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Student leads move to change name of Van Dorn Metro Station

By Russell Brooks

October 2023

Why are heroes of the “Lost Cause” still being honored in Northern Virginia? Specifically, why should the Van Dorn Metro Station implicitly celebrate General Earl Van Dorn of the Confederate States of America? That question is being asked by Taylor Brigman, a Springfield resident and Spelman College sophomore.

Earl Van Dorn (September 17, 1820–May 7, 1863) was born near Port Gibson, Mississippi. He graduated from West Point and served in the U.S. Army until he decided to side with the Confederacy in the Civil War. He held the rank of major general and commanded the Trans-Mississippi District in the western theater. He was considered a notable cavalry officer, but his service ended when he was killed by a man who claimed Van Dorn was engaged in an affair with his wife.

Upon learning who the station is named after, Brigman started a petition to demand that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority change its name. “Our community must embody our core principles and pay tribute to those who have significantly and positively impacted society. Renaming the station would represent a symbolic stride toward inclusivity and the rightful recognition of deserving individuals,” says Brigman. You can sign the petition here. 

As of mid-October 2023, the online petition has garnered about 160 signatures from local residents and continues to grow. Brigman is also seeking support from the Fairfax County NAACP, the Link Inc., and local alumni of Spelman and Morehouse colleges.

The Van Dorn station straddles the boundary between Fairfax County and Alexandria City. The station opened on June 15, 1991. Alexandria is the home of 41 streets named after Confederates, 20 of which were named after a 1953 city ordinance that required that streets running north to south be named after Confederate military heroes. Van Dorn Street was Lincolnia Road until 1953. According to Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, “Our predecessors used street naming policies as a form of permanent protest against the burgeoning civil rights movement and growing political power for African Americans. As a symbol, these honors persist today, honoring virulent racists, many of whom took up arms against our nation. These honors are not defensible and should be removed.”

Fairfax County also has numerous streets named after Confederates. The county changed the name of Lee Highway (now Rt. 29) and Lee-Jackson Highway (Rt. 50) in 2022, as well as renaming Robert E. Lee High School to John R. Lewis High School in 2020.

Alexandria City changed Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway/Route 1 in 2019 and will begin a process this year to rename its streets honoring the Confederacy by announcing three streets that will be renamed.

Taylor Brigman hopes Van Dorn street will be one of them.  “In view of recent advancements in renaming streets and removing controversial monuments, I am confident that WMATA will also recognize the need to rename the Van Dorn Metro station to something that truly reflects a positive contribution to our society.”

 

Franconia Dems: FCDC’s 2023 District of the Year!

Franconia FCDC District of the YearThe Franconia District Democratic Committee was awarded the coveted District of the Year honor at FCDC’s Blue Fairfax Dinner on May 5, 2023.
This is the text of our winning entry:
Leading up to 2022, the pandemic and some leadership challenges and internal conflict had taken a heavy toll on the then-Lee District Democratic Committee. Most officer positions were vacant, and monthly meeting attendance was consistently low, frequently in the single digits. After the December 2021 committee elections, the new officers set out to Build Back Better! Over the course of 2022, a small leadership team recruited and filled a whole slate of vice chairs, who in turn recruited active committees for precinct ops, membership and outreach, and fundraising.
Some highlights of this committee’s accomplishments over the past year:
• Increased meeting attendance from under 10 to around 40 (half of our active membership!) at every meeting.
• Planned and hosted precinct parties for eight of our 28 precincts, some with up to 45 attendees. This resulted in several new members and many new volunteers.
• Reached more than 1,000 Franconia District voters with postcards and phone calls in targeted outreach efforts surrounding our precinct parties, and added everyone who responded in any manner to “My Campaign,” significantly improving data for our district.
• Staffed every single polling location with at least two volunteers every minute voting was open on Election Day and throughout the early voting period at Franconia Governmental Center.
• Staffed every single Back to School Night at schools in our district with at least two volunteers handing out literature.
• Manned a table at Taste of Springfield as a means of community outreach.
• Hosted two voter registration drives at the new Workforce Innovation Skills Hub community center.
• Wrote and mailed more than 2,000 postcards to voters in critical swing districts during the 2022 election cycle.
• Hosted two large fundraising events — Opening Day BBQ and Franconia Luau — with more than 70 guests each, raising approximately $6,000 total.
• Hosted local elected leaders at every monthly committee meeting and encouraged two-way communication between our representatives at all levels and our members, volunteers and guests.
• Embraced and supported Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s initiative to rename our district from Lee to Franconia by participating in town hall events, then updating our website, social media channels and communications products with the new district name overnight as soon as it was approved.
The turnaround has been miraculous. This committee has come together like a new giant extended family, growing in our sense of community and shared vision and creating a welcoming home for both experienced, committed activists and those just dipping a toe in political involvement. Franconia District has been so effective in its efforts, committee members are leading three different workshops during the upcoming FCDC volunteer training event!
The newly renamed and reinvigorated Franconia District Democratic Committee has empowered new members and officers to shine in their volunteer leadership roles, has been incredibly effective in supporting all our candidates and even some outside our district, and is building a deep bench for continued growth and success of our shared Democratic values and progressive goals.
May 2022

Hello, Franconia Dems!!!

Welcome to the newly renamed Franconia District! 

After Supervisor Lusk led an extensive process that included a study of the district’s history and multiple opportunities for community input, Lee District was officially renamed Franconia District with a unanimous vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. To reflect this change, Lee District Dems is renamed Franconia District Dems, effective immediately.

You can read the news release here.

“I appreciate Supervisor Lusk’s thoughtful and collaborative process to arrive at this new name,” said Kathy Rhem, chair of the Franconia District Democratic Committee. “This change comes at a great time for our committee, as our officers and dedicated volunteers have been working hard to redouble our efforts to elect candidates truly committed to liberty and justice for all.” 

Statement from FCDC Chair Bryan Graham
on the June 24 Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade

“Individual rights to personal reproductive autonomy are under attack from the extremist Republican party. The Trump-packed Supreme Court has overturned nearly 50 years of established legal precedence by allowing states to refuse an individual’s right to an abortion. Republicans profess to be the party of individual liberty, but they continually attack women’s freedoms and rights.
“This ruling does not end abortion in our country. Instead, it amplifies inequality. Vast swaths of the country will soon be thousands of miles away from reproductive healthcare, limiting access to those without the means to travel. Beyond that, regressive laws ready to go in effect in various states are seemingly meant to terrorize—forcing pregnancy on victims of rape and convening inquests for those who miscarry.
“Republicans sadly continue to have a dangerous relationship with the truth. Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch all lied under oath about whether Roe v. Wade was settled law during their confirmation hearings. Their place on the court cemented by their lies, they have gutted Miranda rights and gun regulations, placed limits on citizens’ ability to seek damages if their constitutional rights are violated, and enabled tax dollars to go to religious schools.
“The overturning of Roe v. Wade reinforces the continued need for Democratic leadership to protect reproductive rights for Virginians and the importance of upcoming elections. The right to an abortion in Virginia hangs in the balance of one Senate vote. The Fairfax County Democratic Committee will work to elect those who will protect the right to choose in the Commonwealth.”

Our members’ top policy concerns

The high stakes for Virginia and the nation at large are driving Lee Dems, as affirmed by the membership poll taken in February and March. Debra Linick, co-vice chair for membership, said 41 people filled out the survey online, and a core group of volunteers spent long hours following up by phone.

Asked what motivates them to be Democrats, some said it’s been a lifelong commitment. Others are relative newcomers. More than one summed it up as “Trump’s election.” The environment topped a ranked list of concerns, followed immediately by preserving democracy and voting rights, and universal health care. Equality, workers’ rights and reproductive freedom were also among the many shared values.

As one member put it, “Republicans have a record of serving only the rich and Democrats have a record of investing in all of us.” —J.H.

To join the membership team or learn more, email co-vice chairs Debra Linick and Diego Scharifker at membership@leedems.org.

top policy issues list