The speakers are blaring out music warming up for the Suttle Thought band which is scheduled mid-afternoon. A line is forming early at John Robinson Jr. Town Square for the fish fry and barbecue. Kids are bouncing and laughing in the rubber moon bounce on the hill. The weather has turned out to be a perfect sunny, hot day for the annual Green Valley Day held at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School and John Robinson Jr. Town Square.
Portia Clark, president of the Green Valley Civic Association and leader of the Planning Team for the event says, “We have been holding these celebrations for more than 50 years. We are commemorating 179 years as a community and 95 years as a Civic Association.”
Clark said they had 40 volunteers working for several months to bring it together. “We hold these events to build relationships and to educate and recognize citizens that have been supporting us all year.” This year the Gold Star Awards were given to Brother2Brother, Lavern Langhorn, Gina Ross and Amazon. The Robert Winkler scholarship was given to Aarielle Davis, a Wakefield graduate attending Northern Virginia Community College.
Vendor and organization tables line the sidewalk by the parking lot. Ashley Adams has a prime spot for her AA Design which she says is located right here in Green Valley on Oakland Street where she has been in business since 2017. Her table is filled with samples of the graphic T-shirts which are one of her best sellers.
The NAACP has a table just down the way along with the Green Valley Civic Association.
Jake Clark sits in his multi seat golf cart “ready to go wherever you want.” He says he made a trip for the event 2-1/2 hours to the beach and brought the golf cart back. Clark says he often uses it to drive around his six grandchildren at the beach.
James McFail, a long time resident of Green Valley, has designed a table focusing on parks and featuring a large poster board with an example of his poetry which he reads to people passing by. He says he is hoping to get the display erected in the park. McFail said he was just sitting down one day “and it came to me — all of these things we will forget.”
McFail has lived in Green Valley since 1972. He remembers when there was always something going on in Jenny Dean Park. “It was the feeding place for the neighborhood.”
John Tyler stops by to check out the display. “I went to Drew,” he says and he points up the hill “to Kemper when it was up on the hill.” They reminisce about the days of the baseball teams. Tyler says, “I shouldn’t say this but it was the days in the 50s when Black people played baseball. We were undefeated. I played baseball up until the 80s.” Tyler says he just had lunch with their Little League coach last week. “He is 95.”
McFail looks around the parking lot. “Trees used to grow wild —cherry, apple. We’d pick off the fruit and have lunch.”
And Tyler looks past the moon bounce, “We’d walk up the hill to the barber shop. And have sleigh rides behind the big hill. Sometimes we hopped the train for a ride. Now it’s a hiking trail.”
McFail added, “We were a community; we knew everybody’s business.”
But now they say, “Money has priced us out of here; we can’t afford the big million dollar houses.”
They aren’t quite sure when things changed. “Immigration changed a whole lot of things, Tyler says. “Maybe we gained some things but we lost a lot.”
McFail adds, “I don’t know; a whole lot of things changed. We got drugs in here. The schools changed. And they didn’t play sports like we did.”
“There was a shift in values to what they see on tv.”
The two old friends browse through the memories on the table. A picture of Lucky Seven Food Mart. “It was right here. My mom worked there,” Tyler says. Next to it is a picture of The Gents, a group out of Gunston. “Look there is Judge Newman.” And the Green Valley News was 25 cents. “It had all the gossip.”
Zanna Ballsun, an attorney with the Arlington Public Defender’s Office steps out onto the sidewalk to offer a box of crayons and notebook to some kids who are investigating the table. William Burley, who is a senior probation and parole officer, is Council Chair for the Arlington Re-entry Community Council. He is handing out school supplies and information about the services provided by the Reentry Council to help ex-offenders returning to the community. Among the services offered by the 15 participating organizations are food pantry, clothing, mental health services, shelter placement and voting assistance.
These Councils were set up by the state of Virginia in each County to provide supportive services to former inmates and their families and to coordinate resources. Burley says the local Council is a collaboration of 15 local agencies.
Carol Garcia-Valenzuela, Council co-chair, says they have just held a job fair for the inmates in the jail where they help give the inmates a head start on employment skills before they have re-entered the community. Burley says the transitional period can be difficult for inmates, and it is proven that they will do better when they get out if they have connections with the community.
Clark says they encountered some obstacles to the event along the way with unexpected fees of thousands of dollars required by the County, and the fees weren’t in their budget for the event. “At one point our application wasn’t approved because we were required to have four police officers, and the ACPD didn’t think they could cover it.”
But the weather Clark ordered for the day arrived hot and sunny … and free and right on time.