F.C. Social Justice Committee Charts Course for Change & Future Demonstration at 1st Meeting

MODERATING Jan. 7’s Falls Church and Vicinity Social Justice Committee meeting is Peter Adriance (left) as he checks in on a group discussion that Nikki Graves Henderson of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is having with other attendees. Tinner Hill was the principal organizer behind the meeting and was helped by local faith leaders from parishes such as Falls Church Prebysterian and Falls Church Episcopal as well as Adriance, who’s a member of the City’s Baha’is. (Photo: Patricia Leslie)

At a meeting of the Falls Church and Vicinity Social Justice Committee earlier this month, it was standing room only for like-minded citizens at the Falls Church Community Center who have the future on their minds.

Committee members and residents came to weigh in on visions for Falls Church in 2028 and how they can realize their goals. Ideas ranged from ending the achievement gap to building bridges (not walls) were drawn as pictures in breakout sessions and then discussed in one big group, following instructions from Peter Adriance, the meeting’s facilitator.

“What will Falls Church and vicinity look like in 10 years if we’re successful in working together towards racial healing and justice?” Adriance asked the small groups to consider.

After the large group discussion when attendees interpreted meanings of the drawings, it was back to small groups to determine how the community can achieve its stated goals by 2028.

Nikki Graves Henderson, a committee leader and group founder, said people had been meeting for some time and gradually started coming together to build relationships.

At the beginning of Sunday’s meeting, she told committee members that she started having bad dreams, worrying whether Charlottesville could happen in Falls Church.

“The difficult answer was yes. Charlottesville could happen anywhere,” Graves Henderson said, whose research on the cultivation of racism and discrimination has shown those characteristics are not inherent but are taught.

“Not so much verbally, but many times non-verbally, and like it is learned, it can be unlearned.” Graves Henderson continued. “We have to learn and get to know one another which may not be the whole answer, [but] it’s part of the answer.”

To begin work on achieving 2028 goals, plans are underway to host a large event and build on the momentum and infrastructure of the Tinner Hills Blues Festival at Cherry Hill Park set for June 9.

Henderson says the official launch of the committee’s efforts to accomplish the vision will be June 10.

She foresees it as an assembly of people to initiate ongoing projects like small-group dinners, book clubs, a mural project, even a comedy show, to work together on 2028 betterment.

“We want music, communication, conversations so people can begin to talk and get out of their comfort zones and we want to involve children,” Henderson said.

Ronald Lapitan, the artist for one group, volunteered to contact youth he knows and invite them to vision planning and action.

Other common visions outlined for 2028 included: equality, affordable housing, diversity, self-examination, understanding community history to know how to move forward, dialogue, equal and universal education, community service, a deeper connection to nature and greater love.

The committee’s mantra is “Honoring the diversity reflected in the many faces of our one community” with a mission of “hope, respect and healing.”

Members of the Social Justice Committee are self-selected, according to Adriance, and more are wanted.

The next meeting is Feb. 11 where the group will continue its drive to help explore ways that build and strengthen relationships across race and class differences.

They will also develop individual and organizational skills to address social justice issues affecting our community.

An invitation to Sunday’s meeting stated that the violent rally in Charlottesville prompted a coming together of the community in response to increasing polarization throughout the nation.