By M. J. O’Brien:
The Fairfax County NAACP has been named the top branch in the country by the national organization. The branch will receive the prestigious Thalheimer Award, given annually to the branch with the most outstanding achievements, next week at the NAACP’s Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
“Fairfax County is the home of the best branch in the NAACP in the nation,” said Kofi Annan, president of the Fairfax branch in announcing the award. “We’ve always felt that way … but today it became official!”
Established in 1944, the Thalheimer Award recognizes “outstanding achievements” by local branches in “the implementation of the Association’s strategic priorities and goals.” These include “enhancing advocacy, civic engagement, economic and political empowerment, criminal justice, and educational equity.” The award is named for Dr. Ross Thalheimer, a psychologist who was executive director of the Community Guidance Service and also founder of the American Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.
In its application for the award, the branch cited a variety of activities and initiatives, including the successful two-year “Change the Name” campaign that sought to convince the Fairfax County School Board to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School. Name change proponents pointed out that naming the most diverse high school in the county after a Confederate general was a detriment to learning and an insult to students and residents alike.
In July 2017, the school board voted that the name of J.E.B. Stuart had to go and later in the year support coalesced around the name Justice High School. The school is being revamped this summer and will officially open with its new moniker next month.
In addition, the branch’s outstanding civic engagement was cited. During the 2017-2018 eligibility period, the branch held powerful forums on immigration, discriminatory hiring practices in Fairfax County Public Schools, criminal justice reform initiatives, the School to Prison pipeline issue, and a candidate forum for state elections that included candidate (now governor) Ralph Northam.
The application also cited the branch’s deep involvement with local government in advising public officials on such issues as police body-worn cameras, school resource officer policy in schools, and the recently established Police Civilian Review Panel.
Annan praised his Executive Committee—all volunteers—for their outstanding work in “achieving change and raising awareness.” He noted, “The last year and a half was amazing, and we’re just getting started. We look forward to building on the efforts and the relationships forged [during that time] and to press even harder for change in the months and years ahead.”
The award is especially welcome this year, as 2018 marks the 100th year anniversary of the NAACP in Fairfax County.
M. J. O’Brien currently serves as Secretary of the Fairfax County NAACP and is author of We Shall Not Be Moved: The Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In and the Movement It Inspired. For more, visit www.notbemoved.com.