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2018-2-13

Virginia Skier Prepares for her Third Olympics

By Caitlin Barbieri, Capital News Service

While most of Virginia shuts down at the threat of snow, Ashley Caldwell thrives in it.

Caldwell, 24, started practicing gymnastics at 4, and after watching the freestyle skiers in the 2006 Winter Olympics, she was inspired to take her talents to the snow. Now, Caldwell is competing in her third Olympic Games.

An Ashburn native, Caldwell and her parents quickly realized suburban Northern Virginia was not the best place to start a career in skiing. So at 14, she moved to Lake Placid to train with the U.S National Development team. Two years later, Caldwell was the youngest American to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

“We’ve been together from the beginning, through all the new tricks, hard workouts, crashes, injuries and victories,” Caldwell said. “It’s an honor to be competing alongside my teammates knowing that they are my friends and that we all are genuinely cheering each other on.”

Among five freestyle skiing events in the Winter Olympics – moguls, aerials, ski halfpipe, ski cross, and ski slopestyle – Caldwell competes in ladies’ aerials, in which she skis off a 2- to 4-meter jump and attempts tricks such as flips and twists.

Caldwell is best known for her trick – the full, full, full – which involves three somersaults while twisting her body. This trick is traditionally performed by men; at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Caldwell was the only female to attempt the trick, and she completed it.

“I’ve said over the years that when I started this sport, I always wanted to ‘jump like the boys,’ but I don’t believe that anymore,” Caldwell said. “I don’t like qualifying my goals with a gender expectation. I want to jump my best, regardless of gender. I want to be treated like Ashley. I’m proud of being a female, but I don’t want to let that define my expectations as an athlete.”

Caldwell’s career stalled in December 2011 when she tore the ACL in her right knee and a year later when she tore her ACL in her left knee. Those injuries didn’t stop her from skiing, though: In 2014, she competed in the Sochi Games.

“One of my biggest struggles in preparing for this Olympics has been injury and doubt,” Caldwell told Capital News Service. “I push myself very hard, and that motivation has led to several heartbreaking injuries over the years, but also mild injuries that can make it so much harder to compete your best.”

Caldwell’s most recent triumph was at the 2017 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Spain, where she took first place.

Caldwell’s first appearance in Pyeongchang will be Thursday in the ladies’ aerials qualification. She is looking forward to the event.

“I’m prepared to be unprepared. I’m ready for anything that comes at me during this Games,” Caldwell said.

Lovings’ Story Provides Inspiration for Valentine’s Day

By Chelsea Jackson, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving met in high school and fell in love in Caroline County in the 1950s. They decided to marry when Mildred became pregnant at 18.

At the time, they couldn’t wed in Virginia: Mildred was of African American and Indian descent, Richard was white and the state prohibited interracial marriages. So the couple married in Washington, D.C. Later, they challenged Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act – prompting the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down such laws across the country.

Valentine’s Day can be an opportune time to reflect on the Lovings and their perseverance in the face of legal and societal pressures. The Lovings’ ordeal resonates especially with interracial couples like Brittany Young and Josh Landry of Richmond.

“Josh and I have had plenty of people tell us we shouldn’t be together based solely on racial tension,” Young said. “I think if more people could see that stories like the Lovings’ are how we should look at love, the world would be a better place.”

The backdrop for the Lovings’ struggle was the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage illegal in Virginia. After they married in D.C. on June 2, 1958, the couple returned to Caroline County.

After an anonymous tip to authorities that the couple was living together, Richard and Mildred faced ostracism, threats of violence and jail time. Originally sentenced to one year in jail, the judge decided to suspend their sentences if they agreed to leave Virginia for 25 years.

The newlyweds left their home and families for a new life in Washington. Eventually, they went to court to challenge their home state’s miscegenation law. On June 12, 1967, that case – Loving v. Virginia – resulted in a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down laws in 16 states prohibiting interracial marriage.

Ken Tanabe, a designer, art director and teacher in New York, has promoted the anniversary of that decision asLoving Day – a day to celebrate multicultural unions.

“Without the Lovings, I may never have been born,” said Tanabe, whose mother is from Belgium and father from Japan. “I’m humbled by their struggle and grateful for their perseverance.”

Today, interracial relationships are relatively common. One in six newlyweds married outside their race in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.

Mildred Loving was widely described as being African American, but later in life, she identified as Indian. Richard Loving died in 1975 and Mildred Loving in 2008, but their story lives on. The 2016 award-winning film “Loving” was shot in Virginia, and law students still study the case, which also figured in the debate over same-sex unions.

Last June, on the 50th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia case, a historical highway marker was installed outside the old Virginia Supreme Court building, 1111 E. Broad St. in Richmond, to commemorate the Lovings’ triumphant love story. Caroline County is working on the placement of its own historical marker.

6 Months After Charlottesville, Mother of Slain Activist Shares Message of Tolerance

By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

CHARLOTTESVILLE – Six months after Heather Heyer was killed protesting a neo-Nazi rally, a memorial at the site of her death is still being showered with gifts, mementos and flowers. But it has also been vandalized, according to Heyer’s mother – a reminder of the hatred that took her daughter’s life.

For many, the riot triggered by far-right protesters in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 exposed the underbelly of hatred and racism in America, and the months since then have been about coming to terms with that reality. But for Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, the half-year has been hallmarked by efforts to promote the values Heyer stood for – and eventually died for – in Charlottesville.

“She wanted everybody treated equally and fairly. That was a lifelong passion for her,” Bro said Sunday.

Bro said she is getting used to a new lifestyle after her daughter’s death. She has had speaking engagements and preached a message of empowerment at the MTV Video Music Awards and on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Reporters have constantly been at her door. She is working with a public relations firm and is hiring a press agent and speaker’s bureau to help her manage the demands.

She said she has been surprised that people want to hear what she has to say. But she hopes to empower them to fight prejudice and intolerance.

“It’s not about me, and it’s not really about my daughter. It’s more that people are horrified to realize how entrenched the hatred is,” Bro said. “I think that addressing people in a calm and rational manner not only reassures people but gives them a little bit of hope about how we can fix this.”

The nation is still reeling from the events of Aug. 11-12, when far-right activists gathered in Charlottesville for what they claimed was a protest opposing the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park.

It quickly devolved into mayhem when the so-called “alt-right” protesters clashed with those who showed up to oppose them. One far-right protester drove a car into a group of counterprotesters – killing Heyer, who was 32 years old, and injuring 19 others.

Immediately after Heyer’s death, Bro started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help pay for her daughter’s funeral costs. When the funeral was over, the fund still had more than $200,000.

Using her daughter’s story to amplify a positive message, Bro then established the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will give scholarships to high school students.

“I said, ‘There’s no way people think we need this kind of money for the funeral itself.’ That tells me people want to be a part of whatever they feel Heather was doing,” Bro said. “I said, ‘We’ve got to do something responsible with this money.’ All this money was coming in, and I wanted to be held accountable for it.’”

The foundation will grant scholarships to students at Charlottesville High School and William Monroe High School, which Heyer attended, in nearby Stanardsville.. Bro said the money will go to students who want to advocate for social justice.

“We’re not looking to create new advocates. We’re looking to help advocates who are already in activism to further their education,” Bro said.

In the face of it all, Bro is a mother deeply grieving the loss of her daughter.

She remembers her daughter as a young adult who was trying to be the best grown-up she could be, including working three jobs to be self-sufficient. Heyer was a paralegal and worked as a bartender and waitress in the evening.

“She was a go-getter, and I was proud of her for that,” Bro said.

Bro visited her daughter’s impromptu memorial Sunday. The street has been named “Heather Heyer Way,” and the words “no more hate” – among other messages – are written in chalk on the side of a building next to the spot.

Bro said she thinks America has made moves toward love and understanding since last summer’s violent demonstration.

“This was not a wonderful day, but I feel like we’re moving forward in the world. We’re taking this as a rallying point, and people are stepping up to the plate,” Bro said.

“A lot of white people were like, ‘Well this doesn’t really apply to me.’ And this time, it slapped them in the face and showed them this applies to everybody.”

White supremacists have not yielded in their vileness since the rally, Bro said. She has kept her daughter’s ashes in a hidden location so they won’t be tampered with by racists.

“From what I’ve learned, they crave either silence – where everybody ignores when they come to town so they feel vindicated because no one seems to care,” Bro said. “Or they crave violence, so they will pick a progressive city like Charlottesville that’s not accustomed to having a violent outburst like that.”

In some ways, the “Unite the Right” rally united the country, Heyer said, but it also further divided Americans.

“We’re trying to find ways to bridge some of that gap with difficult conversations,” Bro said. “I’ve seen people, from both sides, to work to bridge that gap. That’s been encouraging to me.”

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