Leesburg Councilman Tom Dunn sought his colleagues’ support last week for a series of work session discussions regarding paying homage to the Black Lives Matter movement and current and former African American community leaders.
At the end of the council’s July 14 meeting, during the portion of the meeting where council members make disclosures of their private meetings or make comments, Dunn sought support for discussion on several areas dealing with racial justice. For each topic to be considered at an upcoming work session, Dunn needed the support, via a head nod, from at least three of his colleagues.
He was successful in garnering that support for two of those initiatives. A work session discussion will be scheduled on establishing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for town employees. Gov. Ralph Northam announced shortly before the June 19 this year that he intended to make Juneteenth a permanent, state holiday.
Dunn also found support for a future council discussion on painting Black Lives Matter lettering on a town street. Similar paintings have popped up in several metropolitan cities, like New York City and Washington, DC.
Dunn was not successful in finding support to move forward on several other discussion points, including directing that the next land development application contain street names honoring African American leaders; offering town funding for the NAACP to erect a monument on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds; and granting NAACP representatives special status to participate in Town Council meetings.
Dunn also said he would be willing to reconsider his vote on not moving forward on the possible purchase of the former Westpark Golf Club property, as long as it was stipulated that a future park on the site would be called Black Lives Matter Park. He also did not find support to move that discussion forward.
Dunn said he was surprised that council members did not consider moving forward with a discussion on four of the six items that he introduced. He said he decided to introduce the initiatives following the previous evening’s discussion about the town’s Memorandum of Understanding with the NAACP. He said the ideas were his own, and he did not discuss them with the NAACP ahead of time.
“It was really just to try and be proactive and come up with processes that we can establish to even consider any number of those items,” he said.
Dunn, who frequently is in the minority on council votes, added that it may have been the messenger and not the message itself that council members did not want to support. Dunn came under sharp criticism from the NAACP last year after council members objected to a statement he wrote on a proclamation honoring the Juneteenth holiday. NAACP leaders at the time called for his resignation, although he later signed the proclamation with his name, and the statement was removed. Dunn points out his initiative last year in promoting the transfer of the Sycolin Cemetery to the Loudoun Freedom Center for the continued maintenance of the land, which includes gravesites associated with the Lower Sycolin African American community beginning in the late 1800s.