Newsletter

Santa Warren won’t arrive at Tysons Galleria for another 11 days, but he’s already making waves.

With his scheduled appearances on Dec. 18 and 19, Warren will be the first Black man to serve as Santa Claus for Neiman Marcus at Tysons Galleria’s winter holiday festivities, which kicked off on Nov. 26 with a visit from another Santa who assisted with curbside deliveries.

After years of white Saint Nicks dating back to its 1988 opening, the department store made a conscious effort to diversify its roster for this holiday season, citing its ongoing work to become “more inclusive and representative of our global community” in a recent media alert.

“We want to continue to connect with our customers and find ways to ensure our store represents our community,” Neiman Marcus Tysons Vice President and General Manager Kathy Leigh said by email. “This year our team brainstormed ideas [that] led us to hire the wonderful Santa who we are delighted to have join us at Neiman Marcus Tysons Galleria.”

To find the right candidate for the role, Neiman Marcus turned to Santas Just Like Me, a North Carolina-based company founded in 2013 to increase the representation of people of color in the Santa industry.

An event photographer, minister, and self-professed Christmas fanatic, Santas Just Like Me founder Stafford Braxton says his goal is to make the company all-inclusive, but the easiest way to market its work turned out to be emphasizing Black Santa “so that people would know what I am.”

Since recruiting Warren as the original Black Santa, Braxton has added five other men, and he remains on the lookout for Hispanic, Asian, and other kinds of individuals who would be interested in putting on the red suit. Even white Santas would be welcome.

The only criteria? A naturally white beard.

“I want to be able to provide all the different cultures a Santa that looks like them,” Braxton told Tysons Reporter. “That’s my heart’s desire.”

When Neiman Marcus reached out last month about a gig at its Tysons Galleria store, Santas Just Like Me quickly accepted the offer, excited by the prospect of breaking new ground as the venue’s first Black Santa. Read More

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Morning Notes

Scott’s Run Falls in autumn (photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter)

Last Day of Early Voting Hits Turnout High for 2021 — “Today was an #earlyvoting record for this election; we had more than 14,400 people cast ballots in person. In total, there have been more than 109,000 in person early votes cast!” [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]

Vigil Held for Falls Church Shooting Victim — “Loved ones gathered on Saturday to remember Nelson Alexander who was fatally shot during an attempted robbery at an ATM in Falls Church. This huge turnout, a testament to how much Nelson Alexander was loved. ‘He was a great person, he was a kind person, and he was a loving person,’ Patricia Alexander, the victim’s niece, said.” [NBC4]

Tysons Corner Nordstrom Adds Hijab Collection — “Ibrahim, CEO and founder of Henna & Hijabs (H&H), started her company in 2017 and introduced her collection this summer at Nordstrom in Tysons Corner Center and other locations around the U.S. This is one of the first luxury hijab collections to be sold inside a U.S. retailer store.” [Patch]

Vandalism Reported at Vienna Elementary School — A security officer for the school at 128 Center Street South reported to the Town of Vienna Police Department “that he found a burnt trashcan by the playground and three broken windows.” The incident occurred between 8 p.m. on Oct. 24 and 6 a.m. on October 25, according to VPD’s weekly crime report. [Vienna Police]

Photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter

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The KORUS Festival will return to Tysons Corner Center this weekend (courtesy KORUS)

After taking last year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the KORUS Festival will return to Tysons Corner Center this weekend with an expanded scope that is expected to include acknowledgements of local first responders and the nationwide rise in hate crimes, particularly those against Asian people.

Now in its 18th year, the KORUS Festival is put on annually by the Korean American Association of Greater Washington (KAGW) as a celebration of the local Korean American community. Organizers say it’s the largest cultural festival by a single ethnic group in the D.C. region.

This year’s festival will be held in the Bloomingdale’s parking lot at 8100 Tysons Corner Center from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 18) and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday (Sept. 19). A Maryland version of the event is scheduled for Sept. 25-26 at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

The free festival will feature food and retail vendors, games, a beer garden, a kids’ zone, and live performances, including taekwondo demonstrations and musicians ranging in genre from K-pop to Caribbean jazz.

Anna Ko, the festival’s stage and performances director, says COVID-19 health protocols will include temperature checks and a mask requirement for people who aren’t fully vaccinated.

“We are providing hand sanitizers, masks, first aid stations as well as a mandatory temperature check for all attendees,” Ko said. “The safety and the health of the public will be of top priority. If you are not vaccinated, please wear masks at all time.”

While KAGW remains the main organizer, the association decided to broaden the festival’s focus this year by partnering with community nonprofits, including Celebrate Fairfax and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce.

Ko says the event will also serve as a platform to show appreciation for first responders involved in Fairfax County’s pandemic response and to raise awareness about the need to combat anti-Asian hate crimes.

“KORUS is the ONLY event at this capacity by an ethnic group, Korean Americans,” KAGW President Steve Lee wrote in an email. “We have opened the door to ALL diversity to get to know each other and others better to fight against Asian hate and any hate issues.”

According to Ko, county officials plan to award COVID-19 first responder teams on stage when they’re scheduled to appear at 5 p.m. on Saturday. State legislators will be present as well.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay has been invited to present the recognition, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, whose district includes Tysons.

The KORUS Festival’s prominence reflects the increased visibility of the D.C. region’s Asian American communities, which have grown over the past couple of decades.

Released in August, demographic data from the 2020 Census showed that Asian residents now make up 20.3% of Fairfax County’s total population — up from 17.4% in 2010 and 13.1% in 2000 — contributing to the county’s new status as a majority-minority county.

However, the county has not been immune from the uptick in discrimination against Asians that has been seen across the U.S. during the pandemic, as illustrated in March when a student reported being harassed with anti-Asian slurs at Longfellow Middle School in McLean.

Bias crime and incident reports have increased in each of the past three years, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. The clear majority of cases have involved anti-Black discrimination, but the number of anti-Asian incidents went from six in 2019 to nine in 2020.

According to FBI data released on Aug. 30, the U.S. hit a 12-year high in the number of reported hate crimes in 2020, driven in particular by increased attacks against Black and Asian individuals.

“Hate crime is an issue in many places of our United States,” Ko said by email. “We are trying to change it in our area through this multi-cultural event, so we all can be united as one America and better America.”

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Morning Notes

Controversy Hits Tysons Korean Cooking Contest — Half of the judges for the 2021 K-Food Cook-Off have quit after a statement introducing one of them drew social media criticism for suggesting that the D.C. area has a lack of Korean restaurants. The competition, which will be held on Sept. 26 at the Tysons Hyatt Regency, has also come under fire for only having one judge of Korean heritage on its original panel. [Washington City Paper]

Police Investigate Possible Murder in Falls Church — Fairfax County police found the remains of 78-year-old Truman Nguyen in a shallow grave behind his house near Bailey’s Crossroads yesterday after a family member reported him missing on Monday (Sept. 6). His son was arrested and has been charged with murder, which would make it the county’s 18th homicide this year, triple the number that had been reported at this time in 2020. [The Washington Post]

Family of 9/11 Victim Shares Memories of Tragic Day — Now a student pursuing a master’s degree at George Mason University, Fairfax County resident An Nguyen was just 4 when his father was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, where both of his parents worked. His mother, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a child, was not at the Pentagon when the plane hit. [NBC4]

Tysons Business Group Hosts Statewide Candidates Forum — “The Multicultural Chamber Alliance (MCCA), a powerful collaborative initiative of the Asian American Chamber, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber, invites the press and general public to attend the Annual Candidates Forum. The Candidates Forum will take place Thursday, September 9, 2021, from 10 am-12 pm, at the University of North America (12750 Fair Lakes Circle) in Fairfax, Virginia.” [MCCA]

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Racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. by state (courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)

Fairfax County is now the second most racially diverse county in Virginia, according to 2020 Census data released yesterday afternoon (Aug. 12).

The data confirms recent demographic reports conducted by Fairfax County that showed the share of white residents shrinking and communities of color, particularly Asians and Hispanics, growing since 2010, when the county was the fifth-most diverse county.

Now, only Prince William County is more diverse.

Compared to the rest of the United States, Fairfax County ranked 42nd out of 3,143 counties in the country on the Census’ racial and ethnic diversity index.

While white residents remain the largest racial or ethnic group in the county, they are no longer the majority, making up 47.1% of the overall population with 542,001 residents — a drop of nearly 50,000 people from 2010, when the county’s 590,622 white residents constituted 54.6% of its population.

In other words, Fairfax is now a majority-minority county, due in part to the growth of the county’s Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations, which are the second and third largest racial and ethnic groups, respectively.

According to the 2020 Census data, 20.3% of the county’s population is Asian, an increase of about 55,000 residents from 17.4% in 2010. Hispanic or Latino individuals now constitute 17.3% of the populace, up from 15.6% a decade ago.

The diffusion score — the percentage of the population that isn’t in the top three racial and ethnic groups — is also higher than it was in 2010. At 15.2%, that number is also higher than Virginia and the country as a whole.

The county’s increasing diversity reflects national trends revealed in the new data, which shows the first-ever decline in the country’s white, non-Hispanic population with Latino residents fueling 51% of the population growth.

In total, about 1.15 million people now live in Fairfax County. The population grew by about 68,500 people or 6.3% since 2010, a lower rate of growth than both Virginia as a whole (7.9%) and the U.S. (7.4%).

Fairfax County’s population increase is also significantly lower in terms of percentage than its neighboring localities in Northern Virginia: Arlington County’s population rose by nearly 15%, Alexandria City by nearly 14%, Prince William County by about 20%, and Loudoun County by a staggering 35%.

However, Fairfax remains the largest county in Virginia, as it was in 2010, with more than double the population of Prince William County, which is the second most populous county. Fairfax County residents make up about 13% of the Commonwealth’s total population.

In general, Northern Virginia continues to grow at a much higher rate than the rest of the state.

The new Census data will be used to redraw voting districts locally and nationwide, a process that carries major political implications. Electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years to ensure each one has about the same number of people. The data could also change how many electoral votes are allocated to each state.

This is the 24th official Census count in U.S. history.

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The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority will soon add two new seats to its seven-member commission, which has remained the same size since it was created in 1964.

Virginia legislators and the governor approved a measure earlier this year allowing the change, which takes effect July 1 and will help meet diversity needs, officials say.

Charged with helping the county attract, retain, and support businesses, the FCEDA commission consists of local business and community leaders appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

FCEDA Chair Cathy Lange says the expanded board will help the authority bring different viewpoints to the table after the county has changed and grown over the past 57 years.

“We need a richness of perspectives to help the FCEDA understand why companies start here, grow here and stay here,” Lange said by email. “This diversity of needs also is directly tied to our understanding and support of talent attraction and retention. The companies want and need a broad and diverse talent pool, and we have to connect the talent to the companies.”

According to Lange, the EDA board hopes to further diversify representation of emerging and growing business sectors, such as financial services, cyber, cloud, and data analytics, as well as entrepreneurs and small business leaders “building the next base” of companies.

“At the same time, we can identify leaders who are reflective of the growing diversity in our county and its business community,” Lange wrote.

In its legislative agenda for the General Assembly’s 2021 session, Fairfax County noted the authority was created by state law in 1964, allowing the county to appoint seven board members.

“That number has not changed in the 50 years since the FCEDA was created, though Fairfax County has changed substantially during that time,” Fairfax County officials said in the report, which was adopted on Dec. 1.

In the legislative agenda, officials noted that the county’s increasing diversity extends to its economy:

The County has experienced tremendous growth, as has the local economy — the number and size of companies has increased, and businesses have expanded into new and diverse industry sectors. Increasing the size of the FCEDA board could further diversify participation from the County’s business community, while maintaining focus on the County’s traditional business base (including government contracting and IT services).

Among its services, the authority helps businesses find office space in the county, assists with special tax-exempt bonds for companies and nonprofits, and aids international firms seeking office space in Fairfax County.

While headquartered in Tysons, the authority has offices around the country and the world, including in Germany, India, Israel, South Korea, and the U.K. as well as Los Angeles.

Lange said in the email that Fairfax County is an amazing success story, and expanding the commission will help to ensure that continues.

“Understanding what different companies need to succeed here helps us to inform county leaders on what policies and programs need to be implemented to continue our success,” Lange wrote. “This also will help us understand how to market the county to businesses that want opportunities to grow and success, and how to market the region to talent.”

FCEDA vice president of communications Alan Fogg said by email that he expects there will be movement around appointments starting next month.

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Morning Notes

Home Prices Up, Building Permits Down — The latest Fairfax County economic indicators show that home prices are up 5.8 percent year-over-year, but single-family building permits are down 25.9 percent. [Fairfax County]

Dental Office Celebrating 15 Year Anniversary — “While The Boro and other developments are in progress nearby, Nicole Van’s dental office has become a mainstay in the community.” [Patch]

Local Teen Performing at Kennedy Center — Fourteen-year-old Falls Church resident Makenzie Hymes “will have the opportunity to perform on the biggest stage of her still-young dancing career so far as Clara in Ballet West’s new production of The Nutcracker, which will have its Washington, D.C., premiere at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Dec. 5.” [Fairfax Times]

The Changing Face of Fairfax County — “We have a greater diversity of racial and ethnic population than we did two decades ago. Compared to 2000, Asian and Pacific Islanders made up the highest increase, from 13.1 to 19.5 percent in 2018.  Our Hispanic population increased from 11 to 16.2 percent.” [Fairfax County]

FCPD Social Media Star Retiring — “In bittersweet news, our beloved K9 Moose is retiring! On more than 250 posts, Moose has earned over 40,000 combined likes across all of our social media platforms.” [Facebook]

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