
Day 20: Join the Virtual Pre-K Story Time about Equality, Justice and Inclusion
These programs were presented virtually on August 18 and 25, 2020 at 4:00 PM
Looking for ways for your little ones to explore themes of Equality, Justice, and Inclusion? Join the library’s two-part Virtual Pre-K Story Time, featuring “Woke: a young poet’s call to Justice” and celebrating ourselves and others in the books we all share.
Day 21: Learn more about Food Insecurity
Food insecurity impacts people of color at higher rates than the white population. Read the articles below to learn more about food disparities for people of color. Then make a donation to Alive - an Alexandria organization that has assisted with food insecurity since the 1960s.
Day 22: Learn more about African-American Genealogy Research
This program was presented virtually on August 25, 2020 at 7:00 PM
Stephen Hammond, a descendant of Alexandrian William Anderson Syphax who was born enslaved and later purchased his and his family's freedom, will provide insight on the basics of African-American family history research and how it is different from other genealogy research. He will discuss the experience of researching his own family history and will share some of the interesting documents he has discovered along his journey.
Day 23: Learn more about Juneteenth
Want to understand more about Juneteenth? Watch the Virginia Humanities webinar Self Preservation: A Juneteenth Online Conversation About Black Historic Preservation. Then listen to Audrey Davis, Alexandria Black History Museum’s Director, talk about the history of this significant date in American History.
Watch The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble's 2021 Juneteenth performance. The ensemble is committed to the preservation of African-American history and traditions–presenting songs and stories of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs, as expressed through a cappella music, drama and dance. This performance was in partnership with the Office of Historic Alexandria, Alexandria Black History Museum.
Day 24: Learn about Racial Disparities during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed racial disparities in the African American community. Learn more about these inequities.
Day 25: Watch Barbara Ferguson Interview
The video link is no longer current.
Watch Rose Dawson, Executive Director of the Alexandria Library, interview Barbara Ferguson. Ms. Ferguson was one of the first African American staff members at the Alexandria library.
Day 26: Visit the Edmomson Sisters Sculpture
Visit the Edmonson Sisters sculpture at 1701 Duke Street and learn more about their daring escape attempt on the schooner The Pearl and its Alexandria connection.
Day 27: Watch Library Sit-In Descendants Panel
In 1939, a "sit-down strike" was staged by five young African-American men in the city’s segregated Queen Street Library. The young men were arrested for their act of civil disobedience, however the City responded to the African-American citizens demands for more access to educational opportunities. Watch footage from the sit-in descendants' program held in October 2019.
Day 28: Visit the Alexandria African American Heritage Park
Take a walk along the trail in the African American Heritage Park. See a late-19th century African American cemetery, admire the sculptures by Jerome Meadows, and look across Hoof’s Run to Alexandria National Cemetery where over 200 troops from the US Colored Troops are buried.
Day 29: Celebrate Parker Gray!
September 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the Parker-Gray School. Learn more about African American education in Alexandria by viewing two newly digitized collections online: Parker-Gray School and Carlton Funn. Read Alexandria native Mable T. Lyle’s book Caught Between Two Systems: Desegregating Alexandria’s Schools 1954-1973 to learn more about desegregation in Alexandria.
Day 30: Commemorate the Alexandria Sit-in with a Library Card
Visit your local library to open your horizons and get a new or replacement library card commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Alexandria Library Sit-in. Newly ordered sit-in anniversary library cards will be made available to new and existing library account holders. Starting August 1, 2020 patrons may call, email, or come in to exchange their library cards. This is also available through curbside pickup.