Over the last 15 months since taking over as President of the Loudoun County NAACP, our organization has watched Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) flail its way through a series of racially charged issues with seeming abstinence to the fact that there is a community out here that is not only impacted by its decisions, but, more importantly is paying attention to those decisions. As with the attempt to name a public school after a long dead racist segregationist or the perceived effort to re-segregate schools in Leesburg, it seemed that the decision makers in LCPS either believed that the residents were not paying attention to their proposals or that maybe they could not read or conduct basic research on the facts. Either way, in both instances, when the public raised concerns, some of these decision makers decided to attack the people questioning these proposals instead of listening to the community’s concerns.
The Loudoun Chorale is pleased to announce the 2nd annual “Lift Every Voice” Choir Festival, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be held on Sunday, January 17 at 4:00 pm at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 605 W. Market St. Leesburg, VA.
The program will feature musical offerings by the Chorus of the Old Dominion, the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Chancel Choir and Trinity Men’s Chorus, the Loudoun County High School Chamber Choir, the Leesburg Presbyterian Church Choir, the Mount Zion United Methodist Church Combined Choir and the Leesburg United Methodist Church Choir – as well as the Loudoun Chorale. Each group will present selections and the audience will be invited to participate in two hymns. The festival will conclude with a combined choir performance with audience participation.
Guest speakers include Phillip E. Thompson, Esq., President NAACP Loudoun Branch, Kristen C. Umstattd, Leesburg District Member, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Mollie Christ, Vice Chair, Leesburg Commission on Public Art, Enrique Gonzales, Chair, Leesburg Diversity Commission, and Phyllis J. Randall, Chair at Large, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
Admission is free, and a free-will offering will be collected to benefit Loudoun Interfaith Relief. Following the festival, the audience is invited to enjoy light refreshments with the participants. Any audience members who may be interested in joining the Loudoun Chorale for their spring season are invited to stay to observe and participate in their weekly rehearsal at Holy Trinity at 6:00 pm. The Loudoun Chorale thanks the Leesburg Commission on Public Art for their support of the “Lift Every Voice” Choir Festival. For more information, visit www.loudounchorale.org or call 571-207-5354.
Let us join together to raise a voice of love and neighborly regard that counters faith prejudice and racial prejudice. Let us see one another and be seen by our County as a united and loving people. Let us act faithfully – out of love, not fear.
Please join with other NAACP members, Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES and a growing list of Loudoun faith leaders to affirm our commitment to one another. A safe community is a united community, one that honors the inherent worth and dignity of every diverse participant. It is this kind of safe community that we wish to affirm for Loudoun County.
We will gather at 4:00pm at Leesburg Presbyterian Church for an invocation and brief prayer led by clergy from several faiths, and walk the three blocks to the County Courthouse square. We will hold a silent candlelit Vigil on the sidewalks at the intersection of E. Market and S. King Streets, across from the County Courthouse. Based on the number of participants, we may use the sidewalks on all four corners. Participants are encouraged to bring traditional quotes from their faith that represent how we welcome our neighbor, the ‘Other’ and the ‘Stranger’. We will place these quotes on placards (2’ X 2’) to be held during the silent Vigil. We will have candles available to be held during the Vigil.
More than 50 parents, community members and school staff discussed Loudoun’s teacher diversity on Dec. 9.
School administrators, the Minority Student Achievement Council (MSAC), the NAACP and teachers shared their views on how the division can diversify its teaching staff at the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents’ meeting at LCPS’ administrative offices.
The discussion was organized in response to figures in the school system’s annual report on ethnic make up, gender and education levels of students and teachers.
According to the report, 48 percent of the school division’s student body is non-white and 88 percent of its workforce is white.
“I hear stories of discrimination towards students and teachers across this division,” said Diana Lopez, Spanish teacher at J. L. Simpson Middle School in Leesburg. “With changing demographics in Loudoun, teachers need to be prepared to teach students from various backgrounds.”
Lopez said any efforts to create a more diverse teaching staff must start with “ensuring that LCPS has a reputation for being supportive of minority teachers.”
…Phillip Thompson, president of the Loudoun County chapter of the NAACP, said his organization would like to get funding from corporations in the county to give scholarships to future teachers still in school, with the understanding that they will come back to teach in Loudoun.
“We’ve got huge corporations in this county with lots and lots of money and we’ve got to figure out a way to use that money to recruit quality minority teaching staff,” he said.
Black, Hispanic and learning disabled students have a higher risk of being suspended, according to a report released by Loudoun County Public Schools in November.
Black students are two-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended than the overall student population, a rate higher than the national average. Hispanic students are two times more likely to be suspended and disabled students are three times more likely to be suspended, both on par with national statistics.
“[Discipline] disproportionality continues to be an issue for us. It’s an issue for the nation as a whole as well,” said Ryan Tyler, supervisor of research for LCPS, at the Dec. 1 School Board meeting. “In the last couple of years we’re not quite starting to make an impact on it as of yet.”
Nearly eight months after the Leesburg Town Council approved the town’s first Diversity Advisory Commission, the group is starting to make waves in the community.
The Loudoun County NAACP lobbied for the commission in order to foster diversity and inclusion within the town government workforce and the community. Now the entity serves minorities by getting them in touch with existing services available that they may not know about.
“The commission is identifying resources and services that are already out there that are helpful to low-income and minority populations,” said Betsy Arnett, staff liaison for the commission. “They want to connect those populations to the services that are out there.”
The president of the Loudoun chapter of the NAACP is pressing the county’s school system to be more aggressive in hiring minority teachers.
The call for action comes after Loudoun County Public Schools released its annual report on the ethnic makeup, gender and education levels of students and teachers within the system.
The report shows that 48 percent of the school system’s student body is non-white while 88 percent of the teacher workforce is white.
“You cannot tell me that if minorities have moved into Loudoun County to make up fully 48 percent of the student population, minority teachers of the same race and ethnicity as the parents and students who live in this county will not move here to teach these kids. That excuse is not logical nor is it legitimate. To me these numbers represent a ‘prima facie,’” Loudoun County NAACP chapter president Phillip E. Thompson said in an email to the Times-Mirror.
Wayde Byard, spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools, said the problem is one facing school districts nationwide.
Planted in rows more than a century ago, the pointy-topped fieldstones protruding from the ground in the woods along Belmont Ridge Road have attracted little—if any—notice in modern Loudoun County.
That changed Sunday.
The graveyard that holds the remains of slaves was reclaimed as sacred ground during a dedication ceremony organized by the Loudoun Freedom Center, which formed this year to tell the stories of the county’s historically black communities…
…Phillip Thompson, the Loudoun NAACP branch’s president, praised Thomas as a “powerhouse” in her dedication to the project, particularly in her effort to persuade Toll Brothers of the importance of allowing a foundation to take over stewardship of the land.
“These people worked for free and helped make Loudoun County what it is today,” Thompson said of the slaves buried at the site.
Thomas said the life of the slaves would serve as inspiration to future generations. “God did not bury you here, he planted you here,” she said.
While other cities across the United States are struggling with racial tension, Leesburg is working to be at the forefront in addressing diversity concerns.
“We have to all work together as a team,” said Enrique Gonzalez. He was tapped to chair the region’s first municipal Diversity Commission, created by the Town Council in March to improve relations with minorities. “We need to see how we can move this forward so we can avoid the problems that a lot of other cities are having.”
The driving force behind the creation of the commission came when the task force looked at diversity numbers within the town’s government.
Although 60 percent of the town’s residents were white, that group made up 90 percent of the town government’s workforce.
In November 2013, white men and women occupied 293 of the town’s 336 jobs.
“I sent a FOIA to the Leesburg government to see employment numbers, and they were worse than I thought,” Loudoun County NAACP President Phillip Thompson said, mentioning a Freedom of Information Act open records request. “This is a problem, and they needed to do something.”