Black History Month: Even When It Hurts, We Keep Breathing


WHEN YOU’RE ASSAULTED, ALL OF YOUR SENSES BECOME ALARMED. A FEELING OF HURT TAKES OVER, AND NO MATTER HOW INJURED YOU FEEL, YOU MUST TELL YOUR BODY TO DO THE THINGS YOU WERE BORN TO DO.


BREATHE. JUST BREATHE.

Some injuries take a while to heal. Some scab over but remain forever tender.

This past fall, I felt the cowardly defacing of the historic Ashburn Colored School. Every n-word, every swastika dug into my skin and pierced my soul. The White Power tag sprayed on the tattered, faded walls of the old schoolhouse’s exterior stood in stark contrast to the demand for acknowledgement of African-American people through the Black Lives Matter movement that’s swept the country in response to acts of violence against our communities.

I thought our world had overcome. I was pretty sure that Ashburn had plenty of red, yellow, black, brown, and white people—all precious in His sight—existing in great harmony. It was difficult to imagine such a hateful act in my version of Pleasantville.

I was wrong. The five boys who have been accused of this crime were even more wrong. Why would they think to do this? What idea crept into their minds that spray painting ugly, intimidating words on a beloved community landmark would be funny or okay?


Inhale, exhale.

Not long before this incident, students of the Loudoun School for the Gifted chose the Ashburn Colored School as a project to rehabilitate. The project provided obvious lessons in history, as well as extending to a lesson on equality and compassion. The Loudoun School for the Gifted is preparing to open their second location on Ashburn Road, not far from where the schoolhouse is located. The new campus design honors Virginia’s history by incorporating the rundown building on its property.

“IT WAS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE SUCH A HATEFUL ACT IN MY VERSION OF PLEASANTVILLE.”

From the large windows of the new Loudoun School building, the old schoolhouse sits in prominent view. A reminder of our collective past is on full display: a meager one-room schoolhouse that served only black students in Ashburn from the late 1800s until the 1950s. These students were kept away from where the white students learned, separate, yes, but certainly not equal.

This building and what it represents deserve to be honored and revered, or at least acknowledged. Instead, this important landmark was assaulted. Our community is alarmed, all senses stimulated. Fortunately, we weren’t alone in these feelings of hurt and disgust. In the weeks following the incident, donations in support of the restoration project poured in from around the country, ensuring that history won’t be forgotten.

We’ll keep breathing.