Low-level sales of marijuana and other substances in the Green Valley community in the 1960s grew into a full-fledged, open-air “drug supermarket” by the early 1980s, with the intersection of 24th Road South and Shirlington Road ground zero for the illegal operations.
On March 7, leaders of the community looked back at those days, and committed themselves to ensuring a better future for their community.
“It takes us all to keep working on this,” said Portia Clark, president of the Green Valley Civic Association. She voiced concerns about a revival of moral decline “if we don’t channel the energies of our youth.”
In the mid-1980s, a concerted community effort – residents, law enforcement and county leaders – helped drive much of the illicit trade from Green Valley (which also during its history has been known as Nauck). In more recent years, the South Arlington neighborhood has seen gentrification; the African-American population, which stood at 95 percent of the community in 1960, has been cut by two-thirds as development brings in new residents.
Clark, a longtime civic activist who grew up in the community, said youth in the neighborhood face many of the issues of counterparts across the area.
“Green Valley is not unique,” she said. “Our kids are failing in many ways, but all is not lost.”
Arlington Police Capt. Wayne Vincent told those attending the event that local law enforcement remained a partner with Green Valley.
“We are here with you, every day with you,” he said. “We’re a part of this community. You are not fighting it alone.”
(Representatives from the Arlington County Fire Department and Arlington County Sheriff’s Office also were on hand.)
The event, conducted under a nearly full moon, included a walk around the neighborhood, a community fair at the Charles R. Drew Community Center and a prayer vigil held inside The Shelton, one of the new developments in Green Valley.
The safety walk passed by the future Nauck Town Square, which is rising nearby. The highlight of the town square will be a 40-foot-tall sculpture vertically spelling out “FREED,” paying tribute both to the free African-Americans who lived in the Nauck area before the Civil War and those who moved in after emancipation.
The project, originally slated for completion in 2018, was slowed for a variety of reasons, but is likely to be wrapped up in early 2021. The Green Valley Civic Association has asked that the town square been named in honor of late community activist John Robinson.