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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Diversity in Annandale: The dialogue continues

Rev. Brown
About 50 people—community leaders, police officers, school and county officials, and local residents—spent Wednesday evening at Annandale High School exploring ways to improve civic engagement and develop leadership among Annandale’s diverse population.

The event, coordinated by the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, builds on the “dialogue on diversity” sessions held at the school in 2010 and 2011.

Several themes emerged at those sessions: the need to build trust within the community, to promote leadership training focusing on communication and problem solving, and to expand participation in existing civic organizations. Last night’s session was aimed at moving from dialogue to action.

“The way we create positive energy and get things done is to start at the grassroots level and get the community involved,” said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.

Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer said he feels “privileged and blessed to have such an engaged community.” The police “can do our jobs much more effectively when we trust each other.”

“I am grateful to live in a community where people can come together and have diversity dialogues,” said Rev. Clarence Brown, the senior pastor at Annandale United Methodist Church. “There’s always a ‘but,’ though. After these dialogues, we go home, and say ‘is that all there is? When are we going to do something?’ ”

“This is about civic education and civic engagement,” Brown said. “We have to take responsibility to participate and share what we’ve learned with our respective constituencies.”

Maj. Michael Kline of the Fairfax County Police Department, urged the participants to think about Annandale as a single community “with one voice,” rather than separate communities representing different cultures.

Annandale High School Principal Vincent Randazzo, a former police officer, called for the school to play a larger role in these efforts, noting that AHS is centrally located, more than half its students are from low-income families, students speak more than 50 languages, and the school offers activities, like athletics, that bring people together. He offered to provide space in one of the school’s trailers for community meetings, health services, or other outreach activities.

Randazzo suggested AHS students, along with business groups, religious institutions, and community organizations, work together to help to needy families. The school’s curriculum has a service learning component, and students could give back to the community by doing things like tutoring younger children and helping provide services to adults, he said. Gross later said she is planning to meet with Randazzo to explore these ideas further.

Due Tran of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce said more needs to be done to promote social engagement among teens by encouraging them to participate in programs and activities for youths. “We need parent buy-in,” he said.  “The programs are already there.”

Mohamed Abdelilah, of the Moroccan American Community Organization, called for “shared leadership,” noting that “it’s not one-way communication.” It takes time to figure out how to build trust and foster relationships. It can’t be done overnight, he said.
This process is “not just about enhancing the quality of life in Annandale and Fairfax County, said the facilitator, Norma Lopez, of the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. “It is about strengthening democracy in this country. That is civic engagement.”   

If you would like to participate in the Annandale Civic Engagement Initiative, contact Lopez, 703/533-5475


  1. You have got to be kidding me, in this BLOG alone you can find the likes of Tessie Wilson proclaiming that after the raiding, excuse me redistricting of Annandale High School, there was still a large middle class population. Now I read that more than half the kids (pre-redistricting) are low income. What gives? What a darn joke the school board is. If the Annandale BLOG wants to do something for Annandale, ask the school board that voted to raid the middle class from AHS to justify their actions given this information. I don't get how one minute they have plenty of middle class kids to be a viable school, to the next minute they are more than 50% low income.

    This smacks of one party politics, this is what you get with no competition and no threat of being thrown out of office. We begged the board to allow the middle class to stay at AHS, through two separate redistricting's. We begged them to listen when we cautioned that the middle class kids they were throwing out were the bedrock of the AHS foundation, but Tessie had to have her way. Her grudge against the Mason District won out over all reason. The old board should all be ashamed to show their faces in this county, they should retire and flee the county, do us all a favor and simply go away and ruin some other community.

  2. I agree fully. How about helping the middle class around here. With the trash piling up and the free hand-outs - I'm really disgusted. How about helping the tax base around here - or is Fairfax County (Mason District school system, etc.) just now turning into the largest "social services" industry out there. I am not going to be suprised to see ALOT of for sale signs this summer.

  3. It is two words, actually: a lot as in a lot of For Sale signs...

    Let's talk some more about the disgraceful decline in quality schooling.