A Community Conversation

On November 13th our community came together for an evening of history and storytelling that explored the racial covenants that were part of many Lyon Park land deeds when the neighborhood was founded one hundred years ago. Although the language varied, many of the deeds in Lyon Park (as well as other neighborhoods in Arlington) contained covenants prohibiting sale to people who were “not Caucasian”. We heard from Dr. Lindsey Bestsbreurtje, a curatorial assistant at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and author of the dissertation, “Built by the people themselves- African American community development in Arlington, Virginia, from the Civil War through Civil Rights.” She provided context of the political climate in Arlington, who Frank Lyon was, and described African American communities in Arlington at the time of Lyon Park’s founding. Veronica Dabney shared the story of how racial covenants affected her community. She was raised in Green Valley at a time when her family and neighbors would have been barred from buying a home in many neighborhoods in Arlington. In 1969, the year after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlawed racial covenants, Veronica purchased a home just beyond the fence that separated Green Valley from the rest of Arlington. Finally, we heard from Dr. Bev-Freda Jackson, an Adjunct Professorial Lecturer at American University’s School of Public Affairs; Department of Justice, Law and Criminology. She provided information about how historic patterns of discrimination are highly correlated with contemporary aspects of discriminatory practices, affecting the way that we live today.