Business owner Esther Iverem sells some of her wares during the African American Prosperity Fair at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. on Feb. 24. (Demetrious B. Kinney/The Washington Informer)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has put her administration’s focus back on community with the launch of the city government’s “Fair Shot Toolkit” program, designed to help African-American Washingtonians interact with critical government services.

Though in the works for some time, the program was officially launched Saturday, Feb. 24 with the “African American Job + Prosperity Fair” held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The program, anchored by the “Fair Shot” document, features a series of programs that constituents felt were underutilized. Highlighted services included employment opportunities, small-business creation and senior services.

In a letter to the community launching the initiative, Bowser said her goal is to address the inequity African Americans have felt despite the District’s economic boom.

Rahman Branch, director of the Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs, said the office’s Commission on African American Affairs had a meeting with the mayor where they were informed of a host of resources they were previously unaware of.

“From that, the mayor charged the commission and the office with creating a toolkit that will really highlight all the different avenues and opportunities that exist so that African Americans can get their hands on something — like a directory they can work through to really access some of the things that we know other folks in the District are using around homeownership, around financial wellness, around health and wellness, around education — and make it in a palatable application,” Branch said.

Branch said the jobs fair was a natural complement to the “living document” that is the toolkit.

“We are presenting opportunities to folks that are live and in color and that you can access in real time,” he said.

In addition to job opportunities, the six-hour fair featured small-business owners, craftsman and makers.

The Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center featured its Soufside Creative brand as well as a live heat-pressing display.

“Everything about today is what we focus on,” said Keyonna Jones-Lindsay, the center’s executive director. “Everything that we try to do is [to] build small businesses, to build people in our neighborhood, specifically Black people. We try to focus on art and culture and show them how to find ways to monetize either their talent or what they’re just really good at so they can be economically stable. So this was perfect.”

Branch said the mayor’s office will continue to highlight the toolkit through a series of breakout sessions in wards throughout the community as well as other smaller fairs.

“Often what we miss in government is that we’re here to do a service and provide a series of services to the city so that residents can live their best lives and be their best selves,” he said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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