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Richmond’s New Art Gallery Raises ‘Important but Difficult Topics’

​​Schools Still Need State’s OK to Open Before Labor Day

Lovings’ Story Provides Inspiration for Valentine’s Day

Schools May Get Authority to Open Before Labor Day

Women Call for Action to Help Black Community

Virginia Republicans Announce Election Review Panel

More than 100 Rally for Women’s Rights

Legislators Push for Workforce Development

Gender Equality Film Coming to the Byrd

Outgoing Governor Urges Lawmakers to ‘Work Together’

Monday marks 50th anniversary of ‘Loving’ decision

By Chelsea Jackson, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In Caroline County in the 1950s, Richard and Mildred Loving began an important story that would become an award-winning film: falling in love, getting married and then getting thrown in jail – because he was white, she was black and Virginia had outlawed interracial marriage.

As depicted in the movie “Loving,” the young couple faced ostracism and threats of violence. Eventually, they went to court to challenge the state’s ban against miscegenation. On June 12, 1967, that case – Loving v. Virginia – produced a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down laws in 16 states prohibiting interracial marriage.

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the ruling. Supporters call it Loving Day– a day to reflect on and celebrate multicultural unions.

The founder of the Loving Day website, Ken Tanabe, has a personal connection to the celebration.

“The Lovings’ story and case are important to me because my father is from Japan, my mother is from Belgium, and I was born in the U.S. Without the Lovings, I may never have been born. I’m humbled by their struggle and grateful for their perseverance,” said Tanabe, an art director, animator and educator in New York.

The website lists dozens of Loving Day events that will be held around the world, including in Paris and Tokyo, and across the United States – from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles.

No events are listed in Virginia, the Lovings’ home state. But state officials will mark the occasion by dedicating a “Loving v. Virginia” historical highway marker. Gov. Terry McAuliffe will speak at the dedication, which will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at 1111 E. Broad St. in Richmond. (The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will erect the marker in Caroline County.)

“Though it has been 50 years since the Loving decision, it’s still important to share their story and educate people about its significance. According to a Gallup poll, 11 percent of Americans still disapprove of interracial marriage,” Tanabe said. “As Loving Day celebrations spread across cities in the U.S. and around the world, so does a more positive and nuanced conversation about who we are.”

While Loving Day celebrations spread, another couple from Pennsylvania is using their story to commemorate the Lovings’ place in history.

Farrah Parkes and Brad Linder are an interracial couple in Philadelphia and creators of The Loving Project. The pair produce a biweekly podcast that chronicles the everyday lives of interracial couples.

The project has received a positive response; it was featured on IndieWire’s list of “must-listen podcasts” for 2017.

For Linder and Parkes, the Lovings’ case holds significance because without it, they may have never had the chance to be together.

“For me, it is sort of the ultimate civil rights issue because it gives me my right to be who I am,” Parkes said. “I couldn’t imagine someone telling me no.”

In the podcast series, Linder and Parkes interview other interracial couples, including same-sex couples.

Richard Loving died in 1975 and Mildred Loving in 2008. They may not be here to see the lasting impacts of their brave fight for a basic right, but it can be seen all around. According to the Pew Research Center, one in six newlyweds is intermarried.

But the circumstances that led to Loving v. Virginia still elicit strong feelings of injustice.

“It was obscene and absurd to have a law on the books that made it illegal for whites and blacks to marry,” said Ana Edwards, who chairs the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Project, which is devoted to civil rights.

“My parents married in 1960. My mother is white; my father is black. Aside from the myriad feelings that come from getting married at the tender age of 22 and 23, there must also have been the tightness in the belly from knowing that you are taking a step that society as a whole is not quite ready to accept.”

Text of the ‘Loving’ highway marker

According to the state Department of Historic Resources, here is what the marker will say:

Loving v. Virginia

Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a woman of African American and Virginia Indian descent, married in June 1958 in Washington, D.C., and returned home to Caroline County. In July they were arrested for violating Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings were convicted and sentenced to one year in jail, suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia. The American Civil Liberties Union unsuccessfully argued their case before the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1966. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Loving v. Virginia that laws prohibiting interracial marriage violate the Constitution’s 14th amendment.

State will help clean up historic black cemeteries

By Chelsea Jackson, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Hollywood Cemetery flaunts pristine iron gates, beautiful mausoleums and monuments, and majestic views of the James River. This gorgeous scenery is sorely lacking at two other historic cemeteries less than 15 minutes down the road.

When created in the 1800s, Evergreen and East End cemeteries were envisioned as high-end resting places for important African-American figures, just as James Monroe, Jefferson Davis and other prominent Caucasians were buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

But today, the African-American graveyards are far from high end. They are marred by cracked headstones, broken fences and overgrown vegetation stretching to the tops of the trees. At Evergreen and East End, rest in peace is more like rest in distress.

The condition of these gravesites could change when House Bill1547 takes effect July 1. Introduced by Del. Delores McQuinn of Richmond, the new law will distribute funds to organizations to assist with the cleanup of “historical African-American cemeteries and graves.”

McQuinn has long had an interest in the cemeteries; she has relatives buried there. She said she appreciates the efforts of volunteers who have worked to spruce up the gravesites.

“I am grateful for the many volunteers and interest that people have taken into helping to maintain to the point that it’s presentable,” McQuinn said.

HB 1547 will benefit cemeteries that were established before 1900 for the interment of African-Americans and are owned by a governmental entity or nonprofit group. Under the law, the state will help cover the cost of maintaining such sites. Eligible cemeteries will receive at least $5 for each grave, monument or marker for an individual “who lived at any time between January 1, 1800, and January 1, 1900.”

East End Cemetery in Henrico County has 4,875 graves that qualify for assistance; Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond has 2,100.

John Shuck is the site coordinator for the East End Cemetery Cleanup and Restoration Project and the assistant coordinator for a similar effort at Evergreen Cemetery. Shuck had come across the cemeteries while exploring his interest in genealogy more than nine years ago.

Shuck said beautifying the cemeteries is a long-term commitment.

“The first thing you do when you go in there is clear it, but then you have to maintain what you clear. That’s what we’re hoping some of these funds will do,” Shuck said.

The two cemeteries hold the remains of African-Americans who had a significant impact on Richmond, Virginia and the nation. They include pioneering business leaders Maggie Walker and Hezekiah F. Johnathan and crusading newspaper editor John Mitchell.

Given the stature of such figures, how did the cemeteries fall into a state of neglect?

Shuck attributed the lack of attention to the migration of black families up north for jobs during the Depression, leaving no one to care for the graves.

But many people believe race also was a factor.

“I don’t think that the interest nor the commitment was made to that cemetery like Hollywood Cemetery received,” McQuinn said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe made that point when he signed HB 1547 on May 17. He said the new law will remedy a long-standing injustice. “Unlike Confederate cemeteries, black gravesites have gone centuries without state funds allocated for their maintenance and preservation,” he said.

McAuliffe said the state has made annual payments to maintain Confederate gravesites. In addition, in 1914, the General Assembly appropriated $8,000 – the equivalent of $190,000 in today’s dollars – to improve Hollywood Cemetery. And in 1997, the state provided $30,000 to restore Confederate graves at Oakwood Cemetery, less than two miles from the dilapidated African-American cemeteries.

Under the new law, Evergreen and East End cemeteries finally will receive financial help, too. McQuinn has hopes of creating a “garden of reflection” where people can come to learn and connect with their history. That will take money, but McQuinn is optimistic it will materialize.

“I don’t have any doubt that we will get there,” she said.

Want to help? Here’s how

Evergreen and East End cemeteries need volunteers to help with cleanup and maintenance. If you want to volunteer or would like more information, contact Marvin Harris at mharris@mapinv.com or John Shuck at jshuck @rocketmail.com.

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