An ongoing Eagle Scout project by Israfeel Martinez Jaka, the senior patrol leader of ADAMS Scouts BSA Troop 2019, seeks to remember Orion Anderson, a 14-year-old Black boy who was lynched in Leesburg in 1889.
Martinez Jaka’s project includes volunteers helping construct a place for visitors to sit and contemplate that part of American history. It ultimately will include concrete stepping stones, a garden, and four benches that will be decorated by area artists, pending approval from the town government. Work on the garden, at Raflo Park on Harrison Street, has already begun.
Anderson was accused of jumping out and scaring a white girl of the same age while wearing a bag over his head. He was arrested based on circumstantial evidence. According to research by the Loudoun Freedom Center and county historians, accounts at the time allege variously that he simply scared her, chased her, assaulted her, or attempted to rape her. There is no other evidence that he did anything but play a prank.
He never made it in front of a grand jury. Within 24 hours of a summons for witnesses, a mob rode to the jail in the early morning, on horses with feet wrapped up to muffle their noise, and dragged Anderson away to hang him at a freight depot, near what today is the intersection of Harrison Street and the W&OD Trail. Nobody was ever convicted for the murder.
Last year, on Juneteenth, Anderson was remembered with an interpretive sign at Raflo Park placed by the Loudoun Freedom Center.
The Eagle Scout project is the latest project in a tradition of scouting and service by the entire Jaka family. Notably, Israfeel’s older brother Mikaeel led extensive work to make the African American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont publicly accessible with trails, benches, signs, and a replica schoolhouse, part of which was his Eagle Scout project. His eldest brother, Jibraeel, earned his Eagle Scout rank after work on the Appalachian Trail at Bears Den. Their younger siblings are also involved in scouting.
Meanwhile, their parents are active in a great number of community works—their mother, Priscilla Martínez, was last year recognized for her community service which includes among other things work with Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Loudoun County Public Library Board of Trustees, the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, and the Board of Directors of the Loudoun Literacy Council.
Their father, Rizwan Jaka, chairs the board of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, the second largest mosques in the country, and also works in a variety of causes including in scouting, coaching youth athletics, interfaith work, and was honored in 2019 with a resolution by the Virginia General Assembly.
Volunteers of time, labor, equipment, or supplies are still sought to help with the memorial project. Sign up to help out at signupgenius.com/go/4090b44afab22a31-eagle. Volunteers are required to wear masks and practice social distancing while on site.