Honoring Alexandria’s black community

Honoring Alexandria’s black community

By Julia Brouillette

Residents joined local luminaries to celebrate Alexandria’s black community and its rich history with the dedication of a hall of fame at the Charles Houston Recreation Center on June 22.

The hall features a photographic mural highlighting key people and places in the community that may have otherwise gone unrecognized, organizers said.

“We want to make Alexandrians aware of their heritage and culture and these individuals who accomplished so many things in their lives,” said Julian Haley, who served as the project chairman.

The Charles Houston ad-hoc hall of fame subcommittee, a resident-led group, began work on the mural about two years ago. Robert Dawkins, a member of the Charles Houston Naming Committee, launched the project.

“[Dawkins] had a passion and came up with an idea that he put to action to really honor and acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals of Alexandria who most people have never even heard of,” Haley said.

The mural features history-makers like Police Chief Earl Cook and Nolan B. Dawkins, a presiding judge on the Alexandria Circuit Court. Mayor Bill Euille also is one of the honorees.

Intended to inspire and educate, the mural documents the contributions of Alexandria’s black community and helps foster an appreciation for local black leaders, Haley said.

“I’m a native of Alexandria myself, and growing up I had not heard of some of these individuals,” he said. “And even some of the ones I had heard of, I was unaware of the things that they had achieved in their life.”

The subcommittee chose 64 individuals for the hall of fame, and their names were announced at the dedication ceremony. The honorees represent an array of professions and accomplishments — from successful musicians to the first black coach of the Washington Mystics — but they all share roots in Alexandria.

“Many of the honorees are recognized nationally and internationally for some of their accomplishments, but [local] people do not know of them,” Haley said.