“There’s a whole story of black Charlottesville that no one knows about,” Tanesha Hudson narrates over the opening sequence of her film A Legacy Unbroken: The Story of Black Charlottesville. The documentary premiered in front of a sold-out crowd at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Saturday. Hudson has been working on the project since 2017.
Hudson’s film is a rich repository of local oral histories. “It’s important that we start to document history and catch people while they’re living,” she said before the screening, adding that she wishes she had made the movie 15 years ago.
The film’s wide-ranging interviews offer an intimate view of black life in Charlottesville through the last several decades. Marcha Payne Howard describes her father, who spent 54 years working at Joker’s Barbershop in Starr Hill. Pete Carey recalls the opening and closing of two music clubs, the Pink Panther and the Ace of Hearts. Bill Byers speaks about his early days as a caretaker at Washington Park, where Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald performed. And Randy “Hollywood” Jones tells the story of the Charlottesville chapter of the Black Panthers.
As the evening unfolded, education became a key theme. The film features interviews with Alex-Zan, a member of the Charlottesville 12, and Kathy Johnson Harris, a former Vinegar Hill resident who attended Jefferson School.
In a panel discussion after the film, Hudson shared her hope that the material can be adapted for classrooms. “I think it’s necessary to teach our children this,” she said.
Quote of the Week
“Being named first for business and 51st overall for workers isn’t something Virginia should be proud of.” —Destiny LeVere, communications director of the Virginia AFL-CIO, on Ralph Northam’s support of right-to-work laws
“No property in this subdivision shall be sold to any person not of the Caucasian race,” reads a 1928 Charlottesville property deed. The Jefferson School’s Mapping Cville project has identified more than 90,000 Charlottesville deeds with similar language, and project organizers are enlisting the community to help sift through the heaps of digitized documents. The end goal is a map of discriminatory housing practices in Charlottesville through the decades. “We will be doing this undoubtedly for months,” says Jordy Yager, the project’s leader.
On Saturday morning, more than 30 volunteers showed up at the Jefferson School to review the deeds in an online database. “I couldn’t think of a better way to contribute to the community,” said volunteer Julia von Briesen. “It’s a responsibility of everyone in this community who gives a shit to participate.”
Yager hopes the accessibility of the online system will encourage community participation. “It’s live, it’s ready for anybody and everybody,” he says.
Mapping Cville found racially restrictive language in the deeds of the properties highlighted in red, near the intersection of Second Street NE and Park Plaza.
Feet of strength
Charlottesville ballerina Savanna Walton set a world record on Saturday. At local dance store The Hip Joint, Walton balanced en pointe—legs extended, body weight fully on the tips of her toes—for an hour and 21 minutes. After breaking the record, she naturally asked for a bucket of ice water for her feet.
UVA’s Curry School of Education has launched a website exploring the histories of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, the school’s namesake, and William Henry Ruffner, whose name is on the school’s main building. Spoiler alert: They weren’t good guys. “Up through the Civil War, Curry was not only a slaveholder himself, but an ardent defender of slavery,” the site says.
On November 21, state regulators rejected Dominion Energy’s proposal to increase its return on equity rate—in effect, what the corporation is allowed by regulators to earn in profit—from 9.2 percent to 10.75 percent, a move that would have cost Dominion customers around $1.2 billion dollars over the next 25 years. Dominion was seeking the rate increase to attract investors and to fund its planned projects, including an off-shore wind farm. Clean energy and low-income advocacy groups––as well as 40 members of Virginia’s legislature––had strongly opposed the rate adjustment.
A life supreme
Legendary jazz music theorist Roland Wiggins died at his home in Charlottesville Wednesday, November 20. He was 87. A piano prodigy by age 10, Wiggins spent his decades-long career sharing his musical knowledge with others, from students in Philadelphia public schools to those at various colleges and universities, including UVA. He worked with some of the biggest names in jazz and pop music, including Yusef Lateef, Billy Taylor, and Quincy Jones; when John Coltrane hit a creative block in the mid-1960s, he rang Wiggins for advice. “I’ve developed a system of atonality,” Wiggins said of his unique approach. “That means, it purposely breaks all the rules of Western tonal music.”