Redefining Roots

What it looks like to start a new life in Charlottesville

Words by Abby Clukey.

A security guard intently studies a scribbled-on napkin pulled from his pocket on the bus headed home. Across town, a custodian clocks into work and prepares to clean the floors of a medical school much like one he had dreamed of attending since childhood. At her kitchen table, a single mother balances a wistful pride as her son tells her the new English phrase he learned at school that day — one that she has never heard.

The lives of Charlottesville’s immigrants and refugees are unique. Different circumstances led them to pursue lives in this city. Some were forced to leave their homes to escape the imminent threats of genocide and war. Others made the decision for themselves in order to seek more abundant opportunities for their families. Because they could sense that their futures were precipitous. Because they knew that if they didn’t leave when the option presented itself, they might never get the chance.

Instances of sacrifice are threaded throughout their narratives. They have given up jobs and degrees, the intimate knowledge of their own country’s culture, the natural command of a native language — the familiar privileges and comforts that come with living in the same place your entire life. They have left behind everything they have ever known to build new lives from the ground up and reconstruct a sense of belonging in Charlottesville.

These are just a handful of their stories.


Mohammad Mottaghi is an Iranian immigrant of Turkmen heritage. He was once a professor, consultant and conservator of ancient Islamic art. Now, he is an Aramark employee and a security guard at the Fralin museum.

“When I came to Charlottesville, I had to start at zero,” Mohammad said.

The Mottaghi family — Mohammad, his wife and their then-teenage son — moved to Charlottesville in 2012 from Isfahan, an Iranian city steeped in a legacy of such historical and artistic grandeur that it boasts the motto, Isfahan nesfe Jahan. “Isfahan is half of the world.”

Mohammad Mottaghi, Photo by Abby Clukey,

It was in Isfahan that Mohammad, now 58, reached the height of his career. In addition to holding a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in art conservation from Pardis College, he has multiple certificates from UNESCO to maintain world heritage sites. In 2008, the Iranian government hired Mottaghi to oversee restorations of the city’s Historical Bazaar, an ancient marketplace and plaza.

Mohammad said he enjoyed the work that he did at the heritage site, but was also aware that Isfahan, like the rest of the country, was becoming increasingly unstable. Aside from periods of political unrest, a population that has more than doubled itself in the past 30 years has led to a congested job market, increased pollution and the rationing of resources.

“In Iran, everything was collapsing,” Mohammad said. “The economy — there were so many jobless. The air was polluted. We had no water. The climate was changing.”

Mohammad knew that he had to find a way to move to the United States, for the sake of his family.

He began applying for an immigrant visa through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, commonly known as the green card lottery, in 2001, and would repeat the process nearly every year over the next decade. In 2012, he finally won.

Mohammad described the atmosphere of confusion that enveloped his family as they prepared to leave Iran. They only had a few months to get their affairs in order. They boxed up their possessions and stored them in attics of neighbors and friends. They sold whatever wasn’t necessary, including Mohammad’s carefully cultivated personal library.

They also had to determine where exactly they wanted to live. His son scoured the internet for Turkmen names in the United States and found two Turkmen families in Charlottesville. One was a family of refugees, and the other were the first Iranian Turkmen green card winners to move to the city. The Mottaghis decided they would be the second.

Mohammad’s favorite job that he’s ever had — what he loved even more than working at the heritage site — was teaching art conservation. He worked at several Iranian universities throughout his career, and his primary passion has always been encouraging the younger generation.

He says that he embodies the character of “the professor.” Teaching is how he defines himself. Which is why, when Mohammad moved to the United States, he wasn’t just leaving half of the world behind. He was leaving behind a piece of his identity.

“When I came here, I said now I can’t teach — I can’t work as a conservator, a professor,” Mohammad said. “When I came here, I said, I so miss it. My heart is depressed. During the first six months, I wanted to cry. But I controlled myself, breathing deep. Breathing, breathing.”

Many workplaces in the U.S. do not honor foreign degrees — it depends on the nature of the degree and where it was received. A lack of English proficiency will often force immigrants and refugees to start at the bottom rung of the educational ladder when they come to the United States, even if they had extensive, high-level careers in their home countries. The stipulations of their green cards also require them to find work quickly, which limits the range of their employment opportunities upon arrival.

Harriet Kuhr, director of the International Rescue Center in Charlottesville, said that one of the main challenges that educated individuals face in the resettlement process is the transition to low-level jobs.

“What’s hard is, if you’re an engineer and bringing this resume, you might have been doing it for 20 years in Baghdad or something, but you’re going to be competing for that same job with American candidates,” Kuhr said. “Sometimes it’s a lot harder for people from professional backgrounds than it is for people with not a lot of education because of the expectations. I think that’s really frustrating.”

Mohammad’s first job in Charlottesville was at the Royal Indian Restaurant. He said that he missed working in a collegiate atmosphere during this time, and being completely severed from his past career made his transition to life in the U.S. even more difficult.

After about a month, he applied for a job at U.Va. as an Observatory Hill dining hall employee. He thought that working at O’Hill would be the most effective way to get as close as he can to what he loves — interacting with students.

In his initial interview with Aramark, Mohammad joked, “In Iran, I teach the brain. Here, I want to teach the stomach.” He says that the students he meets at work often teach him right back. He asks them to write English phrases on napkins that he will take home after his shift and copy down into a notebook. Their energy revitalizes him.

Even though he enjoyed his job at O’Hill and was excited to be surrounded by students again, Mohammad still wanted more. In 2017, Mohammad told his friend who had connections at the Fralin that he wanted to work at Arts Grounds, and found out that a part-time security guard position was open. He saw this opportunity as a foot through the door into what he has always loved. He told the manager of the Fralin that working at the museum, even as a security guard, would be like being “born again.” He got the job soon after.

Mohammad sees his job at the Fralin as a college course. Walking through the doors of the museum is like going to school. The art communicates with him, and working alongside it renews his desire to further his education in Charlottesville.

A degree at an American university is Mohammad’s goal at the moment. However, before he can reach it, he has to prove a certain level of English proficiency measured by a standardized assessment called the TOEFL test. He has taken and retaken numerous ESL classes so far, and hopes to achieve the required proficiency and get back to a university by his 70th birthday. That gives him about 12 years to continue to work toward this dream.

Even though he isn’t exactly where he wants to be career-wise at the moment, Mohammad has never doubted his decision to move to the U.S. He sees the benefits of his choice when he looks at his son, who recently graduated from the University and now works as an engineer in Washington, D.C., or when he thinks about the friends he has made or the enriching experiences he and his family have had here.

When he first announced he was moving, Mohammad’s friend told him he was crazy. He had a coveted job and his life was better than most in Iran. Who could know what would happen in America? He would be gambling everything he had ever built.

“Maybe,” Mohammad had replied. “Or maybe my action could be my gambit.”

He’s thankful that he took the risk.


When Khadija Hemmati left Afghanistan in 2016, she brought her five children and her ex-husband with her. Her mother, her sister and her sister’s family had been living in Charlottesville for several years and had told her great things about their new home. Khadija applied for a green card online, packed up her belongings and moved her family to Virginia.

Life in Afghanistan was difficult, especially for women, due to issues like illiteracy, a lack of employment options, child marriage and gender-based violence. Khadija, 34, had grown up in Iran with educated parents, which gave her more opportunities than many of the women she knew. Khadija studied computer science in Iran, but was not able to pursue further education or a career when she moved to Afghanistan.

The possibility of independence and security — for both herself and her children — is what spurred Khadija to leave Afghanistan.

What it looks like to start a second life in Charlottesville.

“I came to the U.S. because here you can find peace, you can have freedom, you can have a job, and a good education, especially for women,” Khadija said.

Once the family resettled themselves in Charlottesville, Khadija’s sister helped her find a job at O’Hill Dining Hall.

Khadija says that she is grateful to have found employment so quickly, but she does not want to work at O’Hill forever. She is currently studying for her GED and has plans to go back to school. She hopes to pair her knowledge of computers with medicine or nursing.

In the meantime, however, Khadija is focusing on raising her five children on her own and helping them adjust to life in America. She says her kids have rapidly picked up English and have adjusted to American culture. They have acclimated so well in fact, that Khadija sometimes feels like she is struggling to keep up.

“Every day is a challenge for me, every day,” Khadija said. “I have to ask my children about everything. I say what do they mean, if a paper comes from school, and they have to tell me. It’s just very hard.”

Kuhr affirmed that many parents face this issue in the resettlement process. They want their children to feel like they belong in this unfamiliar country, but often know that it may not be possible to truly do so themselves.

It can be really hard, seeing your children, especially younger kids in school,” Kuhr said. “A lot of times your kids adapt very quickly, you’re watching your kids kind of become bicultural.”

Khadija Hemmati and her children; photo courtesy of Khadija Hemmati

ESL classes have helped Khadija slowly learn the language, and she has made great strides over the past two years. Still, she says that the language barrier has been the main roadblock in making Charlottesville truly feel like her home.

“One of my dreams is that one day, I will just wake up and be able to speak very good, clear English,” she continued.

She knows that it isn’t something that will happen overnight.

But she’s determined to get to that level.


Bushiri Salumu had always wanted to study medicine. He was born in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to highly educated parents. His mother was a chemistry teacher and his father was a doctor. It seemed only natural that Bushiri would follow in their footsteps and pursue a career in science.

That is, until his entire world came crashing to a halt when he was 17.

Bushiri at work in Pinn Hall; Photo courtesy of Abby Clukey

In August 2007, Bushiri’s parents and most of his siblings were killed by an explosion from a battle between the Congolese military and a militia group that had drifted too close to their home. Bushiri and his younger brother and sister were the only survivors.

The years that ensued were something out of a nightmare. Suddenly thrust into homelessness, Bushiri and his siblings were captured by a militia group, became separated, and eventually — miraculously — escaped. They then embarked on a thousand-mile journey to a refugee camp in Zambia. The three of them would remain in that camp, technically safe but without adequate food or amenities — for four and a half years.

Bushiri and his siblings were directly relocated to Charlottesville in 2012. The IRC helped them resettle in the city, setting them up in their first home and finding them their first jobs.

Bushiri worked at a number of places before before his current position as a custodian at the University’s facilities management department, including a carwash, a nursing home and Runk dining hall. Now, he works night shifts cleaning specific buildings on Grounds — usually the National Radio Observatory and the medical school’s Pinn Hall.

During the day, Bushiri takes GED classes and plans for his future. The life he had once imagined for himself might not be possible anymore, but he is intent on getting as close as he can to it.

“My plan when I was a kid was to finish high school and go to college to study medicine,” said Bushiri. “So when we lost our parents, it was hard. Now, you know, I’m 28 years old. I’m older than a med student, and medical school is expensive. Now, my plan is to go to nursing school.”

Bushiri’s teachers — or his “tutors,” as he calls them — have been integral in getting him to where he is now, and on the path to where he wants to be. He has been taking classes at the Adult Learning Center on the Downtown Mall for years, ranging from ESL to computer skills to the University-sponsored facilities management program that got him his current job.

Carol Coffey, program coordinator at the Adult Learning Center, said that “core skills” like the ones that Bushiri has been learning are crucial to elevating immigrants, refugees and others in the Charlottesville community to the jobs and lives that they want.

“Learning takes commitment and work, but if you’re willing to do that, we can help you get what you need to take that next step, wherever you are on that ladder and whatever direction you want to go,” Coffey said. “And our goal is, once again, we want our friends and neighbors to have access to sustainable living jobs. We know they’ve got to get to that 15 dollar per hour, 18 dollar per hour place, or they’re not going to survive.”

To the members of the ALC staff, education is not only about sustainability — it also fosters personal growth. Every year, there is an essay contest for the students to submit a personal narrative, a selection of which is compiled in a publication entitled, Voices of Adult Learners.

ESL instructor Chip King has all of his students write an essay. He insists that everyone has a story, even if they can’t think of one at first. “It’s like that Blake poem, ‘To see the world in a grain of sand,’” he said. The most powerful stories don’t always have to recount earth-shattering moments — they can sprout from seemingly minor details.

Bushiri’s own essay was chosen to be published in this anthology. He wrote about hearing the news of the Unite the Right rally in August of 2017 — the white supremacist protest that claimed the life of counter-protester Heather Heyer — while he was at a post office in Tennessee. He said that he was deeply upset by the evil surfacing in the place he had just begun to call home, and it was the only time he has ever felt unwelcome or afraid in the six years he has lived in the U.S.

But Bushiri has looked evil in the face before. He said that the events of last summer have not permanently altered his perception of Charlottesville. Instead, he tries to focus on the good he has encountered here.

“In every country there are the good people and the bad people,” said Bushiri. “But here I have made so many friends, met so many people who helped me.”

This mentality is what has allowed Bushiri to rebuild a life in a strange city after losing almost everything and suspending his own dreams for so long. It’s what led him to officially apply for U.S. citizenship last August not long after the day that a postal worker asked him — upon hearing that Bushiri was living in the city on the news — if he was going to go back.

“Yes,” Bushiri had told him. “Charlottesville is my home.”

Advertisement

House Away from Hospital

Families finding housing in medical crisis

Words and Photos by Meagan O’Rourke. Illustration by Leo Dominguez.

Sephida Artis-Mills, a 36-year-old mother of five boys from Virginia Beach, waited for the ultrasound results 31 weeks into her pregnancy. When the doctors said there was bad news, she figured she was having another son.

“I knew something was wrong I just didn’t know what,” Artis-Mills said.

Her first daughter, Khanshaa, would be born with a congenital heart defect, meaning the left side of her heart is underdeveloped. Khanshaa would need three heart surgeries from the time she was born for her best chance at survival. After the first surgery at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, her doctors noticed complications. Khansha needed to stay and wait for a heart transplant in Charlottesville, three hours away from home.

“My heart felt like it fell in my feet,” Sephida said. “It felt like somebody sucked all the air out of the room and knocked the wind out of me.”

Khanshaa is now 6-months-old and Sephida spends between 10 to 13 hours a day by her side in the hospital. Commuting back and forth from Virginia Beach is not an option for Sephida.

“Nothing was right in the world not being there with her,” Sephida said.

Like hundreds of other families who live far from Charlottesville with children in the Children’s Hospital at U.Va., Sephida needs a place to stay indefinitely, not knowing when Khanshaa can get a heart. Hotels closest to the hospital cost at least $150 a night and cannot provide the protective isolated environment for Khanshaa.

However, through her social worker, Sephida found the Yellow Door Foundation, a member of the University’s new Housing Collaborative which seeks to pair families travel of children being treated at the the Children’s Hospital at the University with free housing options.

Sephida gasped and smiled walking into her temporary home full of yellow pillows, accents and flowers for the first time.

“It’s so beautiful,” she said. “I’m just blown away. I just saw this kitchen and I said I’m in love, I love to cook.”

Now, she is only a 10 minute drive from seeing her baby.

The Ronald McDonald House in Charlottesville, Photo by Meagan O’Rourke

The Children’s Hospital at the University began its Housing Collaborative in October of 2017 working with pediatric housing groups in the area to accommodate the high volumes of families visiting the hospital from far away.

Five housing groups are in the Collaborative: the Ronald McDonald House, the Alyssa House, the Yellow Door Foundation, Open Arms and LilyPads. In total, the collaborative can accommodate 24 families.

Joyce Thompson, manager of Patient and Family Center Care for the Children’s Hospital and Women’s Services, leads the initiative. She says the goal is to provide free housing to any family which requests living accommodations.

“I think it is positive that we all have the same shared vision we want to have safe housing for all of our families and a lot of them are here for a medical crisis, and anything we can do to support the families is what we are focusing on,” Thompson said.

Currently, if a family or their social worker reaches out to the Collaborative, the Ronald McDonald House first sees if it is a good fit, as it is the largest housing option with 19 beds. If not, the Ronald McDonald House will direct the request to the Collaborative which will find proper housing for the family among one of the five houses. All housing options are free and accept suggested donations between $10 to $15 a night, making the Collaborative an attractive option for families in crisis.

“We are always full, and we always have a waiting list,” Thompson said.

Thompson approximates that the Collaborative can fulfill 95 percent of housing requests. However, if a family cannot get off the waitlist for housing, the Collaborative will send the family to a local hotel, and the Children’s Hospital picks up the bill.

The housing groups meet each month to refine the process through which families can find a place to stay temporarily.

As a former nurse passionate about healthcare, she is pleased with the Collaborative’s impact so far in providing housing.

“I think that in the short time we have been together we have done a great job,” Thompson said. “I am also very proud of our U.Va. Children’s Hospital leadership they were the ones that recognized that we do need the support in our area for the families and as part of our patient and center family care have been allowing the group to work together.”

The creation of the U.Va. Housing Collaborative corresponds with the growth of the Children’s Hospital at the University. Last year more than 5,100 patients drove more than two hours to receive care at the Children’s Hospital with around 1,000 from out of state, according to the Children’s Hospital. Specifically, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and pediatric heart transplants are the main reasons for families to visit from far distances.

Yellow Door Foundation founder Joanne McTague felt called to start a free temporary housing options in this past year when she noticed families putting themselves in dangerous situations to avoid paying for hotels.

“When I found out that people were literally sleeping in their cars I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what I’m doing but we are going to see if we can make something work,’” McTague said.

Within the past year, the Yellow Door Foundation has expanded from one to three apartments, creating more options for families to stay with immunocompromised children. Also adding to the number of places to stay are the Open Arms House and the Lilypads Foundation, a network of host families.

“Now, especially with Lilypads having host families we almost have the potential to double our patient family beds,” Thompson said.

Thompson is confident that the Collaborative is keeping pace with the growth of the Children’s Hospital, even as it has been expanding its services for acutely ill children.

But, for families in medical crisis, having a bed is just the beginning of finding home in Charlottesville.

Chuck George, whose 3-year-old son Thomas had a congenital heart defect, stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for a total of eight months.

“Quite frankly I can’t think of a time when I was under more stress, having a sick kid in the hospital and every day they are fighting for their life, and the staff is aware of the challenges families are going through and they try to help them,” Chuck said.

Chuck has not stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in three years but he still stays keeps in contact with its director, Rita Ralston.

In 2015, after three heart surgeries, Thomas suffered complications and passed away.

“That’s the hardest day, not just in the Ronald McDonald house but in my life — period,” Chuck said. “I don’t think I’ve experienced anything more devastating than that.”

Coming back to the house, Ralston comforted him in the same way she has been a “beacon of light” to other families, according to Chuck.

For Ralston, it is all part of the job.

“Sometimes they just need to have someone present with them,” Ralston said. “One time I sat with a father for over an hour in the office, we didn’t need to speak, he just wanted someone present with him. At the same time, I’ve helped make funeral arrangements. It is whatever that family needs to bridge getting them back to having that family support.”

Hospitality and support is becoming more critical as stays at the Ronald McDonald House are increasingly extended.

“The issue with that is, yes, they need a place to stay, but yes, it is going to be an extended stay,” Ralston said. “So if I go back to when I started in 2010, if I ran a pure mathematical average of length of stay … it was a little over 6 days. Now, if I run that same average, it’s about 17 days.”

Before learning about Khansaa’s need for the heart transplant, Sephida stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. However, she moved to the Yellow Door Foundation which has accommodations for immunocompromised patients. She did not know how long she would stay there since Khansaa was on the heart transplant waitlist.

“How could we possibly pay for lodging 30 days or two or three months because when you are waiting for a transplant?” Sephida said.

However, her extended stay at the Yellow Door Foundation has given her a place to relax, stay on top of Khansaa’s insurance and a support network through the other families staying and the Foundation.

“It’s so many things you have to stay on top of so you have to keep your mind as peaceful and stable as possible because you can’t afford to let anything fall through the cracks because it can be detrimental for your child,” Sephida said.

Khansaa has been healthy so far through her procedures. She successfully received a heart transplant after 21 days on the waitlist. However, even if a family’s sick child survives, relationships between spouses and other children may deteriorate.

“Statistically things like this do rip families apart, and I know mothers who are going through divorce right now because it just was too much,” Sephida said.

However, with an apartment to herself, she can make her own meals and have her family visit from Virginia Beach. But most importantly, she emphasizes the importance of families asking for help.

“Just put that brave face on and you have to continue to smile and be positive and you have to be as strong as you possibly can and accept that support,” Sephida said.

The U.Va. Collaborative does not cost the hospital anything, according to Thompson. However, the individual housing groups need to accept the support of the community to continue offering homes for free.

The Alyssa House for immunocompromised patients costs the average price of owning at three bedroom home in Charlottesville and also keeps food staples for its residents. Maintaining the home depends on the generosity of others.

“We really do rely on donations,” Stevens said. Although the Ronald McDonald House in Charlottesville has an annual budget of $700,000, much of its funding comes from donations and fundraising. Walking into the house, plastic containers of soda can tabs are stacked by the door front since they can be sold for recycling value. Canned goods filling the closets come from generous individuals, church groups and schools drives. The local Barnes and Nobles even donated $40,000 worth of books to stock a library for both parents and their children.

Keeping these housing groups open independently requires a large community effort. And meeting the increasing demand of more families flocking the Children’s Hospital means these housing groups must continuing supporting and evaluating each other through the Collaborative. However, having a home during crisis will remain a constant relief for families experiencing immense stress.

“I was that person looking at St. Jude’s commercials, looking at Ronald McDonald house from the outside looking in not knowing what they do, and now I’m that parent, so the tables can turn so quickly in your life and you not expect it,” Sephida said. “But thank God those programs are there because who knows what would happen if they weren’t there or how many people would be sleeping in cars or in dangerous situations that they don’t have to be in.”

Clarity in Chaos

Jazz Performance Director John D’earth discusses his musical career, life in Charlottesville and what jazz has to teach America.

Words and Photos by Meagan O’Rourke.

University Director of Jazz Performance John D’earth decided to drop out of Harvard on a Sunday in 1972.

In a New York City loft above King Pork Packer’s on the corner of 9th Avenue and 13th Street, the saxophonist David Liebman played “Willow Weep for Me” for D’earth in the morning, the brassy tones drowning out the city chatter. Later that afternoon, D’earth heard his longtime friend and percussion professor Robert Jospé and Grammy-winning saxophonist Michael Brecker playing songs off the Coltrane album “Impressions.”

“I could not believe what I was hearing,” D’earth said.

This was the jazz scene of New York in the 70’s — collaborative, evolving and raw. A jam session among friends in a loft could be the breeding ground for nationally-renowned musicians. While he loved studying English literature in college, D’earth — an insatiable listener and trumpet performer — needed to be here.

Now, in 2018, Charlottesville is his post. Continuing his musical career — still technically on a leave of absence from Harvard, he jokes — D’earth is the University’s Jazz Ensemble Director. Outside of the University, D’earth seems to be entrenched in every aspect of the Charlottesville jazz scene. He is the co-founder of the Free Bridge Quintet, a co-founder of the Precognitive Conservatory Orchestra, director of the Charlottesville Swing Orchestra and a local favorite to watch perform at Miller’s on the Downtown Mall on Thursday nights. During the Concert for Charlottesville, he shared the stage with the Dave Matthews Band and features Dave Matthews on his “Mercury” album.

However, he does not stay here for the applause he receives at the end of every performance.

He agrees to meet with me outside of Old Cabell Hall. Although his concert call time is quickly approaching, he never checks his phone or watch. Performers roll in sound equipment as we talk for an hour. During our conversation, he stops to say hello to four music students and professors he knows walking past. Jazz is truly the “social art” he described to me.

“Charlottesville is a really rich musical community and its got a really great jazz community, jazz appreciation, jazz musicians, jazz studies,” D’earth said. “It’s a musical place, and I feel as though my biggest interest in life is to make a difference to something. I think there’s bad times coming in this country, like very bad times ahead.”

But D’earth says that jazz has something to teach all of us about confronting bad times — if we are brave enough to listen.

Miller’s is the home to locals who come to hear D’earth play Thursday nights.

Miller’s is the home to locals who come to hear D’earth play Thursday nights

D’earth always knew he wanted to be a performer. Planning his career goals early on, he was an aspiring actor until the age of 12.

Particularly, he recalls watching the 1959 film “The Five Pennies.” Somewhat mirroring D’earth’s future, the film follows the true story of Red Nichols (played by Danny Kaye) as he moves to New York to become a jazz musician.

“Danny Kaye is a genius performer and he just made this crazy jazz musician come to life, but Red Nichols himself was not a great player,” D’earth said.

While he admired Kaye’s energetic portrayal of lackluster Nichols, a supporting character who played the cornet in the film captured his interest — Louis Armstrong.

“So it was in a funny way that [Danny Kaye] handed me off to Louis Armstrong and that was it,” D’earth said.

D’earth was suspended several times from his Framingham high school for “stupid stuff” like the rebellious act of not cutting his hair. His single mother was frustrated with the administration’s rule restricting the stylish trend. She arranged for her son to attend a private high school — the Cambridge School of Weston.

Here, he met Jospé who would become his musical collaborator, best friend and fellow professor at the University. Jospé, dressed in black concert attire, waves at us as he climbs the Old Cabell steps. D’earth shouts hello and leans in to to tell me they are two weeks apart in age — almost like twins — but D’earth is older.

“It was an instant connection of music and friendship [when] we started playing together the very first day we met in 1967,” Jospé said.

Jospé went on to New York University and D’earth to Harvard. But the two were not separated for long. D’earth frequently visited New York to see Jospé, who was studying under Miles Davis’ drummer, Tony Williams, at the time.

Drawn in by the city’s vibrant sound, D’earth made the move to New York in 1971, and the two friends from Massachusetts formed the jazz fusion band Cosmology. Vocalist Dawn Thompson, later to become D’earth’s wife, also led the group in crafting original music.

In 1981, the group was invited to play gigs in Charlottesville, whose jazz scene was in its early stages.

“We were sort of a different kind of sound that people were attracted to,” Jospé said.


While New York City was brimming with jazz music in the ’70s, D’earth recognizes this is not the case everywhere today. He notes that many people do not get jazz and they think that those who claim to like it are just trying to be hip. However, D’earth is not in the business of trying to get people to like jazz. He just wants his students and audiences to feel jazz.

“Jazz has to hurt you and then it is your problem and you’ll know what to do but you have to listen to it,” D’earth said. “It has to hurt you. The music has to touch you.”

D’earth refuses to leave the philosophy lesson at this. He delves into history.

“Look, jazz music is black music — it is the music of black America,” D’earth said. “And everybody plays it because black people created this music in this country and it got recorded and it went around the world, and it changed how people heard music. It gave music back to the people.”

D’earth recognizes the significance of the history of jazz music and its roots in black America. As a white jazz musician, he has grappled with the idea of whether playing jazz music is cultural appropriation.

“Every note we jazz musicians play is Black Lives Matter because the notes we play would not exist without black lives,” D’earth said. “So that’s not appropriation, that is affirmation. And that’s what art should do — affirmation.”

Deborah McDowell, professor and director of the Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies, typically shies away from talking about whether white musicians are appropriating jazz music, as it is a complex matter for black jazz musicians to unpack. However, she says D’earth always explains the influence of black musicians on his work and is a masterful player.

“Whoever has heard his trumpet knows that he inhabits jazz music, bone and flesh — that he respects, even reverences, jazz music,” McDowell said in an email. “For this and so many other reasons, it belongs to him in the truest meaning of belonging.”

D’earth’s goal is to introduce each concert talking about where the music comes from and its roots in black America, referring to slavery of the past and discrimination today. He hopes people will realize the healing properties that can come out of such seemingly chaotic and spontaneous music.

“The point is, what this music talks about is genuine feelings, true experience. And guess what? It’s painful as hell and it’s beautiful to survive,” D’earth said.

D’Earth improvises and sees this music style as a form of conversation.

Once, D’earth was so moved by jazz’s power, he had to pull off of the road.

He was listening to a Billie Holiday concert on the radio. It was not the music that had moved him — it was the shock of what Holiday said at the end of the concert. “I never sing a song the same way twice, I never sing the same tempo. And when I sing a song, that’s my life.”

D’earth pauses and exhales.

“I have a hard time even repeating that without getting really screwed up from it,” D’earth said. “But the point of it is if 99 percent of people in this country heard that music and heard that voice and had the same reaction we wouldn’t have racism in this country. We would have appreciation and apologies. And we need apologies.”

While he has always been concerned about racial injustice and discrimination, he feels he, as a jazz musician, is more relevant after the events of Aug. 11 and 12 in which white supremacists and neo-Nazis occupied the Lawn in a torchlit rally the night before a deadly protest in downtown Charlottesville the following day.

“Since the events of August, I feel like it’s my responsibility to speak out,” D’earth said.

He attributes his mentor and colleague, Music Prof. Bonnie Gordon, with opening his eyes to the ongoing inequalities in Charlottesville and for inspiring him to talk more openly about racial injustices.

“I played this music for years in this town and never realized there was a whole black part of the town, a poor part of the town that would never have the transportation or the dough to find me as a teacher,” D’earth said. “I just never thought of it that way but she taught me that.”

Together, they created The Precognitive Conservatory Orchestra — a jazz performance group free for anyone of any level to join, which focuses on musical improvisation.

While he sees jazz improvisation as a form of conversation, he wishes people would harness the norms of music to have more productive dialogues about the heaviest problems facing our nation.

“Music shows the way. Especially improvised music,” D’earth said. “Because when in music you say, ‘When in doubt, leave it out.’ You say, ‘Listen to each other’.”

Teaching improvisation may seem counterintuitive, but D’earth strikes a balance.

And while D’earth loves teaching, he is wary of the intimidation that can come with mastering music. A crusading musical egalitarian, he believes everyone’s sense of music is innate. Like breathing, D’earth believes music is biological.

“Think anything biological,” D’earth said. “So I think music and sexuality are super connected to each other but I think we as a people, we the people of this country but in the human race in general is very very paranoid about anything powerful so music, sex, everybody wants to control these things.”

As a teacher, he believes it is his job to let his students find their own musicality and to embrace its power. He is disheartened by stories of children who go into music only to be dissuaded by militant teachers or critical parents.

“I say let them do their dream of music first. They have a huge dream when they go to music, and when we play this free music everybody can live the dream,” D’earth said.

As a stepfather, D’earth also sees his students as children.


Ph.D. Jazz student Rami Stucky has played drums in the Jazz Ensemble since fall of 2016. Since meeting D’earth, he has considered him as a mentor and has appreciated his understanding teaching style.

“He’s unorthodox but in the best way possible,” Stucky said.

Unlike other big bands Stucky has played in which mostly play stock tunes, D’earth encourages students to compose their own pieces. Last semester, the ensemble played three student-compositions.

“He’s unorthodox but in the best way possible.”

-Ph.D. jazz student Rami Stucky

This originality drives D’earth’s work. Watching him perform at Miller’s with his band, he plays trumpet in brilliant bursts, then walks off the stage while the keyboardist plays a solo. He grabs a drink, hugs an old friend and goes back up, moving naturally with the music. Like Holiday, he is careful not to play a song the same way twice.

He believes there are two things jazz has to teach us.

The first is mastering your instrument so you have your own relationship to its musical language.

“Two, what Oscar Wilde said — be yourself because everyone else is taken. Tell your own story, express yourself, no copying,” D’earth said. “And that’s what jazz has to teach. That’s what the great jazz musicians do.”

The city that wears its art on its sleeve

Charlottesville’s murals illustrate a city wrestling with its identity

Words by Ben Hitchcock and Thomas Roades.

Charlottesville’s most popular mural could not be more straightforward: “I LOVE CHARLOTTESVILLE A LOT,” reads the wall of Fitzgerald’s Tires in Belmont. The jauntily spaced red and black letters are a pilgrimage site for residents and students alike, a focal point in a town that loves art and loves itself.

“I Love Charlottesville a Lot,” at Fitzgerald’s Tires, is perhaps Charlottesville’s most popular mural. (Photo by Thomas Roades)

Charlottesville’s walls have become increasingly colorful over the last few years, as artists and organizations have leapt at the chance to reimagine the visual landscape of a rapidly changing city. The Tom Tom Founders Festival City as Canvas Mural Project has sponsored multiple murals since its founding three years ago; The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative’s Charlottesville Mural Project, founded in 2011, has commissioned and consulted more than a dozen murals, including “I Love Charlottesville” and the abstraction on the side of The Graduate Hotel. Charlottesville now wears its art on its sleeve.

The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, which has commissioned numerous Charlottesville murals, is itself covered in public art. (Photo by Thomas Roades)

This vibrant evolution becomes more complicated in the wake of Aug. 12 and the ensuing period of town-wide self-reflection. As many have recently noted, Charlottesville’s class of well-educated, high-earning white liberals have long engaged in a dangerous sort of “performative progressivism.” After President Donald Trump’s election, Mayor Mike Signer declared Charlottesville the “Capital of the Resistance.”The city feels like ground zero for new-age, lumbersexual, craft-beer liberalism, likely home to more Priuses and Bernie stickers per capita than anywhere else in the state. But this brand of progressivism often falls short of creating real progress. Slapping a nice picture on a wall in a decrepit neighborhood and claiming to have made a tangible difference exemplifies this trend.

This context casts the various strategies adopted by Charlottesville’s muralists into a new light. Some of Charlottesville’s murals are bold and subversive and brash. Works by artists like Kaki Dimock and Tandem Friends School are squarely situated in the tradition of the mural as political activism — as the shard of Berlin Wall outside Alderman reminds us, street art has long been a powerful tool in the hands of grassroots change-makers. Other muralists like Mickael Broth have embraced the abstract and apolitical in their art. Meanwhile, work by Chicho Lorenzo aims for a different sort of activism, an activism of aspiration, depicting not what is but what could be. The merits and flaws of these respective styles have been thrown into sharp focus by Charlottesville’s extraordinary political moment.


Look closely to see a street sign painted with checkers to blend into this mural at Mas Tapas — a lighthearted and creative touch characteristic of artist Chicho Lorenzo. (Photo by Thomas Roades)

Just around the corner from “I Love Charlottesville,” a similarly optimistic mural covers the side of the restaurant Mas Tapas. The “Floating Banquet,” painted early last year by artist Chicho Lorenzo, depicts a joyful scene — adults and children of all races and walks of life frolic through the sky or sit at a long banquet table, quaffing margaritas and laughing with each other. The mural is colorful, cartoonish, full of movement and life, no frowns in sight. It playfully incorporates in with the surrounding environment, featuring a street sign that’s been painted to blend in with the mural, and a streetlight grasped in one of the revelers’ hands as though it’s a cup.

The mural’s spirit echoes its creator. Lorenzo, originally from Madrid, arrived in Charlottesville in 2008 and has since painted murals in Belmont, at IX Art Park and near Barracks Road, as well as worked with local elementary schools. Lorenzo seems eternally cheerful — humble and quick to laugh, he signs his emails “Love&Rhythm.”

Lorenzo’s art may seem impossibly placid, but the effect is purposeful. Lorenzo understands art as providing an ideal for people and communities to strive towards.

“People ask me … I see just positive stuff, not negative,” Lorenzo said. “And I say yeah, because this is the possibility. This is the community that I believe we are and we can be. So somehow painting that … makes it real in the mind of people who see that mural.”

Though it isn’t activism in the traditional controversial, disruptive sense, Lorenzo believes his strategy can create real, sweeping change.

“Art, in general, is intrinsically political activism,” he remarked, positing that artists can be leaders by setting an example. “We imagine the unreal, the possibility. That should inspire everyone else to somehow consider those possibilities, so somehow they move society forward.”

Lorenzo’s optimism is admirable, but his murals leave themselves open to misinterpretation. Out in the wild, without Lorenzo — or a handy museum exhibition plaque — to explain, the murals are easily read as a depiction of Charlottesville’s reality, rather than Charlottesville’s unrealized future. In a city with a troubling habit of patting itself on the back a little too readily, simple depictions of a perfectly harmonious society read like a whitewashing of more complex issues. In 2014, Charlottesville was voted the happiest place in the country, despite facing problems like sweeping gentrification and a mounting housing crisis that disproportionately affected low-income and minority residents. Lorenzo’s art does not agitate this status quo.

Lorenzo’s mural offers a cheerful, perhaps idealistic vision of Charlottesville. (Photo by Thomas Roades)

Lorenzo’s aim isn’t disruption — it’s charm.

“I paint with colors and shapes that people find beautiful,” he said. Lorenzo sees this attitude echoed by the other artists and residents of the city. “Charlottesville, it’s a gardening community. We love our gardens, our flowers. We love this aesthetic.”

Lorenzo feels that his cheerful style fits Charlottesville’s longstanding ethos of focusing on the good things and ignoring the uncomfortable — an ethos the city has been working hard to shed.

“Even if I try not to be beautiful, and try to do it a little bit wild, it comes always soft, which fits the atmosphere in Charlottesville,” he said. “Soft and easy art.”

Broth’s 240’ mural stretches around a corner on Garrett St. (Photo by Ben Hitchcock)


Mickael Broth, a primarily Richmond-based artist who has also painted several Charlottesville murals, learned the hard way that art is not always easy.

“I got into painting large-scale exterior surfaces as a teenager by painting graffiti,” he said. His career as a graffiti artist was cut short abruptly, however — “That didn’t end well, I wound up doing almost a year in jail in Richmond for my involvement in graffiti,” Broth said. “After that, I really stuck to doing drawings on paper for a long time afterwards.”

Since then, he’s established himself as a well-known muralist in Richmond, receiving a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts professional fellowship in 2008. Though much of his work has been in Richmond, Broth has still made his mark on the walls of Charlottesville as well. In 2015, he was the Artist in Residence for the Tom Tom Festival, during which he painted a 240-foot-long mural on Garrett Street and another at Charlottesville Sanitary Supply, as well as a Charlottesville City Transit bus — a sort of moving mural.

Broth’s mural at Charlottesville Sanitary Supply is more abstract, and its street art style hints at his origins as a graffiti artist. (Photo by Ben Hitchcock)

“ [Painting a bus] was a new experience for [Tom Tom], and I think they were trying to do something creative and different,” Broth said. “It was all done with spray paint, and then [the bus] ran for two months I think before it was taken out of service.”

“We went into it knowing that this was a temporary thing,” he said. “[Murals] are sort of medium-term permanent. They can last 20 years, 50 years, but in general it’s a medium that isn’t this lifetime commitment and it can be a temporary thing. The ephemeral nature of the work itself is in a lot of ways important for the appreciation of it.”

Broth said he rarely has one specific message he wishes to convey with his pieces — “public art is … out in public and people will bring their personal experiences and interpretations to it,” he explained. As a result, his work tends to remain apolitical. His street art style is in itself a bit edgy — reminiscent of his roots as a graffiti artist — but its subject matter is generally abstract and uncontroversial. Broth’s massive mural on Garrett Street tends toward the surreal, with faces that seem to expand as they melt into each other and eye-catching color. The wall at Charlottesville Sanitary Supply displays a more calming color scheme, but just as much abstract action in its tangled mass of lines. His work in Richmond is similarly unconcerned with explicit political statement — recent subjects include Will Smith, C-3PO, and Madonna.

Though Broth rarely tries to make any one distinct statement with his murals, he did describe the medium as a form of expression for a city’s residents and one that can be constantly changing due to its aforementioned ephemeral nature.

He explained the prevalence of murals in his hometown of Richmond as a movement of self-expression and civic pride.

“The visual landscape is now far more representative of the culture of the city,” he said. “For a long time the city has had a very conservative tilt to it, but there was always this appreciation for art and for creative expression brewing under the surface, and finally we’re at a point where that is what is being represented visually.”

Public art inherently lends itself to that kind of public representation, Broth said. 

“Public art murals have somewhat of a political or ideological … sense in that it’s taking art out of a museum or a gallery or institution and bringing it to the public,” he said. “It democratizes [art], that idea that everyone should be able to experience art.”

Broth is the founder of the Welcoming Walls initiative, a project that brings murals to the streets of Richmond with the goal of building community spirit.

Broth is right that murals, just by their very existence, can deconstruct traditional systems and “democratize” art. But abstraction only has so much power when it’s not coupled with interpretation. Broth doesn’t concern himself with political nuance. Like, for example, the “I Love Charlottesville” mural, urban beautification and civic pride are goals of Broth’s work.


Kaki Dimock’s mural by the train tracks downtown has an overt political message, celebrating the anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act. (Photo by Thomas Roades)

Murals can do more than that, however. The Rivanna River Watershed mural, located at the intersection of First Street and the train tracks, was painted by local artist Kaki Dimock in 2013 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act. In collaboration with StreamWatch, the Rivanna Conservation Society, Rivanna River Basin Commission and the Charlottesville Mural Project, Dimock received over $11,000 in funding through a Kickstarter for the project, which she said celebrates the law as a successful public policy that’s benefitted many people. 

The piece depicts the Blue Ridge Mountains above several iconic University and Charlottesville buildings all resting atop an underwater scene featuring wildlife from the Rivanna River Basin — a symbolic representation of the relationship between the human community and the natural environment, according to Dimock.

Though a celebration of clean water is hardly a controversial stance, Dimock’s work subtly nudges its beholders to reconsider their entire worldview in terms of their relationship to the natural world.

“My work … is a challenge to the human viewer to consider animals in a different way,” she said. “I’m sort of trying to turn the tables a little bit and accentuate the need to balance our use of the environment with the animals we share it with. That is certainly an intentional and motivating thought for me as an artist.”

This is a theme not only in this particular mural, but throughout Dimock’s work, she said. Much of her work is in pen and ink, and occasionally watercolor, so the mural was a break from her preferred mediums, yet it still contains her signature focus on the importance of the animal world and its relationship to ours.

“The boundaries between the human world and the animal world … are more fragile than we think,” Dimock said. In order to get that message across, she often brings the two together in unconventional ways, breaking down those boundaries with somewhat surreal artwork “accentuating animals over the built environment, or placing them in strange environments.”

In the First Street mural, that juxtaposition manifests itself in the thin brown line separating the ground beneath the painted Rotunda and the vast expanse of water just below it. Though the buildings that define Charlottesville and Grounds are present, they’re hardly the mural’s focus. Instead, the underwater scene takes up about two-thirds of the space, with fish arranged in concentric circles that instantly draw the eye down. The river environment serves as the foundation for the man-made landmarks that are central to the city — demonstrating our dependence on the natural environment and, in particular, on clean water.

That concept of nature as the foundation on which humans are dependent is characteristic of Dimock’s work. “You might see a drawing of a town in my work, but the town is on the back of a giant red kangaroo,” she said.

Though paint-on-brick murals are not her usual medium in which to work, Dimock expressed an appreciation for the inherent subversiveness that accompanies the art form. 

“I would suggest that … murals are an act of activism and a little bit assertive in that art used to be the private domain of the rich,” she said. “The idea of public art means it’s automatically a little bit subversive, it is to say that beautiful things with meaning belong to all of us.”

She seemed to think that message was especially appropriate for a mural celebrating clean water — a natural resource on which we all depend.

“Water is everybody’s in the same sort of way,” Dimock said. “It felt to me that there were a lot of parallels between the water basin and the idea of [public] art.”

Dimock environmental agenda means her murals carry weight as agents of community change. Water conservation may not be controversial, but it’s a worthy goal, and Dimock’s murals advocate for change by distorting both physical and mental space.

A mural of two Native American Chiefs is barely visible in a narrow alley behind the Main St. Marriott. (Photo by Thomas Roades)

Charlottesville’s most disruptive mural is no longer visible without a little bit of searching. On Main Street, a narrow alleyway squeezes between the Grand Market Afghan grocery and the Marriott Hotel. Two Native American chiefs wearing traditional feathered headdresses stare sternly down from the wall of the Market. In 2011, when the chiefs were first painted, their line of sight cut across the corner of the street and fell upon the statue of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea that stands at the intersection of Main, Ridge and McIntire. Now, their view is obstructed by the hotel.

Unlike Lorenzo or Broth, the Tandem Friends School students who painted this mural had an explicit political agenda, based around subversion of the city’s status quo. Jack Ronayne, one of the Tandem students who worked on painting the mural, said that the mural represented a response to the statue across the street.

“I’ve always looked at the Sacagawea statue as being one of the worst statues in town,” he said, “just because it shows her as cowering and subservient, and that’s not what she was like in actuality. She was leading the charge, leading these totally dumb blind white men through the woods.”

The students who painted the mural aimed to undermine the statue’s comfortable, well-worn message.

“To have the two chiefs from the west kind of giving you this solemn, pointed stare, it just makes you reset,” Ronayne said. “Like maybe we should think about what we did to the Native Americans, and how the land was taken.”

The mural was commissioned by Ryan Deramus, at the time owner of Random Row Books, a used bookstore that had occupied the lot where the Marriott now stands. In a blog post written just after the completion of the mural, Deramus echoed Ronayne’s sentiments.

“It was clear from the beginning that it should directly contrast the perspective presented in the Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea statue,” Deramus wrote of the mural. The people behind this mural aimed to create contrast and tension.

The city resisted the mural immediately. Charlottesville declared the mural had been painted in a historic district and would need to be presented to the city’s Board of Architectural Review. He was asked by the City to retroactively apply for a permit and pay the $100 application fee. Deramus scoffed at the threats of the bureaucracy.

The mural eventually withstood the city’s resistance only to face new troubles two years later in 2013 when Random Row Books closed its doors. The building, a former auto repair shop, was demolished to make room for the hotel, which towers over the wall featuring the mural, and leaves an alley only a few feet wide from which to view it. Random Row was a community attraction — in addition to displaying the mural, the store hosted music shows, theater performances and conversations with local political activists. In its place now stands a Marriott, smooth tan concrete walls pressed up against the noses of the noble chiefs on the side of the neighboring building. The students’ brave statement and energetic activism is occluded by a cookie-cutter box full of uncomfortable beds.

The story of the Native American shows that Charlottesville needs more activism like the kind expressed by the Tandem students. There is still plenty in this city worth subverting and questioning. The community faces an affordable housing crisis at the same time as luxury apartment buildings continue to rise on West Main Street. The Lee statue still stands in Emancipation Park. Even after a year of important self-reflection, Charlottesville still needs an honest reminder of what it is, not a heartwarming declaration of what it can be.

Eugenics’ racist chains on U.Va

How an outdated science manifested into racism and discrimination the University still contends with

Words by Navya Annapareddy and Aisha Singh.

As the University of Virginia marks its Bicentennial, the laying of its cornerstone will be celebrated by old and new Hoos alike. The University’s history is long and rich, as is with any any premier institution of learning almost as old as the United States itself.

A journey to the bottom floors of the University’s Shirley Small Special Collections and the Claude Moore Health Science libraries reveals hundreds upon hundreds of journals, all giving a vivid glimpse into the University’s past. Not all the historical accounts are good, of course — there are controversial manuscripts and many journals and books depicting the brutalities of slavery. Texts relay accounts of the evolution of man from more “exotic” races. Some are centuries old, and some only decades.

Look even further at dusty anatomy books, containing pages upon pages of racist and ableist prose. Some describe methods of ensuring lighter skin in offspring. Others recommend forced sterilization of “defective women.”

This is the pseudoscience of eugenics, a collection of genetics practices based on mistaken facts — a so-called science propagated by a legion of the University’s best minds at the time. It is a science which promoted the falsehood of genetic purity and at its worst, lent its ideas to the Nazi movement. Eugenics was well in practice in the 20th century and even now its grasp on the University, in the wake of the self-reflection following the events of Aug. 11 and 12, is apparent.


At its simplest, eugenics aimed to increase the proportion of genetically healthy people in a population. In the late 1800s, English scientist Francis Galton published his beliefs that social improvement would only happen by improving the heredity of those who were having children. His ideas, which he termed the science of eugenics, took hold within the United States in the early 20th century.

Paul Lombardo, former director of the Law and Medicine Program at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University, said one of the bases behind eugenics was population control.

“The theory was that you could engineer society in the long-term, to improve it … to do away with many of the problems like crime and poverty and disease,” Lombardo said.

In theory, the goal of improving society seemed a noble one. But in practice, eugenics intertwined with the ideologies of racism, ableism and Nazism, devolving into a science that promoted sterilization, coercive measures and ultimately a framework that proposed racial purity.

Virginia legislators were staunch supporters of eugenics. By 1912 and 1916, the state-funded Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded housed epileptic, disabled or otherwise “feeble-minded” individuals. These colonies housed people who proponents of eugenics deemed not fit to be in society – although there were fair numbers of the mentally ill, the only thing differentiating these people from everyone else was their lack of wealth and power.

“The comparative histologic study of pigmented skins was undertaken with the hope of discovering evidence that might throw more light on the problem of color inheritance among the descendants of crosses between whites and negros.”

– Professor H.E. Jordan, University of Virginia, August 1911

Lawmakers did not stop at establishing institutions for people deemed unfit for society. The first sterilization legislation in Virginia, proposed in 1914, was fueled by notable eugenicists such as Albert Priddy and Joseph DeJarnette. Both also helped establish the Virginia Colony. On March 20, 1924, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Sterilization Act, which allowed for “sexual sterilization of inmates of State institutions in certain cases.” On the same day, the Racial Integrity Act was passed, which expanded Virginia’s ban of interracial marriage, posing stricter regulations on the classifications of “white” and “negro”.

In one fell swoop, the stage was set for another layer of institutional and legal discrimination of poor, mentally-ill and African American populations across Virginia.

At institutions like the Virginia State Colony, sterilization was a proposed procedure to ensure that its wards would never be able to have “morally corrupt” offspring. Colonies like the Virginia Colony were organized to separate patients from the general population.


Carrie Buck, a Charlottesville native, was removed from the care of her mother, Emma, and taken in by foster parents soon after Emma was committed to the Colony in 1920. At school, Carrie showed promise, but just a few years after moving in with her foster parents, she was raped — supposedly by the foster family’s nephew. With a baby on the way, her foster parents condemned Carrie to the Colony, citing her “promiscuity” and “feeblemindedness” as reason for her banishment.

“Her foster parents said that she was a moral delinquent, and she had different problems and disabilities … but the biggest problem was that … she got pregnant,” Lombardo said. “She had a baby but she wasn’t married.”

At the same time as Carrie’s departure to the Colony, the Sterilization Act of 1924 was passed, and Carrie became the test subject for a law that would serve as a basis for the discriminatory policies of the time period.A court appeal filed on behalf of Carrie Buck objecting to the sterilization process for reasons including it imposing “a crel and unusual punishment.” Circuit Court of Amherst County.


The Virginia legislature, armed with lawyer Aubrey Strode, used the stigma of being an unwed, lower-class woman to deem Buck a candidate for sterilization – a series of medical procedures that would render her infertile.

Against her will, on Oct. 19, 1927, Carrie Buck was the first woman in Virginia to be sterilized under eugenics law.

Oliver Holmes, the chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals said of the case, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Lombardo emphasized the national importance of the Buck v. Bell ruling.

“[The ruling] formed a precedent for the whole country, saying that laws that would allow the state to sterilize people in institutions or hospitals or asylums, was [sic] constitutional,” he said. “The Buck case became the national precedent really for the whole practice [of eugenics].”

Lombardo also noted how the eugenics laws complemented other racially charged structures at the time.

“In a setting where Jim Crow laws are the rule, where racism is institutionalized in the law, eugenics comes along to provide an extra argument and a more focused argument about race,” he said.

At the height of its power, eugenics reinforced the concept of racial superiority and anti-Semitism at the University of Virginia and the Southern aristocratic families it served. In Virginia, 7,325 people were sterilized, although nationally the number is estimated to be as high as 60,000. The majority of those affected in Virginia — about 62 percent — were women.

Throughout the country, eugenics legislation was pushed forward and sterilizations were forced upon many marginalized groups, such as the poor, mentally ill and African-Americans. In Virginia, however, most of the sterilizations were done on white people, according to Lombardo, because there were not as many institutions for people of color.

“Do you realise that about 10 percent of our population is defective, an economic and social burden, and a constant source of racial menace and contamination?”

– Twelve University Lectures, 1914

However, in both black and white institutions around the Virginia area, the subject of eugenics was extremely prevalent. At both the University of Virginia and the all-black Howard University, among others, classes for eugenics were added to curriculums and students began writing papers and theses on the topic.


Eugenics at the University

Throughout its rise and fall, the University was notably silent in publicly addressing its involvement in eugenics as controversy over the movement mounted. In fact, notable eugenicists in Virginia permeated the core of the University’s leadership.

The University’s first president, Edwin Alderman, as well as the fourth dean of the University’s medical school, Harvey Jordan, were both fervent eugenicists. When the eugenics movement in the U.S. started faltering during World War II, even as Hitler’s regime rose to power and embraced its ideas, faculty at the University continued to include eugenics in curriculums and instruction.

“When Hitler embraced eugenics, it was so apparent that it was part of a racist ideology … But people here supported it,” said Dr. Preston Reynolds, a professor in the division of General Medicine, Geriatric and Palliative Care at the University’s School of Medicine. “In their courses, students writing papers supported Hitler’s regime and wished the U.S. could embrace Hitler’s programs.”

Harvey Jordan, although a stark opponent of interracial marriage, once claimed in a 1913 issue of The Literary Digest that the African American could be “saved” and purified by reproducing with caucasians.

“The mulatto, measured by present day standards of Caucasian civilization, from economic and civic standpoints, is an advance upon a pure negro,” the former dean said in the interview with the publication.

In 1972, the University named the building that serves as the home of the School of Medicine after him.

Ivey Lewis, vice president of the biology section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was asked to give an address to his section at the University in 1953 extolling the premise of eugenics. This talk was given after World War II, when the principles of eugenics were falling out of fashion.

“People were so outraged that they actually refused to publish his address in science [journals],” Reynolds said.

“Eugenics was the scientific foundation that justified the development of [discriminatory] policies and those structural barriers. Eugenics justified it.”

– Dr. Preston Reynolds, Professor in the Division of General, Geriatric, Palliative and Hospital Medicine

Reynolds, who is Associate Chair for Professionalism and Diversity in the School of Medicine, gave a lecture on the past and future of eugenics last fall in the now renamed Pinn Hall maintains that eugenics propagated systemic issues in racism. The University’s decades-long affair with eugenics significantly slowed the University’s racial integration, as well as its admittance of women, across the University.

“Eugenics was the scientific foundation that justified the development of those policies and those structural barriers,” Reynolds said. “Eugenics justified [them].”

Both Reynolds and Lombardo also agree that the University has been forced to grapple with how its past in eugenics affected its practices both in the past and present.

“Because it continued into the 60s, it justified a lot of what we would call racist instruction,” Reynolds said.

The University administration has garnered criticism for its perceived lack of recognition of its past. Reynolds, for example, described how her lecture on eugenics was controversial because of the light in which it depicted the University.

Alice Burgess, a Class of 2017 graduate of the University, knows both the difficulties and importance of depicting the University’s past accurately. Burgess, who participated in the University Guide Service, a University-designated special status organization, believes the main priority of those showcasing the University’s history should be to present a picture that is accurate and detailed.

“This means including both positive and negative aspects, but the main goal is just to be honest, open, transparent, and not to look upon U.Va.’s past with rose-tinted glasses,” she said. “Conveying the scope and lived realities of these periods of history is a challenge, but opening up the discussion on U.Va.’s distressing … past is crucial for the creation of a better university climate.”

Current University Guide and third-year College student Jillian Randolph contends with two views of the University: the ideals it promoted, and the racism and ableism it exhibited in practice.

“The University was built on these ideals, with good intentions. But those aren’t necessarily mirrored in the practice of how they came to be,” Randolph said. “And it just so happens that with what it wanted to be and how it came to be tend to be ironic themes. You want illimitable freedom of the pursuit of knowledge, but then you have enslaved laborers building the entire University.”

“I’ve now given this lecture, and people say, ‘How can you pull that off?’ And I said, ‘Because I’m a trained historian, I’m a scientist, and I’m tenured. So I can speak the truth,'” Reynolds said.


Reconciling an Inconsistent Past

After the events of Aug. 11, when white supremacists marched on the University’s Lawn, it is difficult to ignore the sentiments that have permeated the University since it was founded. With an increase in the visibility of white supremacy and neo-Nazism, not only here but across the nation, people are looking for an explanation for why the events in Charlottesville took place.

“I think that eugenics being so prominent here is a direct extension of that idea of white supremacy that Jefferson boldly detailed in his writings,” Randolph said. “The fact that he was one of the first people to introduce the biological debate on racism, and that we become a world leader in eugenics …. It’s not surprising that that’s why this was a breeding ground for it, and that on August 11 and 12, white supremacists found a home for it here.”

Some believe the University is too passive in its acknowledgment of its past. In recent years, Lewis Hall was renamed to Yen Hall, after the first Chinese student to graduate from U.Va., and Jordan Hall was named Pinn Hall, after Vivian Pinn, the only African-American and woman to graduate from the Medical School in 1967. Some people feel that conversations about the eugenicist beliefs of the men the buildings were originally named after should have held a more prominent place in discussions and announcements about these renamings.

“It’s fine if you want to change the names, but you should have a marker on the building saying why you changed the name, rather than just trying to erase it and hoping that everyone forgets it,” Lombardo said. “I’ve never been in favor of changing the names of buildings as a way of avoiding talking about some of the horrific things that happened in the past.”

Regardless of the University’s slow progress, it is important to understand the continuance of the discriminatory ideas from Jefferson’s time, to the time of eugenics, to today.

“We don’t have to use the word ‘eugenics’ to condemn the kind of hatred that was propagated on the Lawn last year, but it would be helpful if we realized that the same kind of sentiments that brought Hitler to power are very much alive in society today,” Lombardo said. “I think what you get if you forget about it is people marching with tiki torches on the Lawn.”

He also stated that those marching mistakenly believed stigmatizing groups of peoples is part of the American way.

Randolph said one way to confront racism and other systemic issues that propelled eugenics forward is to face these ideas head on and encourage dialogue and instruction among students and the administration. For example, University president Teresa Sullivan recently formed a new President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation, which aims to explore the University’s role in the racial segregation that occurred in the 19th and 20th century.

“We’re in a really interesting place, as college students, to have these conversations and push these barriers,” Randolph said. “No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, you can agree that the events of August 11 and 12 were tragic, and should’ve never happened here.”

“I think what you get if you forget about it is people marching with tiki torches on the Lawn.”

– Paul Lombardo, former Director for the Law and Medicine Program at the University

The discriminatory policies of the past and their effects today have been difficult for the University to address in previous years, but the steps it is taking now to address its history are ones that aim to make the community a more inclusive and understanding place.

“In the University administration as well, the fact that we’re starting to offer classes on eugenics, that we’re starting to just acknowledge it in the greater role that it had on the Charlottesville community, especially the Charlottesville community, actually, is sort of this turn in the University,” Randolph said. “I think that with the new president coming in we’re poised to make this large turn into our third century.”

Fostering the Fringes

Courtesy The Magnolia House

How small venues shape Charlottesville’s music underground

Words by Abby Clukey.

A stand-alone, single-car garage facing a grassy hill. A wide-porched, tree-obscured house on the corner of a neighborhood street. A red brick, neoclassical building in the heart of the Downtown Mall.

These unassuming structures blend into Charlottesville’s landscape, but there’s more to them than what meets the eye. To people entrenched in the city’s music scene, they symbolize community, passion and possibility. These are the places they go to discover something new and to share their own talent with others.

In an increasingly competitive real estate market, the small music venue has the odds stacked against it. Because of the difficulty of maintaining a steady source of revenue, these venues are constantly in flux. Those who follow music attentively in this town can speak of this shifting quality. They recall the closings of their favorite venues which were sold, bought and demolished, replaced by office spaces, hotels and convenience stores.

But many Charlottesville musicians say that in any town, there’s a need for spaces that cater to the fringes of the music scene and promote diversity and inclusivity. No matter how hostile the economy becomes, fans and musicians alike will always crave a place to start out — a place to encounter the music underground and maybe even glimpse a flash of brilliance. A place to call home.


When I initially walk through the doors of The Ante Room, I find it’s animated with commotion — something you wouldn’t expect at a music venue in the middle of a weekday afternoon. However, this energy is different than anything you would experience at a show. Instead of a reverberating bassline, the sounds of power drills and electric saws echo throughout the room.

A crew diligently works on pulling up the bar. The cornerstone of the space — the stage — is next on their list, but for the moment still stands intact as a reminder of room’s purpose. Distinctive decorations, like the doors painted to resemble black and white playing cards, emblematic of the venue’s gambling theme, have been taken off their hinges and lie propped up in a corner. The Ante Room is being painstakingly dismantled piece by piece.

The venue was opened by Jeyon Falsini in 2012 under the name “The Main Street Annex,” and has been an integral part of Charlottesville’s DIY music scene ever since, housing an eclectic assortment of bands and artists of varying genres and levels of experience. Last year, The Ante Room was purchased by Taliaferro Junction, LLC, and Jaffray Woodriff, with the plan to demolish the venue and its surroundings. The Ante Room closed its doors permanently at the end of March, in preparation for the space’s transition into a technology startup center this summer.

Falsini greets me in the midst of the chaos. The blare of the ongoing construction is overwhelming, so we move our conversation through a side door and into the adjacent Main Street Arena, the ice rink that is also slated for demolition this summer. In the cold stillness, we discuss why he wanted to open a small music venue in the first place.

“Well I’ve been booking bands and doing events for over 10 years,” Falsini said. “So, before I was freelance and just working out of my garage and booking shows in various places. I never really had my own room that I had the keys to and that I could set up a sound system and stage. So when this idea presented itself to me, I realized that I could finally book a lot of the things that I couldn’t book in other places.”

He tells me about his company, Magnus Music, which does booking for several venues in town — including The Whiskey Jar, Jefferson Vineyards and Rapture. These venues cater to distinct genres of music, so Falsini distributes bands to where they fit best based off of their repertoire.

Falsini opened The Ante Room so he could book groups that didn’t fit neatly into genres, or were too offbeat to play other Charlottesville venues. His space could be a haven for overlooked artists.

Over the past six years, The Ante Room has become a hub for Charlottesville’s hip hop and metal scenes, two genres that are not given a lot of exposure in the town’s dominant music venues. Falsini believes that one of the duties of the small music venue is to allow niche groups a space to play and attract a greater following.

“I think it’s important because you would hope that there’s always fans of that music out there, that are looking for it,” Falsini said. “And, you know, maybe that’s what music does, that it brings people together.”


Falsini’s reasons for opening The Ante Room echo the sentiments of other small venue owners in Charlottesville. I talked with Sam Bush, a 2009 University graduate who started The Garage, about his own business over coffee.

The Garage is aptly named. It’s a single-car garage owned by Christ Episcopal Church, right in Charlottesville’s downtown. The space takes the small venue concept to the next level. It provides just enough room for a band and their equipment, and concert-goers watch the show from the hillside across the street. Bush said the effect is one that is totally unique and totally mesmerizing.

The Garage is right across the street from Emancipation Park, and its central location allows passers-by to stumble upon shows on their way to the Downtown Mall. (Christina Anton)

“It’s amazing to have that situation, we’ve got cars driving by between the band and the audience, and it just brings a really unique experience to it, to a concert that kinda deals with the element of surprise,” Bush said. “A lot of people who end up going to the shows didn’t plan on going, they’re heading downtown to grab a drink with a friend, when they hear this amazing string band from New Orleans or this incredible voice and they stop.”

Bush told me he helped found The Garage when he was a third-year on a whim, with the vague idea that he could create an intimate venue that facilitated an engaging concert experience. He just felt like the space was meant to be. Bush and his band at the time christened the space with its first show, and their business has only grown from there. He gets about 20 emails a week from bands across the country who want to play The Garage.

“Whatever reason we started The Garage is kind of beyond me,” Bush said. “We just kind of did. And then it took a life of its own.”

The allure of the small venue to musicians, Bush said, is not the possibility of monetary compensation. He tells me how he passes around a jar each night and the band gets to keep its contents — usually only about a hundred dollars or so. What really attracts artists is the experience itself. To many people, there’s nothing else like it.

“Bands really… do it because despite being in a public place, it’s a very attentive crowd, which I think bands would prefer over anything,” Bush said. “Instead of playing a bar where nobody’s listening, they’d rather play to a small group of people who are really engaged, who are coming because they want to be there.”

Another Charlottesville musician, Sam Roberts from Magnolia House, has long-running ties to small music venues. As we sit on Magnolia’s front porch, he tells me how he started coming to the house’s shows in high school, and they exposed him to Charlottesville’s music underground. He’s been living and working here for almost a year now, booking about four to five shows a month.

“I think it’s a good place for certain bands to come play,” Roberts said. “I don’t think there’s venues for certain genres that people want to see. But there’s people coming to shows here — as long as people are coming out I think that it’s worth doing.”

House shows have a significantly different feel than concerts put on by other music venues. They’re on a much smaller and more intimate scale — a band plays on a stage set up in the living room of someone’s home. The people who populate these shows usually hear about them through word of mouth, and are there primarily to support underground artists.

For many house venues, there’s no real business model or commercial interest. Roberts and his housemates pay the rent just to live at Magnolia — they aren’t concerned with making a profit from their shows. Because money is not a factor in Magnolia House’s production, Roberts and the other residents book whatever acts they want to see perform — something he believes wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.

“I’ve thought about possibly booking shows for a venue in my life professionally,” Roberts said. “I know that’s something you can do and I’ve kind of acquired the skills to do that through booking here, but I don’t know if that would be very fun. It’s fun to just put on shows that I want to see and that I think people who come here will want to see.”


One aspect of the small music venue is its accessibility for musicians trying to launch their careers. It can be difficult to find places to play during a band’s early stages, but small venues often allow new acts an opportunity to perform even if they’re not well established in town.

“When you’re first starting out, there’s this Catch-22 of well, a venue’s not gonna hire you, a venue’s not gonna let you play unless you have a reputation,” Bush said. “But you’re not going to establish a reputation unless someone lets you play.”

Current student musicians affirmed the struggle of making a name in Charlottesville’s music scene. Fourth-year College student Maria DeHart said that the lack of small venues in town complicates finding places to play before becoming well-established, especially if a band’s music is unconventional.

“There’s not a big house-show culture, so there’s not a lot of options in terms of that,” DeHart said. “The venues in town mostly cater to not really DIY bands, more to bands that have a manager and stuff like that.”

Third-year College student Grant Frazier said that the pressure for venues to book lucrative acts often makes them less inclined to let new musicians play, which is why starting out at small venues is important.

“In terms of trying to get your own show, it’s really hard,” Frazier said. “It’s a grind to try and get your name out there, to gain some notoriety. To have a business say yes, you can come play here. Because there’s two sides to it, both parties have to benefit in terms of making money, because at the end of the day it’s really about, from the business side, how can they benefit from you playing here?”

Part of Falsini’s mission in running The Ante Room was to give new artists a chance. He would often let emerging acts play the room and even if the show wasn’t profitable, he would help the artist or band find another space to perfect their sound.

“We like to tell bands, ‘Hey maybe that show didn’t work out with us, but why don’t you get in touch with Magnolia House or a house place’ … there’s other spots,” Falsini said. “You can kind of help the band. You definitely don’t want them to stop what they’re doing, you’re just trying to get them exactly where they need to be so that they can grow to the next level and then you can see them again.”

Bush also spoke to the lack of venues that foster new music, and said that spaces like The Ante Room are necessary to cultivate the creativity in the Charlottesville community.

“The Ante Room closing is of course discouraging for the community, because that’s a place that features established bands but is also one of the few places that you can get your foot in the door as an emerging artist,” Bush said. “And communities need that in order to grow. You need to have those places that facilitate emerging artists in order for them to establish themselves. Otherwise, we’re only depending on bands that come from out of town and play and they leave.”


Many musicians agree that hip hop is one genre in particular that is overwhelmingly overlooked in Charlottesville’s music scene. They say The Ante Room was one of the few venues that consistently featured hip hop artists, which makes its closing all the more disheartening.

“This town is kinda run by like, Red Light and Dave Matthews, which is not really conducive to underground stuff,” DeHart said. “The Ante Room was really the only place in town that catered to hip hop specifically — that’s probably the shittiest thing about it closing.”

The Ante Room has featured a wide variety of acts on its stage, catering especially to artists and bands from underground genres such as hip hop (Courtesy The Ante Room)

Local hip hop artist Cullen Patrick Wade said that the City has historically been a somewhat hostile environment for underground genres, despite its widely-perceived creative and music-friendly image. He told me this environment largely stems from the lack of small, accessible venues in town, which are vital to fostering the kind of music he plays.

“Charlottesville has a reputation for a vibrant, thriving music scene, and it’s funny when people come here expecting that, and when they’re playing in one of the more underground genres, you only have like two places to play here,” Wade said. “They’re a little disappointed when they find out how limited we are in terms of small venues.”

For some Charlottesville musicians, The Ante Room represented more than just a venue — it gave them the opportunity to be heard. Hip hop artist Quin Booker cherished his opportunity to play The Ante Room, saying it helped him elevate his career and allowed him to share his words with the community.

“It’s actually the only spot in town that really lets people perform, hip hop wise … really the main one that gave rap artists and hip hop artists a place to own, a place to speak,” Booker said.

Reagan Eadie, a Charlottesville hip hop and R&B artist, said that though there aren’t many venues that cater to hip hop, there is still a large scene thriving under the surface. She thinks that there is more to be done to make this community more cohesive, and that supporting other hip hop artists is crucial to developing the scene further.

“I think showing up to your fellow artist’s show is important,” Eadie said. “That’s part of what makes Charlottesville special … to be there for people that you don’t even necessarily know but the fact that you’re trying to do kind of the same thing is important.”

Wade professed a similar desire to promote solidarity within the hip hop community — something he thinks can be achieved if there were more spaces like The Ante Room for artists to come together and perform.

“One of the big things we’re trying to do with that is foster some scene unity,” Wade said. “There’s a lot of people doing different things … we don’t really have a space  — a physical space … or anything like that in which we can all collaborate.”

As the hip hop scene has grown in Charlottesville over the last several years, a few venues that have refrained from featuring the genre in the past have slowly begun to lift what Wade calls “the unofficial hip hop embargo.” Wade hopes that even with The Ante Room’s closing, hip hop will continue to gain momentum and move in the right direction.

The small venue owners I spoke with emphasized their commitment to foster hip hop in new and creative ways, conscious of the effect that The Ante Room’s absence will have on the community. Roberts said that he’s looking to book even more hip hop shows at Magnolia in the future, and Bush told me how he’s been trying to incorporate more unconventional genres at The Garage, even though their location and lack of license have restricted the types of acts they could book in the past.

“We’ve been limited to folk bands because they’re quieter, but we’ve been reaching out in the past couple of months to some hip-hop artists,” Bush said. “We just want to branch out. I think an ideal situation would be to pair bluegrass with hip-hop, or a folk band with a rapper, and to have very different sounds together in one night I think is very unique. I don’t think a lot of venues do that. We’re not like a lot of venues already, so we might as well have fun diversifying our lineup.”

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive solution to the issue of accessibility for artists of underground genres. However, some artists believe that venues will start to take them seriously if they continue to prove that hip hop is just as legitimate and profitable as any other scene in Charlottesville’s music landscape. They want to demonstrate to venue owners that hip hop is a force to be reckoned with.

“Artists have gotta do our jobs to let the people know that we’re serious, and that we ain’t on no BS,” Booker said. “We can help them make money as well as they can help us gain fans. Like a hundred people listen to us and you only have a max of 25 people at your bar — you do the math.”


Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of maintaining a small music venue stems from the financial realm. Falsini said it is difficult to keep up with the costs when the venue’s revenue isn’t particularly steady.

“Running a music venue is definitely a labor of love,”  Falsini said. “And it’s also … very expensive, and you’ve got a lot of variables. Your rent gets higher and higher every year as you go, a lot of times if your programming is such that your shows aren’t making you money, then you may go out of business.”

Other small venues in Charlottesville do not have the same limitations as The Ante Room. Like Magnolia House, The Garage does not rely on a profit to stay open. The space is owned and funded by Christ Church — a benefit which gives Bush the ability to book acts and put on shows without worrying about major financial repercussions.

“We’re at an advantage compared to other venues that have to worry about how they’re going to keep the lights on,” Bush said.

Falsini said that a possible remedy to this problem of financial sustainability would be for cities to give grants to music venues, in the similar way to how Charlottesville funded the restoration of the Paramount Theater in 1992. If the threat of being priced out of a space is taken off the table, Falsini believes that music venues can focus instead on promoting original art.

“If grants were available to perhaps buy buildings for venues or help supplement a building’s rent, then perhaps venues would last longer, and in that case, the music scene could continue unabated and not have these sort of ebbs and flows,” Falsini said. “Because, it’s very important for venues to exist in order for scenes to thrive, and then ultimately create potentially famous musicians that increase tourism dollars and put cities on maps.”

Because Charlottesville is a growing city, Falsini said that many venues hesitate to feature musicians from obscure genres because there isn’t always enough interest to cultivate a profitable show. Niche genres can flourish easier in bigger cities where fans of a particular genre are more densely populated. Falsini and the other venue owners agree that unfortunately, a venue cannot support itself if there aren’t enough people to fill the doors.

“That’s just the tragedy of the small music venue in a college town,” Bush said. “There’s something that’s unsustainable about it.”

Over the past couple of decades, Charlottesville’s small venues have followed an irregular pattern of openings and closings — The Ante Room’s is one in a string of many. Both Bush and Roberts reminisced on venues long gone such as the Satellite Ballroom located on the Corner, which Bush described as “a punch in the gut” when it was turned into a CVS during his time as a University student.

“We would go there twice a week and we would see incredible bands who would be famous two weeks later,” Bush said. “I just have so many memories of that place and it was so crushing when it closed.”

However, Bush is hopeful that another small venue will rise up to fill the gap left in The Ante Room’s absence. He said there’s always going to be a need for inclusive venues in a college town, and he thinks Falsini’s passion will allow him to keep working to fulfill this demand.

“Jeyon is a huge influencer in this town,” Bush said. “I hope he feels encouraged to keep doing what he does. If not at The Ante Room, then somewhere else.”

Falsini told me he is trying to do just that. He has been visiting different properties since the room closed and is looking for different opportunities to re-establish the business, even if that means compartmentalizing for the time being.

“Right now, it’s looking like we may split up the different aspects of our business,” Falsini said. “We’re talking to IX Art Park about helping them develop a bar, so that would be something we would help them with, and also perhaps help them fill their calendar … Once we get back into a space, we’ll just check our emails and get back to people and we’ll hopefully be putting bills together once again.”

The Ante Room is being stripped of its distinguishing touches as the space undergoes preparation for its impending demolition. (Courtesy The Ante Room)

Ultimately, many Charlottesville musicians and venue owners believe that despite its instability, the small music venue is essential for a whole host of reasons  — opportunity, visibility and authenticity. To them, these venues have a distinctive quality that draws people in and brings them together, making the spaces too important to overlook.

“The small venue is always scraping by — maybe that’s what makes it magical,” Bush said. “I don’t think you would agree if you were the owner of a small venue — there’s nothing magical about that. But in the broader sense, there’s something special about the small music venue. It caters to the losers. It caters to the nobodies, and you need to be able to allow the nobodies a place to play so that they can become somebodies.”

Protest, dialogue, confrontation

The legacy of Thomas Jefferson statues on Grounds

Words by Charlotte Lawson. Photos by Andrew Walsh.


In light of Thomas Jefferson’s lifelong involvement in and advocacy for the institution of slavery, it can be hard to square his words about freedom and inalienable rights with his actions. Given the role of both Jefferson and enslaved laborers in the birth of the University, the question of his legacy has been a fixture of the discourse at U.Va. Meanwhile, with the growing controversy surrounding statues of Confederate generals, both in Charlottesville and around the country, the idea of statues in a general sense has come under scrutiny, as communities consider exactly what it means to erect a statue of a person. On Grounds, these two dynamics intersect directly. A number of statues depicting Jefferson dot the landscape, in many ways physical manifestations of his legacy, just like the University itself. These statues have been the focus of protest, dialogue and confrontation. Just as there are many different opinions on how to treat Jefferson’s legacy, there are a number of visions for what the statues represent, and what their future should look like. This is a small collection of some of these visions.

The statue’s enduring symbolism

The statue of Jefferson in front of the Rotunda embodies the values we should aspire to, despite the sins of its subject

Following their separation from the British Empire in 1776, the newly-founded state governments desperately needed a way of governance to replace colonial rule. The disparate and fledgling nation required legislation that actively defied the various forms of oppression that it had accused Great Britain of inflicting upon the colonies. In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson headed this quest with his fervently liberal-minded promotion of the values of limited government and national rights. Shortly following independence, the statesman began to draft a document that would become one of his most enduring legacies — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Although it was presented to the Virginia General Assembly for review in 1779, the bill did not pass into law until 1786. During the legislative process, Jefferson, looking on from afar as the Ambassador to France, eagerly awaited the debate’s outcome as his longtime friend and ally James Madison lobbied for the statute’s passage back in Virginia. The mission of the bill was twofold — to secure one’s right to exercise their chosen religion freely and to protect separation of church and state, thereby abolishing Virginia’s association with the Church of England. Above all, the statute ensured an individual’s freedom from any government attempt to dictate one’s choice of what to believe or practice.

It was with these treasured ideals in mind that sculptor Moses Ezekiel crafted the Thomas Jefferson statue that adorns the north plaza of the Rotunda. Ezekiel’s intended themes for the statue were discovered in 2014 by W. Scott Harrop, and first published in the newsletter of the University’s Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures Department. Now a Jefferson Fellow at Monticello’s International Center for Jefferson Studies, Harrop’s curiosity about why various names for God — including Allah — were inscribed on the side of the Jefferson Statue led him to an extended study of Ezekiel life and work. Harrop found that the Virginia-raised Jewish artist — who confronted the sinister force of religious prejudice throughout his life — deeply cherished the freedom of religion that Jefferson fought so hard to ensure. Surrounding the liberty bell that Jefferson stands upon are four winged spirits representing other values that the sculptor and founder alike held dear — equality, justice, liberty and religious freedom. Through his art, Ezekiel monumentalized the founder’s lasting contributions that he deemed most valuable to the state of Virginia, our country and the world.


As the University, we have an obligation to remember and examine all aspects of our founder’s legacy — the good and the bad. The dichotomy of Jefferson as a figure cannot be overlooked. His relentless fight to codify personal freedoms occurred concurrently with his ownership of enslaved laborers. Our efforts to scrutinize Jefferson’s personal failures, however, cannot come at the expense of the deeply beneficial and continually resonant aspects of his quest to protect freedom and equality. Jefferson identified his own role in securing religious freedom for the state of Virginia as among his greatest achievements above all other personal endeavors. A man who valued freedom for his posterity more profoundly than any of his other legacies is worthy of enshrinement for that alone. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom — along with Jefferson’s several other founding achievements — deserve memorialization for their far-reaching impact on American politics throughout history and to this day. Values we take for granted in the United States were once widely denounced as radical and unrealistic during the founding period, and continue to be unattainable in many parts of the world.

The Jefferson statue stands over Grounds as an emblem of the liberal values that our founder tirelessly aspired to secure for generations to come. Each stage of United States history served a crucial role in moving the nation closer to the promises of liberty and equality consecrated in the Declaration of Independence. None of these stages have fulfilled its perfect embodiment. Progress demands that we embrace the groundwork laid by a long and complicated history of progress, rather than shirking that progress for its failures. When the statue was unveiled at the University’s Final Exercises in 1910, then-President Edwin Alderman pronounced that it would stand proudly as a “sermon in stone” of Jeffersonian ideals that have so powerfully influenced the course of history. Hopefully the University community can embrace the transformative power of Jefferson’s life’s works that Ezekiel sought to emblematize.


More statues, not fewer

Thomas Jefferson is an inextricable part of the University’s past, as are a number of other inspirational figures who should be honored as well

Words by Thomas Ferguson

Historic institutions often inherit mixed legacies from their predecessors. The University community has recently examined ways to celebrate the many accomplishments of its founder Thomas Jefferson — while also acknowledging his own shortcomings and those of his time. In response to this challenge, some have condemned Jefferson and his legacy. Examples of such sentiments include outrage concerning President Teresa Sullivan’s quotation of Jefferson in an email and the Black Student Alliance’s condemnation of his statue as an emblem of enduring white supremacy. In order to tell a more complete history of the University and its founder, the University community must find a balance between recognizing Jefferson’s accomplishments and failures. Given his contributions to religious freedom, political philosophy, the United States and the University — his legacy is overwhelmingly positive. The University should continue to examine Jefferson’s faults in order to shed greater light on parts of its historical record that have traditionally been repressed. However, members of the University community must stop the outright dismissal of Jefferson. Such sentiments set dangerous precedents of historical erasure and prevent the recognition of a complete historical narrative.

In order to add more context to the University’s history and celebrate the legacies of Jefferson and others, the University should continue efforts to add to its historical landscape. Such initiatives include the construction of amemorial to the University’s enslaved laborers, the dedication of Pinn Hall to medical school alumna Dr. Vivian Pinn — the first woman and black student to graduate from the University’s medical school — and thededication of Yen Hall to W.W. Yen, the University’s first international student to earn a bachelor’s degree. Individuals such as Pinn and Yen have contributed much to our nation and world, from advancing women’s health to fostering diplomacy as the Premier of China. Likewise, the recognition of enslaved laborers at the University corrects the traditional underrepresentation of such individuals in the historic record and acknowledges the role that slavery played in University life before the Civil War.

While some reject Jefferson and his legacy, in doing so they reject the role he played in advancing freedom and democracy in the United States. His immortal words asserting that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence provided our fledgling nation with an ideal to strive towards, and are embodied by his University. Jefferson himself contributed towards that end by penning the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1777. His work contributed towards religious freedom in Virginia — a right too many around the world still do not enjoy — and his precedent helped make religious liberty standard in America. The University should take pride in inheriting that legacy, and its work in advancing public education in Virginia reflects the goals of its founder.

Jefferson’s wisdom and foresight, etched into documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, continue to prove their relevance. His work on advancing freedom and democratic principles — though imperfect — remains a part of the evolving process of the expansion such freedoms in the United States.

The contextualization of history on Grounds should remain an active discussion that members of the University continue to engage with in the future. It will not be completely addressed with one single decision or initiative, but instead will require an evolving process of dialogue and action. Students must be involved as much as possible with these decisions, and the University’s Advisory Committee on the Future of the Historic Landscape’s public input session provides an effective framework for soliciting students’ perspectives. The University should rely on student input — as well as other stakeholders such as alumni — to guide its decision-making in the future.

The study of history allows for us to reflect on the past and build off the work of our predecessors. Jefferson helped our Commonwealth and country start its journey towards equality for all by contributing to the intellectual and political revolution that resulted in the foundations of our modern day democratic republic. Jefferson’s statue in front of the Rotunda — sculpted by Jewish artist Moses Ezekiel in recognition of Jefferson’s contributions towards advancing religious freedom — serves as a testament to the enduring relevance of Jefferson and his work. Since his time we have made much progress towards recognizing the fact that all men and women are created equal. That does not mean we still do not have more to do to achieve that end. Without Jefferson, however, we would be even further from that goal.


Jefferson’s legacy is more than a statue

In debating Jefferson’s legacy, the community must look past mere optics and consider the day to day conditions of marginalized students on Grounds

Words by Zari Taylor

President Teresa Sullivan came under fire last year for her quotation of Thomas Jefferson in an email following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In response, Asst. Psychology Prof. Noelle Hurd drafted a letter to Sullivan that was ultimately signed by 469 students and professors. Signees felt that invoking Jefferson as a symbol of unity actually did nothing to that effect. In her response, Sullivan endorsed their right to speak on issues, but also emphasized that quoting someone does not imply and endorsement of all their beliefs. What followed was a conversation across the University community about quoting Jefferson andhis legacy on grounds. To address Jefferson’s legacy, the University should look beyond the statues that physically represent him and turn to the basics — adjusting what comes to mind of those in the University community when his name is invoked.

There are many ways to commemorate significant historical figures. Their life and accomplishments can be recorded in textbooks, remembered with holidays or awards in their name or honored by a statue erected in their image. Statues are the most physical representations of this honor and have been the continuous site for both protests and counter-protests over the past few months on Grounds and in Charlottesville. After the white nationalist protest in August, City Council ordered that the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson be covered by tarps, and in a student protest last semester, students covered the statue of Thomas Jefferson outside of the Rotunda. Evidently, the statues of these men serve as the focus of intense frustration — so much so that they are covered or hidden from sight. They have also, however, spurred conversations between the University community and Charlottesville at large, around the naming of things like City parks and University buildings.

This kind of discourse around statues and naming emerges from the idea that figures should be commemorated on the basis of their beliefs. Some people disagree on the commemoration of Confederate heroes because they do not agree with the ideals they held, specifically regarding race. Those values, they argue, do not align with the values of Charlottesville as a whole. The same thinking is present in the conversation around Jefferson, who had a vision for the University that strictly excluded women and people of color. While he was envisioning a University for southern youth, he had slaves working his plantation and building the very Grounds we walk everyday. It has been proven that Jefferson fathered the children of one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and historical context provides room for speculation on the non-consensual manner of their relationship. This negative picture of Jefferson is all that some remember when they see his name.

Sullivan argued that evoking the name of someone does not mean a full endorsement of their character and beliefs. While this is true, the University still struggles with Jefferson’s legacy because we are living in the full fruition of his initial vision. Yes, the University currently admits African Americans and women, but it remains a majority white institution. Those who criticize the statue refer mainly to the fact that he never envisioned the University’s current level of diversity. If the community is against the use of his name and words, then of course they would be against a statue in his image. Removing the statue from its current location does nothing to address the issue with Jefferson’s legacy. Instead, it hides the problem and allows it to exist somewhere else. The issue of his beliefs and legacy will still be up for debate.

The conversation around Jefferson is different than the conversation around Confederate generals because of his relationship to the University. The school would not exist without Jefferson, and as the founder, his image rightfully belongs on Grounds. Though Jefferson would never have given them credit, the University also would not exist without the slaves that built it. If the University is to continue to invoke and dwell on Jefferson’s legacy, the administration needs to work out a way to demonstrate that his ideals are the foundation from which this institution developed — and that his problematic beliefs of exclusion can not be applied to the present.

The focus on tangible entities like statues seems important, but this is more of a debate on the intangible and the beliefs of those in power at this institution. Is the University stuck in the Jeffersonian past of exclusion, or is it open to a future that includes and appreciates the very people to whom Jefferson denied educational access? For the University to properly address his legacy, it needs to address the goals of the University’s founder, while also make solid efforts to ensure that the University denounces the exclusive elements of Jefferson’s vision. Statues are a natural place to start, but the backlash against President Sullivan demonstrates that conversation should start at the basics — Jefferson as symbol for his beliefs and, by extension, the beliefs of the University.

The General Assembly 2018 session in review

A conversation with the College Republicans and University Democrats

Moderation by Jacob Asch. Video by Aidan McWeeney.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

On March 18, Cavalier Daily Opinion Editor Jacob Asch sat down with Mary Alice Kukoski, a second-year College student and president of the University Democrats, and Adam Kimelman, a third-year College student and chair of the College Republicans, to talk Virginia politics.

The discussion covered the 2018 General Assembly session, the legislature special session and several issues prominent in our national discourse and pertinent to the University community.


Click on a question to watch the corresponding portion interview.

1. Both of your statewide organizations, like Young Democrats and Young Republicans, have participated in lobbying the Virginia General Assembly for specific legislation. Can you talk a little bit about those policies you cared about most?

Mary Alice Kukoski: The University Democrats participated in lobby day with our larger parent organization, the Virginia Young Democrats, which encompasses young Dems from ages 13 to 36. That was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this winter, and we brought a delegation of Democrats from U.Va. and we lobbied on behalf of three different salient issues. The first one was felony larceny. There were three different bills on the table at the time, and actually we got to see one pass which was great. The felony larceny threshold has been raised to $500. Originally we wanted it a little bit higher, around $1,000 to $1,500, but this was the bipartisan compromise that came out of the General Assembly, which we were really happy about. It was great to see our lobby efforts really pay off in the form of tangible legislation. We also lobbied on behalf of sexual education and format, so it’s not abstinence based, it’s medically accurate in public schools. That bill actually did not pass, but it is something I think we will continue pushing for along with the Virginia Young Democrats in the future. And we also pushed for … It’ll come to me, but do you want to go ahead and talk on yours.

Adam Kimelman: Yeah sure, thank you, thanks for having us. The main legislative lobbying push that we had was in conjunction actually with with the University Democrats and Student Council, for ranked choice voting. For those of you who might not know, ranked choice voting is essentially you would be able to rank candidates instead of just voting for one of the candidates. For example, where this would come into, we think, a lot of help is in districts like, Virginia HD-94 [the Virginia House of Delegates 94th District], where there was actually a tie, but there were about I believe 1,200 people who voted for a Libertarian candidate. So instead of, you know, going to a coin flip or something like that, so essentially those votes of any candidate who did not get a majority outright, essentially the lowest candidate would then be eliminated and their votes would be redistributed to your second choice choice, so we would actually have a more democratic outcome, than flipping a coin for example. And that’s something we were really excited to see get out of subcommittee, and then it went to [the House Finance Committee], unfortunately it did not make it out of Finance, but it did make it unanimously out of the privileges and elections committee which we think is a big step in the right direction and we are looking forward to doing more stuff like that in the future. We also had a lot of our members went and lobby the Virginia21, I didn’t go on that so unfortunately I wouldn’t know. The College Republican Federation of Virginia, had a Young Republican joint lobby day as well, I unfortunately did not attend that, so I’m not sure what exactly they were lobbying for, but I’m sure most generally conservative causes. But I know that Virginia21 and [College Republican Federation of Virginia] were both pretty successful from what I got back from it. [inaudible] … Ranked choice voting didn’t get exactly as far as we would have liked, but we were happy that it definitely is making some progress and got a lot of bipartisan support.

2. Going back to bipartisanship, since Democrats made such large election gains, there was a lot of talk about bipartisanship and things that could get done, considering Republicans still retain a majority in the legislature. One of the things that is occurring is regulatory reform, between Speaker Cox and Governor Northam. They want to reduce regulations by 25 percent in three years. What do you think of that compromise and do you think that is a positive step toward other compromises in the future? Do you think more compromises like this are likely and what do you think of the bipartisanship so far in the House of Delegates?

Kimelman: I was really happy when I saw that actually, I think that’s actually based off something that is going on at the federal level. Is that the two-for-one compromise, for every new one regulation you get rid of two? I believe that was put in there, but I could also be wrong about that, but I definitely thought it was good. We are in kind of this weird situation for this last legislative session and the upcoming one, because of the fact that the House and the Senate are both Republican controlled, but they are also very very close. So you get one or two Republicans to change their minds on something and it completely changes the dynamic, and then you still have a Democratic governor. So I do think that it is making it hard for legislation to get passed, I think the success rate for a bill in the General Assembly was something like 36 percent, so you know most of them are going to die. But at the same time it does open up room for, a necessity almost to compromise if you want to get something done. I think regulatory reform was one of the ones that we were happy to see a compromise come about for. I know there are some other issues we may get into in a little bit like Medicaid expansion where there’s also some stuff going on, but we were happy with that.

Kukoski: Yeah I would just echo that. I think Democrats were really excited to see all our electoral gains this fall and to see the legislation that would come out of that, and I think with that comes a lot of bipartisanship. I think we were able to see some progress on that this session, but I think looking forward with Medicaid expansion and the next legislative session that there would hopefully be more bipartisan support, especially in the interest of students and other groups that need protection. So I think there was some tangible progress.

3. It’s great you both touched upon Medicaid expansion, because that is actually my next question. Do you think actively pursuing Medicaid expansion is a feasible goal for the Commonwealth and do you think the current disagreement can be overcome considering it is already a pretty serious compromise between Speaker Cox and Governor Northam? Do you think this will actually get passed or stall again?

Kukoski: It is my hope it will get passed, I think it is really hard to tell at this point. There’s a lot of bipartisan work on making sure that it’s going to be the best deal. There has already been some give and take with the work requirement, so I think that is important. It is not necessarily what Democrats may have wanted, but I think if we want Medicaid expansion passed I think this is a step in the right direction, with bipartisan support and some give and take there. I know us as University Democrats we are planning to make calls to a lot of our delegates, and just ask them to support this ahead of the special session on April 11.

Kimelman: This is something that there have been some Republicans who have come and said we might be interested in this, me personally, again I can’t speak for the organization as a whole because we have a lot of different ideologies and maybe some people are in favor of expanding Medicaid. Me personally I don’t think it is a great idea. Not because I don’t necessarily think that we shouldn’t have more people have some sort of health coverage, that’s definitely not the case. But it’s because that Medicaid itself has become a program that is much different than it was designed to be. It was initially designed to be more of a safety-net-type program for the most vulnerable in society who really really needed it. Now it’s been expanded to be the number one way which people are covered. If you look at the gains made by Obamacare, they were not made by private insurance, they were made almost entirely through Medicaid. And when you continue to over-blow a program and increase spending, which would start to be strain our budget, even though the federal government does give a lot of money in the beginning, as the costs shifts over towards states that’s going to be a huge strain and create a massive Federal program. So I think there are solutions we can work for. One of the reasons I think a lot of Republicans are looking at this is because they are looking forward to the next election cycle, and we have it be so close in the House and the Senate, Democrats could pick up one more seat in each. Which could happen or it definitely could not happen in the next cycle is way too early to tell, but if that happens they may not be able to have a work requirement or something like that. So that might be the reason it is happening, but I do not think it is a great idea from my standpoint. Whether or not it will happen, I can’t exactly tell.

4. Adam just to follow up a little bit on that. I was wondering because Speaker Cox and Governor Northam have worked out this compromise with the work requirements which has kind of mirrored the expansion in other Republican states, does that not shift your opinion really at all? Or do you still think that Medicaid expansion is not the best idea?

Kimelman: The compromise now is better than expanding without work requirements, in my personal opinion, but I just do not think we should be expanding a massive government program that I do not think is that effective for people actually getting people healthcare. One example of that is people could be covered under Medicaid, but less and less doctors are taking Medicaid, so they have health coverage, but they don’t have healthcare. That’s pretty much one of the major concerns is that if we overblow the program it is going to cost a lot of money that eventually our generation will have to pay off, because they are not really finding a way in order to do it.

5. So moving to Charlottesville, there has been a lot of talk about what could be done to mitigate the violence that occurred on August 11 and 12 and a lot of bills were filed to try to stop this sort of thing from happening. A few of them being giving Charlottesville and Albemarle the ability to regulate guns, such as banning high capacity magazines from being carried in public and banning guns from certain rallies/events with big crowds. This legislation failed, though it was recommended by some official reviews. Do you think this sort of legislation could be helpful or do think believe the bills were rightly killed?

Kukoski: I think this type of legislation would absolutely be helpful. Our organization actually wrote letters to some of our representatives that were on the different subcommittees in support of this legislation. This is something touched a lot of student’s lives this summer and seeing it and experiencing it first hand and I think it is the type of legislation that is very tangible. It’s small steps in gun reform that need to be made. It shows the polarization on the issue of gun reform that nothing was passed. There was really no legislation. There could be some bipartisanship, but it was just not present at the time. I would hope in the future, especially in light of the different movements that are working on behalf of common sense gun reform, we have a walkout there was the March For Our Lives coming up next Saturday [March 24]. So I would just hope that legislatures would move on the issue of gun reform and I think this just shows the polarization on the issue.

Kimelman: Nobody is disagreeing that gun violence is definitely a problem, I think we all realize it is a problem. I think that the main way is in how we are going to go about that problem. With the walkout, I was encouraged, because there were definitely people in Student Council reaching out to both the University Democrats and College Republicans for bipartisan ideas. In terms of letter writing, I wasn’t at the letter writing station, but there were ideas from both Republicans and Democrats and all across the political spectrum in terms of what what to actually write to legislators. When the walkout itself actually occurred, if any conservatives were there, I was there, and then almost immediately they just started talking about gun control a very poor idea in itself. But that it is a bit off topic so I guess I will get back to it. It is very frustrating when people immediately assume that Republicans aren’t worried about gun violence, because they have different way of approaching it. So with these bills, and I am not sure what the exact bills were, but I think for events like that something like a gun ban would be necessary, so I would have to look into exactly what that bill was about. But bans on things like high-capacity magazines or assault rifles I think I would be against, because there are technical problems with what an assault rifle is for example or where exactly a high capacity magazine should end. I have not seen any studies that show that lower-capacity guns, which you know could be re-loaded pretty quickly, would make any difference. Though, again, I’m open to talk about that. I think that just because Republicans have a different way of dealing with gun control, in terms of making schools safer and putting more security in schools trying to make sure that they are more secure and things like that. It is very frustrating when all of a sudden it is just kind of assumed that we don’t like children and are in favor of killing people, it is not the case we just have a different approach to this.

6. It is interesting you bring that up, because my next question is about the restrictions that were recently passed in Florida, which has a Republican governor. That was a compromise bill that had things like raising assault weapon buying age to 21 and also installing some periods, but it also allowed for the arming and training of some teachers to try to help school security. Do you think in the wake of gun violence, that this sort of bipartisan compromise is what is necessary, or do you think these sort legislative goals that aren’t really being pursued in Virginia, shouldn’t really be pursued?

Kimelman: I was actually pretty happy to see that come about, I think there is a lot of common ground in this area, just sometimes sometimes, in politics it is not really talked about a whole lot. In terms of raising the age to 21 for rifles, I haven’t seen any evidence to show that. I do not think that this individual and what happened in Florida would have been prevented if he were 22, I think he was a mentally unstable individual who should never have been able to have a gun in the first place. That comes with reform in our background check system and there are currently bipartisan goals about that in Congress. 38 out of 50 states report less than 80 percent of all pertinent information to the background check system, so the system is only as good as the information that is in it. As for some of the other things in that, I would be for banning bump stocks, I know a lot of Republicans are for it as well, so I think that is a step in the right direction. Wait periods, I guess I would also be for that, but I think fixing the background check system, which I’m not sure was addressed in the Florida legislation, I think that would be a lot more effective as well as things like mental health screenings. And as for arming teachers, I personally have problems with arming teachers, and these views are probably different than views some other people have. But, I think my main problem with it is that in an active shooter situation, police are going to shoot whoever has a gun first and ask questions later. So that is just a practical problem with arming teachers. I would rather see trained armed security guards who do this as their job and who are ex-veterans, who know how to handle the situations, and who are either very clearly marked or somehow alerted to police who would be responding to an active shooter situation, I don’t think armed teachers. I definitely understand the logic behind it, I just think the practical problem is, I don’t think it would be good in an active shooter situation.

Kukoski: Touching on that point first, I do not really understand the logic behind arming teachers, I don’t think guns should have any place in schools, this is where children go to learn, it should be a safe place and guns should have no part in that. I think that it’s ignoring the larger issue, I think we should be attacking it at its root with a background check system, mental health screenings and just having better training for gun owners, like possibly a licensing system. To get your driver’s license you have to go through how many hours of behind the wheel and driving on your own. I recently got my boaters license and had to attend an all day class for that. There is no mandatory training for gun ownership and that is something that could easily be enacted and I would hope that there would be bipartisan support on that. As with the legislation coming out of Florida, I think it is good to have some bipartisan support, but I think there are some larger issues and there needs to be more action taken. But it is a small step in the right direction.

7. In Virginia, Speaker Cox has decided to do a panel on school safety and not really talk about the issue of guns. While school safety is definitely important, do you think that is the direction we should be going in or should we address the problem with guns and accessibility of guns more directly?

Kukoski: I think it is kind of naive to have a panel on school safety and not address the issue of guns, because that is the central thing surrounding school safety. As we have seen with all the mass shootings guns were the issue and I think it is again like I was saying, you are not really hitting the issue right at its root, you are kind of dodging it by school safety measures. So I think in order to more effectively implement legislation and identify the issue, we need to include guns in the dialogue. I would hope Speaker Cox kind of changes the focus of that ad-hoc committee, because I don’t think it’s going to be productive unless guns are included in the discussion.

Kimelman: I think in that terms of school safety every community is going to be different and every school is going to be different, so I don’t know if we can approach this in one way. If guns should be part of the dialogue in some of these certain cases, I think that is definitely something that should be incorporated, but I don’t think guns are necessarily part of the problem or a part of the solution, for example I don’t believe armed security guards would work in every school district because there are certain considerations and things that need to be accounted for, but there definitely needs to be a conversation about school safety itself. There are definitely actions we can take without using guns in some of these cases to make our children safer. So I definitely think it kind of depends on the situation, in that, you know, if even though there is a panel on school safety and guns aren’t part of it, I think they will be brought into the conversation kind of naturally. We don’t need to almost link the issues of school safety and guns as if every resolution to school safety is going to have something to do with guns, because I don’t think that is the case.

8. This term the House of Delegates passed Delegate Wilt’s (R-Harrisonburg) bill to require Virginia K-12 schools, colleges and universities to obtain written permission from a student or parent to release a student’s address, phone number or email to a third-party group. This was passed after NextGen the progressive grassroots organization took a lot of students’ information and sent them unsolicited messages encouraging them to go vote. That bill was passed instead of Delegate Hurst’s (D-Blacksburg) bill which would remove cell phone numbers and email addresses from public directories. Do you think Wilt’s bill, where you have to obtain permission, is a good step or do you think we should be removing more personal information from these directories?

Kimelman: First of all, I am very happy with both pieces of legislation from Delegate Wilt and Delegate Hurst. The primary difference is that home addresses would not be dealt with in Delegate Hursts’ (D) bill, and they are dealt with in Delegate Wilt’s (R) bill. So they are pretty similar pieces of legislation, I think if you have written consent your parent or, if you’re over 18 yourself it is enough. The primary goal here is to make sure that organizations, political or not political, conservative, liberal, whatever can’t mass-FOIAing these things … [Inaudible]. It was a Democratic organization this time, it could very easily be Republican organization next time, so I am happy this is a win for student privacy.

Kukoski: Yeah I would just echo that, I think it is a win for student privacy and I think regardless of the partisan nature of the organization, it’s always important to protect students. While I am happy they were sending messages to say go out and vote, if they were used for a different purpose I would probably feel differently, so I think this bill is a step in the right direction in protecting students.

9. This year U.Va. has again decided to increase tuition, as two tuition control bills were not passed this session. One offered by Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) which would have required each public four-year college in the state to have the same tuition rate for all four years a student is attending, and one from Del. David Reid (D-Loudoun) which would have capped tuition at the rate the student paid for the first academic term of this year. Do you think these bills are what the General Assembly should be focused on in terms of trying to control college costs, or do you think we should be taking a different approach to make colleges in the Commonwealth more affordable?

Kukoski: This is definitely something I think Adam and I both were attuned to, we are part of the legislative advisory board for Student Council where where we work on higher education policies and this is definitely one of them. Making college more affordable and kind of capping tuition, because right now the board of visitors can raise it kind of at their will without any input from students. I think another bill that was on our radar was one that ultimately died I think in appropriations, or one of the committees, about how there should be a public comment period before the board of visitors raises it, I think that is a really tangible step. There should be student, there should be parent and there should be faculty input before the Board of Visitors decides to raise tuition. This year they decided to raise tuition right in the middle of exam season and it was just not a great situation. Anyone who was really passionate about the issue, especially like low-income students and people who have planned out their four years, having this one tuition in mind, I think really could put them at a disadvantage. I also think that potentially something like a cap for when you enter a four year university, that would be the tuition rate you pay for the next four years, so it won’t just be raised at the Board of Visitors’ decision. When my parents were paying for college they planned to pay the in-state rate for all four years, but it is being raised, and it can also be raised depending on if you are admitted to the Comm school or into Batten, there’s different tuition rates for each school in the University. So I think that is important that we do have some sort of bipartisan support on reforming tuition.

Kimelman: I definitely agree, this was something the Legislative Advisory Board was looking at, Delegate Yancey (R-Newport News), is another one just to throw out another name, in terms of there were a lot of Delegates sponsoring these types of bills and unfortunately they died in a subcommittee [inaudible]. In terms of what should be done, a public comment period I think would be good, I don’t think it solves the whole problem, but it prevents them from throwing it on students in the middle of midterms, like, ‘Hey you’re paying 10 percent more for your tuition.’ In terms of keeping the rate for all four years, that is something that JMU does as well, so we have students who actually know what they are going to be paying when they go in. And again I think these are all good ideas, I would take any of them if they were passed, but that is definitely something I think we could be working on in the future.

10. One bill that has been talked about a lot this term, talked about a lot on grounds and has been a source of student activism, has been giving Dreamers in-state tuition. That bill did not gain a lot of traction in the General Assembly. Do you believe that this bill should have passed or was it correctly defeated?

Kimelman: My personal opinion on this, again, not representing the entire [unintelligible] organization, is, while I am very sympathetic to Dreamers on Grounds, I think there should be some sort of pathway to citizenship for them or pathway to legal status, whatever you want to call it, but I think that needs to be dealt with first. At the federal level there has definitely been a lot of gridlock on both sides in terms of coming to some sort of compromise on immigration, despite the fact that both sides have kind of almost conceded parts that the other side wants, which is very frustrating. But I think it is very difficult for me to say we are going to give in-state tuition if you came here illegally, although it wasn’t their choice it was their parents choice and they should not be punished for that, there are people who have come legally to the United States who are paying out-of-state tuition, they are not getting those same type of benefits. So for me that is where I would kind of be worried about it, the fact that we are disincentivizing people to come here legally and who might be coming from out-of-state. Although I do think that people who are Dreamers and have that situation, I think the federal government should resolve that. I think there should be a pathway to citizenship, they should be legalized in some way or another, and if that comes with border security that would also be great from my perspective, or some sort of deal like that. Right now, we can’t be giving benefits out to people who did come here illegally, even though it wasn’t their choice, though people who come here legally would essentially be getting punished for it. I am very sympathetic to their situation, I do think there should be some sort of resolution to it and the fact the Federal government has not dealt with that is very disappointing to me.

Kukoski: I think given the federal government hasn’t dealt with it is disappointing, but I think this was one way on the state level we could have dealt with that, and it was really disappointing to me to see that this bill ultimately failed. It is something a lot of our members joined Dreamers On Grounds on calling on behalf of, so I would have liked to see this bill pass, but hopefully in the future, there is always next year, so I am optimistic, but I think we have to continue to fight for it.

11. There has been a lot of talk about marijuana reform in the past few years, with a lot of states legalizing it for recreational use, and mostly because mass incarceration has become such a huge problem in the United States. There have been some moves to decriminalize marijuana possession, but that was thought to be not feasible and some people thought of the idea to maybe get marijuana charges expunged. Do you think we should be trying to reform the criminal justice system in terms of this drug in the commonwealth, or do you think, because there’s been so little action on the issue that it is not really feasible?

Kukoski: I think it is definitely an important step and reforming the criminal justice system, I think there is a lot of space for reform. I would like to see more movement on the issue towards legalization or a small step would be decriminalization, because I think there are a lot of people that are put in jail for this and taking resources from the state for people who are in there, and I think that money could be better used somewhere else, that would be more beneficial. I think this is a small step in kind of changing the allocation of resources, it’s something I would like to see more of.

Kimelman: I definitely agree on this issue for sure. I think that one thing Mary Alice mentioned earlier was raising the felony larceny rate. I think that was a very good move. I would have again liked to see it raised even higher, $500 seems kind of low for that type of thing. I also think that decriminalizing or trying to expunge certain charges would be good on the state level. On the federal level, Congressman Tom Garrett (R-Va.) is actually co-sponsoring a bill that would federally. I do not know if this is really viable on the federal level, but on the statewide level I definitely think that this is a good criminal justice reform action that we can take.

12. I just have one more question for you guys. What initiatives do you want the General Assembly to tackle in its next session and what impact do you feel student groups such as yours can make on the legislative process and just getting the voices of student, whether it be liberal or conservative, out there?

Kimelman: As we talked about earlier, education reform, some of the bills we talked about earlier would be great. I would like to see more progress be made on regulatory reform or something like that. I think that one of the best things the general assembly did last session was actually increase transparency a lot. And the fact that all the votes are now recorded, they were all put on video so you can actually see what is happening, so I’m very very excited about that. And I hope that that continues in future as well. One of these things, especially if they do go down the Medicaid expansion route, looking at things like cutting spending and tax reform, ways to make our government more efficient would be good as well. If they do adopt Medicaid expansion, which again I would disagree with, they would definitely need to start reforming some of these other programs to see how to pay for it, but in general even if they don’t do it they should still be looking at that.

Kukoski: I think the transparency, I was reading up on that, is really interesting, and is a step in the right direction holding our representatives accountable. I think something else I am really excited about is the amount of women and different minorities represented now in the House of Delegates and state Senate, I think that will hopefully in the future allow more legislation to come forth that is representative and advocates on behalf of all members of the Commonwealth all residents, because I think in the past it was something that was often overlooked. I think the amount of female representation is really really important. I’m hoping that maybe the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] will be brought back, that hopefully we will be able to pass Medicaid expansion and some of these efforts, and that we can have bipartisan support for some of them I think that would be very important. The transparency bill there was some bipartisan support on Medicaid expansion, if we have some more bipartisanship I think that would also be key. Also, as Adam said, with higher education reform and tuition rates, I think that is really important that students could be advocating on behalf of. I would love to see more students going down to the General Assembly to lobby. I think Student Council does a great job with the Legislative Affairs Committee and the Legislative Advisory Board that we are a part of, I think does some great work. I think students, we are residents here, we encourage students to register to vote in Virginia and register to vote in Charlottesville, and so by doing that I think the next step is making sure they are informed and active in the electoral and legislative process.

City of Stories

The bookstores of Charlottesville and their untold stories.

Words by Dan Goff. Visuals by Chandler Collins.

What is Charlottesville known for?

Ask anyone who doesn’t live in the city, or at least who doesn’t live in Virginia, and they’ll probably respond, “It’s the place where those white nationalist rallies happened.”

Ask a student of the University or a resident of Charlottesville, and the answers will get a little more specific and varied — maybe something about the University sports teams, or something about the Dave Matthews Band. Tina Fey might be mentioned.

But these facts fail to represent the community. Charlottesville’s history is rich, but too often overlooked. And at the center of this neglected history are five independent bookstores, doing their best to survive by selling stories while their own stories remain untold.

It’s time to tell these stories.


When Julia Kudravetz bought New Dominion Bookshop in October 2017, she knew she was purchasing one of the most iconic pieces of property on the Downtown Mall. It’s a responsibility she’s not taking lightly.

“I want for us to be a bookstore which is looking outwards and looking towards the future,” Kudravetz said.

Kudravetz prefaced this by describing the bookstore’s past, a history so vibrant and unusual that it, as Kudravetz suggested, “sounds like something out of Hemingway.”

“It’s the oldest independent bookshop in Virginia — one of the oldest in the country,” Kudravetz said. “The earliest record we can find is from 1924.”

The first owner she mentioned was Christopher Columbus Wells, a “World War I ambulance driver, who moved back to Charlottesville to start this place.”

New Dominion’s original location was where the Mall’s CVS currently is, Kudravetz said — the city’s ultimate social destination.

“From the stories people tell, it was the center of Charlottesville,” Kudravetz said. “People would stroll through for books, but also gossip and conversation.”

This original building housed New Dominion for decades. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that it moved to its current location, which, as Kudravetz explained, “used to be an old shoe store.”

It’s hard to believe that anything as mundane as footwear was ever sold in such a beautiful space. With its sweeping staircases, frosted glass skylights and, most importantly, towering bookcases built into the walls, it seems like a building that has always — and will always — house literature.

Carol Troxell, the owner of New Dominion until her sudden death in January of last year, was responsible for this move when she took over the shop. She and her husband Robert bought and renovated the building to bring it to its current form, Kudravetz said.

Then, Kudravetz jumped to the part of history that included her.

“I had been working here — moonlighting, doing social media and also selling books for New Dominion at a reading series that I founded,” Kudravetz said.

She was also teaching community college at the time of Troxell’s passing, but she said the prospect of owning a bookstore — not to mention, a cultural landmark — was much more appealing.

“I wrote to her husband and said, ‘I love the shop and I would be in a position to buy it — would you hire me as a manager?'” Kudravetz said. “He didn’t know what he was going to do with it … so he hired me.”

Kudravetz officially bought the store at the end of October, bringing it to its current state.

And what state is that? Kudravetz seemed to have mixed feelings about what should be preserved and what must be updated, to preserve — and persevere — in a larger sense.

“I think with anything that’s been around 100 years, there’s some real quirks,” Kudravetz said.

She explained one such quirk that she had already rectified — the absence of cordless phones in the store.

“There are some things that of course I want to change,” Kudravetz said. “But then there are some things that are really part of the texture of the shop, which I love.”

She had a lot to say about the shop’s future, so many plans and upcoming events that visibly excited her.

“We’ve got 13 events during the Book Festival — that’s a lot for our little shop,” Kudravetz said, grinning, name-dropping considerable authors such as Nathan Englander.

On a smaller, more immediate scale, Kudravetz said she is working every day to make New Dominion a more accessible and attractive location for residents of Charlottesville.

“People are not going to just discover us on their own,” Kudravetz said. “We need someone to be reaching out to new communities in Charlottesville.”

Despite her ambitious outlook and palpable happiness, Kudravetz acknowledged the struggles that independent bookstore owners face. She agreed that Charlottesville’s small business community, particularly in the context of literature, was “strangely thriving,” and said later in the interview that New Dominion survives “on sheer force of will.”

But Kudravetz also said that she’s found the “secret of surviving,” or at least one of them — namely, being attuned to customers’ needs, desires and interests.

“What I love about here is that you know a lot of the customers,” Kudravetz said. “You get to know them over time, and if you’re good, you remember the books they bought in the past … I think that’s the tradition of really knowing the customers. I think that’s the secret of surviving.”

This ties in nicely to Kudravetz’s plans for the store’s future. “I want us to be a bookshop for all of Charlottesville … for students, for seniors,” she said.

Kudravetz seems unsure whether New Dominion will thrive or merely survive in the years to come, but her interview made it clear that she is doing everything in her power to achieve the former. If her goals come to fruition, the shop will be a modern reincarnation of its former self — a bookstore that is both a reflection of, and a destination for, its community.


New Dominion isn’t the only shop on the Downtown Mall recently under new management. Read It Again, Sam, located on the same side of the Mall and a few blocks closer to its center, was subjected to similar tragedies and significant events in 2017.

It might be a shock to learn that Dennis Kocik has only owned and managed the store since last December — he speaks of Read It Again, Sam and moves through the space as though it has been his focus for many years. Any old-time customers, however, know that Kocik is filling a suddenly and tragically vacated void.

“Read It Again, Sam was started by Dave Taylor 30 years ago,” Kocik said. “Ten years of it was in Lovingston, where they lived, 20 years right here.”

The “right here” refers to another beautiful building — not quite so grandiose as New Dominion, but remarkable in a quieter way. Marble floors and polished wood paneling abound in the store, remnants of the jewelry shop that once occupied the space that lend a refined but unpretentious mood.

The store is made even more unassuming by the endless figurines, posters and assorted movie memorabilia, all of it starring and celebrating Humphrey Bogart.

“[Taylor] liked the movie ‘Casablanca’ … apparently he was a big Bogart fan,” Kocik said with an understated smirk.

The name of the store itself — done in gold lettering on the front windows, along with a sketch of Bogart’s face — is a play on a classic, though oft-misquoted line from “Casablanca.”

If Read It Again, Sam, is in some ways a shrine dedicated to Bogart, it has recently updated its decor to celebrate the late Taylor. Near the front of the store is a black book nearly full of condolences from long-time customers, and next to that is Taylor’s laminated obituary. A quick flip through this book gives an idea of the impact Taylor had on the community. Dave was a good fellow. Part of the fabric of downtown. Many years — many books.

Kocik’s recent acquisition of the store is still very much on his mind, as evidenced by the amount of time he spent talking about it.

“When I found out Dave had died March of last year, I remember telling Barbara, the manager … if she was looking to sell, I’d be interested,” Kocik said.

Though Kocik has no previous experience running a bookstore, he’s familiar with the sellers of Charlottesville.

“I’ve never owned a bookstore, but I’ve been buying books here 20 years myself,” he said. “I bought books from all of [the bookstores on the Mall], including those that are no longer here.”

When asked about the competition of other bookstores on the Mall, Kocik claimed that it was nonexistent.

“I don’t even look at it as a competition,” he said, though he did admit that “it’s unusual for this small area to have that many bookstores.”

To this phenomenon, he attributed the “bookstore experience” as the main reason.

“Buying from Amazon is one thing because you’re buying something that you can’t touch and feel,” he said. “You just pray that it’ll come in good condition. Here, you can browse, and you actually wind up seeing a book that you weren’t looking for.”

Kocik stressed that “you don’t get that from a Kindle,” becoming visibly more passionate as he continued to discuss the physical element of books and bookstores.

“There’s something personal,” he said. “You get up-close with a book.”

During the interview, customers filtered in and out of the store, sometimes buying books, sometimes just saying hi to Kocik. A few of them referred to him by name, a testament to the impact Kocik has already made on the community in just a few months.

“I always quote the ancient Roman Cicero,” Kocik said. “‘A room without books is like a body without a soul.’ We have soul. We have a lot of soul.”


To call Blue Whale Books a bookstore might be a misnomer. To be sure, the shop is filled with bookshelves packed to the brim — ancient, dusty tomes under glass, a few stacks on the front desk. But owner Scott Fennessey has a novel business plan to diversify the store’s products.

“We’ve started selling prints and maps,” Fennessey said. “People find [them] fascinating. I think part of it is an increase of interest in visual materials. A lot of people have lost interest in older books, just as objects — whereas, for some reason, the picture out of a book is more fascinating.”

Fennessey’s shop has changed its wares to reflect this interest. A good part of the store is devoted to prints — idyllic scenes cut out of illustrated novels, anatomical diagrams from reference books, sprawling, full-color maps taken from atlases.

Fennessey used one of his more picturesque prints to explain how he had gotten the idea.

“This is a printout from a book that I’ve had on the shelf for literally 20 years and just couldn’t sell, because you look at it and the title is in Czech,” he said.

He continued that, despite the “15 color linocuts” within the book, it had no chance of selling.

“I was gonna put it on the dollar shelf, just out of disgust,” Fennessey said. “But I was looking at it and I thought, ‘I’m just gonna try to sell the linocuts.’ And as I was packaging these plates, I sold two of them — for more than the book cost.”

Fennessey attributed what he calls the “antiquey factor” to the success of the print business.

“For people under the age of 35, they want something ‘antiquey,'” he said. “They want the experience of something old, but they don’t want the whole book.”

There’s a peak price for this factor, he added — “under 50 dollars.” But just out of fascination, people may spend “10, 20, 30 bucks” on a print.

Aside from the artistic novelty, Fennessey has another incentive to get customers in the store — a furry, friendly incentive that waddled in and out of sight throughout the entire interview.

“Gizmo is 10,” Fennessey said, laughing as he hoisted his dog into his lap to pose for photos.
“She’s a really sweet dog. She likes kids. She’s good at bringing in customers — she’ll just sit right in the door, and people come in because of that.”

Fennessey seemed sublimely unconcerned as he held the compliant corgi, telling an anecdote about Gizmo’s encounter with a baby rabbit. Missing from Blue Whale was the air of uncertainty, though faint, that permeated every other bookstore featured in this article.

“We’re all sort of fleeing the book market,” Fennessey said at one point. “You gotta make a living.”

Fennessey’s methods shouldn’t necessarily be called a flight from bookselling, but they are a clever — and potentially long-lasting — repurposing of the book.


“In 10 years, I think there will be one bookstore left on the Downtown Mall.”

Strange, perhaps startling words to hear from an independent bookstore owner, but Paul Collinge has been in the business long enough to make a few radical predictions.

Heartwood Books has existed on Elliewood Avenue since 1975, seeing the rise and fall of generations of independent businesses.

“Various independent bookstores existed around the University, until this day,” Collinge said. “I’m the last one. All the rest of them have gone out of business.”

The bookstore shows its age, too — if only through the impressive accumulation of products. Books of all shapes and sizes are stacked, piled or otherwise arranged throughout the tightly packed space.

Collinge set up a folding chair amid the literary maze and reminisced on Heartwood’s origins. He attributed the store’s initial success to the “presence of the University,” but added that this became less and less helpful with each technological advance.

“Suddenly, everyone at the University had high-speed internet, they could order things from Amazon, and we saw a huge shift,” Collinge said. “In 2018, we’re doing about a third of the business we did in 2000.”

A significant part of the interview was devoted to Collinge describing the more profitable days of the shop. He pointed out an ad from 1975 featuring over 20 various shops on Elliewood Avenue — Heartwood among them. According to Collinge, his bookstore is the only one that has survived in its original form those four decades.

Collinge summed up his grievances with the simple, though alarming concept that “a lot of people don’t read books anymore.”

“It’s an educational problem, I think,” Collinge said. “And it needs to be addressed.”

A shop like Heartwood Books may be just the solution needed, with its teetering monuments of knowledge in the forms of stacked paperbacks — knowledge waiting to be discovered. And students can still discover it — Collinge implores them to. All that is required is a short walk from the Corner and a little curiosity.


Tucked into one of the crevices of the Downtown Mall, Daedalus Bookshop is easy to miss — but essential to experience. Its modest storefront isn’t the most promising, lacking the gold-embossed banners of New Dominion or the elegant marble of Read It Again, Sam, but just a glance inside reveals an enchanting labyrinth of literature.

Think Heartwood, but exponentially larger and more intricate. Three rickety, claustrophobic floors of novels and nonfiction boast every subject imaginable. And sitting in the store’s center floor, at the nucleus of his creation and accumulation, is one Sandy McAdams.

An undeniable fixture of the community, McAdams is just as eclectic and full of life as his sprawling bookstore. This liveliness is somewhat kept in check by an advanced age and steadily advancing multiple sclerosis, the combination of which have confined McAdams to a motorized wheelchair, but he is still a sight to behold.

And he had so much to say.

“Right away, I thought, Charlottesville would have a brass band and parade for this great used bookshop,” McAdams said, chuckling. “But it’s gone unnoticed. It’s still unnoticed.”

McAdams was describing a time long past — 44 years, by his estimation — but he made the era come alive with lively stories and facial expressions to match.

The conversation took many unexpected turns. As a result, many questions were left unanswered or only partially so.

For instance, McAdams explained that he started the iconic C&O Restaurant with a man named Phillip Stafford but failed to go into any further detail.

“When I first moved here, they were digging out the Mall to put the bricks down,” McAdams said. “And myself and my partner — one end was the C&O Restaurant, and I had the other [end of the Mall].”

Daedalus Bookshop is a place rich with history, and though unnoticed by many residents, it has not gone entire unsung — even on a national scale. At one point, McAdams dug around in one of his stacks of books, eventually pulling out a brightly colored one called “Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores.” Daedalus Bookshop was one of the featured stores.

According to the book, McAdams “built all the bookshelves, did all the masonry, shelved three floors of books and mapped the building’s contents.” This incredible fact prompted McAdams to call himself a “hard worker,” a phrase that was repeated multiple times throughout the interview.

“I don’t cook, I don’t know anything about wine, but I’m a hard worker.” This was in reference to the C&O Restaurant, and the hand McAdams had in designing it.

“I never did things so much because of talent, but more because I was a hard worker.” This was a nod to McAdams’s decision to move to Canada to avoid the war draft, as he feared he would “kill a huge number of … people” if he was drafted because of his inherent hard-working traits — just another chapter of the man’s incredibly varied life story.

This hardworking trait of McAdams’ was also displayed when he showed off a newspaper that he helped found, print and publish called “The Times of Charlottesville.” Though it only existed for two years, it serves as another testament to the impressive cultural impact McAdams has had on Charlottesville.

Even to this day, McAdams is a hard worker. Throughout the interview, he was zooming around in his motorized wheelchair — picking up books seemingly at random from stacks, checking for prices, sometimes marking in them with a fat pencil. McAdams doesn’t let his illness or his age slow him down — he’s still constantly in motion.

From speaking to McAdams or just by stepping into his shop, it is clear that he has devoted his life to collecting stories. Of all the tales he has compiled over the decades, undoubtedly the most interesting is his own. The story features a rotating cast of characters, some of them just mentioned — his daughter, his “darling wife,” his business partner Stafford — and some walking into the store by chance.

This latter category was a near-constant interruption to the interview, but provided more insight into McAdams’s character than even the most well-thought-out question could. An “unbelievable mailman who’s become a friend” dropped off some packages, prompting the bookstore owner to question the man about whether or not he’s visited the doctor yet for some unknown ailment.

After their brief interaction, McAdams shouted at the man’s retreating figure, “Keep my love around you!”

Another, younger employee also stopped by — someone McAdams referred to just as “John.”

“We have a book club,” McAdams explained, apparently referring both to an actual club and to his coworkers in the shop. “As I get weaker and weaker, they said they would take turns working one day of the week.”

John was a character himself, encouraging McAdams to tell stories about “sex in the stacks” at Daedalus — “just like in Alderman Library,” he said.

This led McAdams to declare, “I started it!”

The interview never really came to an end. McAdams eventually said to “come in again … [to] talk more.” It seemed clear that the mysterious old man had only relinquished a tiny portion of the illustrious past of the bookstore and his own impressive story — but what little he did share was incredible.


Considering the wealth of stories, knowledge and genuine passion found in McAdams’s character, one can’t help but imagine what similar qualities must have existed in Carol Troxell of New Dominion or Dave Taylor of Read It Again, Sam. But rather than mourn what lives have been lost, their vibrant impacts on the city of Charlottesville should instead be appreciated.

Just as authors’ legacies are preserved in their writings, so are these bookstore owners immortalized by their lives’ work — brick-and-mortar testaments to the power of the written word, and its ability to bring a community together.

Reemerging from Rehab

One student’s all-too-familiar struggle for sobriety

Words by Emily Caron. Visuals by Margaret Kim and Aisha Singh.

The names in this story have been changed to protect the sources’ privacy.

Meet John: a former boarding school valedictorian who graduated cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. He was president of his senior class, captain of both the soccer and crew teams and wanted to row at an Ivy League in college. When his plans to row fell through, he decided to study at the University of Virginia — a ‘Public Ivy,’ as they say. He was on top of it all: smart, social, successful and heading to a great school. Some would say he was the perfect student.

Most students at the University can probably relate to at least part of John’s high school history. Many students can probably also relate to parts of John’s college experience or know someone who can — and that’s the concerning part. His story goes something like this:

John moved into dorms. He met lots of new people — mostly first-years, but some older. He went to Block Party and over-indulged. He liked it. He started going out even more, and soon he was partying pretty often.

He ended up in the hospital within his first few weeks on Grounds with alcohol poisoning. One minute he was taking shots to celebrate a decent passing grade on a psych exam, the next he was staring at a stark white ceiling. Everything smelled sterile. His eyes needed time to adjust to the bright lights above. He didn’t know where he was.

His body was covered in blood and dirt — he could smell his own throw up. He must’ve fallen somewhere along the way. He must’ve puked, too.

Strange faces were buzzing about, he saw nurses checking in on patients, doctors conversing with one another. He was in the hospital. But police officers were there too, all around him. Why? He turned to see his sister by his side, finally a familiar face.

She explained everything.

Friends had called an ambulance for John after a University police officer had found him passed out on the sidewalk outside of a fraternity house just off Rugby Road. That’s how he had ended up here, on a stretcher in the hallway of the U.Va. Emergency Department.

When he got to the hospital, he’d swung at the doctor, hence all the police officers. But he was too wasted to remember. He’d gone through the gamut of emotions — from angry and irritable to sad and emotional — but didn’t recall any of it. It wasn’t until other people told him about his night that he was able to piece it all together after a few days.

“I went home for a week. My parents didn’t know what to do with me — all these guys [at UVA were] telling me it happens to everyone and not to worry — but I was super embarrassed by it,” John said. “So I took a few weeks off, and then football season started and I found myself drinking again at a tailgate.”

The hospital trip was scary for a second, but was soon forgotten. Alcohol poisoning might’ve deterred some, but not him — not here. His family was worried but his friends assured him he was fine. It’s normal. Lots of people end up in the hospital, especially first year.

His drinking escalated as the semester went on. He knew his weekends were wild, and usually a little fuzzy, but they were fun. That is, until Sunday morning hit.

“I started doing all these things that were so far against who I am, what I believe, and what I think is right — the whole nine yards,” John said. “I thought it was what ‘fun’ was or what I was supposed to be doing … There were a lot of blackout nights … and a lot of Sunday-morning-can’t-get-out-of-bed type days.”

He was living for the weekend and just getting by during the week. Sundays sucked and classes were hard, but socializing came easy so he kept going.

No one batted an eye when he would black out or wake up hungover as hell. Sometimes he’d wake up with a girl in his bed that he didn’t remember taking home. Dabbling in drugs? That didn’t faze anyone, either. Cocaine wasn’t something to be worried about — but it all should have been.

“The truth is that, the first week [when] he ended up in the hospital unresponsive from alcohol poisoning, I knew he had a problem,” John’s mother said. “The way that first semester went is just not normal, even though it is to so many [students].”

He pledged a fraternity in the spring, as many first-years do. Cocaine soon became John’s drug of choice — there wasn’t pressure to do it, per se, but its prevalence alone was enough. It was everywhere. And, the more cocaine John did, the less he drank. He’d wake up less hungover and usually with fewer regrets. It was a win-win.

“When you think of drugs as a kid, [cocaine] is this big, scary, hardcore drug. It’s not like smoking weed. But then you get to college and that’s not the case anymore,” John said. “I was so against it when I got to school […] but then I tried it once. And [when] I realized I wasn’t going to blackout as much if I was doing coke, it was like an ‘aha’ moment.”

This cycle of drinking and drugging continued throughout the spring of his first year. By the end of the semester, he was back in the hospital. This time it was because of a fight he’d drunkenly gotten into at a bar that resulted in seven staples in his head.

Summer was calmer. He was working, drinking less and not doing as much cocaine. It was harder to get ahold of when everyone was home. He told his family — and himself — that he was fine.

Come Block Party second year, the blacking out was back. School had started again, and so did the heavy drinking. His grades quickly slipped and his parents presented him with a contract: no more alcohol-related trips to the hospital, no run-ins with the police and no failing grades — “that was it,” John’s mom said. If he didn’t abide, or — what’s more, if he couldn’t abide — they wouldn’t continue to pay for school. Easy enough.

Just four weeks into his second year at the University, John realized he couldn’t keep up his end of the contract.

“At first it was this, ‘Screw you, I don’t have a problem,’ mentality,” John said. “But it planted a seed that I actually might. Every time I’d drink I’d be thinking about [the contract], which was the biggest wakeup call.”

There was no insane incident, no specific night that set him over the edge — there was just the simple realization that John was no longer in control, drugs and alcohol were. He could no longer guarantee those three simple things his family asked of him: he couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t go to the hospital or get in trouble with the police. The student who never got lower than an A in high school couldn’t even guarantee that he’d pass all of his classes.

Just a few days later, John packed up and headed back to his rural Virginia home where his parents were waiting. He wouldn’t return to the University that year.

Here’s where John’s story may start to sound less familiar: soon after returning home, he was leaving again — this time to go check into a treatment center for alcohol and drug addiction. He was about to begin his recovery journey.

“There’s a saying that if alcohol is causing a problem in your life, you have a problem with alcohol. It can really be anything, even little things,” John’s mother said. “Our entire culture normalizes so much about alcohol that isn’t normal — it’s like, ‘Oh college kids will be college kids,’ so it’s just not a big deal.”

The reality is that John was just one of the roughly 20 percent of college students who meet the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. That means that one out of every five college students fits the bill for having a problem with alcohol.

“College and university campuses are very specific environments where it’s very culturally accepted and expected for people to use substances excessively,” said Dr. Audrey Klein, the executive director of the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “When you have that kind of culture and everybody is in that same setting — events that happen that are really abnormal, or serious events — it’s easy for people to not think of them as problematic because of [the] culture.”

The behavior that John was engaging with is what researchers are now calling “high-intensity drinking” — or drinking beyond binge parameters. Binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks for females and five or more for males in one sitting. But young people — college students especially — are drinking at even more alarming rates than that. That’s where high-intensity drinking enters the picture. It’s defined as alcohol consumption that is at least two times more than the binge-drinking threshold or 10+ drinks in a single sitting.

Research conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the University of Maryland School of Public Health puts about one in nine college students — 11 percent — in the category of high-intensity drinkers.

This number may sound steep. But think about it. Think about the pregame where you fill your red solo cup halfway with cheap vodka, mixing in a little soda to be able to swallow it and counting that as one drink when it should be three or four, maybe more. Or where you kill a fifth of alcohol with a date before a function, downing the equivalent of 16 shots between the two of you.

Any type of intentional intoxication or aggressive alcohol consumption, whether its binge consumption or high-intensity drinking, comes with enormous risks — ones that are often overlooked in college cultures where the prevalence of alcohol and substance consumption make it easy to forget, or even ignore, the consequences.

“The hardest part was knowing … knowing how traumatized everyone was,” John’s mom said. “But for him, it was not a big deal. He had the mentality that ‘Everybody does it,’ and meanwhile he’d created this trail of wreckage.”

The alcohol wasn’t the only substance wreaking havoc in John’s life. He’s also one of about eight million young adults who were current users of illicit drugs, according to the National Institutes of Health. But how many students actually identify as having an addiction or substance use disorder?

“You will find research and statistics from various studies that will support that there are more [students with alcohol or substance abuse disorders] than those who identify the addiction or receive treatment for it,” Klein said. “A lot of it is because that culture is very much a drinking and drug use culture and so that’s part of the reason that people think it’s okay to engage in these behaviors.”

With addiction in his family history, John’s parents knew that the behavior their son was engaging in was not normal, despite all his reassurances. They knew the risks that came with the behavior John was engaging in, they knew the signs of addiction, and they wanted to help him, before it was too late.

“When a person is engaging in this type of use – your chances of dying based on just ingesting too much of that substance go up astronomically, not to mention the other risks with injury or those things,” Klein said. “You hear cases of people that do this high intensity drinking and they do like 10-12 shots in two hours … the body can’t physically process that much alcohol … In high enough amounts, it will literally shut your heart and your breathing down.”

John is one of thousands of young people engaging in this type of dangerous drinking and drugging, but the users themselves are not the only ones impacted.

“Thousands of college students at low risk for developing alcohol use disorders still suffer from the ramifications of excessive drinking — from DUIs, car crashes and violence to date rape,” Dr. Joseph Lee, medical director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Youth Continuum, said in arecent report. “Millions more are affected by the collateral damage.”

The collateral damage was what turned John towards treatment. He wasn’t in it for himself, not this time at least. But he had acknowledged he had a problem, which is more than many college students can say.

After almost a year of treatment — in-patient, outpatient, time at a halfway house and a few months in a sober living environment — John returned to his home in Virginia. Discussion turned to debate within the family as they tried to decide whether or not John should return to the University or if transferring would be a better option. The culture at the University hadn’t changed — it was still the same ‘party school’ that it had always been. But John had changed. He convinced his family that he could handle it this time around.

“The very first weekend he was back, at Block Party, he had a massive relapse,” John’s mom said. “Binge drank all weekend, did lots of drugs, and that was that. Before classes even started, he’d blown a year of being sober.”

Already relapsing, John’s parents told him that he needed to live in a sober house in Charlottesville in order for them to continue paying for school. He got himself in, but got himself out even faster. It wasn’t the cockroaches that prompted his exit, but the curfew. John couldn’t go out if he was living there.

He moved into upperclassman housing on campus where he was free to do whatever he wanted, but John knew he needed something to help him maintain the contract with his parents, which still stood. So he joined the club rugby team. He figured if he had something to keep him busy, he couldn’t get into too much trouble.

“Rugby kept me entertained. We’d travel so I couldn’t go out all the time, couldn’t be too hungover for games,” John said. “It was a very controlled environment, or I thought it would be.”

Even with rugby, John’s substance abuse escalated. He went through periods of sobriety that fall, where he’d abstain from drinking or taking drugs for a little. But he would quickly relapse. It wasn’t real recovery. He was back in the fraternity system, amid more partying than he could handle. Part way through the fall semester, he picked up a job at a bar on the Corner. It was there that cocaine became the center of his world.

“My entire year at that point was based around doing, selling [and] buying drugs,” John said.

“The problem was, as with any addiction, it gets progressively worse,” he said. “I was a ‘frat star’ and a drug dealer — I was so far from that person at [boarding school] who was valedictorian.”

The year progressed, and so did his relationship with drugs — he became increasingly dependent. Drinking was still a prevalent part of his life, too. He was living a lifestyle that was worlds away from his sobriety the year prior. His family relationships were severely strained, as were those with most of his friends. He was already feeling alone with nothing left but his addictions.

Depression plagued John’s days. He struggled through the rest of the spring semester. Then, in May of 2016, exactly a year after he’d come home from treatment, the few remaining walls of John’s world came crumbling down.

He was $100 short on the drug money he owed to a bigger dealer — he was just a little fish in a big pond. But even little fish have to pay what they owe.

Standing in an apartment in downtown Charlottesville, a gun was pulled. John froze. He was going to lose his life over $100 in drug money. His dealer looked serious — he wanted the money John owed him and was willing to take a life for it. Such a price to pay for such a small debt.

“I thought I was going to die in that apartment in Charlottesville,” John said. “And I didn’t. But I woke up the next day and wanted to. My family had basically written me off, so had a ton of friends. Everyone was gone. I had no one. I had nothing. That’s a really lonely place to be — where all you’ve got left are drugs and alcohol.”

He was scared to get sober but more scared to continue on the path that he was on. Ultimately, John’s fear of continuing to drink and do drugs was stronger than his fear of trying something new. The next day, he found himself standing in the doorway of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

He was going to get sober.

“He reached his bottom … He decided to get involved in AA, get a sponsor, and he’s been sober ever since,” John’s mother said. “The truth is, if [John] had not gotten sober, I was just waiting for the phone call that he had died or been in some horrible accident or something.”

The following fall, John returned to Charlottesville and the University. The same school, the same Grounds. But everything was different.

He disaffiliated from his fraternity to focus on the AA’s 12 steps of recovery, the treatment program they use to help participants achieve and maintain sobriety. He had a sponsor, was getting sober and expending his energy on entirely new things. He had to find an identity outside of drugs and alcohol and reform relationships around his newly sober self. He had to relearn how to live each and every day and find new ways to have fun.

Rugby took on an entirely new meaning.

“It gave me goals,” John said. “Right before I got sober I’d heard that our league was creating an all-conference team and that was the goal — make all-conference. I knew that if I worked for that goal, even if I didn’t make it, something good would come. It was almost selfish to be honest — I didn’t really care about our record, but I had to do it for me. I had to accomplish something sober.”

John not only reached the goals he set for himself, but he surpassed them. He made the Top-50 Forward ranking, the All-Conference team and became a captain the next season.

“I think that being involved in that community can be really helpful for people. In his situation, it was something he needed,” John’s mother said. “And was certainly a saving grace when he was sober. Last year it gave him an extra motivation to stay sober and something to do in his spare time.”

Rugby has become a tool for him to teach others the lessons he learned from his addictions — how to overcome obstacles and how to keep fighting, how to live positively and learn from every experience and how to embrace every day as a gift.

Today, John is finishing up his last semester at the University — and he’s done it soberly since summer of 2016, inching closer to two years of sobriety with each passing month. He hasn’t done or dealt drugs since then, either. His life today is a testament to his recovery, and a testament to the dangers of the excessive drinking and substance abuse that are so routine at U.Va. and universities across the country.

“Coke just gets normalized if you’re around it enough,” John said. “But here’s the scary thing about drugs like that — you don’t get to decide when you’re addicted to it […] you just become addicted to the physical substance. At U.Va., you get to see the glamorous side of drugs. But when I was in rehab, you get to see what this shit can really do to you. Everyone is convinced they’ll never be that person who gets hooked, but here’s the problem: it happens. It happens to kids all the time.”

Excessive use, whether that be drugs or alcohol, are all normalized on college campuses. John’s story highlights the reality of these things — he’s a living example of the dangers of dabbling in substances like these. But his life today is so much more than that.

“I can’t imagine a more difficult environment to get sober in than college, especially at a place like U.Va.,” John’s mother said. “The hardest thing is that you have to be different from everyone else. When everyone is partying and you’re not, you have to have courage and a backbone and come to terms with that, and I thank God [John] had that.”