Advisory neighborhood commissioners are mandated by D.C. home rule charter to respond to neighborhood concerns and serve as a political representative but Salim Adofo, as a commissioner, has gone beyond doing that and has drawn compliments for his work.
Adofo serves as the advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 8C07 in Ward 8 and therefore serves as the chief advocate for his constituents with the District government. He won the seat over longtime commissioner Mary Cuthbert in 2018 and told The Informer he has been working hard for his constituents ever since.
“I believe in community engagement and getting people activated for change,” Adofo said. “I consider myself a public servant and even though I am not compensated for being a commissioner, I still give it my best.”
Adofo spent the early years of his life in Jersey City, N.J., which he said had an active Black culture that focused on political and cultural activism that influenced him to fight for civil and human rights.
After high school, he attended Grambling State University in Louisiana before leaving to join the military because he could not afford to pay for his education.
Adofo spent several years in the Army before ending up in the District to take a job in the Washington area. In 2009, he moved to Ward 8 and “[hasn’t] thought about moving anywhere in the city since.”
When he settled in Ward 8, Adofo said he joined organizations such as the NAACP and the National Black United Front (NBUF) to fight for the rights of African Americans. While these activities kept him busy, his interest in ward politics did not wane.
He became so concerned about the condition of his neighborhood that he decided to give elected office a shot in 2018.
“When I ran for the commissioner position, I didn’t run against Mary Cuthbert,” he said. “I ran to keep our residents informed about what is going on in the neighborhood, the ward and the city.”
Adofo has held events in his Congress Heights-based district that have dealt with the 8C advisory neighborhood commission budget, police-community relations and the District’s proposed comprehensive plan. As a candidate for the 8C07 position, he noted that events designed to inform citizens on the latest developments in the District government didn’t take place consistently.
Adofo’s activism has attracted the attention of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who appointed him to the D.C. Commission on African American Affairs (CAAA) in November.
Ashley Emerson, executive director of the Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs that works directly with the commission, said Adofo has become an asset.
“He is a pleasure to work with,” Emerson said. “Whether it is on the census or job fairs, he is committed. He is serious about training residents on advocacy and engagement. He doesn’t just work for our commission on behalf of his constituents or Ward 8 but for everyone in D.C.”
The commission teamed with the NBUF, NAACP and others on Jan. 18 for the inaugural “MLK Feed the Hood” event at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, which he said provided over 1,000 care packages delivered to at-risk families in the city.
He coordinated a vigil for late basketball great Kobe Bryant on Jan. 30 and, according to his Facebook page, he will later this year conduct his second tour of historically Black colleges and universities for high schoolers and their families.
In addition, Adofo won an election as the second vice president of the Ward 8 Democrats in September.
‘The Gold Standard’
The work Adofo has done has drawn plaudits from community leaders, including Philip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council and advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 8.
“Salim is a hard-working commissioner and I have seen few like him in that position since I came to this city 45 years ago,” Pannell said. “He puts in the commissioner’s job like it’s full-time. He constantly has programs going on and his newsletter is great.
“I wish we had more commissioners like Salim. He is the gold standard,” he said. “I am fortunate to be his constituent and we are fortunate to have him in Ward 8 and the District of Columbia.”
Mustafa Abdul-Salaam, who represents district 8C05 and works with Adofo on the 8C advisory neighborhood commission, said Adofo has been productive.
“It is a joy working with Salim,” Salaam said. “He is a hard worker and goes above and beyond what he is supposed to do.”
Adofo said he doesn’t know for sure whether he will run for higher office in the future.
“We have to see how things will work out,” he said. “Right now, I am focused on helping my community.”