Is a meal for a special occasion worth hundreds of dollars?
After years of stalled development plans, communities east of the Anacostia River may finally be poised for real change. Government offices are relocating there, and housing projects are making way for new developments. But many longtime residents wonder what these changes will mean for them. We’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of neighborhood transformation.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom The Arc on Mississippi Avenue, east of the river, Southeast Washington, welcome to "Kojo in your Community."
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou know, Ward 8 always seems to be on the verge of turning around and change may finally be here. New residents are renovating houses and moving in. There are art galleries and organic supermarkets and redeveloped housing. Residents see new storefronts in Congress Heights and the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters to be built at Saint Elizabeth's will soon bring 14,000 workers here every day.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut some long-time residents wonder what the changes mean for them and who has a place in a revitalized east of the river community. While this southeast corner of the District has proven over the years to have a political clout well beyond its size and economic weight, that has not translated into better opportunities for the residents here. They've still got, by far, the highest unemployment rate in the city at 30 percent and most neighborhoods still lack the basics, pharmacies, hardware stores, supermarkets, restaurants.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThis hour, we'll explore the changes coming and how it will affect this deep-rooted community. Joining us to facilitate this discussion is T. Janine Farrell, a Public Media Corps fellow, who is completing a survey of computer use east of the river. Tom Brown is the executive director of Training Grounds, a nonprofit providing young adults with job training and entrepreneurial skills, Kahlfani Ture teaches anthropology at Coppin State University. He's working on an oral history project on Barry Farm.
MR. KOJO NNAMDICharles Wilson is the founder of River East Emerging Leaders, also known as REEL, D.C. He's a newly elected ANC, congratulations, and Albert Butch Hopkins, president and CEO of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation. Butch Hopkins, allow me to start with you. Care to comment on the development that's taking place here, east of the river, and what, in your view, these neighborhoods need most?
MR. ALBERT BUTCH HOPKINSObviously, they need jobs and services, foremost. The development that is coming and you alluded to, the Department of Homeland Security, probably around 2014 that'll be completed. We'll have 14,400 new employees at the west side campus and a number of them would be on the east campus and a new building that's about 750,000 square feet for FEMA. We'll also have, on a daily basis, 2,000 visitors to this site.
MR. ALBERT BUTCH HOPKINSAnd the big issue is, you're adding 16,000 plus employees to this neighborhood and the question is what would that mean in terms of revenue, jobs, services, et cetera, for the residents east of the river. It's incumbent upon the city to build out the east campus, which is owned by the District of Columbia so it can have retail goods and services, so it can have employees on that side where the city can sell the land where they begin to accrue property taxes from the developers who build it out and certainly the tenants there will pay their taxes.
MR. ALBERT BUTCH HOPKINSThe city did gain a grant of $300,000 from the Economic Development Administration, which they are utilizing to acquire a study from Carnegie Mellon University, which is going to be looking probably anywhere from 12-month to 18-month study to determine or tell us what the city can do with the east side campus and to make it a viable alternative. Or at least a viable attraction to bring jobs, employees and retail goods and services to that side so we can get those workers, those 16,000 people that going to the west side campus, to get them to come out and utilize the service.
MR. ALBERT BUTCH HOPKINSAnd that would help the unemployment rate, to bring it down, because you'll create jobs on retail services, et cetera. There's a number of other things that are taking place in the area. We're working with a digitalization company called SourceCorp, which has won a contract to digitize a number of records that the city's Department of Human Services has. They've already hired 12 residents from D.C. and they transport them to their plant in Upper Marlboro.
MR. ALBERT BUTCH HOPKINSAnd if we are able to secure contracts with DHS and some additional ones in the District of Columbia, we propose to build them an office building and a plant in Anacostia. They have promised in working with us because have their CBE contract, a subcontractor, we will be able to hire approximately up to 300 people with full health benefits. And we're looking at the TANF population that exists in Ward 8, that's where we will seek our first employees. So there's a number of things. There's energy-related activities on the way.
MR. ALBERT BUTCH HOPKINSYou have Mark Davis here with DC Solar. We're trying to work with him so that he can come and create jobs for learning the solar installation, et cetera. We are also involved with creating a IHOP. We have an IHOP in Ward 8 and it's owned by the Jackson family. We teamed up with the Jackson family to open an IHOP in Columbia Heights. But a number of the jobs, of the 125, 130 jobs, a number of those jobs, not just Ward 1 residents, but there are also -- we've hired people from Ward 8 to move into the food industry and with the IHOP.
NNAMDIA lot of stuff taking place. I'd like our audience here to say -- is your neighborhood changing? Are you happy with how it's changing or not? What does your neighborhood need most? Just put your hand up and I will come to you. You, sir, what is your name?
MR. PHIL PANNELLMy name is Phillip Pannell .
NNAMDIWhat hat are you wearing today? Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Pannell is well-known as a Ward 8 activist.
NNAMDIHe's well-known as a gay rights activist. He's well-known working for the Census Bureau. And every time the Washington Post puts a picture of Phil Pannell in the paper, they use some different identification. So I'd like to know, what capacity are you here in tonight?
PANNELLWell, Kojo, I'm the executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, president of the Congress Heights Community Association. One of the things that's needed in this community is a quality hospital that people will have real confidence in and that is a first choice medical institution. There's only one hospital east of the Anacostia river or river east, whatever we're calling this section of town. And at one time, the United Medical Center, which was formerly the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, was the largest private employer here in Ward 8.
PANNELLAnd unfortunately, every time we pick up the paper, we turn on the TV, we keep hearing that this hospital is going through changes. It doesn't have its accreditation one day, but now everything is okay. Then we hear everything is fine. The next thing you know, it's bankrupt. And we need to really have some major community conversations about this hospital to bring in all of the people involved and to find out exactly what can be done.
PANNELLBecause here in this community, in Ward 8, where we have major public health problems, both physical and mental, and we look at the public health indicators in terms of diabetes, HIV and AIDS, cardiovascular diseases and even the issue of violence and homicide, that's a public health issue, we need to do something to actually get the community more concerned about that hospital so when they get sick, they can say, take me to the United Medical Center and not some other place.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
NNAMDIWe have a lot of people who want to speak. Are you new to southeast or a long-time resident? What do you think of the changes that you have seen? But before we move on, I’d just like to get somebody here to talk a little bit more about Philip Pannell. Sir, do you know Philip Pannell?
MR. MARK PLOTKINYes. Phil Pannell is really, in the finest sense of the word, a public servant with no official capacity, but he makes himself official capacity in terms of what he does and he's really indispensable. And I vote for him every single time his name is on the ballot.
NNAMDIAnd, sir, what would your name be?
PLOTKINMy name is Mark Plotkin.
NNAMDIOh, that's him. He can't -- he's not allowed to speak on our airwaves. He works for the other station that nobody listens to.
NNAMDIWe have somebody over here who's going to say something.
MS. VERONICA DAVISHi, my name is Veronica Davis. I live in the Fairfax Village section of Hillcrest in Ward 7. I see a lot of positive change happening on my neighborhood. We have the $30 million Pennsylvania Avenue Great Streets Project. They just revitalized the Fort Davis Shopping Center. In addition, we're getting a brand new Francis A. Gregory Library. One of the things that I would like to see, even though everyone says, oh, we're in a recession, one of the things that I'd been very active with is holding the property owners, the commercial property owners, accountable for things like litter because, to me, I feel like that's the cost of doing business.
MS. VERONICA DAVISAnd just because, you know, we're in an economic downturn, maybe you can't get a better retail. But to me, that doesn't mean that you have a right to just let your place look littered. And so I would like to see that. And also, the one thing I would like to see in our neighborhood east of the river, more bike racks. I think a lot of times we have this perception that bike racks are only for white people. But I was in Anacostia yesterday and I saw about six or seven bikes chained to trees, you know, and that's -- we think about that as a form of free transportation for people who do own a bike. And I think that's something I would like to see more east of the river.
NNAMDIThank you very much. You, sir.
MR. CARDELL SHELTONGood evening. My name is Cardell Shelton (sp?) . I'm the neighborhood activist. I'm the president of the Anacostia Professional Merchants Association, ANC commissioner and I'm about what's going on here in my community. I'd like to draw attention to the fact that we got all of these organizations in our community and you -- this is nothing personal. When you give any organization $30 million of our tax dollars and nothing exists in my community to represent a legacy they can stand on to say -- that represents why they're here. They get the Safeway place. They did not hire not a black contractor, not even the black residents of the city.
NNAMDIAllow me to have Mr. Butch Hopkins respond. You stand accused of not having anything that is visible in southeast Washington. How do you respond?
HOPKINSWell, there are so many things that's visible, only Shelton can't see them. The major thing, Good Hope Marketplace had over 200 people. We brought first-class retail services to basically Ward 7 because it's just across from Ward 8. So we have a new Safeway there. We had new first-class retailers there and over 200 jobs were created and they were -- came from both Ward 7 and Ward 8 community. We've got an office building at the corner of Good Hope and Martin Luther King Avenue, 63,000 square foot office building, cost over $21 million. We've got the Department of Housing and Community Development is the primary tenant. We brought Industrial Bank into that facility. We've also developed over 155 affordable housing for first-time buyers.
NNAMDIOkay, enough, enough, thank you. You, ma'am, are next.
MS. LATONYA HARRISMy name is LaTonya Harris (sp?). I was referred to (unintelligible) and they helped me a lot to get into the Community of Hope. Community of Hope has helped me a lot. I have gotten my permanent house now. I have a four-bedroom with two baths. And I have five children. We are stabilized and they have helped us a lot. What we need in our community is for the black people to stop fighting, kids, shooting...
HARRIS...he say, she say stuff, all on drugs and stuff, anything, cut it out because it's not worth it. All our teenagers growing up in this life, it's not worth it. I have a 15-year-old son that goes to Ballou High School. He's heading down a wrong road and I'm trying to get him on the right track. Now, that I got my housing, we about to move it on.
NNAMDIGood for you. Good for you. Yes, ma'am.
MS. SHANIQUA BALLARDHi, my name is Shaniqua (sp?) Ballard. One of the things -- well, as she said, I'm also a client of the Far Southeast Collaborative. And that's one of the things I feel as if this community need more of. I was referred as well and I didn't even know the organization existed. And I'm glad that I was referred there. To piggy back on the first half of the show, I am one of the recipients of the Internet service at home, free for two years, a, you know, a free laptop. You know, it's just a lot of benefits that comes from this. We talked about how the parents aren't, you know, preparing the children for the world.
MS. SHANIQUA BALLARDWe talked about how it's children raising children. But one of the things that we're mostly lacking -- I remember when I grew up in the Southeast, we had neighborhood watch. I don't see any on (word?) anymore. And that's one of the things that I do believe we need to get. More of the community pulling together instead of -- you know, I see little Johnny down the street doing something he have no business doing. And instead of me, you know, if you will, man-ing up and saying something to him, I just, oh, I'm going to mind my business because I'm afraid what little Johnny is going to do to me.
MS. SHANIQUA BALLARDSo if we pull together as a community, I feel as if -- and have other organizations come in to help us prepare ourselves as to how to pull together as a community, I think that it'll make it better for our young teenagers and children growing up.
NNAMDIYou mentioned man-ing up. What's this little man's name next to you?
BALLARDThis man is Isaiah Ballard. He's three years old.
MR. ISAIAH BALLARDHi.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Isaiah. It's Kojo in your community and we're coming to you from the Arc east of the river in Southeast Washington. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIBack to you, Kahlfani Turate. You are working on an oral history project on Barry Farms. We had, earlier, somebody who said, if you teach young people their history, they'll be willing to listen to you and it will inspire them to do better. Tell us what you are finding out about Barry Farms.
MR. KAHLFANI TURATESure. And I firmly agree with that point. Just in talking to some of the community youth, many of them were unaware of the fact that Howard University would not, in fact, be in existence if it wasn't for the Barry Farm community. And, in fact, the original one acre lots that were sold to the original residents of Barry Farm, the money was used as seed money to help establish and to build Howard University. So one must ask the question then, why are our youth going from the projects to the prisons, as supposed to the projects to college?
MR. KAHLFANI TURATEWell, let me say that I think that history is very important. And I think that it's not just our youth that needs to have a grasp of a history, but it is also black and white people of the city, off all class groups, of all different socially economic groups, et cetera. Look, Du Bois was dealing with this question at the turn of the 20th century when he wrote the Philadelphia Negro. He was asking the same questions that confront our community right now and he called for investment, investment of education and jobs. Now, you know, many of us have become fatigued by the fact that this issue of inequality and poverty has been around for more than a century.
MR. KAHLFANI TURATEAnd as with Du Bois and so much as with the President, many black or African Americans have totally given up, particularly in this post racial moment where racism doesn't exist, have totally given up on poor inner city black people. In fact, the national discourse around politics is one the republicans don't want hand-outs for the poor and the democrats only are concerned about the middle class. The point in case is this, is that Barry Farm was -- is not -- or today is not the community that it once was. And so when I say that the so-called, young black entrepreneurs who are returning east of the river are what they need -- when I'm saying they need to be -- they need have a grasp on history.
MR. KAHLFANI TURATEWhat they need to begin to understand that it has been systematic and structural balance committed against this original first black middle class community in Washington, D.C. And it has happened over a course of a century and it's happened such at a subtle pace that what you see now is people who seem like they don't care about life. And there's a cottage industry of organizations around that you -- subtle words, like work ethic, having too many babies. And this is sort of bring back that argument of culture poverty because it's easy to get a grant when you're talking about people in bad culture.
MR. KAHLFANI TURATEBut when you're talking about the system and the systematic balance that has been committed against people of color, then it's harder to get money. It's hard to get grant money. So my point is that I'm engaging an oral history project because Barry Farm is really, really a metaphor of what's happening around the country to rich, historical black communities. And this particular community's just an eye shot away from the White House.
NNAMDIThank you very much. I got to ask you, though, if in fact what we are seeing is, over time, the systematic degradation of a community, what is the proposed solution?
TURATEThe -- the Mayor-elect, Vincent Gray, just had a town hall meeting in Ward 8. And I believe that Vincent Gray cares about the community. I think his town hall meeting was more of getting people out on, you know, to vote on November 2nd. Hope 6 and community -- new community initiative is not necessarily the answer. These working class people who may not be rich and may not have middle class or accoutrements and may not appreciate dog parks, et cetera, but we need to find out how, in fact, this development project is adversely affecting them. It's, you know -- the new community initiative is not necessarily an answer. I came to Washington, D.C. because you have some of the greatest social scientists in the city, Burt Williams, Tony Whitehead, Sabia Prince.
TURATEI'm surprised that since I've been here, since 2004, there has not been an invitation to some of these great social scientists that people are coming from all over the country to study under, to come and help down on Pennsylvania Avenue with policy.
NNAMDIWell, we also have our own University.
TURATEThat's the solution. Absolutely.
NNAMDIThe University of the District of Columbia. Yes, sir, Mark Davis.
MR. MARK DAVISMy name is Mark Davis and I am President of WDC Solar. We're a solar integrator located here in Anacostia. I'd like to thank you, Kojo, the members of the panel and the Arc for bringing members of the community and businesses together to discuss our problems and ways that we can go about solving them together. One of the things that we're doing at WDC Solar is trying to bring jobs to the community through training individuals to install solar here into the District of Columbia. We recently received a contract or won a contract in Prince George's county to install 85 units in a townhouse development there.
MR. MARK DAVISWe have proposed installation of solar on low income family homes and we've also proposed to D.C. government, council members and to DDOE, installing solar at some of the government facilities here in the District of Columbia. It is very difficult for us to get solar installation work when the companies that are coming in from outside of the District of Columbia are getting the jobs and they're employing people from outside of the District of Columbia to do this work. We're here in the district and we want to hire district workers and we need more help from the government in the form of contracts, installation contracts to make it all work for us. I think, that's a very important part.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to people who say, this whole green movement is some new exotic movement that doesn't have a great deal to do with poor communities at all?
DAVISWell, when you look at the money that the government is spending and you look at the amount of solar that we are required to install, we most definitely have to bring the low income families into the equation that can provide jobs for the local economy that can address some of the issues that I've heard us discussing here. We have a lot of training programs going on, but what are kids going to do once they're trained and once they're finished at training program and they do not have a job? We are offering them jobs.
DAVISBut we also need help from the government to recognize that we're here, we're in the community, we can install solar. Why should you go somewhere else to get solar installers to come in who's hiring people not from your community? To me, that does not make sense. And we're working hard to try and change that.
NNAMDILet's have a dialogue with the government because Chris Early here is from the Department of Housing and Community Development. That would be the government. What do you see happening in this neighborhood?
MR. CHRIS EARLYWell, I see a lot of things. I see DACD superficially making a lot of investment. I see us trying to reach to organizations, such as yourself, to create partnerships, to help create jobs and create housing to help keep folks that have been here, here in the community as change occurs. I mean, one thing I've learned in my short 36 years on this planet is that the one thing that's constant is change. So either you got to be ready for it or it's going to run you over, unfortunately. So part of what we try to do is to help people to get ready for it through providing affordable housing, through creating linkages to help folks get employed so that they have buy into their community.
MR. CHRIS EARLYYou know, like, Mr. Hopkins said, we're -- DACD is at the corner of Good Hope and MLK so, you know, we're not going anywhere. So we're tasked with being a catalyst. We're trying to make sure that people who have been here can stay here, while, at the same time, integrating the 14,000 workers coming in and those folks that are going to need housing and services and et cetera as the community continues to evolve.
NNAMDIThank you very much. We do have someone with their hand up over there, yes.
MS. NICKY PEOHello, my name is Nicky Peo and I just want to say Ward 8 is great. And I think we -- that gets to the core of a lot of the issues that have in the community is our perception of the community. And I think we always hear the same story about Ward 8 and a lot of times the story is about the same three things, about the same location. And if we want it -- how it comes to facts, we're going to have be honest about the situation and really become advocates for our community, but in a new way. We always hear negative things that are happening here so many of the city is ignorant.
MS. NICKY PEOThe majority of the city thinks that Anacostia is the name of everything east of the river. People are really -- you know, you laugh about it, but people really think that. You know, they think if you're going to come outside your door, you're going to be killed in a haze of bullets. They think everyone has 12 babies. They think all these negative things because the only one story is being told. And I moved here three years ago and for all the negative things that people will say, this is what my experience has been in Ward 8. And, you know, it's not been roses and, you know, petals. This is a place where I bought my first home.
MS. NICKY PEOThis is a place where I started my first business. This is the place where I hired my first interns. This is the place where I met really driven people who want to give back. I've never met in my entire life so many driven, dedicated and truly people who are filled with integrity than I have in Ward 8. And I think we're going to start telling these stories. People who live in the community, it's not just people from outside, don't really know what's here. There's so many people in Ward 8 who don't even know about the Arc. That, you know, I come here and I do yoga and pilates. You have kids upstairs, they're practicing, you know, learning cello. They're doing all these things. You have the, you know, Frederick Douglas House.
NNAMDISecret's out now.
PEOYou know, you have all these things. You have the Anacostia art gallery and boutique. Ward 8 has a lot of things that are here already. And we can spread that word and accept the fact that the news or whatever, they're not going to do it. They're getting better, but it's really has been -- because residents have been speaking up and they've been saying -- telling the full story. And I think for all the negative things that we say, we need to make sure we're saying some positive things and getting that positive message out there, which is why I said Ward 8 is great and I love it and I'm not going anywhere.
NNAMDII think the D.C. board of tourism wants to have a conversation with you. Here is Ray Bell.
MR. RAY BELLGood evening, everyone. I'm Raymond Bell. I'm the founder and the administrator of the Hope Project. We own and run a program east of the river. The program employs and trains young adults, ages 18 to 25, for rewarding careers as helpdesk and application support professionals. We just graduated our first class. There were 16 students all east of the river. Not one person dropped out. These kids come to class from 6:30 to 9 o'clock, three nights a week. They had outstanding attendance. The best example I can give you about this program.
MR. RAY BELLWe heard our first information session over at Barry Farms. We heard the same exact -- same day they had the big basketball tournament, six young people showed up. One of the young men that attended, his mother called me after he got accepted last year. Lyon (sp?) told me he was locked up for stealing a car. After the training, he just graduated, that young man makes $20 an hour as a junior network administrator and he's on his way to buying his first Chevy Camaro. The reason why I wanted to share that with you guys is -- I want to welcome you all to come and see our -- what we're doing. We are truly changing lives of residents of this community and it's not just blue collar work.
MR. RAY BELLIt's not maintenance work. I have nothing against green jobs. I think it's extraordinary. But the young people I've talked to, and I'm sure the brother in the red shirt can attest to this, most young people these days, they want to do more than just use their hands. They want to use their minds to make money and we've found a way to do that by introducing them to a career that pays well at the entry level and the opportunity for advancement on extraordinary. And there are plenty of jobs in IT. I don't know an unemployed person that knows IT.
MR. CHARLES WILSONYeah, I mean...
NNAMDIMr. Charles Wilson.
WILSON...yeah, I want to piggy back what the young lady said back -- in the back about all the great things happening in Ward 8. I've been in Ward 8 now for about four years. When I first moved to the city, my realtor -- my Mom told me I needed to move to Anacostia. I told my realtor and she said, you do not want to go over there. It is dangerous. Everybody's crazy. So I'm going to take you and have you buy a house in the Trinidad neighborhood. Now, get this...
NNAMDICome on now, we're going over to Trinidad soon.
WILSON...now get this, I was in Trinidad for three years. I never had any problems whatsoever. Had great neighbors. When I told my neighbors I was packing up and I was moving to Historic Anacostia, they said, are you out of your mind? Are you crazy for going over there? And I said, well, why do you think about? Why do you think that? And they said, well, don't you read the newspapers? Don't you watch the news at night? Don’t you hear about all of the negative things happening over there? When I got here, I found it complete opposite. I live in a close tight knit neighborhood that people really care and love each other and care about their properties.
WILSONAnd when I tell people I live -- now, when I tell people -- you heard the response when I said I used to live in the Trinidad neighborhood. They said, what are you, crazy? I mean, but it's this perception that the media plays on the public. And, Kojo, you mentioned, you know, at the beginning of the conversation, this whole river east versus east of the river. It's not river east versus east of the river, it is east of the river. We are happy with that. The reason why the river east emerging leaders chose river east is because we wanted to focus on the positive things going on in our community.
WILSONOne -- we don't agree on everything. But one thing that we do agree on is that there's so many great people, great communities, great places to visit here east of the river and we wanted to bring attention to that.
NNAMDIIn the same way that people now refer to the Washington area as DMV, as opposed to the Washington area because saying that a few years ago would've conjured up images of the, oops, department of motor vehicles. But now that the department of motor vehicles seems to be getting a little better, people don't mind referring to the entire area as DMV. Yes, ma'am.
MS. RUTH JONESHi, good evening. My name is Ruth Jones and I actually work at Ballou Senior School. I actually agree with Charles and the young lady about the need to really dispel the myths about what's happening here in the community. Two things had been mentioned about Ballou and, you know, neither of which conjured up positive images of the school. When, in fact, two years ago, we had a student who graduated number two in the class and became a White House fellow and is now in college. Just last year, we had our valedictorian graduate and he was selected as a Gates Millennium scholar.
MS. RUTH JONESWe have an increasing a number of students who are graduating and going on to college each year. The Washington Post just ran an article called, "Legacy of Hope," talking about two young men who graduated in 2006 when Ballou was identified as a dropout factory. And these young men just graduated from Holy Cross, a very competitive University. I say all of that because, you know, we talk about what the media does to perpetuate negative images of what's happening here in the community. But I think we do a number on ourselves and we have to do a better job of that. So for folks who have mentioned Ballou and, you know, still have the thoughts about the old Ballou, we invite you to come in and see the new Ballou.
MS. RUTH JONESWhere an individual just made a $600,000 investment last year so that kids coming to Ballou would be able to make that transition into college and careers more easily. Thank you to partners like the Anacostia Economic Development Cooperation that said, you know, we have scholarship money for your students, but not enough students applying each year. So last year when we worked with them to identify students that met the criteria, they gave four year scholarships to 100 percent of the students who applied. That's a legacy. (applause)
MS. RUTH JONESSo we want to thank, you know, our partners and the folks who are working with us to get the positive word out there because there's a lot of great stuff happening, not only at Ballou, but around the -- in the neighborhood surrounding Ballou. And we have to do a better job of telling our story as opposed to waiting for other people to do it for us.
NNAMDIThank you very much. This is Kojo In Your Community. We're coming to you from the Arc on Mississippi Avenue east of the river, southeast Washington. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're back, sir. What is your name?
MR. LAWRENCEMy name is (word?) Lawrence. I've been living in Anacostia for the past 25 years and I like a lot of what I'm hearing. I know we all are concerned about jobs and I just hope, especially when the Homeland Security comes here -- a lot of times we get development, but we don't see a lot of results from it. We don't see our kids getting the jobs.
MR. LAWRENCEWe don't see our contractors getting those subcontracts. And you get -- you'll get something like Homeland Security, and it will be here, and you won't even see it a lot of it. And the people, will they be coming in our community to spend money? Will they develop any stores or anything around there? Will we get any of the jobs to help build the place? Will we get any of the jobs for the people who will be coming there to work or will there already be workers who got those jobs?
MR. LAWRENCESo we have to use our government to leverage those private developers, to twist their arm to make sure that they hire our people. Because we've seen buildings go up and stuff and we didn't get people from Anacostia working there even though the building was going up in Anacostia. So I just encourage us to keep being vigilant. And everything everybody is saying is really on point. And we just got to continue to work to make our dream a reality and to transform our community.
NNAMDIYou didn't raise your hand, but I knew you'd have something important to say. Why do you look so familiar to me?
LAWRENCEThis is a relative of mine. I was married to his cousin. Yes. Kojo.
NNAMDIThe husband of my late cousin, Kimber, is (word?) Lawrence. Good to see you, man. Love you. Okay. We have somebody else over here. Go right ahead, please.
MS. MEREDITH KENNERHi. My name is Meredith Kenner and I work with juvenile offenders and adult offenders in the District of Columbia, a disproportionate number of them are residents of Wards 7 and 8. And one of the things that I see as a major problem facing this city, but this country as a whole, is that these -- in adult jails, a lot of the focus has been on juveniles. But in D.C. jail and CCF, these men are not given training while they're incarcerated.
MS. MEREDITH KENNERWe should not wait for them to come home to receive training because then the onus is on them. And as we -- I mean, as I know, and as I'm sure most people know, probation violation, supervised release violation happens constantly. They cycle back through because, you know, they can't get to the training facility. They can't get to the job -- the temporary job agency. They don't have the means to do so or they just don't want to.
MS. MEREDITH KENNERBut if we have training programs already set up within the facilities to ensure that once they come home we have jobs for them -- and we're talking about development. Well, if there's all this development going to southeast, perhaps there should be, you know, some percentage of those jobs -- and I would hope those jobs would be jobs that would pay a living wage and make people proud to go to work, but should be reserved for returning felons. I mean, I think this is a huge problem, especially in the District, but in this country as a whole, and there's just not enough dialogue about it nationally, but especially in this city. And I think, you know, that's just -- thank you.
NNAMDITom Brown, you've been wanting to say something about this.
MR. TOM BROWNYes. Well, there's a couple of things. Workforce development and economic development are really -- they should be synonymous. I think when we talk about workforce development, one of the things that's been going on for over two years is we have an organization here called the Ward 8 Workforce Development Council, which a number of the members -- Valerie Banks and a number of other members, Alexis had mentioned earlier.
MR. TOM BROWNWe are a council that was thought of because myself, council member Barry who co-chaired this organization, we were offended by a hearing on hiring over two-and-a-half years ago, where the employees in all industries took about six hours to disrespect the citizens east of the river. They're lazy, they're on drugs, I don't want to hire them in my hotel, I don't want -- they steal. That's what we heard for six hours.
MR. TOM BROWNAfter that hearing, we stepped out in the hallway. We put together a plan and -- two-and-a-half years ago, the Ward 8 Workforce Development Council. But here's what's happening on the council. Now at the table, because the St. Elizabeth's project, one of the largest projects in federal government history is right here in Ward 8, what we know was important to have was the Department of Homeland Security, GSA, and now U.S. Department of Labor are at the table at the council as we're designing a compliance system that will be nationally recognized and (word?) on that project by our council that has people like William C. Smith and (sounds like) Forrester and Seaman's and Brave for the City.
MR. TOM BROWNYou got community-based government and private at one table. We now have grown from 9 people to 50. In the same conversation is, let's create value for the bottom line. Because the thing is, if I'm a corporation and there's great workers, there's gold in them thar hills. I'm going to employ as many people as possible from east of the river. So it's not about the entitlement, help us, brother, because we're poor over here.
MR. TOM BROWNIt's you want to go east of the river and get you ten more people because they make a great impact on your bottom line. So we got to switch the thinking, change the messaging that's going out about us and let people know that the partnership and relationships here are valuable to your business, your bottom line and you're going see us more as an asset than a liability. And that's really the name of the game of switching this whole thing around.
NNAMDIOutside of hearing about ballet classes, et cetera, here at the Arc, we haven't heard a great deal of conversation about the role the arts can play in development in this part of the city. Care to comment on that?
MS. CAMILLE AKEJUYes. My name is Camille Akeju. I'm the director of the Anacostia Community Museum. I've been at that museum for five years, five years last week, as a matter of fact. But the museum has been a cultural anchor in this community for 43 years. My concern -- we did -- our 40th anniversary was dedicated to east of the river communities. It was called "Anacostia: East of the River Continuity and Change."
MS. CAMILLE AKEJUAnd we made a point of focusing on the history, just as you said. You have to know where you've come from to know where you're going. We talked about current issues and we had a whole segment in that exhibition about our vision for the future, "Your Vision For The Future." We had community forums. We provided a venue for dialogue. One of the things -- I see a lot of change in this community in the five years that I've been here.
MS. CAMILLE AKEJUBut the thing that I'm concerned about is how much resident input goes into the change that's happening? I mean, there was a whole -- thank God the economy tanked a few years ago because the plans for the development of the riverfront would have alienated small businesses that were already here. It paid no attention to the Martin Luther King corridor or to historic Anacostia. And this was someone coming from outside telling the residents of Anacostia what Anacostia should look like.
NNAMDIYou think there's a greater opportunity now for consultation with residents here?
AKEJUI'm saying that now that -- we need to seize the moment. Now that we have seen this happen, it's given us a second opportunity to have some input. We don’t want Anacostia -- at least I don't think we want Anacostia looking like Shirlington, Va. But the approved plans look just like Shirlington. So that's one of the things I'm concerned about is how much involvement residents of the community have in designing change.
AKEJUAnd the other thing that I'm concerned about is the youth. We've lost at least one generation of young people. How can we project what the future of this community's going to look like if we don't give our young people proactive, meaningful ways of being a part of planning the future? And that's something that's severely lacking.
NNAMDIThank you very much. Over here, yes, ma'am.
MS. GLORIA SANDERSHi. My name is Gloria Sanders and I grew up in Anacostia. I live in Ward 7 and work in Ward 8. I'm going to piggyback off of (word?) . We need a hospital and we need it desperately. The prenatal care for the young females over here is deplorable. We need a state-of-the-art hospital with -- I mean, I work -- to be honest, I'm a 911 dispatcher. And the things that I hear -- I mean, if someone really gets sick over here, they're just sick, basically.
MS. GLORIA SANDERSThey need to do something with United Medical. They need to build it so that you have, I mean, everything state-of-the-art. Just tear it down and start it from ground up. It's deplorable. I take my hat off to the people that work there. I just lost my son and the hospital itself -- the workers are outstanding. The hospital is deplorable. We need a hospital. I mean, like I said, they need to tear it down, start it from ground roots.
MS. GLORIA SANDERSThey need -- diabetes, they say we are overweight. They need a endocrinology center there. They need -- even down to the children's side. They have Children's Hospital, a portion over there. They need endocrinology over there as well. They also need the prenatal, the HIV and anything else that's (word?) for that area.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're running out of time. We only have about five minutes left. Dwyane Gauthier (sp?) , when we hear people talking about the need for basic health care, the need for basic education, a lot of times we tend to forget that there is a role for, well, galleries and arts in a community like this.
MR. DWAYNE GAUTHIERYes. The Arts Development Corporation who has worked with east of the river, river east emerging leaders, which is part of an advisory council, and we also have an artist advisory council. Over the last three years, we've created three galleries. I'll just give you one example. We have an annual east of the river artist show, which is artists that live and work east of the river. We had an opening at two galleries approximately a quarter mile from each other.
MR. DWAYNE GAUTHIERWe had over 30 people. What was really interesting was about one-third of them came from the Anacostia general community. One-third of them came from D.C., but another one-third came from outside the district. And we have these openings six times a year. And it is a mechanism for people within the Anacostia community and the Ward 8 community to take a look at not only local artists, but international artists. But more important is we're bringing people into Anacostia.
MR. DWAYNE GAUTHIERAnd in the three years we've had it, there's never been any incident. There's never been any violence. In fact, we had a string from our one gallery to the other, a quarter mile of string, golden string, and I remember a lot of the kids who were doing -- it went across W Street, it went across B Street, it went down U Street and it went around Good Hope Road. And you know what's interesting, nobody cut the string. Nobody tried to tear it apart. This is the change that Anacostia needs. Arts and culture is a part, and just a small part, of the redevelopment of east of the river.
NNAMDIThank you very much. We have someone over here who has her hand raised. Go ahead, please.
MS. JACKIE WARDHello, good afternoon. My name is Jackie Ward. I'm a resident of Ward 8. There's been a lot of discussion that a lot of people don't know what's going on with the Ward or what the Ward is doing. For example, the Ward is now focusing on developing amenities for the area around the proposed, or the future, Homeland Security site. In addition, we work with housing to correct some of the past housing issues that we have had. So hopefully, what we will have is three brand-new communities online.
MS. JACKIE WARDAll of them 100 percent green. In terms of education, the community is working with both -- the councilman's office is working with Ballou and with Anacostia. And what we are planning to do is have a community forum that no adult will participate. The only participation will be youth. And as regards to the Internet, on November the 18th, every A&C from every part of the Ward is coming together down at 2100.
MS. JACKIE WARDThe idea is in 2011...
WARD2100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue.
WARDAnd the other is by February 2011, every corner of Ward 8 should have free Internet access. (applause) And it will be something that we are working on. We haven't -- we will be working with the A&C's. This is something that the advisory neighborhood commissioners are doing.
NNAMDII'm afraid we are just about run out of time, but Jeannine Ferrell, you get the last word.
MS. JEANNINE FERRELLI've heard many things tonight and just call me a digital hopeful. But a lot of what of we're talking about, this new medium called the Internet really has the ability to empower this community. Thomas Freeland wrote a book called, "The World Is Flat," and it is the Internet that flattened it. So if you have the opportunity, pick up the book.
MS. JEANNINE FERRELLBut when we talk about the messages that are being sent out about our community, the Internet allows you to tell your story. It allows you to create that content. When we talk about -- the young lady said that she was looking for a neighborhood watch. You know, again, the Internet will allow you to do that as well. Creating these communities where you have accountability, where you're able to report information anonymously so that you don’t feel threatened.
MS. JEANNINE FERRELLOnline we have jobs, we have education, we have government information. When you talk about contracts that are out there and available, that information is online. So as these programs are coming up regarding digital literacy in your communities, please make sure you take part. Those of you who are community leaders, there was a time when we were only competing amongst ourselves and we were competing just against other cultures within this country.
MS. JEANNINE FERRELLBut now, with the world being flat, we're competing against the world and we want everyone in our community to have that opportunity to compete and compete with excellence.
NNAMDIWhich is one of the reasons why our show slogan is "connecting your neighborhood with the world." Jeannine Ferrell is a public media core fellow who is completing a survey of computer use east of the river. Tom Brown is the executive director of Training Grounds, a non-profit, providing young adults with job training and entrepreneurial skills.
NNAMDI(unintelligible) teaches anthropology at Coppin State University. He's working on an oral history project on Berry Farm. Charles Wilson is the founder of River East Emerging Leaders, also known as Real D.C., and is a newly elected A&C and Albert Bush Hopkins is the president and CEO of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation. Please give them a warm round of applause. (applause)
NNAMDI"Kojo In Your Community" is produced by Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Brendan Sweeney, Tara Boyle, and Michael Martinez, with help from Kathy Goldgeyer, A.C. Valdez and Elizabeth Weinstein. Diane Vogel is the managing producer. Our engineers today, Jonathan Charry and Kellan Quigley. Thanks to everyone at WAMU who helps to make this happen, especially our wonderful volunteer ambassadors, Kathleen, Glenn, Amy and Dorothy.
NNAMDIThanks to the folks here at the Arc, including Dominque Douglas, Kimberly Douglas, Shirley Meadows, Demetrius Cole, Nova Garcia, Will Thomas, Janet Stone and Edmond Fleet. And a special thanks to all of you for choosing to spend your evening with us. This has been "Kojo In Your Community" from the Arc in southeast Washington. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Good night.
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