Community

Can Words Change Behavior? SE Leaders Offer 12-Point Code

Embrace of Morality Sought in Lieu of Rebuke or New Commandment

Do Black Lives Matter? If so, the path to other assertions is just as short, clear and simple, according to Rev. Wanda Thompson.

“We’re just trying to promote things that are right,” Thompson said May 24 as she and a handful of community and faith leaders unveiled a “community code” as a way of life that is anti-violent.

The list of 12 items is also non-religious or does not scold the reader.

For instance:

• I choose to be a person of integrity and do not act out of jealousy, greed or revenge.
• I build up my community, I do not tear it down.
• I appreciate diversity and value positive cultural traditions in my community.
• I do not commit violence because it kills the community.

Printed on a red, black and green background, the one-page document opens with: “I am a crucial part of the community and I recognize and respect my own self-worth.”

“This is not a document put into words, these are values that we hold up in our community,” said Thompson, pastor of the Ambassador Baptist Church in Southeast, who has been working with a group of clergy for months on this code.

It surfaced out of dismay.

Rev. Anthony Motley, coordinator of the First Friday Faith Collaborative, said some clergy are tired of preaching funerals and hearing about violence in Wards 7 and 8.

“This code is something that is much needed but the real test will come when talks turn to action,” said Motley, who was among 17 faith leaders on a Zoom call Monday that included two members of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s cabinet and other community leaders.

Community activist Sandra Seegars said, “This is just the beginning to address changing a mindset of too many bad actors from Ward 8 to Ward 1.” Several faith and community leaders said change needs to come on both sides of the Anacostia River.

No Agenda or Enforcement Mechanism

Graylin Presbury, of the Fairlawn Civic Association, said, he plans to share the document with the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations,” while Clarence Cross said, “As a Methodist, I plan to push this among our churches.”

In a city where people and organizations spend thousands of dollars on messaging for various campaigns, the effort to spread the Community Code has no budget but appears to be catching on.
Rev. Karen Curry, of the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, said that she plans to incorporate the code into the Vacation Bible School’s curriculum this summer. Rev. Patty Fears of the Fellowship Baptist Church said she plans to do the same.

Rev. Thomas Bowen, a Bowser aide for religious affairs, and Faith Gibson Hubbard, director of Bowser’s Office of Community Affairs, said they plan to find ways to spread the message, but no edict is being considered.

“I think when people have it in front of them, the values will become internalized,” Thompson said. “Treat each other the way we want to be treated.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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