“10 Moments of Possibility”

Jeremy Aldrich -- December 20th, 2008

Patrick Lincoln submits the following look back at 2008, under the title “10 Moments of Possibility for a Better Valley”:

“These moments are my own; I’m sure each of you has yours as well.  This is by no means an exhaustive or accurate list.  It’s not exhaustive because there are surely many more and it’s not accurate because their possibility depends on us.  Their possibility to strengthen, expand, inspire and care for our community – depends on us…

The Valley Breathes Easier for One More Year

On January 16th the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced the end of negotiations with STAR Solutions over their proposed four lane expansion of Interstate-81 through the entire state of Virginia.  The Shenandoah Valley Network, along with The Virginia Organizing Project and various others had been lobbying the state government and mobilizing public sentiment against this project for years.  Ultimately, it looks like the truck lobby had the most sway, with legislators worried about the effects of tolls on that industry.  Nevertheless, four more lanes through the state would have meant the loss of countless hillsides, family farms and watershed buffer zones, and further enrichment for corporations like STAR Solutions, subsidiaries of Iraq War profiteers Halliburton.  As The Valley and Harrisonburg breathes a little easier for yet another year, let us not forget that the interstate system was originally built to provide transportation for the newly developing military- industrial-complex that outgoing President Eisenhower railed against, and not for the public.  Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano put it best when he wrote, “interstates destroy exactly that which they take us to see.”

Harrisonburg-Rockingham Thermal Shelter (H.A.R.T) Finishes its First Winter

Homeless activists and advocates have been pushing for expanded shelter bed space in Harrisonburg for years.  Especially in the winter, living without the warmth of walls and heat can mean death.  Due to public pressure, the Harrisonburg City Council allotted some of the funds and local churches offered their space on a rotating basis so that now there are more warm beds available for our fellow community members.

Immigrant Solidarity Gatherings Bring Diverse Communities Together for Food, Music and Dialogue

Immigrant Solidarity GatheringFirst on March 30th and again on November 23rd, hundreds of community members, recently arrived and here for generations, sat down to share a meal, enjoy music, and converse across the barriers of race, class and culture to start building trust and planting the seeds of justice.  The People United, JMU Students for a Democratic Society, local high school and university teachers, Mexican@s Sin Fronteras (Mexicans Without Borders), and members of the Virginia Anarchist Federation and local churches, coordinated events of solidarity and community amidst an atmosphere of increasing anti-immigrant policy and sentiment.  “No Estamos Solos” read the headline in Nuevas Raices.  We’re not alone, none of us.

Twelfth Annual African-American Festival Celebrated in Ralph Sampson Park

Despite an early morning drizzle, Harrisonburg’s annual African-American Festival added another year to its history of community building and cultural crafting in May.  I stopped by with my family to eat some good food, listen to music and enjoy the presence of Harrisonburg’s African-American heritage and living reality.  In the shadow of our community’s once segregated and historic Lucy Simms School, perched on a hill above a northeast community once sold to the highest bidder as part of Project R4 in the 1960’s, the event’s themes of Unity-Family-Faith-Love rang out true and proud.  Hopefully in 2009 the African-American Festival continues to grow in size and scope.

Second Annual Shenandoah Valley Pride in the Park

On a hot July afternoon I biked over to catch the Valley’s Pride Celebration just as it was wrapping up.  I was grateful for a public presence of Queerness in our often seemingly straight locale.  Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered folk, Bisexuals, and all of us somewhere, sometimes searching, along the continuum of identity, expression and feeling that is our sexuality and gender have been in this Valley for generations – it’s nice to see history being written anew with gatherings like Pride in the Park.  Thanks to all the organizers!

Our Community Place Opens its Doors

Over ten years in the making, utilizing community financing, old fashioned fundraisers and lots of grit and gumption – Our Community Place opened up in 2008.  This spot, on the corner of Main and Johnson Streets will be the site of free meals on Mondays, weekly religious services, a community bike shop and garden and whatever else can be dreamed up.  Come out in April of next year for the Grand Opening and start making Our Community Place something for all of us.

Zenda Gets Long Overdue Recognition

Long's ChapelLong’s Chapel (pictured) was a school, church and center of activity for the African-American community of Zenda, started by former slaves after the Civil War and which flourished into the 20th century.  The Virginia Department of Historic Resources placed an informational marker in front of the building on Fridley’s Gap Road and there are plans to thoroughly renovate the building itself.  Along with the dates and facts to be included, this is a story of sacrifice, self-determination, resilience and faith worthy of remembering for years to come.

The Valley’s Democratic Campaign

When Barack Obama came to speak at the JMU Convocation Center in October he reminded those gathered that the last presidential candidate to speak in Harrisonburg was Stephen Douglas, who was campaigning against Abraham Lincoln and for the permanence of slavery in the southern states.  The fact that an African-American politician could clog traffic for hours and draw crowds from Bergton to Staunton is a testament to work down throughout the South by the likes of Septima Clark, Ella Baker, Diane Nash and Martin Luther King, Jr.  These are the giants Obama himself says he owes his success too.  They were also part of a broad and diverse social movement, not an electoral campaign.  And it was the widespread popular involvement in the Democratic Campaign this year that makes it such a moment of possibility as we move into 2009.  Assumptions were destroyed as door knocking found supporters all along our hills and ridges, and voters came out in record numbers on Election Day not only to support making history by electing our first black president, but also to reject a McCain campaign buoyed by fear, racism, and attacks on the Left.  That night Harrisonburg came together in celebration across lines of race and class in unprecedented ways.  Let’s keep it up, and plan on advocating for and making the changes we want to see in 2009.

Rock Against Racism Combats a Legacy of Hate

Doug Mason, who lives and works in Massanutten, had dealt with over a year of racist taunting from his coworkers when he decided to act.  He led the formation of S.C.A.R, Sincere Citizens Against Racism, and planned an event in the Court Square Theater, Harrisonburg to raise awareness of racism and the campaign to make the act of hanging a noose a hate crime.

La Gran D Fills the Airwaves on 105.1 FM

Local media corporation Verstandig Broadcasting launched Spanish-language music and programming this month.  This is our first all day Spanish-language programming here in Harrisonburg and though I was partial to the previous occupant of the 105.1 frequency (Country Legends) and we’re yet to see how accessible the station will be to the community, this just may present a great opportunity for open communication by and for Spanish-speaking folks in the Valley.  It’s about time.

Here’s to a 2009 filled with solidarity, justice and love,

Patrick Lincoln

To learn more about justice issues and organizing in Virginia and to get involved in making progressive change here in the Valley, see www.thepeopleunited.org

3 Responses to ““10 Moments of Possibility””

  1. Patrick, I like your thoughts on the local Dem campaign and Ron’s OCP vision finally becoming a reality. There was definitely a shift in H’burg in (or before) 2008.

    However, I believe history is cyclical and electoral politics is a pendulum: I don’t think this is necessarily a permanent shift. The people behind the shift are going to need to work tirelessly if they want it to take root. For example, how many people will turn out for the state elections next November? I predict that, unless there’s another groundswell of support similar to the VA Obama campaign, VA’s next governor will be Republican Bob McDonnell.

  2. Renee says:

    I had never heard of Zenda. Interesting piece of history

    Here’s a site with further info and a link to the preservation society:
    http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?attrID=53894

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