Your View: Lights at T.C. would be latest infringement on local black enclave

Your View: Lights at T.C. would be latest infringement on local black enclave
(File photo)

By Frances Colbert Terrell, President, Seminary Civic Association (File photo)

To the editor:
A hot issue for the past several years has been centered on T.C. Williams High School; specifically, placing lights on Parker-Gray Stadium, which the Seminary Civic Association vehemently opposes.

A promise by the city and school board was made to our community when the first T.C. was erected in 1965, re-enforced and documented in 2004 in the developmental special use permit when the school expanded, and respected in 2014 when lights were installed on the tennis courts. The promise was that no permanent stadium lighting would be installed on any athletic high school field in consideration of the quality of life of the adjoining neighborhoods.

Recently, the school board has been pushing to revise the composition of the T.C. advisory committee, which currently includes representatives of the school board, T.C. staff, officials from the department of recreation, parks and cultural activities and adjoining neighborhoods.

The purpose of the realignment is obviously to incorporate support for lights from the larger school community whose neighborhoods will not be affected by the addition of lights. Our primary concern is with the parks department’s access to the field. We fear the field — and the lights — will be in continuous use, not just for Friday night football.

This issue will be going before city council shortly for resolution. It is our ardent hope that the council will honor its word to us and will vote against the installation of lights at Parker-Gray Stadium.

Who are we that we have the audacity to expect the city to honor a promise made decades ago? Well as recently made clear to the school board, the very land that T.C. sits on was originally owned by African-Americans. Notice, I said owned. It was not the projects, low income, subsidized, or section 8 housing. It was a viable, self-sustaining community of taxpaying homeowners, which had been established during the late 19th century.

In 1964, before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and while we were still reeling from the shock of having our extended community put off of their property at Fort Ward to establish the historic park, the City of Alexandria, having determined the need for a new high school with the onset of integration, decided the only place in the entire city which would accommodate the school was right in the middle of our African-American community.

So through eminent domain and with a total and complete lack of consideration for us as human beings during this period of segregation, they completely decimated our community, downsizing it from roughly 61 homes to 32 homes, of which 23 are located in a cul de sac at Woods Lane, which borders the school.

That was the first step in undermining and disrespecting us as a people who had the audacity to be homeowners at a time when we weren’t allowed to sit up front on buses, drink from the same water fountains, use the same bathrooms, eat at the same restaurants, etc. Not only did they take the homes, but our ancestors also had to purchase the houses they built at a price much higher than what they were given as the value of their destroyed homes. We adapted as usual.

Then in 2004, they came back for the second time with the expansion of the school, making our property on Woods Lane a mere stone’s throw from the boundary of the school. This further infringed on our quality of life — more students, more noise, more trash and more traffic. The development special use permit approved by the city between the school, city and adjoining neighborhoods established condition 69 of the advisory committee for the purpose of facilitating and resolving neighborhood issues resulting from the ongoing operation of the school.

And now here we are again, 53 years later, and the school board is again imposing on the same African-American community with lights on Parker-Gray Stadium. I won’t go into the litany of issues our community would face, includ- ing property devaluation, should this come to pass.

In closing, in this time of budget austerity, and with all of the other fiscal issues requiring consideration — Metro, city infrastructure and school construction — we, the fourth and fifth generation of the Seminary community, implore city council to oppose the installation of lights and honor your word to our community.

Let me get personal here. I’ll repeat a very familiar refrain in today’s culture. “Black Lives Matter.”