In December 2020, Wesley Housing and other project partners broke ground on The Waypoint at Fairlington, a new affordable housing development being constructed on the underutilized parking lot of Fairlington Presbyterian Church (FPC). The development will not only provide 81 low- to moderate-income Alexandrians with an affordable, inclusive community, but will also help to reverse decades of discrimination.
In her remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony, Pastor Juli Wilson-Black of FPC eloquently expressed how The Waypoint is helping point the way for us to dismantle structural racism.
“Three and a half years ago, when our congregation entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Wesley Housing to develop affordable housing on our property, we had many good reasons for doing so: to help address a critical need in our community, to raise funds for building renovations, to make better use of the land of which we were stewards,” said Wilson-Black. “But there was another reason that we weren’t aware of at the time, that I believe was part of God’s purpose for us in taking this step.
“We discovered this reason a few months ago when we established a Racial Justice Discernment Group to explore ways that our congregation might seek to be anti-racist.
“We began by learning about the history of the land on which we stand, which in the 1800s was part of Menokin Farm, a large property owned by the enslaver Cassius Lee, cousin of Robert E Lee. We learned about the community of formerly enslaved people and their descendants who lived right next to us at Fort Ward, who were forced off the land in the 1960s in order to make way for Fort Ward Park.
“And we found the original deed of sale that the first trustees of the church had signed in 1947, which contained two stipulations for the property’s use. First, that for a period of twenty years from the date of sale, the property would be used only for religious purposes. And second, that the land would ‘never be occupied by, sold, leased or conveyed . . . to any person not a member of the Caucasian race.’
“Well, ‘never’ didn’t last quite that long. In 1948, the Supreme Court struck down racially restrictive covenants as unconstitutional. But despite that, its presence in our deed and those of our neighbors still shapes where we live and who our neighbors are, 73 years later. We are still living within the red lines that were drawn in the west end of Alexandria decades ago, now invisible but still powerful drivers of housing patterns.
“So the Waypoint does not only point the way for us to provide affordable housing.
“It also points the way for us to redraw those lines that were very carefully designed to be permanent.
“It points the way for us to dismantle structural racism from the ground up.
“It points the way for us to right the wrongs of our past.
“We are grateful to our partners at Wesley Housing and to the City of Alexandria for joining with us in this holy work.
“The Waypoint is the latest and boldest expression of the church’s mission to be ‘a transforming force for good in the world in the name of Jesus Christ.’ The Waypoint will transform this property, this congregation, and this neighborhood in many ways, but perhaps the most significant transformation is the breaking of that covenant that our founders signed. By that action we are saying, in the clearest way possible, that ‘never” ends today.’”