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In A Basement In Richmond – Music is weird.

Harris Mendell is soon pulling up stakes and moving but has a few words of wisdom on getting involved in music in Richmond.

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Music is weird.

Everyone wants it, some people own it, most people borrow it from a server farm somewhere. Millions of kids dedicate their youth to performing it and the vast majority never see a dollar. If you asked enough of them I’m sure many would tell you that’s what they expect for themselves. The dgaf outlook of an early post-teen power chordist is pretty much the textbook definition of cliche — but something feels different these days. The internet brought forth the promised gift of a world without middle men and from it burst a million Bandcamps, a thousand premiers a day, a mountain of content so high the lack of oxygen suffocates the brave souls who just wanted to hear a tune.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned from music.

When I was fifteen I learned through my shitty Green Day rip off band (I wore a tie) that punk is way more fun than high school, a fact which inevitably lead to me graduating with a 1.9 and a life-sized stuffed panda bear whose head doubled as paraphernalia storage. That band, All Systems Go, never recorded — but somehow our shows were packed and the kids knew the words to our songs. We even had a mascot, his name was Eric, he wore a cape and thought he was in the band.

All Systems Go hailed from my high school town of Purcellville, VA — too far west to be considered DC suburbs but still an hour bus ride east from my mom’s place in Upperville. Blinking billboards warned of overpopulation-driven water shortages in the summer, it was a big fucking deal when Quiznos came to town, and teenage suicide was a problem. If you grew up in a place like this you know that part of the deal is that there just isn’t really anything to do. Some of the older kids in town (Carl and Max) ran punk shows at the local skating rink, and when we caught wind of what was going on there we got involved to the point of later carrying the torch. At that point in 2005/2006 it wasn’t uncommon for 100 kids to be at an all locals show — like I said, there wasn’t an awful lot to do, and punk is sick.

Anyway, time crept on as it does. The band dissolved and formed anew in different incarnations of our budding tastes — a misfits themed ska band called Nightfright, the band that formed from our drummer’s sudden transformation from flat brimmed blink-182 kid to Witch Hunt patched oogle, and towards the end of senior year a kid dynamite worship band (of course) called With New Eyes. We turned eighteen, discovered straight edge and decided to move somewhere together — either Philadelphia or Richmond. Paint It Black was from the former, Strike Anywhere the latter, honestly our thought process didn’t really extend much beyond that.

I’ll never forget calling former Purcellville-skating-rink-punk-mayor-turned-richmond-resident Carl Athey and asking him what it was like down there. From our perspective if 100 kids came out to a show in the middle of nowhere a city like Richmond had to be fucking insane. Carl tried to temper expectations but our minds were set and filled with dreams of the mosh. James, Eric, Nick, David and I graduated, packed our bags into our parents cars and moved down to a shitty graffiti walled apartment on Robinson that August. We were welcomed to town by the biggest rat I’d ever seen.

Everything about moving to Richmond changed my life. I wish I could adequately explain what it was like for a country kid with no car to suddenly find himself in a position where that didn’t matter. Richmond replaced 45 minute rides from my mom with a crappy 10 speed bike. High school was swapped with a job at a coffee shop, and night after night getting high on video games turned into night after night at local punk shows.

The population to gig-crazy ratio I imagined in high school turned out to not be a very consistent model. Sure when Avail or Municipal Waste played at Alley Katz it was absolutely nuts, and my first weekend in Richmond did find me crowd surfing into a basement to catch Drop Dead fifteen minutes before the floor collapsed, but most of the shows I went to had a modest crowd of fifteen to twenty people. These gigs were hosted in the eating area of Nara Sushi or where the clothing racks normally stood in Rumors, a local consignment shop. At the time, a truly great era of Richmond house shows was coming to a close as a portion of the police department called C.A.P.S. stopped enforcing building codes to close down drug houses and started using the methodology to shut down local DIY show and art spaces. It was rough going to find a spot to play, and no one wanted to play Ramakins.

Times being tough didn’t stop me from seeing incredible locals like Brainworms, Antlers, The Catalyst, Pink Razors and Ultra Dolphins on a weekly basis. I had joined Carl and Max’s new band Friendly Fire and we had the pleasure of playing with the aforementioned bands at some of the aforementioned venues on the reg. One of these gigs was set up at Nara by an 18 year old kid who had recently moved from Nebraska via Virginia beach. His name was Alex Wilhelm and the first thing he said to me was “Hey man, did you guys bring a PA?”

Alex and I bonded together over a mutual love and adoration of pop punk in a city whose residents generally had a mutual disgust and revulsion of pop punk. As such, many of the fifteen-kid shows I mentioned happened to be Alex’s shows, and that’s probably on the optimistic side of things. Despite not garnering the greatest turnout Alex would book essentially every band that asked for a gig in Richmond. Many weeks saw him at Nara sushi for four to five nights. This kept up for a few years and slowly but surely, after dozens and dozens of gigs, kids started showing up.

It’s a hard thing to put my finger on but there was a moment, a period in time in which I felt like I was no longer going to someone else’s shows, that we suddenly had found ourselves with our own scene or community or whatever you want to call it. I was still going out to see the older kids’ bands play, but now we were starting and supporting bands from within our own micro-community. We were throwing shows in our living rooms and basements and warehouse spots and with the connections built from these gigs we went on tour. Around this time I started my first band that people I didn’t know gave a shit about, and in seven years met almost everyone I now consider important in my life.

When I look back and think about what I’ve gotten from music, I realize that I’ve always known why that early post-teen power chordist doesn’t give a shit about making money. It’s not because they are naive or engaging in escapism, and it’s not based on faux-optimism. It’s because the world can be cruel. It can be lonely and boring and full of hatred and suspicion. It’s because the world makes it so easy to engage in consumption that sometimes you question what your own identity is worth.

There is something beautiful about creation, about putting something into the world instead of taking from it. When I’m near creation, I’m inspired to live. I’m inspired to meet people and have friends and be truly optimistic about humanity. I’m getting older now, I’m going into a career and moving to a new city and I’m full of fear that I will lose this part of my life that I deeply feel has given me everything I am as a person. I’m probably not going to be crowd surfing into basements or throwing four shows a week in my living room, but I’m figuring it out. I want the web of our little community to grow from me just as it grew to me. I want to inspire younger people to throw gigs at their local skating rink, to start warehouses and to book their own tours.

I’m not really sure how to do this, but I think it can start by questioning my own cynicism. I think it can start by not spending my evenings on Netflix, by going out to see live music and performance and art and not question or ridicule the way things change — because they do and they will continue to. I think it can start by not letting the ever growing mountain of digital content overwhelm and consume my desire to create or be near creation.

Tonight there is a show in a basement in Richmond. The bands are alright the heat is suffocating and the cops are probably on their way. I may not go, but I hope to tomorrow. I hope to next year.


Originally posted here, reposted with permission by the author Harris Mendell. – Harris is soon pulling up stakes and moving but has a few words of wisdom on getting involved in music in Richmond.

Image: Creative Commons Flickr User Joan

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Missing context, political bias: Some of critics’ objections to Virginia’s new history standards

A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

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A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

Critics from diverse communities and lawmakers, most recently in a Nov. 15 letter to the governor and school officials, argue the new standards are missing influential figures and events and voice concern about what they say is a lack of transparency regarding who authored the changes.

The standards will set Virginia’s expectations for student learning in history and social science, which are assessed through the Standards of Learning tests. The Board of Education delayed its first review after Superintendent Jillian Balow requested additional time to correct errors, reorder guidance and allow additional experts to weigh in on the draft.

“Continued review and edits to the standards over the past several months have strengthened the content at each grade level,” wrote Balow in a Nov. 10 letter to the Board of Education. “The edits honor the work done previously by Virginians, and national and state experts.”

Balow also said in her letter that draft curriculum frameworks, which are guides for teachers, will be published later.

However, critics in the Nov. 15 letter said the curriculum frameworks missing from the standards make it “impossible for anybody to effectively evaluate the draft as a whole.”

Among the letter’s signatories are 10 Democratic lawmakers and groups including the Virginia Education Association, the nonprofit Hamkae Center, which describes itself as organizing “Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice in Virginia,” the Fairfax County NAACP and the Sikh Coalition. The Virginia Education Association referred inquiries to the Hamkae Center.

They also questioned the number of “problematic content changes that fail to reflect the concerns of our diverse communities” and the involvement of groups such as the Michigan based-Hillsdale College in the review of the standards.

Balow said last month that representatives from other colleges expressed interest in commenting on the draft standards after VPM reported that she was working with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative educational think tank, to develop the standards.

Here are a few objections to the proposed new standards that educational and other groups have raised.

Missing context

Critics say parts of the new standards lack proper context.

For example, while the standards replace the term “Indian” with “Indigenous people” and require students to study aspects of the groups, they do not mention that Indigenous People’s Day replaced Columbus Day in 1992 because Indigenous people view Christopher Columbus as a colonizer rather than a discoverer.

Additionally, the standards recognize the development of slavery in colonial Virginia but lack an emphasis on the slave trade and tobacco plantations, critics say.

“Nazis” and “The Final Solution,” which are necessary to understand the Holocaust, are also missing from the standards.

“Content is crucial for understanding the Holocaust and other genocides,” said Gail Flax, a retired educator. “You have to know what happened before and what happened afterward to be able to analyze and contextualize history.”

Narrative

With the removal of historical figures and events, critics have questioned the narrative of history the administration is conveying to students.

Zowee Aquino of the Hamkae Center said the revisions reflect “pretty explicit political bias.” She said the standards also have a Eurocentric theme that focuses on European or Anglo-American ideas and disregards the contributions of ethnic minorities in white countries.

For example, the name of Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, was removed from the elementary school standards. King’s name first appears in the sixth grade standards.

Aquino said there’s no mention of Juneteenth, the Chinese Exclusion Act or Martin Luther King Jr. Day in any of the standards. China and the African civilization of Mali, which have been part of the standards for world culture studies, have also been removed from third grade standards.

The standards also do not include any mention of tribal sovereignty.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said in a letter to the Board of Education that the revised draft deletes “major components of our history and deliberately omits the diverse perspectives that shape our commonwealth and our nation.”

For example, she wrote that the draft omits any discussion of the history or modern-day culture of the Latino community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders or the LGBTQ community.

“These decisions would mean that hundreds of thousands of Virginia children would not have the opportunity to learn about their community’s contributions to the fabric and history of our nation,” McClellan wrote. “And, all Virginia students would lack a fuller understanding of our country’s history.”

Rejected recommendations

The inclusion of King, the national holiday for the civil rights leader and Juneteenth marking the day when all enslaved Africans became free were several edits recommended by the Virginia Commission on African American History Education, but excluded or generalized in the redraft.

The list of edits excluded include the mention of John Mercer Langston, the first African American congressman from Virginia. The commission’s recommendation that the standards include the phrase that “not everyone was considered a citizen when our country began, and for a long time after that, even until today” was also excluded.

Mention of Indigenous people and their culture being affected by white European colonization was also excluded from the standards, as was the phrase “the Virginia Colony’s economy was greatly dependent upon temporary and permanent servitude.”

Historical errors and inaccuracies

Critics also say the proposed standards have historical errors and inaccuracies.

Specifically, students starting in the fourth grade are required to explain the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg as part of the Revolutionary War. However, an email from the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium Monday said “this makes absolutely no sense” given Virginia’s capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond to provide greater protection against British attack.

Additionally, the group says the standards erroneously convey that Zachary Taylor, who was elected in 1848, was the most recent president from Virginia instead of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected in 1912.

The standards do not explicitly say which president was most recent. The document only states that students starting in the fourth grade will be required to explain the growth of a new America with an emphasis on the role of Virginians by explaining Virginia’s prominence in national leadership, emphasizing its eight presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Zachary Taylor.

“The previous version of the proposed standards did not contain egregious historical errors such as this because they were developed by a team of educators, division leaders and historians,” the consortium wrote.

Age appropriateness

Aquino also questioned whether the revisions are age appropriate.

For example, first and third graders must learn about the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient law text, and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, under the proposed history standards. She said the history is “pretty dense and intense” and includes details about capital punishment.

However, Charles Pyle, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Education, said under the standards, first graders will learn where the first civilizations began and third graders will learn about democracy. He said Aurelius is part of a list of suggested examples of mythical and historical figures students could encounter as they “hear, read, and retell stories.”

Open access

With the focus on the amount of work demanded of teachers due to the workforce shortage, critics question a sentence in the preface of the history standards that states teachers should provide all of their instructional materials to parents.

Under the Board of Education’s current regulations, parents have the right to inspect instructional materials used as part of the educational curriculum for students.

Aquino said many reports link teacher burnout with increased work demands and argued another mandate does not help support students.

“It’s a huge task that the new administration is asking them to take on that doesn’t improve instruction,” Aquino said.

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Community

Saison and Saison Market Closing

They’ve been around for almost 10 years.

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The announcement was made on Facebook

Hi y’all.

It’s Jay here. I’m not going to bury the lede too much. Our 10th anniversary is rapidly approaching and to commemorate it we’ve decided to close up shop. I could not be more proud of all that we’ve done and all that we’ve accomplished in this little room. We’ve been incredibly lucky and fortunate to have so many talented people be part of the history of our corner of Jackson Ward. At this time, it just feels right to be able to put a bow on this project and let it pass. There have been and will be more wonderful projects from those that have brought

Saison to us all. I have more things I want to create and know that this current team has more they want to do as well.

12/12 will be our last day at Saison and Saison Market. Book your seat soon for one more taste. It has been an incredible opportunity to feed and inspire.

Thank you all for the appreciation and trust you’ve shown us!
Cheers!
Jay

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Southern Living Magazine lists Richmond in roundup of “12 Places to Visit in 2023”

The article highlights Monument Avenue and the Monumental Conversations virtual tour, as well as the Poe Museum, Kings Dominion, and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The Lindow Row Inn, Jefferson Hotel, and Quirk Hotel Richmond were also named as places to stay.  

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Southern Living recently included the Richmond Region in its round-up of destinations to travel to next year. The lifestyle magazine, which profiles Southern culture, attractions, and food, featured the region in a profile of 12 places to visit in 2023.

The article highlights Monument Avenue and the Monumental Conversations virtual tour, as well as the Poe Museum, Kings Dominion, and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The Lindow Row Inn, Jefferson Hotel, and Quirk Hotel Richmond were also named as places to stay.

“National news coverage like this is exciting and builds community pride while helping introduce the region to new audiences,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism, the nonprofit organization that promotes the region’s tourism on behalf of seven local jurisdictions. “Every day, our team works to highlight our inclusive and welcoming region through marketing and promotions to attract new visitors and events.”

Tourism continues to gain momentum in the region: Richmond Region Tourism recently announced that visitor spending generated a record $2.9 billion for the local economy while supporting almost 24,000 jobs.

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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