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Vice Mayor Amy Jackson Encourages Alexandria to Reopen Office for Women

Celebrating the 2018 Status of Women Report. The national suffrage flag first flown in ALX this year. (Photos courtesy of Amy Jackson)

By Amy Jackson

Alexandria, VA – February was Black History Month, recognized by the mayor and City Council with a proclamation when opening the southern portion of the Alexandria African American Waterfront Heritage Trail. This much-anticipated event was attended by many Alexandrians who viewed significant archaeological finds, historical documents, and the maps of the trail routes with experts and neighbors alike.

During the month, the City and other organizations provided numerous opportunities for residents and visitors to immerse themselves in Black history and culture. The month’s end saw the grand re-opening of the Alexandria Black History Museum, with a poignant exhibit about Alexandria’s reaction to George Floyd’s murder and how we lift up Black Lives Matter.

Remembering Black history should not be just one month out of the year. We are all welcome year-round at the Alexandria African American Waterfront Heritage Trail, The Alexandria Black History Museum, and Freedom House. There is much more to learn about the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and Alexandria’s part in it.

But now it’s March and Women’s History Month. Remember to support your local women-owned businesses, restaurants, and retail outlets during this celebrated month. Check out the recently established National Center of Women’s Innovations, which has created its space here in Alexandria.

Amy with Ma Rawlings

The mayor and City Council will recognize women’s ideas, innovations and overall industriousness, their accomplishments and advancements, in a proclamation this month and, at my request, fly Women’s History Month flags for the first time ever. Thanks to assistance from Historic Alexandria Director Gretchen Bulova, we will see the symbolic purple, white, and yellow flags adorn posts adjacent to City Hall around Market Square starting March 1.

These are the colors of the National Woman’s Party, whose members persisted in advocating women’s rights in the U.S. Constitution, winning the fight for the vote but still grasping for guaranteed equal rights for all.

We have begun the FY24 Budget season. Over the next ten weeks, City Council will consider many programs, services, and initiatives before adopting the budget in May. Always seeking to promote and prioritize the needs of women, I will encourage the re-establishment of the Alexandria Office for Women.

Years ago, and through several budget cycles, the Alexandria Office for Women diminished in physical space and employees at City Hall until the department ceased to exist. Women’s initiatives, programs, and services were rolled into what is now the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS).

The national suffrage flag first flown in ALX this year.

DCHS has been the liaison with the Commission for Women (CFW), which was created when the Office for Women was established. I was an active member of CFW before my election to City Council.

However, the Commission for Women runs on volunteer support from its appointments, with only a shared liaison from DCHS to help with any requests the CFW makes of staff. The CFW does not have fundraising capability or a staffed Office for Women to assist them.

Most other boards and commissions interact directly with City departments that provide support for current trends. The Commission for Women has not had that direct line of support for a long time. It relies primarily on the phenomenal women (and men) appointed to the CFW by City Council. These people volunteer their time, money, and efforts to research, write, communicate, and implement programs and projects that should have the support of a permanent office dedicated to the needs of women. A case in point is something that was not done since the 1970s: The 2018 CFW Report on the Status of Women, which documents how women are consistently overlooked and underpaid.

As Council looks toward prioritizing equal and equitable solutions for our diverse population and lifting all minority groups, this report, commission, and office should serve for the betterment of all women and the community they support.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, a career educator, is serving her second term on the Alexandria City Council. Raised in Alexandria, she is the first ACHS (TCW) “Lady Titan” to hold a seat as an Alexandria City Councilwoman and now as Vice Mayor. She lives in the West End with her husband and two children attending Alexandria City Public Schools.

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