In an effort to combat the incidents of hate brought on by rising racial tensions in America, a group of community volunteers joined together Sunday to restore the 124-year-old Ashburn Colored School of Ashburn, Virginia. The historic Black schoolhouse was vandalized with racist graffiti and crude images early last week.
According to the Washington Post, over 300 volunteers turned out to give the one-room school a fresh coast of paint, scrub years of mold off the classroom’s baseboards and spread fresh mulch in the yard out front. In addition, the schoolhouse received over $64,000 in new contributions toward its continued restoration, the publication reports.
“It shows love — love by everyone who has made this possible,” said 84-year-old Yvonne Thornton Neal, who attended the historic school with her 14 siblings during the time of school segregation. “It’s just unbelievable. It shows we are still so loved by so many people.”
Deep Sran, founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted, expressed anger and frustration at news of the vandalism and said his sentiments were shared among students and members of the community.
“There was a sense of frustration and anger, but the larger sense was, ‘We’re not going to let this stand,’ ” Sran said. “‘This is not our community.'”
Per the Washington Post, Sran’s private school had just purchased the empty one-room school where it planned to begin constructing a new campus. Students from the Loudoun School for the Gifted have spent the last two years working to restore the schoolhouse in hopes of opening it as part of a museum one day.
Volunteers came from all over to help with the school’s restoration Sunday morning, many who felt their efforts were needed to counter feelings of disheartenment brought on by the vandalism and rising racial tensions in America.
“I think what gets more attention in our country right now is the negative,” said Nicole Fulgham, a volunteer who brought her 10-year-old daughter to help with the restoration. “It can make you almost feel that it’s the majority of our country, but it’s not. This act was horrible, but it was [by] a small number of people, and there are hundreds of people here to make things right.”
Melanie and Christopher Starks of Ashburn said they felt distressed about last week’s vandalism. Ironically, the couple said they chose to live in the city of Ashburn because of its diversity and high-quality education.
Loudoun School for the Gifted senior Gwyneth McCrae, 17, said she shed tears upon hearing about what happened to the school she and her classmates had worked so hard to build up.
“I was just taken aback that we’d put two years of effort into [restoring] it, and someone decided to spend 20 minutes vandalizing it,” McCrae said. “I definitely think it’s good to draw attention to it to let people know that this kind of behavior still happens.”
The Washington Post reports that five teens face charges in connection with the schoolhouse vandalism. Hopefully, members of the community won’t have to worry about the threat of vandals anymore now that the school has a new security system.