Class of ’80 opts to reunite during school year
Reunion postponement for the L-DHS Class of 1980 and others this summer can be a win-win solution for all. How?
[Ashland-Hanover Local, June 10, 2020, page 9; Mechanicsville Local, June 10, 2020, page 23]
"Lessons Learned" from when the American University in Washington, D.C., had me critique our 20th Reunion in 1996.
My solution-oriented evaluation resulted in the swift departure of the Alumni Relations director, and . . . unheard of overhaul of their annual reunions. What were my key points?
Reschedule the reunions to occur when the campus is in an academic year, rather than a vacation shutdown.
Off-season timing results in most student activity sites being locked down, such as classrooms, sports, clubs, etc.
Alumni cannot fully re-experience student events such as football games, student plays, classes, etc.
Dynamic campus would allow the alumni to experience camaraderie with their long-time instructors still there, with today's students, with the school mascots, and more -- instead of a "Ghost Town" atmosphere.
Donald E. White
It is time to change schools’ names
In early June of 2004, I arrived at the gymnasium of John F. Kennedy High School to begin a week-long job painting the entire gymnasium in preparation for the fall term, when JFK would reopen as Armstrong High school.
There was a lot to do, and we were ahead of the floor crew that would be installing new floor with the Wildcats logo, and, subsequently, we started work before school had released for summer. This was my fourth summer of many I would spend painting Richmond Public Schools buildings, and was accustomed to having students around from time to time while I worked, so I knew when I was given my first assignment that things were going to get interesting.
One wall of the gym had a large, hand-painted mural of a cougar, the Kennedy mascot, that was as stunning as it was big.
My first assignment was to prime over the mural in preparation for the spray coat to follow. So, with roller, pole, and tray in hand, I began to work.
I paused right before the first dip hit wall and said a small apology to the unknown artist whose work I was about to erase, and to notice an audience had gathered.
Time has muddled the exact number of students that had congregated in the gym to watch all the activity, but there were enough to have multiple conversations going at once.
As I started priming over the mural, many of the conversations shifted to the mural and the paint I was applying, and none of them were positive. These students watched the mascot they had been cheering for all year get wiped away, and they were none too happy about it. I had expected this and understood why they were upset. I felt for them as I worked, and I was certainly not the most popular person in the gym for the duration.
After the mural came, the repainting of the red and gold stripes and the top of the walls to blue and orange, and so on and so on.
For years I have felt the way those students felt when faced with the thought of the renaming and rebranding of my alma mater, Lee-Davis High School -- a place where I spent four years of my life learning, working, playing sports, and making friends; a place that has once again become something I have spent a lot of time remembering, replaying old memories, and trying to understand where I stand with regard to its renaming and, more importantly, why. In this search, I recalled one of my fondest memories from high school.
One Friday night in the fall of my senior year, after three weeks of summer training camp, 11½ games played, and listening to a rousing halftime speech, I walked out to the 50-yard line as the lone representative for our football team to run the pre-second half routine. Now I do not remember if I called for the ball, or picked a side to defend, but I do remember the sound of the crowd as the rest of my team took the field behind me.
Understand, this was the Regional Finals, against one of our toughest rivals, the Highland Spring Springers, whom we had just barely won against during the regular season. We had won every game that season, with the crowds growing with every game we played.
By the second half of this game the stands were packed, the area around the track fencing were several rows deep of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, thousands of people were there to watch and cheer. The sound was incredible, the feeling was incredible. And remembering that night with 25 years of perspective, I now realize, that feeling was not shared.
The feeling was not shared, because the feeling was not equal. There were some on my team that could not feel as good as I did in that moment, even though they had paid just as much sweat, blood, and time as I had to get there.
There were some in the stands that could not cheer as loud as the rest, even though they had traveled just as far, stood just as long, and endured just as much cold.
There were some there that night that could not feel the same amount of pride that I felt, even though they were my teammates, classmates, and friends. I know this because they have told me so, and, now, finally, I am listening.
An institution that holds as much value to its community as a high school should be equally representative to everyone in that community. It should be embraceable with the same amount of love, the same amount of loyalty, and the same amount of pride for everyone that it services. For too long this name and mascot have stood as a pillar of division in this town I love so much. It has created barriers, both conscience and subconscious, between neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even family.
To continue to maintain the status quo would be to turn a deaf ear to those who are pleading so loudly that they be given the chance to exalt equally in that pride that is so often referenced. We would all do well to listen to these cries for change, to understand their perspective, and to recognize that this issue is not about what can be taken from some, but what can be given to all. Not a pillar of division, but a bridge to unity.
It is time the names and mascots of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School be changed for the benefit of all who live in this community. It is time.
Lee-Davis Alumni 1992-1996 Senior Class President, 1996
Responding to questions from recent letter
I am responding to Rebecca Huber's attempt to answer my questions to my letter on May 20 in The Mechanicsville Local. I do appreciate her attempt to answer them.
Let me say that I understand my specific questions; they are to make an individual think the answers are not simple. "Tom" does not ask these types of questions without having my answers, but this is not about my answers. However, Rebecca's answers are standard and general that a government, media, VDJII, CDC etc., answers that one can find be a quick search -- Virginia Department of Health, Center for Disease Control, etc.; answers that one can find in a quick search.
Here are some quick questions since her answer about why the Dollar Store and not the mom-and-pop shop? Her answer, “Because they sell food.” Then, why the Dollar Store, since it sells food, and not restaurants, they sell food tool Lowe's does not. Does the virus not affect people in one place and not the other?
A new question: Why politicians allow protesting by the thousand, shoulder-to-shoulder and looting and rioting but everyone else must have 6 feet distance and masks and restrict gatherings? The rules are whatever the government officials say they are and have nothing to do with the virus. They just proved that theory daily.
I hope Rebecca understands this is bigger than her answers, and, yes, my questions are not political they are a lot deeper and requires a lot thinking from an individual.
Schools board urged to act on school names
(Editor’s note: The following was submitted to the seven members of the Hanover County School Board and Dr. Michael Gill, superintendent of Hanover County Public Schools.)
Dear school board members and Dr. Gill,
Regardless of intended message, when people, under the auspices of Hanover patriots, militia, or other group, show up at Lee-Davis High School and/or Stonewall Jackson Middle School with a firearm under the pretense of “protecting” them, it conveys a clear message that these buildings are political monuments/statements.
Schools are living organizations; and should not be political statements. I believe the Hanover County School Board moved to this position decades ago, and acknowledged the need for neutrality in school names, by putting into policy that schools will no longer be named for people.
As has happened several times in the past several weeks, groups of armed white civilians lining the sidewalks around these campuses has me especially concerned for every black and brown administrator, staff member, student, parent and community member that should be rightfully free to safely come and go on those campuses.
I acknowledge that citizens have the right to bear arms on public streets. These two campuses have public sidewalks very close to the main entrances. Do those individual with firearms on those sidewalks know that Dr. Quentin Ballard, the principal of Stonewall Jackson Middle School, is a black man? Much less, would they be able to identify him by photo or in person? It is likely that they do not know, and cannot recognize the hundreds of L-DHS and SJMS students and family members. Among your main duties is ensuring that HCPS campuses are safe for everyone who has a legitimate reason to be on them.
Armed individuals who feel some need to “protect” campuses as “monuments” pose a real and serious danger to people of color (POC).
Changing the names of these schools as quickly as possible, prior to any fall sports practices, as well as staff and students returning to campus, has now become imperative to ensure that everyone, especially POCs, are safe on those campuses, by removing any need for armed individuals to “protect” anything on those properties. I implore you to act immediately to rename those two schools.
Michelle Schmitt, PhD
I read Wilma Lawrence’s letter of June 3, 2020 (“Citizens should decide whether to quarantine”), and Harold Ackerman’s June 10, 2020, reply (“Response: Democracy hit Jan. 20, 2017”). He can legitimately disagree with her opinion that the shut-down and related orders are examples of governmental overreach, but Mr. Ackerman goes well beyond that:
He writes of Ms. Lawrence and Fox News, “You have obviously chosen to be faithful to that channel.” There was nothing in Ms. Lawrence’s letter about Fox News. “You have obviously chosen to align yourself with the current occupant of the White House.” There was nothing in Ms. Lawrence’s letter about the president.
He writes of Ms. Lawrence and others “. . . who are so infatuated with the current occupant of the White House that they refuse to take 10 or 15 seconds out of their ultra-busy lives to put on a face covering.”
Ms. Lawrence did not state in her letter that she refuses to wear a face covering; and, again, she does not refer at all to “the current occupant of the White House.”
And, finally, Mr. Ackerman assumes that Ms. Lawrence knows him, so that when she, not wearing a mask (another assumption), sees him in the grocery store, she can keep her distance.
Most of us have been educated about the pitfalls of stereotyping. Mr. Ackerman, in his five-column letter, demonstrated that he has not yet learned that lesson.
David E. Lawrence
by the public
The values upon which America was founded are embedded in its Constitution, which embraces the zealous aspiration of liberty and justice for all; fulfilling this moral ideology does not come easily or freely, and it must be backed by laws and a judicial system, without which anarchy would prevail, a radical departure from the nation we know.
There cannot be one kind of law for decent folks and another for extremists, bullies or felons. Nor can the law be applied based on anyone’s status, viewpoints or relationships, including elected leaders.
The law is owned by the public, not individuals; and by necessity it has a branch duty-bound to fairly and without prejudice enforce it, a catastrophic failure in the brutal act Derek Chauvin unleashed upon George Floyd.
Nevertheless, neither Chauvin’s cruel behavior nor the inflammatory, widely-publicized Civil War monument debate nor any other related racial issue countermands the need to follow due process with the enforcement of law or making changes aimed at improving the nation.
The retaliatory events catalyzed by Chauvin sent a shot over the bow of law-abiding citizens when the regulations they uphold broke down and left a wake of destruction.
This was radically different than the course followed by the courageous Martin Luther King when decades ago he led the onset of the long-awaited and needed racial integration of America, a movement that achieved remarkable success in a relatively short period of time, despite claims to the contrary.
In the aftermath of the recent damage, peaceable American citizens are compelled to stand firmly behind law and order, while offering their prayers for the nation to heal the scar left from the evil tradition of oppression planted in America centuries ago by England, a wound contemporary Caucasian-Americans did not inflict nor did anyone who upholds law.
Lee’s ‘Godly Christian’ man
(Editor’s note: the following is a response to a letter recently published by Rev. Dr. Charles B. Nunn Jr. )
General Robert E. Lee led a war for the right to keep other human beings as possessions. A war which he conducted with ruthless efficiency. A war which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and tore the nation apart. And you’re saying this is how a “good and Godly Christian man” acts? Wow!
He himself owned other people as possessions and authorized severe punishment when they tried to escape and seek freedom. A good and Godly Christian man? I think not.
You also state the “current practice of trying to rewrite history is stupid.” I very strongly disagree.
I think it’s about time for us to see history in an honest and real way.
For too long we have been exposed to a side of history that masks over the parts we don’t like. Robert E. Lee was a brave and masterful general, but that doesn’t make him a good man. His beliefs were based in a system of injustice where black lives only mattered as possessions of the rich and privileged, to be treated or mistreated as they saw fit.