Residents of D.C.’s Ward 8 feel besieged by the impact of poverty, crime, limited amenities, and subpar schools, to name a few of the concerns expressed often in community meetings and other gatherings. With the recent uptick in violent crime and murders happening nearly every day, more neighborhoods are adorned with balloons and ribbons tied to light poles and trees in honor of the dead than with flowers and gardens to beautify the community simply. It often feels like a dangerous place to live until a walk around the block, any block, reveals someone new. Ward 8 is gentrifying, and it can be seen in the “For Sale” signs going up and the high home prices residents are paying. Once one becomes an engaged resident of Ward 8, they begin to see what others don’t. They see a community that works together, supports each other and builds together.
Ask anyone that attends the monthly Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) meetings or boat ride held annually on the first Saturday in October. It’s a “must-do” and a sold-out event attracting city leaders, community activists, politicians, artists, business professionals, students, Blacks, Latinx, Asians and Whites, LGBTQ, young and old, and physically challenged. Established in 1983, ACC has served the community under former D.C. At-Large Council member Arrington Dixon, longtime community leader and ACC Executive Director Phillip Pannell, and current ACC Chairman and businessman Lamont Mitchell, along with an active board of directors. Last weekend, more than 200 people presented their COVID-19 vaccination cards before boarding the Spirit cruise boat for a trip along the Potomac River.
A violinist, a poet, a soulful songstress, and one of the D.C.s top Go-Go bands performed on every level while guests talked politics, of course. But more talked about their organizations and what they are trying to do to benefit the community. Some stopped talking entirely and claimed the dance floor to join a line dance like the Electric Slide or the Cupid Shuffle with folks like Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, or former MPD Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, head of the Wharf Security and Public Safety team.
What happens on the boat ride doesn’t stay there either. Guests leave feeling recommitted to the programs, opportunities and ideas to help make Ward 8 a better place to live. It’s where they go to get that shot of hope that confirms the work they do together in Ward 8 will make a difference one day.