I am troubled by the idea of merging the Parker-Gray Board of Architectural Review (BAR) into the Old and Historic District BAR.
From my perspective, one of the most positive developments in Alexandria in the past few years has been the growth of interest by our African-American community in its history and heritage. A number of years ago when Lillie Finklea, a dear woman, was trying to spark interest in uncovering and preserving Freedmen Cemetery, the first rally on the site was attended mainly by whites with a small turnout from Lillie's community. It was disappointing. That changed rapidly as plans for the cemetery moved forward — a positive sign of awakening sensitivity to the past.
Similarly I had been concerned for years that so few blacks were interested in the cemetery and graves at Fort Ward. No one was objecting except a few neighbors, for example, when the city regularly parked landscaping machinery at the burying grounds. That situation also has changed. The commitment to cemetery planning at Fort Ward by African-American groups and individuals has effected positive improvements.
For me the Parker-Gray BAR represents the community asserting: "We have a history here, a stake that is ours to cherish and sustain.” Would it not be a shame to lose that? Mayor Silberberg has strongly argued that public input should be sought to ascertain what people in the Parker-Gray neighborhood and others think about the merger, rather than going ahead on the advocacy of one or two council members. The mayor’s idea is prudent and in keeping with how things should be done in Alexandria. The rest of City Council should take heed.