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The Hidden History of Silver Spring

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by David S. Rotenstein

Introduction

Silver Spring, Maryland developed during the early twentieth century as a sundown suburb: an area covering more than ten square miles where racial restrictive deed covenants prevented African Americans from owning or renting homes.[1] Located in Montgomery County about 6 miles north of Washington, D.C., Silver Spring didn’t begin desegregating its businesses until the late 1950s and housing discrimination remained legal there until 1968 when the county’s open housing law went into effect. Despite dramatic changes in Silver Spring’s demographics and politics, the community’s history and historic preservation efforts remain as segregated as its earlier public culture. African Americans, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights actions that helped break down racial barriers in Silver Spring in the 1960s remain invisible in published histories and in the commemorative landscape.

The ways in which history and historic preservation are produced in Silver Spring effectively reproduce the exclusion of people of color from earlier periods by rendering them invisible in published histories, designated historic properties, and heritage-themed placemaking.

I live in Silver Spring and I make my living in public history. My work since 2011 has focused on suburban gentrification and how people of color are erased from communities and the historical record. The processes leading to the displacement of residents of color are tied to the production of histories and historic preservation programs that render them invisible by omission. In late 2016 I began conducting Black History Tours in Silver Spring’s central business district to help raise awareness of the community’s African American history. In early June 2017, after one of my tours, there was an event in one of Silver Spring’s historical parks where residents shared stories of discrimination and participants could submit comments to Montgomery County agencies undertaking renovations in the park. The event invited people to “protest invisibility and help make Acorn Park more inclusive.” This article documents the June 2017 event and the story behind how history is produced, and its ramifications, in Silver Spring’s Acorn Urban Park and throughout Silver Spring.

A Little Silver Spring History

Silver Spring is an unincorporated community that shares a boundary with the District of Columbia. The community’s origin legend is that Francis Preston Blair, a Washington journalist, in 1840 was riding his horse through the area when he discovered a mica-flecked spring. Blair subsequently bought 289 acres and named his new plantation Silver Spring. By the time the Civil War broke out, Blair was one of the largest enslavers in Montgomery County (twelve slaves in 1860).[2]

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Blairs had substantial real estate holdings in Montgomery County. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, Edward Brooke Lee (1892-1984), who was a Blair, expanded his family’s real estate investments by buying up and consolidating large farm tracts to develop “restricted” and “exclusive” residential subdivisions. In the 1920s, Lee founded the North Washington Realty Company, which developed most of his properties through the 1940s.

In 1925, Lee was one of several real estate entrepreneurs who founded the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce.[3] Two years later they embarked on a branding and marketing campaign that included full-page advertisements in Washington newspapers touting “Maryland North of Washington” as a prime investment opportunity: “the logical place in which to build for posterity.”[4] Maps published in these ads illustrated new and proposed residential subdivisions, proposed parks, major roads leading to downtown Washington, and the area’s two country clubs.

Silver Spring 1
Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce display ad published in The Washington Post, September 18, 1927.

There was little development in Silver Spring during the first two decades of the 20th century; development accelerated in the 1920s.[5] That decade kicked off a real estate boom in suburban Montgomery County that for all intents and purposes has never ended.

The first restrictive covenants attached to properties in Silver Spring were included in deeds executed by Virginia attorney and real estate speculator Robert Holt Easley (1856-1941). In 1902 Easley bought 67 acres near Silver Spring’s B&O Railroad station; two years later he filed a plat of “Building Sites for Sale at Silver Spring” in Montgomery County land records with 156 lots.[6] Easley’s deeds prohibited the people buying his lots and all subsequent owners from selling or renting the properties, “the whole or any part of any dwelling or structure thereon, to any person of African descent.”[7]

Easley’s subdivision was the first of more than 50 racially restricted residential subdivisions that were platted and developed between 1904 and 1948 in an area roughly bounded by the District of Columbia, Rock Creek Park, the Prince Georges County line, and the unincorporated community of White Oak—essentially the entire area that Lee and his real estate cohort called “Maryland North of Washington” and which simply came to be known during the remainder of the twentieth century as “Greater Silver Spring.”

In 1948, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer that racial restrictive covenants were unenforceable. For the next 20 years, however, redlining, steering, and discrimination in multi-family housing kept Silver Spring almost exclusively white. Though there were pockets of African American households on the margins of Silver Spring’s historic core (e.g., Lyttonsville and Chestnut Ridge), these nineteenth century unincorporated hamlets occupied areas where real estate speculators were unable to consolidate sufficient lands to create twentieth century subdivisions.

As late as 1967, Washingtonian magazine was reporting on the appeal Silver Spring held to whites moving away from Washington: “They love it because it’s easy to commute to Washington, Judith Viorst wrote. “And, they love it because Negroes, so far, have been safely left behind at the District line. Virtually everybody says so, one way or another.”[8]

Interventions by civil rights activists in the late 1950s; the relocation of about 200 African American Department of Labor employees to Silver Spring in 1961 and the subsequent enactment of an open accommodations law in 1962; and, the passage of an open housing law in 1968 (just before federal legislation) began breaking down Jim Crow’s racial barriers in Silver Spring.

Producing Silver Spring History

The ways in which history and historic preservation are produced in Silver Spring effectively reproduce the exclusion of people of color from earlier periods by rendering them invisible in published histories, designated historic properties, and heritage-themed placemaking. Historians researching housing, businesses, and commercial architecture omit the African American experience from Silver Spring’s narratives. These books, articles, historic preservation documents, documentary videos, and heritage trail signs privilege and celebrate stories of segregationists like Lee, his Blair kin, and other early community boosters.[9]

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Silver Spring Heritage Trail sign, 8200 block of Georgia Avenue. Photo by David Rotenstein.

Some of the erasures are easily identifiable. In 2005, the Silver Spring Historical Society published a book titled Historic Silver Spring in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. That book did not mention African Americans, 1960s civil rights protests held in downtown Silver Spring, and it did not include the Lyttonsville community, which abuts Silver Spring’s historic core.[10]

Earlier examples include Silver Spring Success: an Interactive History of Silver Spring, Maryland, a book first published in 1995, and a comprehensive historic resources survey of Silver Spring’s central business district that was completed in 2002.[11]

More academic studies of Silver Spring’s history include several articles on the community’s commercial architecture and planning by The George Washington University architectural historian Richard Longstreth. These works analyze suburbanization in the Washington metropolitan area by focusing on development in Silver Spring during the middle part of the 20th century; Longstreth’s work omits African Americans and the role Jim Crow segregation played in Silver Spring’s formative years.[12]

Though Longstreth’s work has focused on Silver Spring’s commercial properties and multi-family housing, his students have drilled down in into Silver Spring’s residential subdivisions. A 1994 master’s thesis in American Studies examined Silver Spring’s development between 1920 and 1955. Despite providing what at first blush appears to be a comprehensive history of suburban development, the author failed to address racial restrictive covenants, African Americans, or the stark demographic reality (virtually all white, except for domestic servants) of the area in which the subdivisions were developed.[13]

Other erasures are less accessible. These include the many racial micro-aggressions people of color experience when walking through downtown Silver Spring, i.e., heritage tour signs that omit segregation from celebratory narratives about local businesses during Silver Spring’s “heyday” and narratives that minimize the role Jim Crow segregation played in that period.[14]

A very public example of erasure is embedded in one of five murals comprising a public artwork installed in the 1990s. The Silver Spring “Memory Wall” is a series of murals in Acorn Urban Park depicting five important themes/aspects in Silver Spring’s history: Francis Preston Blair’s 1840s mansion; the Civil War; Silver Spring’s first armory on the eve of World War I; the B&O Railroad station in 1941; and, the rehabilitated 1938 Silver Shopping Center.

Silver Spring 3
Acorn Park and the Silver Spring Memory Wall. Photo by David Rotenstein.

The murals’ content was developed among the artist, Mame Cohalan, a Silver Spring residents’ arts advisory board, and officials in Montgomery County’s Planning Department. Planning Department memoranda note that the murals were the “first attempt to realistically depict Silver Spring’s history in a representational public art form.”[15] Planners memorialized Cohalan’s observations that the historical photographs she was using to design the murals failed to show people of color: “The artist would like to explore having more cultural diversity in the 20th century images.” Cohalan confirmed this in an interview I did with her in April 2017.

The Silver Spring Memory Wall, with its insertion of black bodies into spaces and in a time where they never would have been found establishes erasure by creating an imaginary visual narrative. African Americans who see the murals recognize that African Americans could not have stood alongside whites on the train platform in 1941. Or 1951. Or even 1961.[16]

Protesting Invisibility in Acorn Park

In early 2017, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission began soliciting public input for proposed renovations in Acorn Park. A pair of local nonprofit organizations, IMPACT Silver Spring (IMPACT) and Showing Up for Racial Justice Montgomery County (SURJ), collaborated with me to organize an event to protest the invisibility of African Americans in the ways history is presented in the park and to take direct action with Montgomery County officials. Our efforts culminated Saturday June 10, 2017, in Acorn Park.

Silver Spring 4
Protesting Invisibility event in Silver Spring’s Acorn Park, June 10, 2017. Photo by David Rotenstein.

The Acorn Park protesting invisibility event was inspired by an account in architectural historian Dell Upton’s 2015 book, What Can and Can’t be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South.[17] Upton recounted efforts by residents of Savannah, Georgia, who protested against invisibility in Savannah’s commemorative landscape by demanding an official African American monument.[18] Silver Spring’s African American residents had much in common with their Savannah counterparts: both communities celebrated their white supremacist histories in public monuments and historical representations while omitting official commemorations dedicated to people of color.

Representatives from IMPACT, SURJ, and I met several times in the weeks leading up to the June 10 event. We drafted publicity flyers and shared them via social media and in businesses near Acorn Park. We also drafted a petition letter addressed to county officials, which participants could sign, and a postcard with a brief excerpt from the petition letter and space for individualized comments.

In addition to inviting the community at large, we also asked a couple of lifelong residents of Lyttonsville to share their memories of life in Jim Crow Silver Spring and about how they think history and historic preservation are produced in the community. They recalled being excluded from Silver Spring’s businesses and living in a neighborhood that lacked running water and paved roads until well into the Cold War. And, they described the marginalization they felt by being excluded from published histories and Silver Spring’s commemorative landscape.

After the dialogue in Acorn Park concluded, participants were invited to move to Bump ‘N Grind, a coffee shop in the next block. The store’s owners helped to publicize the event and they allowed us to set up several laptops connected to the store’s wi-fi where participants could file their comments on Acorn Park directly to the Montgomery County Department of Parks via the agency’s open town hall web portal. Conversations begun in the park continued inside the store and seven people filed comments electronically.

Silver Spring 5
Protesting Invisibility participants file electronic comments to Montgomery County Department of Parks officials. Photo by David Rotenstein.

Suggestions for making Acorn Park’s history more inclusive included adding another bank of murals above the existing ones in the Memory Wall; commissioning a sculpture of a local civil rights leader; and, replacing the existing signage that celebrates Silver Spring’s white supremacist founders with signs that also discuss slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights actions (demonstrations, litigation, etc.) that occurred in Silver Spring during the 1960s.[19]

Next Steps

The Montgomery County Department of Parks plans to hold one meeting with community members later in 2017 to present the results of the agency’s outreach efforts. Parks agency officials expect to deliver finalized plans to the Montgomery County Planning Board for approval in early 2018. The loose coalition formed to produce the protesting invisibility event in Acorn Park will be following future releases by county officials and we plan to attend all additional public meetings.

We hope that the example set in Acorn Park will be a model for additional efforts in Silver Spring and elsewhere in Montgomery County to reframe how history and historic preservation are produced to make them more inclusive and accurate. Silver Spring’s downtown privileges white experiences at the expense of African Americans, presenting a white-washed history that overlooks the ways white residents accumulated capital and influence by excluding African Americans. Future efforts may be directed at replacing existing heritage trail markers and creating public art that engages and strives to tell the story of all of Silver Spring’s residents, including the many new immigrants who have moved here since the turn of the twenty-first century. One step I plan to take is to work with a Spanish language interpreter to adapt my existing Black History Tour to create a bilingual tour that helps create attachments to the community for new residents.

Silver Spring, like many communities throughout the nation, has invested heavily in promoting its diversity as part of its brand. That diversity is of recent vintage and it was not easily achieved. By protesting invisibility in Acorn Park we took steps towards reframing Silver Spring’s history and opening public spaces for a more honest and inclusive history. For additional information on our efforts to protest and erase invisibility in Silver Spring, please check out our website, Invisible Montgomery.

Rotenstein

David Rotenstein is a Silver Spring, Md., consulting historian who is writing a book on gentrification, race, and housing history in Decatur, Ga.

Local Black History in our backyard

On June 30, 1960, a group of Black college students took a ride on the carousel at Maryland’s Glen Echo Park and refused to get off.

Five students were arrested that day, but demonstrations calling for the amusement park to desegregate continued outside the park for weeks afterward.

They were some of the most impactful acts of protest and civil disobedience to happen in our region during the Civil Rights Movement. The park’s owners finally desegregated Glen Echo in March 1961, after then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy threatened to pull the federal government’s lease on the land where the amusement park ran a trolley.

Sixty years after that initial demonstration, those who were there are looking back at that fight and are comparing it to today’s protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

“Shakespeare once said ‘what is past is prologue,’ says 78-year-old Dion Diamond, who protested at Glen Echo Park (as well as at an Arlington lunch counter) and lives in D.C.’s Forest Hills neighborhood today. “If you don’t know your history and don’t know your past, it’s going to come back and bite you. I’d tell [those protesting today] be aware of what formerly was and what is.”

Diamond grew up in Petersburg, Virginia, and moved to D.C. to attend Howard University, where he joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG). Inspired by sit-ins further south, their first protest was the lunch counter at Arlington’s Cherrydale Drug Fair.

It was marked by hostility and verbal abuse from some in the crowd, as evidenced by a photo that shows a young white kid aggressively sticking a finger in Diamond’s face. But the sit-in worked. Within two weeks, lunch counters across Arlington desegregated.

Later that summer, NAG went to Glen Echo Park.

“We were protesting segregation … which is a seed of what’s happening today,” says Diamond.

Diamond and others showed up to Glen Echo Park in suburban Maryland on June 30 holding signs that read things like “Glen Echo Should Echo Democracy,” “Discrimination is Not Our Generation,” and “Bigotry is No Fun.”

At about 6 p.m., a dozen of them, most of whom were Black, entered the park with tickets in hand purchased by white protesters. They took their seats on the brightly decorated carousel. After a few moments, a deputy sheriff approached them, demanding they move. None did.

“I remember a sheriff coming up to me and saying ‘I’m going to ask you three times to leave. If you don’t, I’m going to arrest you,’” retired dentist Bill Griffin, 83, told DCist in 2018. “He just wanted us out.”

In one well-known photograph, Marvous Saunders leans over a sculpted rabbit, calmly listening to the sheriff. “We were just trying to make life a little better for those folks who happened to be Black,” Saunders told DCist back in 2018.

Five protesters were arrested, but later that night, the local NAACP legal team bailed them out. The next day, they were back protesting at the park’s gates and for weeks afterward.

Diamond says the past month of consistent protests in D.C. has made him reminiscence about what he and others had to do 60 years ago. “It has gotten me to pause to applaud and to pause to cry.”

He thinks the country has come far since 1960 in terms of civil rights but says systemic racism and prejudice absolutely still exist and he understands the anger, frustration, and hurt of this moment. “It’s like a teapot. It starts out slowly and then it comes to a boil,” he says.

He says he has not gone out protesting himself over the last few weeks due to his age and the risks associated with COVID-19.

His own life experiences remain at the forefront of his mind, however. He shares an anecdote about recently going for a socially distant walk wearing a mask in his Northwest neighborhood of Forest Hills.

“I don’t know if it’s just me or my paranoia, but I walked by a couple of dog walkers. I’m looking over my shoulder and they are looking over their shoulders,” says Diamond. “There aren’t that many Blacks in this neighborhood. And, I must admit, sometimes I think people are saying ‘what’s he doing here?’ That’s a thought that has come with my experiences in life.”

Diamond acknowledges that there are a few differences between today and 1960. This month’s protesters, in particular Black Lives Matter D.C., have made demands for economic change, including defunding the Metropolitan Police Department and investing in social programs. This “dichotomy of the haves and have nots” wasn’t a huge focus back then, Diamond says.

There’s also, of course, the advancement of readily available cell phone cameras. “I don’t believe without the camera shots, you would have had the protest and the demonstrations that you have today,” says Diamond. “I don’t know, over the years, how many people were beaten by a policeman or a pedestrian was killed and nobody saw it.”

He also feels like these protests are more diverse, with more white people joining their fellow Black citizens in standing up than he’s seen in the past. “[I’m] very pleased with so many people in such diverse crowds all over the country.”

Joan Mulholland, in 2018, showing a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings and one of the tickets that the protesters used to get into Glen Echo Park.Matt Blitz / DCist

78-year-old Joan Mulholland (then Trumpauer) was also there on that day in Glen Echo and lives in Arlington today. She’s also the woman in the Cherrydale photo behind Diamond.

Mulholland, who is white, agrees that the diversity of these protests makes them different from the ones she participated in the 1960s. “Overall, in the Civil Rights movement back then, it was mostly Black,” says Mulholland. “A white person really stood out, which was part of my role.”

She also agrees that ability for images and video to quickly travel at the speed of social media is a big reason why more people of all backgrounds are participating. But, additionally, she says it’s due to the societal integration that Mulholland and many, many others fought for.

“People get to know each other now, become friends, and connect across these old barriers,” she says.

Today, Mulholland continues to fight for social justice despite knee surgery. “I can’t march anymore. But I can run my mouth,” she says. She specifically says that statutes dedicated to Confederates and racists need to come down, particularly one of former President Andrew Jackson that protesters nearly brought down last week. “President Jackson… please, let him be struck by lightning and melt,” she says.

Mulholland’s advice to protesters today is to find similarities rather than differences in fellow activists. “Make allies and come together with other groups,” says Mulholland. “You may not agree on everything, but come together on the things you do agree on.”

Diamond, too, continued as an activist for many years after the protest at Glen Echo Park, including becoming a Freedom Rider.

He’s hopeful that the protests and the diverse groups of people calling for change today will lead to a better America soon. But he’s realistic. He says when he first heard of and saw the murder of George Floyd, he thought of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

“Here we go. Another Black man,” says Diamond. “All of the Black men who were maimed or killed over the years… The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Project CHANGE Founder -Farewell Good and Faithful Servant -Dr. Anastasi RIP

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Dr. Robert Edward Anastasi peacefully passed away on February 17, 2021 surrounded by his family.

Bob was born December 10, 1939, to Virginia Spigone and Anthony Anastasi in Washington, DC. He is predeceased by his parents and his step-mother, Martha Anastasi.

Bob was a proud 1957 graduate of Blair High School in Silver Spring. Upon his graduation he attended Towson State Teachers College where he received a bachelor’s degree in Education and was a charter member of the Towson State men’s lacrosse team. He taught elementary school in Montgomery County for five years. While teaching, he earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Maryland in Educational Administration and Supervision. In 1966 he became an assistant principal, and in 1968, he was hired as Montgomery County’s youngest school principal at the age of 28.

In 1976, Bob took a sabbatical to earn his Doctorate of Educational Administration at the University of Southern Mississippi. Bob was a beloved principal for 18 years. He worked tirelessly for the well being of his students and staff. He retired from MCPS in 1986, but never retired from his work in education. From 1986-1989, he went on to serve as the Director of the National Principals Academy for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. In 1989 he became the Executive Director of the Community of Caring, a Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.

From 1991-2000 Bob was the Executive Director of the Maryland Business RoundTable for Education Foundation. From 2000-2004 Bob was the Executive Director of the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education and while there, with MCPS Superintendent Gerry Weast, helped establish AmeriCorps Project CHANGE. From 2006 to 2008 Bob served as a consultant for Coffey Consulting in support of their federal education projects. From 2006 until just recently, Bob served as a Consultant to the President of the George B. Thomas Learning Academy in Montgomery County.

Bob’s motto was “family is everything” and was most happy spending time with his wife, Wanda, and their beautiful family whether it was in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Disney World, their home, “HQ,” in Urbana, Maryland, or attending any event that his grandchildren were a part of.

He is survived by his beautiful wife, Wanda McGee Anastasi, his daughters Karen Wills (Bob) and Lisa Rose, his grandchildren Francis Rose, Robert Wills (Kim), Connor Wills, Jake Wills, and Kate Wills, and his great grandchildren Evan and Tripp Wills. He is also survived by his beloved brother, Anthony Anastasi (Jeanne), his Aunt Amanda Anastasi, his brother-in-law Larry McGee (Kathy), sisters-in-law Cora Rencher and Sandra McGee, many, many cousins, nieces, nephews, and Godchildren.


The family will receive friends on Sunday, February 21, 2021 from 3:00pm-5:00pm and Monday, February 22, 2021 from 10:00am-11:00am at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church, 4103 Prices Distillery Road, Ijamsville, MD 21754.  A Private Mass will be held for the family at 11:00 am. Interment Private.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be graciously made in Robert Anastasi’s name to The Saturday School of the George B. Thomas Learning Academy. Sligo Middle School. 1401 Dennis Avenue. Silver Spring, MD. 20902. You can also donate online – please put “in memory of Robert Anastasi” https://saturdayschool.org/donate/

Expressions of sympathy may be offered to the family at StaufferFuneralHome.com. 

Eroding trust, spreading fear: The historical ties between pandemics and extremism

By Marc FisherFeb. 15, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. Washington Post

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Adam Crigler used to feed his YouTube following a politics-free diet of chatter about aliens, movies, skateboarding and video games. Then came the pandemic. Now, he devotes much of his talk show to his assertion that mask mandates are an assault on personal freedom and that Democrats somehow stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Result: a much bigger audience.

“The pandemic has made more people want to blame someone else because they’ve lost their jobs or they’re lonely,” Crigler said.

Ian Bayne, for years a campaign professional, had sworn off politics and launched a career in real estate. Then covid hit, and he helped launch No Mask Nevada, organizing a dozen rallies against masking because he said the government was inflating the danger of the coronavirus.

“People are isolated, alone, and they need to express their true selves,” Bayne said. “I don’t know why we’re surprised that there’s more extremism now. People came to our rallies because they craved the human interaction.”AD

Since ancient times, pandemics have spurred sharp turns in political beliefs, spawning extremist movements, waves of mistrust and wholesale rejection of authorities. Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, Americans are falling prey to the same phenomenon, historians, theologians and other experts say, exemplified by a recent NPR-Ipsos poll in which nearly 1 in 5 said they believe Satan-worshipping, child-enslaving elites seek to control the world.

QAnon reshaped Trump’s party and radicalized believers. The Capitol riot may be just the start.

As shutdowns paralyzed the economy in the first months of the pandemic, Americans sharply increased searches for extremist and white supremacist materials online, according to Moonshot CVE, a research firm that studies extremism. The United States was not the only country affected: A British study found that the pandemic boosted radicalization globally, as people found more time to delve into extremist arguments.

New insecurities and fears loosed by the pandemic fed into an existing erosion of trust in leaders and institutions, according to those who have studied how people react to rampant, uncontrolled disease.

Some of these insecurities predated the pandemic: Many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs, and a Washington Post analysis of public records found that nearly 60 percent of people facing charges had prior money troubles, including bankruptcies and unpaid taxes. But many got involved in politics only after virus-related shutdowns clobbered their personal finances.

Between that economic wallop and the disease’s lethal punch, covid-19 has “reminded Americans of their own mortality” and created a sense of “social dislocation and a loss of confidence in all institutions,” said Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary outside Charlotte and a longtime evangelical leader.AD

The result, he said, is a surge of extremism on the right and the left, including widespread embrace of counterfactual versions of current events.

“In a healthy society, the government and the church would say, ‘This is nonsense,’ and people would believe them,” Land said. But during the pandemic, he said, that check on extremist impulses has failed for some people who crave connection with others: “God created us as social creatures, and when we isolate from other human beings, we tend to malfunction.”

Over the past year, the pandemic was a constant undercurrent as Americans took to the streets to protest racial injustice, police brutality and President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. As much as they were motivated by the causes themselves, many who participated in street actions were probably also eager for human contact, according to psychologists who’ve studied the effects of social isolation.AD

By that view, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was both an insurrection plot and an impromptu meetup, an assault on the infrastructure of American democracy and a social gathering for people who believed they were defending their idea of nationhood.Default Mono Sans Mono Serif Sans Serif Comic Fancy Small CapsDefault X-Small Small Medium Large X-Large XX-LargeDefault Outline Dark Outline Light Outline Dark Bold Outline Light Bold Shadow Dark Shadow Light Shadow Dark Bold Shadow Light BoldDefault Black Silver Gray White Maroon Red Purple Fuchsia Green Lime Olive Yellow Navy Blue Teal Aqua OrangeDefault 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%Default Black Silver Gray White Maroon Red Purple Fuchsia Green Lime Olive Yellow Navy Blue Teal Aqua OrangeDefault 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%Was the attack on the U.S. Capitol an attempted coup?Many have argued that President Donald Trump’s efforts amounted to an attempted coup on Jan. 6. Was it? And why does that matter? (Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

41 minutes of fear: A video timeline from inside the Capitol siege

“In the wake of covid-19, it appears that far-right extremists have discovered the extent of people’s fear of social control and loss of liberty and have realized how easily they can manipulate citizens who may not normally subscribe to extreme ideology,” University of Maryland social psychologist Arie Kruglanski concluded in a recent study on the link between covid and extremism.

The pandemic undermines trust — trust in government and science to curb the spread of the disease, trust in neighbors and strangers who might carry the infection, Kruglanski said. And “in the absence of trust, people need to believe in something.”AD

With many houses of worship, schools and workplaces closed for much of the past year, millions have sought community online. Some found and adopted baseless fantasies about conspiracies in government and among the nation’s elites: Election fraud, the QAnon theories about a malign “deep state,” false assertions of blame for the origins of the coronavirus.

“2020 was a perfect storm,” said John Fea, a historian at Messiah University, an evangelical Christian school in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “You had many evangelicals believing that this strongman president was protecting them from secularization. You had this belief in a God-ordained president who was not doing anything against the pandemic, who was feeding this ‘Don’t tell me to wear a mask’ attitude. It’s an incredibly explosive mix that led to the Jan. 6 attack — and now this almost Lost Cause mentality that ‘we have to fight on for Trump.’ ”

“Plagues,” Fea said, “have always led to apocalyptic thinking.”

Bayne, 47, had worked in electoral politics for years but thought he’d left that phase of his life behind. Before the pandemic hit, he was selling real estate and attending an online law school. Then the virus brought him back to activism.AD

“I would not be involved in politics if it wasn’t for covid,” said Bayne, vice chair of No Mask Nevada. As the virus spread, he became convinced that covid wasn’t terribly dangerous, that the shutdowns and mask orders amounted to a government power grab, and that Americans finally were being liberated to speak openly about their suspicions of powerful elites.

“A lot of people say covid’s just the flu,” he said. “Nobody believes wrapping a sock around your face is going to stop a deadly disease.”

Bayne, who said his 72-year-old mother got covid and recovered within three days — “better than she ever was” — added that his activism has made him feel better able to stand up to the government and take control of his life.

The pandemic has tapped into long-standing anxieties and let people band together in their search for answers, experts said, whether about the disease, or about immigration, or about globalism or socialism, or about any of the other bugaboos that have animated fringe movements in the past year.AD

“Pandemics create insecurity, while extremism offers a kind of certainty,” Kruglanski said. “Especially now, when trust is low in government, in Congress, in science, in medicine, the church — there’s nobody you can trust, so you trust your friends, your tribe.

“Extremists offer a black-and-white view,” he said: “There’s a culprit responsible for some evil plan to destroy the nation, and they have a plan for restoration that will bring back greatness.”

In the current pandemic, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have used shutdowns and mask mandates to recruit followers, offering a unified belief system that blames the other — from the Chinese to Jews to socialists — and proposes to resolve anxieties by attacking the existing power structure.

American extremism is not limited to hard times; it has been present in every generation. But it has mainly stayed on the fringe, lunging into the mainstream during periods of rapid, unsettling change, such as during the buildup to World War II, during the social revolution of the late 1960s, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and today, amid radical technological change and a deadly pandemic.AD

Pervasive, epidemic diseases — and especially plagues such as AIDS, Ebola, SARS and covid that are perceived to have come from some foreign place — crystallize and exacerbate the core fears of their time, Susan Sontag said in her influential 1988 essay, “AIDS and Its Metaphors.” “Plagues are invariably regarded as judgments on society . . . as a sign of moral laxity or political decline,” she wrote.

From the Black Plague of the Middle Ages to the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, epidemics have been interpreted as engines of a raw, fierce justice. When the 1918 flu killed about 675,000 Americans, many Christians argued that succumbing to pleas from public health officials to wear masks “represented a lack of faith,” Fea said.

Then as now, the rebellion against mask-wearing led to a debate about whether scientists could be trusted, as some evangelical groups viewed government health mandates “as an effort to curb the spread of the Gospel,” Fea said.

“There’s a lot of continuity between the anti-intellectualism of 1918 and the anti-science attitude of 2020,” he said. “In both cases, people said, ‘No, God will protect us.’ ”

As a professional skateboarder, gamer, musician and model, Crigler had developed an online following before the virus hit. But last year, when he shifted the content on his daily YouTube and Twitch shows to focus on mask mandates and baseless allegations of election fraud, his audience mushroomed.AD

Crigler, 36, attributes his booming popularity — he now has nearly 200,000 YouTube subscribers — to the pandemic.

“People have a lot of time on their hands,” he said. “Covid put a lot of people on the Internet more, seeking community.”

Politically uninvolved for most of his life, Crigler, who lives in Maryland, tended to vote for Democrats. But if asked what party he aligned with, “I’d say ‘I don’t know’ because I didn’t pay attention, I didn’t care.”

Crigler had been a frequent guest on his friend Tim Pool’s online show, mostly talking about pop culture. Then last summer, “because of covid and the riots, it became a political show, and I felt I was slacking,” Crigler said. “So I started doing my own research.”

His online explorations led Crigler to believe that the presidential election was stolen from Trump. But he also says the “Stop the Steal” campaign, the summer’s demonstrations against police brutality, and the nationwide protests against masks probably would not have happened — or would not have drawn as much support — if Americans had not been stuck at home.

“People just weren’t used to being alone so much,” he said. “People want to belong.”

Land, who served on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said modern society has left people desperate for community. “There are increasing numbers of Americans, left and right, who feel unheard,” he said. “Significant numbers of Americans have no close friends. We have more people living alone than we’ve ever had in our history.”

To that portrait of a lonely nation, the pandemic adds a hefty dose of angst about life itself. “We have been reminded,” Land said, “of the transitory nature of existence.”

Pandemics often inspire a resignation or fatalism — a belief that the disease is so pervasive as to be unstoppable by human action, historians said.

Before he contracted the virus and died last year of covid-19, Bishop Gerald Glenn of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Va., asked his congregation to consider why God let the pandemic happen. “Is this virus a sign of the end times?” he asked.

While some embrace surrender to the disease, others find comfort in rejecting the reality of the threat.

“Believing the virus is a hoax suggests you are smart, that you are not being duped,” Kruglanski said. “Finding someone to blame is human nature. For every plague, there’s a culprit.”

Several studies of responses to pandemics have found that the more trauma people suffer, the more likely they are to turn to extremist ideas. In the years immediately following the 1918 flu pandemic, areas of Germany that experienced the highest death toll saw dramatic increases in voting for the Nazi party, according to a recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Like pandemics, spasms of extremism eventually end. Some historians warn that those endings do not necessarily arrive in lockstep, but Kruglanski argues that the process of easing away from extremism begins with the approach he sees in the Biden administration, which appears to have adopted a strategy of “cooling down the temperature, attending to the issue, bringing concrete, visible results.”

If the pandemic is brought under control, “that will cool the enthusiasm for conspiracy theories,” Kruglanski said. “And people will return to their daily concerns.”

BREAKING NEWS: $1 billion supplemental for AmeriCorps Agency in the House FY21 budget reconciliation bill!

❤️ Heartbeat by Emily SteinbergFeb 8 · 2021 An important message from ASC Chief Policy Officer  Tom Branen: Exciting news!

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the FY21 budget reconciliation bill was released (see page 58), which enacts President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Under the FY21 budget resolution passed by the House and Senate last week, the Committee was instructed to propose more than $300 billion in relief for students, educators, workers, and families.  

It includes $1 billion in supplemental funds for the AmeriCorps Agency as follows:

AMERICORPS STATE AND NATIONAL.—  $620,000,000 shall be used—
21 (A) to increase the living allowances, of 22 participants in national service programs, described in section 140 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to make funding adjustments to existing (as of the date of enactment of this Act) awards and award new and additional awards to organizations described in subsection (a) of 5 section 121 of the National and Community 6 Service Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12571(a)), 7 whether or not the entities are already grant recipients under that section on the date of enactment of this Act, and without regard to the requirements of subsections (d) and (e) of such 11 section 121, by— 12 (i) prioritizing entities serving communities disproportionately impacted by 14 COVID–19 and utilizing culturally competent and multilingual strategies in the 16 provision of services; and 17 (ii) taking into account the diversity of communities and participants served by such entities, including racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, linguistic, or geographic diversity.

(2) STATE COMMISSIONS.—$20,000,000 shall be used to make adjustments to existing (as of the date of enactment of this Act) awards and new and 25 additional awards, including awards to State Commissions on National and Community Service, under 2 section 126(a) of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12576(a)).

 (3) VOLUNTEER GENERATION FUND.—  $20,000,000 shall be used for expenses authorized under section 501(a)(4)(F) of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 8 12681(a)(4)(F)), which, notwithstanding section 9 198P(d)(1)(B) of that Act (42 U.S.C. 10 12653p(d)(1)(B)), shall be for grants awarded by the Corporation for National and Community Service on a competitive basis.  

(4) AMERICORPS VISTA.—$80,000,000 shall be 14 used for programs authorized under part A of title 15 I of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (42 16 U.S.C. 4951 et seq.), including to increase the living allowances of volunteers, described in section 105(b) 18 of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (42 19 U.S.C. 4955(b)).

 (5) NATIONAL SENIOR SERVICE CORPS.—  $30,000,000 shall be used for programs authorized under title II of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act 23 of 1973 (42 U.S.C. 5000 et seq.). 

 (6) ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS.—$73,000,000 shall, notwithstanding section 501(a)(5)(B) of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (42 2 U.S.C. 12681(a)(5)(B)) and section 504(a) of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (42 U.S.C. 4 5084(a)), be used for necessary expenses of administration as provided under section 501(a)(5) of the 6 National and Community Service Act of 1990 (42 7 U.S.C. 12681(a)(5)), including administrative costs of the Corporation for National and Community Service associated with the provision of funds under 10 paragraphs (1) through (5). 11  

7) OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL.— $9,000,000 shall be used for the Office of Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service for salaries and expenses necessary for oversight and audit of programs and activities funded by subsection (a). 17 ( c) NATIONAL SERVICE TRUST.—In addition to amounts otherwise made available, there is appropriated for fiscal year 2021, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $148,000,000, to remain available until expended, for payment to and administration of the National Service Trust established in section 23 145 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 24 (42 U.S.C. 12601).  More to come…

Lyttonsville, one of Montgomery’s oldest neighborhoods, braces for change

By Kathy OrtonFeb. 3, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. Washington Post

Whether they have been there for decades or only recently moved in, residents have pretty much the same answer for why they live in Lyttonsville.

“We’re a very diverse community of people from all over the world,” said Pat Tyson, whose family has lived in the Montgomery County neighborhood for 100 years.

“It’s a family-oriented neighborhood where people know each other and make friends easily,” she said. “I like the fact that it keeps its character, neighbor knowing neighbor. I’ve got neighbors up the street that will call and say, ‘Do you need anything today?’ If the snow comes, I don’t have to worry about digging my driveway out.”

Map of Lyttonsville in Maryland
Map of Lyttonsville in Maryland

Abe Saffer hasn’t lived in the area in west Silver Spring as long as Tyson has. He and his wife moved there in 2014. But they love it just the same.

“For us, we love that it is such a diverse neighborhood,” he said. “Not just in terms of ethnic or racial background but also there are families that have lived here their whole life . . . and then there are new families like ours. There’s a very good sense of community in the area. Once you live here, everyone is very welcoming. The neighborhood is great. We love the people around here. That’s part of the reason we continue to stay here.”

Lyttonsville is one of the county’s oldest neighborhoods. Although it was once much larger, it now covers 68 acres bounded by Lanier Drive on the east, Brookville Road on the west, Talbot Avenue on the north and Lyttonsville Place on the south.AD

“It is a notable example of an early community built by free African Americans prior to the Civil War,” said David S. Rotenstein, a historian who researches and writes about historic preservation, industrial history and gentrification.

The community is named after Samuel Lytton, who bought his first four acres in what would become Lyttonsville in 1853. Little is known about Lytton, but it is often erroneously said he was a freed slave. “One of the many inaccuracies about Lyttonsville is that Lytton was enslaved at one time,” said Rotenstein. “There’s no evidence to suggest that he had ever been enslaved.”

Rotenstein, who formerly chaired the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission, started interviewing Lyttonsville residents in 2016 as part of his research for a book he is writing on gentrification.

“Over time, Lyttonsville developed an importance in Montgomery County as a place, because of racism at the county level, where county policies enabled poverty to set in and enabled environmental racism to run rampant through the community,” he said. “So by the time Montgomery County embarked on its urban renewal program in the 1960s, Lyttonsville was already suffering from substantial disinvestment, environmental pollution issues, and was desperately in need of assistance. And in all of Montgomery County’s urban renewal documents, Lyttonsville was identified as the number-one area in the county that needed assistance.”

Lyttonsville remained an almost exclusively Black community until the mid-20th century. Under the policy of urban renewal, the county seized much of Lyttonsville, replacing it with an industrial park, a Ride On bus depot and a Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission service center. Many of the older homes were replaced with large apartment complexes.AD

“We lost more than 60 percent of the residential [area] when urban renewal came,” Tyson said. “The county just sold it to Brookville Road’s developers. The houses went and the church went.”

In Great Falls, Va., a close-knit community surrounded by nature

Lyttonsville has been thrown into upheaval again with the arrival of the Purple Line, a 16-mile light-rail public transit system that will extend from Bethesda to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. One of the Purple Line’s stations will be near Lyttonsville Place and Brookville Road.

“I think for many people in Silver Spring, in the county, in the region, Lyttonsville was kind of off the beaten path,” said Dan Reed, an urban planner who blogs at Just Up the Pike. “I think the Purple Line will give it a lot more visibility, both as this community with this rich African American history, but also as a place where a lot of interesting things are already happening.”

Opinion: Lyttonsville could get a second chance at development

Spurred by the arrival of the Purple Line, Montgomery County in 2014 released the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, which included not only Lyttonsville but also its surrounding neighborhoods. The master plan, approved in 2017, envisions 1,200 new homes — a mix of apartments and townhouses — and a half-acre plaza near the station surrounded by apartments, retail space and a small-business incubator. More than 25 percent of the homes would be set aside for low-income households. Phasing would allow residents of existing apartments to move into new apartments without being displaced.AD

Evan Goldman is executive vice president of development at EYA, a Bethesda developer that was part of the master planning process and is working to develop a few of the sites.

“Lyttonsville is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a model community uniquely located midway between the county’s two largest job centers, Silver Spring and Bethesda, that is inclusive, walking distance to transit, parks and retail amenities and provides much needed mixed-
income housing to support new jobs,” Goldman wrote in an email.

Saffer is skeptical of the ambitious plans.

“I was actually really involved in the neighborhood’s response to the sector plan,” he said. “I’m very familiar with EYA’s plans. I would say I’m not banking on it. . . . Hopefully, I’m wrong. I wouldn’t mind the Brookville Road area being upgraded a little bit.”AD

But Saffer said he doesn’t need more amenities in the neighborhood. He’s more interested in having access restored to the Georgetown Branch, soon to become the Capital Crescent Trail, which has been disrupted by Purple Line construction.

“My wife and I didn’t move here because it would be walking distance of whatever, other than nature,” Saffer said. “I don’t look at this as a walkable community.”

Besides the trail, Lyttonsville has access to Rock Creek Park and includes Rosemary Hills-Lyttonsville Local Park, where the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center is located.

Part of historic Maryland bridge will be preserved along Purple Line trail

Living there: Debbie Cook, a real estate agent with Long & Foster, describes the housing stock in Lyttonsville as “eclectic.”

“It is a broad range of styles from 1930s bungalows, 1950s and 1960s ramblers and 1940s Colonials, mixed in with a few recent newer infill spec homes,” she wrote in an email. “It also includes a group of townhouses built in 1984.”

Three homes sold in Lyttonsville in 2020. The highest-priced was a five-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial for $599,000. The lowest-priced was a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse for $525,000. The average sale price in 2020 was $553,000. There are no homes for sale.AD

“The average sale price has skyrocketed in the last few years,” Cook wrote. “It is now a seller’s market, not a buyer’s market.”

Schools: Rosemary Hills elementary, North Chevy Chase elementary, Silver Creek middle. Lyttonsville is attractive to many families because it is the only part of Silver Spring that feeds into Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Transit: Besides the future Purple Line station, Lyttonsville is served by Metro and Ride On buses that connect to the Silver Spring Metro station. The Red Line station is about 1½ miles from the neighborhood. East-West Highway is the closest main thoroughfare.

The Real Rosa Parks Story Is Better Than the Fairy Tale

The way we talk about her covers up uncomfortable truths about American racism.

By Jeanne Theoharis

Dr. Theoharis is a professor of political science and the author of eleven books on the civil rights and Black Power movements including “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” and “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Young Readers’ Edition,” co-adapted with Brandy Colbert.

  • Feb. 1, 2021 The New York Times (Black History Month)

Mug shot No. 7053 is one of the most iconic images of Rosa Parks. But the photo, often seen in museums and textbooks and on T-shirts and websites, isn’t what it seems. Though it’s regularly misattributed as such, it is not the mug shot taken at the time of Mrs. Parks’s arrest in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955, after she famously refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. It was, in fact, taken when she was arrested in February 1956 after she and 88 other “boycott leaders” were indicted by the city in an attempt to end the boycott. The confusion around the image reveals Americans’ overconfidence in what we think we know about Mrs. Parks and about the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks dominate the Civil Rights Movement chapters of elementary and high school textbooks and Black History Month celebrations. And yet much of what people learn about Mrs. Parks is narrow, distorted, or just plain wrong. In our collective understanding, she’s trapped in a single moment on a long-ago Montgomery bus, too often cast as meek, tired, quiet and middle class. The boycott is seen as a natural outgrowth of her bus stand. It’s inevitable, respectable and not disruptive.

But that’s not who she was, and it’s not how change actually works. “Over the years, I have been rebelling against second-class citizenship. It didn’t begin when I was arrested,” Mrs. Parks reminded interviewers time and again. Read More

Just Breathe

Blog

A recent video Project CHANGE shared with members to share with their students about the importance of breathing and slowing down.

Exploring the human commons

We live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think? Introducing All That We Share.

Why your Inner Story Matters

The story we keep telling ourselves matter more than any story others tell us or the story we tell to others. We are our own most important audience. Watch this video.

https://fb.watch/3g44aj794z/

From @TeacherToolKit Dr. Tim Obrien

At Risk!

Every learner’s inner story is potentially at risk in any mass education system. This is particularly the case if the child experiences difficulties in systems where deficit-focused labels abound. In such systems ‘the problem’ is seen as being located within the child and therefore children who experience difficulties are in danger of being treated as if they are broken washing machines that need fixing. The notion that the adults or the environment should change – in order to enable the child to change – is often absent from the agenda. Read More