Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore, pictured with President Biden at a rally shortly before Election Day (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore, pictured with President Biden at a rally shortly before Election Day (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Jan. 5:  Winter Weather Wallops D.C.

A winter storm and record-cold temperatures just swept across the U.S. in the lead-up to Christmas this year, causing flight disruptions during peak travel days. This December cold snap may remind readers of winter weather that hit at the very beginning of 2022. 

The Jan. 3 snowstorm caught DMV residents — and political leaders — off guard. Hundreds of drivers became trapped on the highway (including Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who was stranded for more than 27 hours before arriving safely at his office). 

Though the worst of the snow hit southern Maryland, the District saw more than 6 inches, disrupting transportation and causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of DMV residents. A surge in COVID-19 cases kept many of the Department of Public Works’ employees at home, slowing down the street-clearing process. Multiple Metro buses got stuck in snow drifts. On the lighter side, during the January 2022 storm, a snowball fight broke out on the National Mall, and DCPS students had an extra two days of freedom added to their holiday break. 

While it seems counterintuitive, climate change can cause heavier snowfall during storms; a warmer climate overall means more moisture in the air, which means more precipitation. The District experiences this phenomenon more frequently as heavy rainfall, but winter storms may hit the city harder as the planet continues to warm. 

Initial reporting by D. Kevin McNeir

Jan. 19: On King Holiday, Hundreds Walk for Voting Rights and D.C. Statehood

On MLK Day 2022, hundreds joined Martin Luther King III and his family for the annual Peace Walk in Ward 8. 

King, along with his wife Arndrea Waters and 13-year-old daughter Yolanda Renee, came to Washington to say his father’s holiday should not be celebrated. Instead, he said it should be a reminder to fight for D.C. statehood and voting rights protections. The statehood issue came to the forefront this year as judicial vacancies—some of which the Senate finally filled December 15—slowed down the city’s justice system. The D.C. government retains almost no control over judge appointments, and the Senate often fails to quickly follow through on nominations. 

Nearly 12 months after the 2022 Peace Walk, federal bills aimed at addressing those issues remain stalled, despite Democratic control over both houses of Congress. That’s because the Senate filibuster remains in place. That mechanism allows any one senator to hold up proceedings indefinitely, and which requires 60 votes to break. King and other speakers at the Peace Walk urged people to intensify pressure on lawmakers to suspend the filibuster, enabling legislation on key issues to at least come to a vote on the Senate floor. With Republicans returning to a majority in the House next year, bills focused on D.C. statehood and voting rights—including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—will become even less likely to pass. 

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr.

Jan. 25: D.C. Students Hold Walkout

Students from at least 12 public and public charter schools around the District staged a citywide walkout demanding stronger COVID-19 safety measures in their schools on Jan. 25. A youth-led group called Students 4 Safe Learning organized the demonstration, demanding greater transparency about COVID-19 cases, metrics which would determine when schools should transition to virtual learning, weekly testing of the entire student body and unfettered access to KN95 masks. 

Just a few weeks before the walkout, the District saw a higher number of daily cases in the city than at any other time during the pandemic—more than 2,000 in a single day. The spike, caused by the emergence of the Omicron variant combined with holiday gatherings, cooled down later in the winter. D.C. has not seen COVID case numbers that high since, but this winter the region has been hit hard with a combination of respiratory illnesses. In addition to ongoing COVID cases, the DMV has seen extremely high levels of flu and RSV—enough to overwhelm pediatric hospital capacity in November. 

Policies at the national, city, and school district level have reflected a drop in concern about COVID and other airborne illnesses throughout the year. In March, D.C. Public Schools dropped the requirement that students remain masked at school. In October, the D.C. Council voted to delay implementation of the vaccine requirement. However, DCPS continues to require testing for all students returning from breaks—students will need a negative test to come back to class after winter break next week.

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins

Feb. 2: Commanders Become the New Name for Washington Football Team 

After more than 18 months of soul-searching, the Washington Football Team finally got its new name on Feb. 2. While the franchise kept the burgundy and gold color scheme, ‘the Commanders’ replaced the original racist name and logo of the “Redskins.” Reactions from D.C. fans varied, but many were pleased that at least the matter had been settled. 

“The name change is long overdue,” said native Washingtonian Chris Henderson, 26, who said he’s followed the team for as long as he can remember. “I am happy that they recognized that there was a need for change. What better time than for 2022 to start the new year and the Super Bowl week? Hopefully, it will reinvigorate the loyal fans from the past and propel the new generation of fans.”

Since receiving the name, the team has had a rollercoaster year on and off the field. 

Owner Dan Snyder, entangled in scandals and controversies for more than a decade, began the process of selling the franchise in early November (though it’s unclear whether the sale will include the whole team or just part). The first round of bidding closed last week. 

The team’s search for a new stadium host has been stymied in part by the accusations against Snyder of sexual improprieties and misconduct, though Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s recent budget proposal signaled interest in wooing the franchise to his state. Meanwhile, when it comes to the actual game, the Commanders have exceeded expectations: after a rocky start to the season, the team saw numerous victories when backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke subbed in for an injured Carson Wentz. Still, it’s unlikely they will make the playoffs.

Initial reporting by Ed Hill

Feb. 4: Hyattsville Mayor Laid to Rest 

SubHed: Months Later Complicated Allegations

Hyattsville Mayor Kevin ‘Scooter’ Ward died by suicide Jan. 25, and the community came together Feb. 4 for a commemoration outside the First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville. Ward made history as the Prince George’s County city’s second Black and first openly gay mayor. He left behind husband Chad Copeland and two sons. 

Though beloved for his warmth and charisma, Ward’s legacy proves complicated. Seven months after his death, federal prosecutors filed a complaint accusing the former mayor of embezzling more than $2 million from charter school network KIPP DC. Ward had served as KIPP DC’s senior director of technology, and prosecutors alleged that he had used payments meant for students’ laptops, tablets and other technology to buy himself cars, a camper, sports memorabilia and property in West Virginia. 

Ward’s death was one of several suicides by high-profile Black Americans in 2022, including the loss of Stephen “tWitch” Boss just weeks ago on Dec. 13. The suicide rate among Black Americans rose 5.5 % between 2019 and 2020, while the rate among the general public declined by three percent in that time span. Some experts also suspect that Black suicides are underreported due to systemic lack of access to mental health treatment and diagnoses, as well as systemic racism in medical examinations. 

Initial reporting by D. Kevin McNeir

Feb. 17: Ward 8’s Cedar Hill Medical Center Breaks Ground

Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center officially broke ground on the St. Elizabeths East campus in Ward 8 on Feb. 17. When it opens, it will be the only full-service hospital east of the Anacostia River, and it will be the first inpatient hospital to open in the city in over two decades. Cedar Hill will be managed by Universal Health Services in concert with the George Washington University and Children’s National Hospital. 

The new hospital will replace United Medical Center, which has been embroiled in financial mismanagement for years. In 2018, regulators forced the hospital to close its obstetrics ward after finding that staff made numerous dangerous mistakes during care. 

The new hospital is tentatively scheduled to open in early 2025; the opening, originally scheduled for December 2024, was pushed back to accommodate a planned expansion announced in September. The increased size will allow the hospital to add 48 additional beds, bringing the total from 136 up to 184. 

In October, Cedar Hill Urgent Care opened in historic Anacostia, becoming the only urgent care to serve adults in the area. Another urgent care center is expected to open in Ward 7 in 2023. D.C. has spent more than $350 million on efforts to upgrade health care services in wards 7 and 8 in order to target the city’s racial disparities in health outcomes and access to care. 

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr.

March 21-24: Senate Confirmation Hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson

Before she became a Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson faced four days of intense and, at times, brutal questioning during the Senate confirmation hearings.

Facing queries with racial overtones, as the first Black woman to be questioned for a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Justice,  hearing questions ranged from critical race theory, abortion and gun rights. Some Republican senators depicted Jackson as a lenient-sentencing judge, particularly drilling her on child pornography cases.

District of Columbia leaders such as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and about 20 civil rights and women-led organizations including The National Women’s Law Center Action Fund, She Will Rise and Black Women’s Roundtable, showed their unyielding support for Jackson’s nomination with rallies outside the U.S. Supreme Court building before and during the hearings.

In a highly-heralded move, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), took his moment during the hearings to celebrate Jackson and her achievements.

“You faced insults here that were shocking to me,” Booker said, before sharing many encouraging words through tears.

The New Jersey senator added that he was emotional because he knows how much she has had to overcome, seeing semblances of his mother and ancestors when looking at the now SCOTUS Justice. 

“You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American.”

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown and James Wright Jr. 

March 16: White House Announces Resources Guarding Against Threats to HBCUs 

The White House held a briefing on March 16 announcing the availability of grants to HBCUs to combat threats on their campuses. The announcement was led by HBCU graduate Vice President Kamala Harris and included statements from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Education. 

Thirty-six historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) received bomb threats against their campuses beginning in January 2022. 

HBCUs are now eligible for grant funding under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) program from the Department of Education (ED). The program will enhance campus security and provide mental health resources. 

Initial reporting by Brenda C. Siler

March 29: Biden Signs Anti-Lynching Bill into Law 

On March 29, President Joe Biden signed into law H.R. 55, the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, in a White House Rose Garden ceremony. 

The legislation was named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy savagely murdered by a group of white men in Mississippi in 1955. Specifically, the legislation makes lynching a federal hate crime, punishable by up to life in prison. 

The bill’s text says, “Whoever conspires to commit any offense … shall (A) if death results from the offense, be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (B) In any other case, be subjected to the same penalties as the penalties prescribed for the offense of the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.”  

Until the passing of the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, anti-lynching legislation had faced defeat for more than 100 years. Lawmakers attempted to pass the legislation more than 200 times in the past. 

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown

April 3: Veteran News Anchor Bruce Johnson Suffers Fatal Heart Attack

Chester Bruce Johnson, the veteran television reporter and anchorman, died of a heart attack Sunday, April 3, in Delaware at the age of 71. He was the greater Washington area’s trusted voice on WUSA9 for more than four decades.  

Johnson retired from WUSA on December 31, 2020.  He continued to share his gift as a storyteller committed to uncovering and reporting the truth, even if it meant breaking the status quo. Free from the demands of day-to-day assignments, he maintained his passion as a journalist, completing three books, mentoring young reporters and accepting on-air projects, which he often produced from his home. 

Before his death, Johnson often spoke about the high level of stress that he and his colleagues routinely faced in the media industry. He survived several health challenges that could have ended his career, including an earlier heart attack and cancer. In addition, he successfully quit decades-long habits of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol after reaching out for and accepting help. 

On January 28, 2022, Johnson joined his friend and another D.C. media legend, Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, on the publication’s weekly Facebook Live broadcast, WIN TV

Initial reporting by Hamil R. Harris and D. Kevin McNeir

April 11: “Howard Nurses Call for Safety, Adequate Pay in Their Strike” 

On April 11, nurses at Howard University Hospital (HUH) conducted a one-day strike picketing in the latest round of ongoing efforts to secure a contract that addresses numerous concerns. The complaints from the nurses included: less than adequate pay, nurse-patient ratio and on-the-ground conditions. 

The one-day strike was coordinated by the DC Nurses Association (DCNA), attracting nearly 200 nurses, many of whom were in their blue scrubs. The group belted chants about safety and equal pay throughout the day. HUH nurses and their supporters held up signs in front of the hospital and along Georgia Avenue, calling for the fulfillment of their demands. 

Based on staffing guidelines, most nurses, depending on where they are stationed, remain responsible for at least five patients, the intensity of their condition notwithstanding. Contract negotiations have centered on how best to alleviate that situation and address the issue of differential pay for weeknight and weekend shifts. 

On May 21, the HUH nurse’s labor dispute ended after an agreement was reached on a new contract, the D.C. Nurses Association (DCNA). The union said the new agreement advances patient care and demonstrates a commitment to easing the staffing crisis. 

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins 

April 18: Council Member McDuffie Fights to Remain in Attorney General’s Race

Ward 5 D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, a candidate for District attorney general, fought against a ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections on April 18, which concluded that he could not continue his campaign for the June 21 Democratic Party nomination because he lacked the credentials for the position based on the law. 

One of McDuffie’s opponents, Bruce Spiva, challenged his qualifications before the board. District law requires the attorney general to be “actively engaged” in the practice of law five of the 10 years before assuming the position. The McDuffie campaign lost its battle against the board’s ruling that went before the D.C. Court of Appeals. 

In May, McDuffie (D-Ward 5) suspended his campaign for D.C. attorney general, switched his Democratic Party affiliation, then ran as an independent candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council. In November, McDuffie won an At-Large seat on the Council in a hotly competitive race against incumbent Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I At-Large). An analysis of McDuffie’s win showed he swept up votes in majority Black neighborhoods in D.C. and ate into Silverman’s traditional base in Wards 3 and 6. 

D.C. Council members will be sworn in on Jan. 2. 

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr.

May 14: Buffalo Massacre Is Latest Example of America’s Centuries-Old Sickness

It has been over seven months since a New York gunman, Payton Gendron, 19, killed ten innocent Black lives in a Buffalo supermarket earlier this year.  With months of coverage, speculation and grief from the victim’s family members and community, Gendron pleaded guilty to hate-motivated terrorism and murder charges, landing him incarcerated for the remainder of his life.

Gendron’s lawyer, Brian Parker, suggested his sense of regret for committing the heinous crimes on May 14, but noted it did not change the reality of loss for the innocent lives that were taken due to the gunman’s racially-charged crime.    

“This critical step represents a condemnation of the racist ideology that fueled his horrific actions on May 14.  It is our hope that a final resolution of the state charges will help in some small way to keep the focus on the needs of the victims and the community,” Parker told the Associated Press.

Although the defendant pled guilty to the presented murder charges, he has pleaded not guilty in reference to federal hate crime charges.  If he is found guilty, these charges could conclude in a death sentence for Gendron.  

Gendron’s parents said they wish for healing for everyone affected by their son’s crime.

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown

May 24: Uvalde Massacre/Remembering Victims

The horrific school shooting of Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas sent parents, and onlookers across the state of Texas in an uproar as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos walked into the school campus and proceeded to kill 19 students and two teachers. 

Robb is the same elementary school Ramos attended as a child.  

Today, the community continues to uncover why police, and medical attention were not promptly provided to the endangered children and teachers. 

Many criticize law enforcement’s inability to confront and disarm the shooter before the dreadful 77-minute long and fatal spree of Ramos terrorizing and massacring innocent people.  

Early this month, unreleased records pulled by ProPublic, The Washington Post and The Texas Tribune display a severe lapse in communication between medical responders, significantly delaying on-scene medical treatment.  

Four victims, for example, escaped from the school still alive, but died soon after from too long of a lapse between injury and medical treatment.  For such a dire event to take place in a community school, medics were expected by parents, and community members to be ready to treat as soon as notice of the shooting took place.

Additionally, reports reveal that medical helicopters were available for use, however, none were utilized to transport victims from the school campus.  While Uvalde law enforcement defended their scrutinized actions as “reasonable under difficult circumstances,” medical staff of George Washington University Hospital highlights the deficient flow of communication between law enforcement, and medical branches that causes a major failure in attending to such tragic events.

“We as a nation are not ready.  The air assets and the ground assets do not talk to each other very well.  The fire, the police do not talk to each other very well,”  Babak Sarani, MD, FACS, FCCM, the director of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at George Washington University Hospital, told ABC news.

May 30: Lincoln Memorial at 100: More than a Brick, Marble Steel

The Lincoln Memorial reached its centennial celebration after its initial dedication on May 30, 1922. It continues to serve as an ode of remembrance and respect to Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th president of the United States, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery.  

The District held an event in honor of the historic structure’s centennial during Memorial Day weekend.

District advocates, reporters and local residents alike continue to visit the monument grounds for a host of speeches, presentations and solace throughout the year.  

Initial reporting by Hamil R. Harris

June 8: Federal Responses to the Insurrection

When The Washington Informer reported on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ)  for the January 6, 2021 insurrection in June, the DOJ said it amassed more than 1,000 criminal charges and several convictions or guilty pleas, and explained the high cost of the “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Trump. At the same time the DOJ , the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol continued its hearings. 

Officials assessed the damage to the U.S. Capitol and grounds, and certain costs borne by the U.S. Capitol Police, which amounts to more than $2.7 million. 

Authorities have arrested more than 840 suspects in nearly 50 states and the District.

On Dec. 19, the congressional committee recommended the Justice Department indict Trump on four criminal counts. Plus, the committee will refer four GOP members of Congress, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who is the frontrunner for speaker of the House in 2023, to the House ethics committee for possible violations due to their ignoring subpoenas to testify regarding the insurrection.

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown

June 15: March for our Lives

Thousands of people marched near the Washington Monument and the White House for the second March for Our Lives demonstration. The protestors lamented not seeing more policy changes since gun control advocate David Hogg and many Gen-Z activists organized the first protest in 2018, after the Parkland, Florida shooting at Marjorie Stone Douglas High School. .

This year’s protests took place after the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. (May 14) and Uvalde, Texas (May 24) in which people of color were mostly killed, and in the latter 19 students and two students were fatally shot. 

During the rally, speakers and demonstrators were incensed that more had not been done at the federal level to stop the proliferation of guns on America’s streets and neighborhoods.

Participants in the rally also voiced concerns about police violence against unarmed people of color.

Other speakers included Yolanda King, the granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Hogg, accompanied by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, who lost their son Joaquin in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In a moment that shocked participants, D.C. public school alumnus and Harvard University student RuQuan Brown criticized D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser minutes after she introduced him, for what he described as her lack of action in addressing gun violence.

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins

June 24: Dobbs v. Jackson Overturns Roe v. Wade, D.C. Remains Pro-Choice

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that the U.S. Constitution does not confer the right to citizens to have an abortion. The case ruled that it is up to the individual states to determine the right to an abortion. The Dobbs case essentially overturned Roe vs. Wade, decided in 1973, that legalized abortion throughout the country.

Pro-choice activists decried the decision and vowed to get Congress to pass legislation to declare abortion legal, thereby restoring Roe. 

Anti-abortion leaders said the decision justified their years of activism in the pro-life movement. 

The overturning of Roe had significant political ramifications with the Democrats retaining control of the U.S. Senate and the Republicans barely gaining control of the House in the November general election as a result of the decision.

In the District, every D.C. Council member, Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said the city will remain pro-choice despite the overturning of Roe. City leaders also said anyone seeking an abortion from other states can come to the District to be served.

Initial reporting By James Wright Jr.

July 1: D.C. Minimum Wage Increases

The District’s minimum wage increased to $16.10 from $15.50 as of July 1. The story reported that some workers applauded the increase in pay but entrepreneurs did not express similar sentiments.

Tasha Elliott, an employee of a national retail chain outlet in Ward 7, praised the increase even though she said the change didn’t affect her. The increase occurred because of the Bowser administration’s compliance with the Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016 which mandates increases in the pay scale tied to the Consumer Price Index.

The story quotes Ward 8 entrepreneurs Clarence Jackson, owner of IHOP franchises in the District and Linda M. Greene, who owns Anacostia Organics, a medical marijuana facility. Jackson said while raising the minimum wage will be good for workers, it could be a problem for business owners because the increase will cut into other areas of operation of the business and customers may have to pay more for services. Greene said she pays her staff more than the minimum wage, but laments that traditional forms of financing aren’t available to her because of the national laws outlawing marijuana.

Sage Ali, the co-owner of the Ben’s Chili Bowl chain, said the increase in the minimum wage will aid his frontline workers and the company’s management supports it

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr.

July 6: Inflation Slams Black Community 

According to the Economist, 2022 has been a year of “brutal inflation,” with the global rate of inflation at about 9%. In America, consumer prices are said to have risen by about 7%, reportedly the highest in four decades.

In July, the Informer reported that Black households are more exposed to inflation fluctuations than their white peers, according to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The study’s authors say the differences between Blacks and whites during inflationary periods aren’t trivial. The study cited statistics revealing prices paid by white households increase by 7% over a year, calculations by researchers suggest that one may expect them to increase by 7.5% for Black families.

“In our research, we examine how this informs the trade-off between inflation and unemployment stabilization for white and Black households,” the study’s authors said. “The result implies that when evaluating trade-offs between inflation and unemployment, one ought to keep in mind that the costs of inflation may be borne disproportionately by the more disadvantaged group.”

The rise in prices of gas and food implies that necessities such as groceries, electricity and wireless phone service make up a larger share of Black families’ budgets. Additionally, the study said African American households persist in spending a more significant portion of their income on goods and services with prices that change more. 

On Dec. 21, MarketWatch, a website that studies economic trends, reported that consumer confidence reached an eight-month high as consumers seem less concerned about high prices and a recession in 2023.

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown

July 21: D.C. Government Offers Active Shooter Training 

In 2021, 61 active shooter events took place nationally, and in 2020, 164 events of that type occurred with 38 dead and 126 wounded.

The statistics, compiled by the FBI, showed an increase of 20% in active shooter incidents from 2021 and 2020. The incidents compelled District government leaders to convene an inter-agency Active Shooter Preparedness Training designed for business and community groups, including places of worship, restaurants, performance venues, arts institutions and other types of public gathering spaces. The event occurred on July 14 at the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Library in Northwest.

The Rev. Thomas Bowen, who manages Mayor Bowser’s Office of Religious Affairs, said he has worked with faith leaders in the area of homeland security.

“Three years ago, Bowser tasked Homeland Security, MPD and our office to work with faith-based partners to enhance security efforts related to hate-based threats,” he said. “At the urging and insistence of the mayor, we have made faith-based groups aware of possible funding and offered technical assistance to apply for that funding.”

People’s Congregational United Church of Christ in Northwest was cited as an example of a place of worship prepared for an attack.

Presently, the city’s Homeland Security Department has tools for churches to prepare for attacks should they occur. 

Initial reporting by Brenda C. Siler

Aug. 3: In D.C. and Nationwide Black Activists Work to Protect the Environment 

The Washington Informer has conducted an ongoing series of coverage highlighting local Black environmentalists who are advocating for cleaner, and healthier communities particularly East of the River.  District native, Absalom Jordan, is one of many in which Kayla Benjamin has had the pleasure of interviewing and documenting in their progressing efforts to protect the city’s environment within the District.  

Benjamin will continue to feature local advocates fighting for a better city to give local youth, and families throughout the upcoming year of 2023.

Aug. 10: As Migrants Flood D.C., Pentagon Denies Request for National Guard Troops 

The D.C. metropolitan area was in heavy debate during the month of August, as Mayor Muriel Bowser and local agencies scrambled to find resources to accommodate immigrants bussed in from Texas and Arizona.  Although the transport has significantly slowed down, the D.C. region is expected to see an acceleration of migrants returning after a federal court ruling now restored access to the country’s borders for asylum seekers. 

Bowser declared the influx of migrants a public emergency this past September, encouraging the release of $10 million in funding to help aid migrants, with FEMA additionally awarding SAMU First Response with a nearly $2 million award to operate a temporary shelter in Montgomery County that can hold up to 50 individuals at once.  The shelter will extend offerings of long-term housing and school enrollment, as well as health care to asylum seekers looking for a fresh start in life.

Other migrant families have resided at Districts hotels including a Days Inn in Northeast, providing security gates and regulations to restrict visitor access to those sites housing these individuals.  The families are fed with three meals a day prepared by a city contractor. 

 Local advocates are working to house migrants and keenly focused on the housing and security of these families. 

County legislators surrounding the District, including Arlington in Virginia and Prince George’s County, Maryland, are additionally working to review available resources that could potentially open to migrants, which would help provide coverage to the numerous asylum seekers needing shelter during this time.  

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins

Aug. 10: Four Black Female Firefighters Sue the D.C. Fire Department 

Four Black women firefighters are suing the Washington Metropolitan Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (DCFEMS), alleging consistent denials of compensation increases, job advancement opportunities, and unfair disciplinary infractions.  

Sergeant Paramedic Jadonna Sanders, one of the leading DCFEMS members orchestrating the lawsuit, told The Washington Informer that the lawsuit came only after significant attempts “to hold DCFEMS accountable” to no avail of changes being made. 

Despite a lack of feedback from District legislators including Mayor Muriel Bowser, District Attorney Karl Racine, and the D.C. Council, with the exception of Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the lawsuit is continuing in its pursuit. 

The Washington Informer continues to follow this case as it unravels in the upcoming year of 2023.

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins

Sept. 5: Curfew to Address Crime

In Prince George’s County, the Labor Day weekend placed a national spotlight on violence when five people died from gunfire, including a 16-year-old boy.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced that county police would more vigorously enforce a juvenile curfew law already in place.

Alsobrooks made the announcement during a press conference on Monday, Sept. 5 in Upper Marlboro at the Prince George’s County Police Department Headquarters.   

The curfew prohibited teenagers under 17 years old from being out in public between the hours of 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. on weeknights and between 11:59 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends. Teens must be accompanied by a parent or guardian if they venture out during the prohibited hours. 

Alsobrooks said parents and guardians would be notified by law enforcement officials if their children violate the curfew. 

The curfew remains in effect and Alsobrooks said this week that she promises more efforts to lower the crime rate, particularly gun violence.

“I reject that Black and brown communities have higher tolerance for violence of any sort,” Alsobrooks asserted.

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr. and D. Kevin McNeir

Sept. 14: Nearly 70 Migrant Students Enrolled in DCPS

Award-winning educator and author Jessica Lander remarked that the history of immigrant education is filled with remarkable stories of people – mostly everyday people, like lawyers, community activists, district leaders, parents – who shaped history. 

In a Dec. 11 editorial, Lander wrote that those stories show how transformative change occurs. 

“They are both sweeping and intimate – such as the history of Plyler v. Doe, the landmark Supreme Court case, that enshrined the right of the country’s undocumented children to attend K-12 public schools, including the story of the Lopez parents, who packed their car to the brim before driving their children two blocks to the courthouse to sue their school district, because they knew that in doing so they risked immediate arrest and deportation,” Lander noted.

In September, The Washington Informer reported that, over a span of five months, Texas and Arizona have sent 9,400 migrants to the District on buses. 

While some had gone on to connect with loved ones in other cities, many migrant families called the nation’s capital home. 

Those temporarily living at two District hotels included nearly 70 school-aged children who have since been enrolled in District public schools. 

And to ease the transition of those children to their new homes and schools, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the launch of the D.C. Office of Migrant Services last week.

Bowser said those newly enrolled students should be able to access D.C. Public Schools’ (DCPS) English Learner (EL) programs.   

However, staff members at Wheatley Education Campus in Northeast reported a continued struggle in efforts to integrate the more than two dozen migrant students who have recently joined their school community.

While Spanish-speaking classmates have been instrumental in relaying messages, some teachers like one who requested anonymity continue to demand that DCPS provide an adequate number of translators and Spanish-speaking EL instructors. 

As of mid-December, officials maintained that a commitment remains for more translators.

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins

Sept. 26: Breaking Ground at The Asberry in Ward 8

In Ward 8, District officials and residents broke ground on the first building of the Barry Farm redevelopment project.

The Sept. 26 event introduced the newest addition called The Asberry, a mixed-used building with 108 units of housing slated for individuals ages 55 and older with about 5,000 square feet of commercial space. 

The Asberry, named for activist Asberry Sanker, will be built directly from the Barry Farm Recreation Center. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the groundbreaking represented progress in Ward 8 and the District overall.

“We are committed to doing it in an equitable way, ensuring former Barry Farm residents benefit most from the redevelopment,” Bowser stated. 

“In doing so, we honor the legacy of the founders of Barry Farm-Hillsdale and ensure our long-time residents have the opportunity to thrive in their beloved Barry Farm community.” 

Officials this week said the project is on pace for completion by spring 2024.

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr.

Oct. 4: VP Harris Explains Slate to Help Black- and Minority-Owned Small Businesses

President Kamala Harris used her time at the Freedman’s Bank Forum to announce new public and private-sector efforts to advance racial equity.

Harris said the administration recognizes the continued difficulty that Black-owned businesses have in finding funding.

She acknowledged that they routinely are the first to suffer during an economic downturn.

Among a slate of new actions by the Biden administration, the vice president announced that the Small Business Administration (SBA) would propose a rule this fall to expand its lender base by lifting the moratorium on new Small Business Lending Companies.

The action would allow new lenders to apply for a license to offer SBA-backed 7(a) small business loans.

Also, the Minority Business Development Agency (MDBA) said it would issue a $100 million notice of funding opportunity to provide technical assistance grants for entrepreneurship technical assistance providers to help businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals launch, scale, and connect with growth capital.

Harris said to facilitate greater availability of small-balance mortgages, HUD would issue requests to solicit specific and actionable feedback on the barriers that prevent the origination of these mortgages and recommendations for increasing the volume of small-mortgage loans in federal programs.

The White House said these, and a host of other new policy steps follow two recent announcements by the administration of billions of dollars in investments for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown

Oct. 6: President Biden Pardons Simple Federal Marijuana Offenses 

Reaction proved swift and mostly supportive to President Joe Biden’s Oct. 6 announcement that he’s issuing full pardons for all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession.

Because D.C. does not have statehood rights, the pardon applied to convictions under D.C. statute as well as federal convictions. 

The president vowed to encourage governors to take similar steps to pardon state simple marijuana possession charges.

“President Biden’s decision to pardon thousands of federal offenses is a second chance that countless have been waiting for,” said Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) in a statement.

“Generations of Black Americans – often young men – were confined to years behind bars on simple possession charges. It wasn’t enough that their futures were ripped from them; they faced endless barriers to rebuilding their lives upon their release,” Richardson said. 

Although Black and white Americans used marijuana at roughly comparable rates, Blacks accounted for 39% of all marijuana possession arrests in 2020 despite being only 12% of the population, according to Pew Research analysis of 2020 data.

“The criminalization of marijuana has been a glaring racial justice issue in this nation, with Black communities bearing the brunt of this burden,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) said in a statement.

“The action by President Biden to remedy the failed approach to marijuana is a crucial step to righting the injustices of our past,” she said. 

The racial disparities that characterize marijuana arrests nationally remain particularly stark in the District. 

From 2012, when MPD began publicly reporting marijuana arrests until the city legalized marijuana possession in 2015, D.C. police arrested just under 6,000 people for possession alone. More than 5,100 of those arrests — 85% — were Black people.

Two months after Biden’s October announcement, the realization that his pardons don’t apply to state charges or immigrants facing deportation means that just a small number of individuals benefited from the president’s action.

Initial reporting by Kayla Benjamin and Stacy M. Brown

Oct. 18: D.C. Council Approves Medicaid to 250,000 Patients through 2028

On Oct. 18, the D.C. Council approved Medicaid contracts to service the city’s indigent 250,000 patients through 2028.

The approximately $8.8 billion contract was awarded by the council to health care providers AmeriHealth Caritas, AmeriGroup and MedStar Health. 

CareFirst, the fourth company, lobbied the council intensely for the chance to have a piece of the contracts but fell short in the process.

 Three members voted against the contract.

“It’s not enough to say that the [procurement process] complied with the law,” said council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1). 

“Crossing every t and dotting every i sometimes leads to bad results, and that’s why final accountability rests with us. … I say let’s send this back and get better outcomes for our patients.”

However, Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), who chairs the committee that oversees government procurement, contended that the council could set a bad precedent by rejecting contracts with the highest value. 

“That will set the tone that the council will intervene if people spent enough money,” he said. 

“If they lose an appeal, if they lose multiple appeals, they can still spend money and get the outcome that they prefer.”

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr.

Nov. 6: Statehood Advocates Caravan Across D.C.

District statehood bills sponsored by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) have successfully passed the House of Representatives during the past two sessions of Congress. To further press that issue, U.S. Shadow Rep. Oye Owolewa (D) led the SuperCar Parade for D.C. Statehood on Nov. 6.

Supporters drove their cars to a parking lot in the Palisades neighborhood in Ward 3. The procession made its way across the city for the nearly 90-minute journey, ending at the Peace Monument on the west side of the U.S. Capitol. 

Escorted by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, drivers honked their horns as people on the sidewalks and streets shouted their support. 

Since the parade, Puerto Rican statehood has gotten the traction D.C. statehood advocates say they want to see for their cause. 

Initial reporting by James Wright Jr. 

Nov. 8: Wes Moore Makes History 

Wes Moore, an author and investment banker, made history as the first Black person elected as governor of Maryland, defeating Republican candidate Dan Cox. This political milestone followed years of volunteer work and advocacy, particularly in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s 2015 police-involved death. Moore, a Democrat who was born in Maryland and spent most of his life in New York City, ran on the slogan, “leave no one behind.” 

Aruna Miller, a former Maryland state delegate, served as his running mate. 

Moore received endorsements from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, and media magnate Oprah Winfrey.

He became the third Black person in U.S. history to be elected governor. 

Initial reporting by Richard D. Elliott

D.C. Environmental Justice Advocates Join Push for Global Climate Justice at COP27 

During this year’s United Nations climate conference  in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (Nov. 6- Nov. 18), D.C. metro area environmental justice advocates joined activists from around the country and the globe to encourage focus on the irreversible harms caused by climate change, especially in developing nations. 

The first-ever  “Climate Justice Pavilion,” founded by three U.S. environmental justice organizations, including WE ACT, hosted dozens of programs and created space for people from all over the globe to engage in climate justice conversations. 

While the conference produced a historic agreement creating a fund to support developing countries facing climate disasters, it failed to make progress on commitments to reduce emissions. 

Marathon negotiations, which ran more than 36 hours over the deadline, resulted in a breakthrough deal creating a fund for “loss and damage.”  

Despite dire scientific findings, no countries made actual monetary commitments under the deal, nor did they commit to phasing out coal or other fossil fuels. 

Initial reporting by Kayla Benjamin

Dec. 1: Metro Remembers Civil Rights Icon with Rosa Parks Bus

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That incident sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a movement that ultimately led to the desegregation of buses in Alabama and served as a major landmark for the Civil Rights movement.  

More than 60 years later, on Dec. 1 of this year, WMATA saved a seat on every bus for Parks.The transit association also allowed residents to visit the Anacostia Metro station from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. to take in the ‘Rosa Parks Bus.’

In dedication to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, WMATA refurbished and refinished a General Motors 1957 replica of the exact bus that Rosa Parks was on during the incident. Officials said that Washingtonians of all ages can still appreciate Parks’ contribution to this day.

Initial reporting by Micha Green and Marckell Williams

Dec. 8: Brittney Griner Freed 

After 294 days in Russian custody, including the last several weeks in a dreaded and dangerous penal colony, WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed on Dec. 8. The Biden Administration secured Griner’s release after agreeing to a one-for-one prisoner swap that saw the president commute the 25-year sentence of notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Griner’s wife at the White House, where they spoke with the basketball player on the telephone. 

The White House said it would continue efforts to bring home retired U.S. military officer Paul Whelan, who remains in Russian custody. 

In a handwritten letter she posted on Instagram, Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time WNBA All-Star, thanked her supporters for the numerous letters she received while in captivity. She also urged them to write Whelan and advocate for the release of other Americans in captivity abroad. 

Initial reporting by Stacy M. Brown

Dec. 13- 15: U.S. Africa Summit Recap 

African leaders met with Biden administration officials at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit from Dec. 13-15. 

The White House didn’t invite Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea to the summit, due to the suspension of their AU membership. However, reports surfaced of some engagement with those countries’ civil society organizations. 

During the summit, Biden administration officials met with African leaders in bilateral and multilateral meetings about trade relations, youth affairs, health, climate change and technology. Days before the summit, President Joe Biden (D) revealed plans to visit several African countries in 2023.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan also said earlier that the U.S. will commit $55 billion to African nations over three years. 

On day two of the summit, a business forum focused mostly on how the U.S. could help African leaders leverage their countries’ natural resources to spur economic development. While U.S. officials described the deals as non-exploitative, grassroots organizers and even those who attended the summit, continued to express their doubts. 

During the summit, Administration officials said they closed new deals totaling $15 billion. One such deal involves the upcoming launch of a manufacturing facility in the District. 

This building, scheduled to open in Ward 7 in 2023, will facilitate a supply chain connecting the world with neem, moringa and other ingredients commonly found in plant-based products. This arrangement also opens up marketpeople in Ghana and other parts of Africa to a customer base extending well beyond their towns and villages. 

Initial reporting by Sam P.K. Collins

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