Jan. 6 Insurrection Shuts Down Capitol Building and District
Months after Donald Trump lost reelection, a mob of Trump supporters rushed into the U.S. Capitol during the final count of electoral votes that solidified President Joe Biden’s victory. During their hours-long siege, they assaulted Capitol police officers and vandalized the premises. Trump, who called the mob to action, refused to call the National Guard. In total, five people died, 138 officers were injured, and five more officers committed suicide months later. An investigation later determined that some mob participants had affiliations with white supremacist and anti-government groups.
Donald Trump Impeached for the Second Time
A week after the Jan. 6 riot, Congress impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” He became the only U.S. president in history to be impeached more than once. Weeks after President Joe Biden (D) officially entered office, 57 out of 100 senators voted to acquit Trump. Shortly after, the Senate, due to Republican opposition, unsuccessfully attempted to form an independent commission to study the riot. A House select committee would later take on that task. Findings from the investigation have shed light on the role that several people, including Trump and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, played in the developments of Jan. 06.
Biden-Harris Inauguration Sparks Hope
With the themes “America United” and “Our Determined Democracy: Fighting for a More Perfect Union,” the Biden-Harris inauguration on Jan. 20 proved markedly different from past festivities. A heavy police presence in Downtown D.C. gave a reminder about the insurrection that happened two weeks prior. Inauguration guests, which were few, had to adhere to mandatory face coverings, temperature checks and other COVID-19-related precautions. Donald Trump also broke tradition by skipping the inauguration. However, such circumstances couldn’t quell the optimism in the air about a new beginning. Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her poem “The Hill We Climb” definitely helped lighten the mood.
Biden Extends Student Loan Relief
Weeks after the pandemic started, the federal government paused federal student loan payments and set the interest rate to 0 percent. Shortly after entering office, President Joe Biden (D) extended the pause, and did so again in August. Since then, however, his administration has given no indication that the pause would go beyond the January 31, 2022 threshold. That has perturbed many Biden supporters and called into question the president’s popularity.
Return to In-Person Learning Shrouded in Doubt
For months, DC Public Schools and the Washington Teachers’ Union had been in the throes of a debate about whether to fully open schools, and the circumstances under which it should be done. Even with the completion of memorandum of understanding, some teachers questioned whether administrators had building upgrades and COVID mitigation strategies in place for the first day of a partial return to in-person learning. In the end,a slight snowstorm proved to be the only thing postponing the return of public school students to the classroom. On February 2, most District public schools opened.
Murder Spike Prompts Call for State of Emergency
Though he lauded D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s formation of a multiagency gun violence prevention initiative, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) called on the mayor to go further in addressing the spike in gun violence. Though the murder rate tapered in early February, numbers in January surpassed what the Metropolitan Police Department recorded around the same time in the previous year. This situation has sparked calls, from White and others, for investments in violence prevention and constituent services to address the underlying causes of violence. At the same time, residents, to some degree, continued to demand a heavier police presence in affected areas.
Anacostia Leader Excited about Secret Garden Acquisition
Anti-violence activist and entrepreneur Ron Moten announced a deal with longtime District developer Douglas Jemal in which the Secret Garden, a plot of land in Anacostia that Jemal owns, would be transferred to him as a site for the planned Go-Go Museum. Moten celebrated the deal at the Secret Garden — located behind We Act Radio, Check It Enterprises and a shuttered barbershop on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE — with neighborhood residents, Jemal and D.C. Council members Trayon White (D-Ward 8), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Robert White (D-At large) attending. The 3,900- square foot space known as the Secret Garden has been used since 2007 for a variety of activities, from a community garden to peace rallies and fish fries.
America Surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths
On the evening of Feb. 23, a Johns Hopkins University tracker reported 501,663 U.S. virus-related deaths. At that point, no other country has surpassed the U.S. in the number of lives lost in the pandemic. Losses to COVID-19 stood nearly 25 percent greater than the U.S. military death toll in World War II.
U.S. President Joe Biden (D) ordered flags flying over federal facilities to be at half-staff for five days. The Washington National Cathedral rang its bells 500 times — once for every 1,000 people who died from the coronavirus. Through it all, Biden offered some consolitory words: “That’s how you heal — you have to remember,” he said. “And it’s also important to do that as a nation. Those who have lost loved ones, here’s what I know: They’re never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart.”
Vernon Jordan Dies at 85
Vernon Jordan, former National Urban League president and civil rights leader, died peacefully at the age of 85 around family and friends. Jordan was nationally renown as a distinguished, pioneering attorney, businessman and civil rights leader. He was an influential powerbroker and counselor to American presidents spanning the era from Lyndon Baines Johnson to Barack Obama. His commitment came through in the positions he took, including field director for the NAACP and executive director of the United Negro College Fund. A memorial service at Howard University’s Rankin Chapel featured a repeat viewing of the “Vernon Jordan: Make It Plain” documentary and tributes from Jordan’s daughter, Vickee Jordan Adams as well as several of his closest friends including former President Bill Clinton.
Pamela Smith Named First Black Female Chief of U.S. Park Police
Upon her installment as the head of the U.S. Park Police, Pamela Smith said she would establish a body camera program within her first 90 days. Throughout her 23-year career, Smith has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Under her leadership, Smith has a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in the District, New York City and San Francisco metropolitan areas.
Ewing, Harris Resurrect Georgetown Back to Prominence
In the vein of his late mentor and coach John Thompson, Patrick Ewing led the Georgetown Hoyas to a level of success not seen since Thompson’s departure. Since 2015, the Hoyas have not made it back to the NCAA tournament but Ewing, in his fourth year, led the charge, even as he battled COVID-19. On his roster, Ewing had D.C. native and freshman guard Dante Harris who has set the tone for the Hoyas during this historic run. After making it back to the Big East Tournament and defeating Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Creighton, the Hoyas entered the NCAA as the 12th seed. They would unfortunately lose their first-round game to Colorado, 73-96.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Restores Voting Rights for Felons
Under a change to the state’s constitution that restores voting rights for individuals completing their incarceration, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) allowed more than 69,000 Virginians access to the ballot box. The governor’s office noted that the change built upon bipartisan reforms that have been made to restore rights over the past decade. Virginia has made strides in other areas related to racial justice. In 2020, the Commonwealth eliminated the state holiday Lee-Jackson Day which honored Confederate generals replacing it with Election Day in April. At the time of felon voting rights restoration, Virginia also remained the nation’s leader in removing Confederate symbols.
Malik Aziz Chosen as Prince George’s New Police Chief
Malik Aziz came to Prince George’s County from Dallas to become its new police chief. Aziz expressed enthusiasm about taking on his new role leading the force. Aziz faces problems such as an increasing murder rate and a sharp rise in crimes such as carjackings and robberies. Additionally, he must face investigations internally and externally about complaints of racism lodged by his officers of color.
Ward 7 Residents Excited Over Skyland Town Center Additions
Residents of Ward 7 are excited about the growth of the new Skyland Town Center development. They expressed satisfaction at the number of affordable housing units and townhomes that will be built. The addition of sit-restaurants including one of Japanese orientation also has Ward 7 residents talking. As one resident said “we don’t have to go across the river for quality dining.”
WTU President Elizabeth David Dies in Car Crash
Washington Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis died of a car crash over the weekend on Route 301 near Upper Marlboro, Md. Davis lead the District’s teacher organization for many years. She helped resolved many employee grievances with the District of Columbia Public School officials and negotiated contracts with them also. It was later revealed that Davis was driving under the influence before she died.
Minneapolis Jury Verdict Shows a Black Life Mattered
Many Blacks had plenty to say about the guilty verdict imposed on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the 2020 killing of George Floyd. Overwhelmingly, many expressed a sense of justice and relief. Nevertheless, many people said systemic abuse of Blacks still continues and much needs to be done so that the race can be treated fairly and justly.
Dr. Darryl Pines Installed to Lead the University of Maryland
Dr. Darryl Pines serves as the first Black president of the University of Maryland, College Park, the state’s flagship ship higher education institution. Pines talks about increasing support for faculty research in STEM and attracting more minority students and scholars to the University of Maryland.
Comedian Red Grant Launches Quest for D.C. Mayor in 2022
District-born comedian Red Grant launched his campaign for mayor of the District. At that time, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had no declared for re-election. Grant did not state whether he will run as a Democrat or an independent. He said if elected mayor, he will work to improve the city’s education system and offer young people more recreational activities.
Kristen Clarke Becomes First Black Woman to Head DOJ’s Civil Rights Division
President Biden nominated Kristen Clarke to become the first Black women to lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. This division is in charge of prosecuting cases on behalf of citizen’s civil rights in federal court.
Former Va. Governor McAuliffe Wins Democratic Nomination in Quest for Second Term
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe won the Democratic primary decisively over a field of candidates that included two Black females and the Black Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. McAuliffe’s victory put him in a match with GOP newcomer Glenn Younkin. McAuliffe served as governor of Virginia from 2013-2017.
Senate Passes Bill Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday
The U.S. Senate passed without any opposition declaring June 19 a federal holiday. Juneteenth, the day Union General Gordon Granger came on the shores of Galveston, Texas in 1865 and declared the slaves free in that state, has been celebrated as a statewide holiday in the Lone Star State, as well as other places. President Biden signed the legislation making it the newest federal holiday.
D.C. Leaders Address Statehood During Senate Hearing
WI Staff WriterD.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton testified in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee arguing that the District should be the 51st state. Legislation granting statehood passed the House in April and the hearing served as the second statehood hearing held in the Senate’s history.
D.C., National Leaders Rally for Statehood on National Mall
A Rally for statehood by District and national leaders on the National Mall drew an estimated 10,000 people. The rally on June 26 came just days after the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held its second hearing in the chamber’s history on D.C. statehood. When the U.S Supreme Court reconvened in October, the justices refused to interfere with a lower court that said District residents don’t have the right to voting representation in the U.S. Congress. District residents serving as plaintiffs sued in federal court to argue they have U.S. citizenship but don’t have voting rights in either chamber on Capitol Hill. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced her annual Veterans Day resolution with a renowned call for the District to become the nation’s 51st state.
VP Harris Opens and Pelosi Closes Four-day NACo Event
Prince George’s County hosted its first major event July 9-12 since the coronavirus pandemic affected the majority Black jurisdiction in March 2020. An estimated 2,000 county elected officials traveled for the National Association of Counties annual convention at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. Vice President Kamala Harris headlined the conference and marked it as her first in-person in more than a year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the last day of the conference July 12. Since that conference, dozens of other in-person meetings, events and other activities began to take place throughout the county. Although Prince George’s continues to lead the state with the most confirmed cases in Maryland exceeding 102,000, the state Health Department noted at least 58% of residents are fully vaccinated. The figure ranks in the middle of the pack among the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.
Delta Variant Liked to 83 Percent of all COVID-19 Cases in U.S.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus accounted for 83% of all COVID-19 cases nationwide. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced July 20 the variant created a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. Dr. Ebony J. Hilton, medical director for Goodstock Consulting and an associate professor for anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia, warned the combination of vaccine hesitancy, refusal to wear masks and the Delta variant would cause the virus to worsen. In preparation for the winter and the new Omicron variant, President Job Biden announced a plan to fight the virus that included booster shots for adults, expanding free at-home treatment, vaccinations for children to keep schools open and implementing stronger public health protocols for international travel.
Rash of Shootings, Murder of Young Child Prompt Questions About Public Safety
The murder of Nyiah Courtney, six, in Southeast on July 16 created more questions about public safety that raised the death toll in the city at that time to 103. The shooting also wounded five other people including Nyiah’s mother. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the police could utilize overtime to tackle the increase in violent crime. Community leaders held an anti-violence rally July 24 where the shooting took place at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X avenues in Southeast. Four days later, police arrested Marktwan Hargraves, 22, of Waldorf, Md., and charged him with murder. The mayor announced $750,000 in grants to more than 60 individuals and community organizations to combat gun violence. D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee held a youth summit during the month to hear from teenagers on working to improve relationships with law enforcement which ended with youth protests.
Olympic Medalist Dominique Dawes Says Biles Made the Right Decision
Current and former Olympic medalists shared shock and sadness when news spread that U.S. women’s gymnast and gold medal winner Simone Biles bowed out of this summer’s Olympics to focus on her mental health. Dominique Dawes, the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal in 1996, supported Biles’ decision. As for the year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Biles garnered a silver medal from the team final and a bronze in the balance beam. Biles’s medal total at seven tied the most Olympic medals by fellow American female gymnast Shannon Miller.
Rally for Korryn Gaines Calls for Criminal Justice and Police Reform
Prince George’s County residents, including Dorothy Elliott of Forestville, joined more than 100 people for a statewide rally Aug. 2 in Towson, Md., calling for criminal justice and police reform. Tamika Palmer traveled from Louisville, Ky., to support loved ones with family members killed by police. The death of Palmer’s daughter, Breonna Taylor, 26, killed by police in her Louisville home March 13, 2020, sparked nationwide protests on police brutality and racism. The rally also pushed for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. to reach a settlement in the case of Korryn Gaines, 23, shot and killed by Baltimore County police Aug. 1, 2016. One week after the rally, the county announced a $3 million settlement with Gaines’ family.
Eviction Tsunami Approaches D.C. and Few Seem Prepared
A three-part series in The Washington Informer focused on an approaching eviction tsunami in D.C. after the coronavirus pandemic forced schools and businesses to close in 2020. Although landlords were required to provide D.C. officials with a 12-month payment plan for tenants, some landlords exposed loopholes in the CDC moratorium to evict residents. Several remedies to provide short-term relief for renters included boosting rental assistance, modifying and updating local eviction moratoriums and limiting the imposition of late fees. Eviction filings resumed in D.C. in October but tenants could still request relief from the initiative, Stronger Together by Assisting You (STAY DC), to help with items such as utility bills.
COVID-19 Required for Prince George’s School Employees
Public school employees in the D.C. area received orders to be vaccinated before the first day of school during a time when children younger than 12 years old didn’t have a COVID-19 vaccine available. Jurisdictions implemented deadlines to allocate proof of vaccinations by workers such as Prince George’s by Aug. 27. School and government employees needed a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 30 in Arlington County in Northern Virginia and similar procedures for proof of vaccination in D.C. by Sept. 19. Meanwhile, indoor mask mandates remained in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. However, D.C. officials implemented a mask advisory, or a recommendation for people to wear masks or face covering indoors. But masks in the city remained a requirement on public transportation, inside hospitals, schools, congregate facilities and government buildings. Private businesses were allowed to set their own policies.
FDA Announces ‘Full Approval’ for Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration granted 23 full approval Aug. 23 for the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for Americans 16 and older. The federal agency hoped formal authorization would encourage those leery about the vaccine to get it. The vaccine remained under emergency use for youth ages 12 to 15, but the American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly recommended” for adolescents to get a shot in the arm. As of Dec. 4, the CDC noted about 198 million Americans ages 5 and older were fully vaccinated which meant both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the one-shot dose from Johnson & Johnson.
District Schools Reopen to Mixed Reactions
D.C. public schools reopened Aug. 30 to mixed reactions that included a push by 150 parents for virtual options. A petition and a letter from a school board representative cited concerns about safety, especially among students who hadn’t reached the age of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, vaccinations remained low among those in majority Black communities. Still, Mayor Muriel Bowser and DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee affirmed in-person education as the best option for students. Local leaders hosted a back-to-school event to offer students materials, bookbags and vaccinations. Some parents and students expressed cautious optimism with schools utilizing outdoor spaces whenever possible and providing mental health and behavioral support.
Prince George’s Teachers Share Tools, Strategies for Successful School Year
The second part of a two-part WI series focused on conversations with three teachers at Capitol Heights Elementary before the first day of school, Sept. 8. Besides pencils and books being on their checklists for success, Kori Edwards, Natasha Rubin and Tyrone Frierson also needed masks, Lysol spray, wipes and other person protective equipment for themselves and their students. While the educators have different backgrounds, their similarities extended beyond the classroom as Black residents of Prince George’s County, each of them vaccinated and each appreciating “the resiliency” of elementary, school-age children. The first part of the series featured two sisters, Theresa Wood and Maria Wood, who teach at William Hall Academy in Capitol Heights.
Getty Images Launches Grant Program for HBCUs
The Getty Family and Stand Together announced the launch of photo archive grants to catalog the history of HBCUs. The grants will provide $500,000 grants to digitize the photo archives for two HBCUs that can total up to 100,000 archival assets per grant recipient. All content will be converted to the “HBCU Photo Collection” and available for Getty Images licensing. It will be free as part of Getty Images’ content donation initiative for non-commercial use, said Cassandra Illidge, vice president of partnerships at Getty Images. Illidge said 50% of the royalties will go towards grant recipients, 30% to a new United Negro College Fund-Getty Images Scholarship fund for HBCU education and 20% reinvested annually into Getty Images photo archive grants for HBCUs.
Civil Rights Attorney Christa Beverly Dies at 61
When former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III talked about what makes him a special person, he mentioned his wife, Christa Beverly Baker. Beverly Baker, who worked as a civil rights attorney on Capitol Hill before displaying signs of early-onset dementia in 2010, died Sept. 18 at 61. Baker met his future wife at Howard University. Baker served as his wife’s caregiver. Their 34-year marriage resulted in the birth of three children. For years, she remained active as a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., among other social and civic organizations. Baker said he consulted with his family on making a second attempt to seek the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor in the June primary election.
Women’s March 2021 Reveals Few Black Women as Participants
African-American women played a prominent role in the Women’s March 2021, which featured a rally for reproductive choice and ended on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in the District on Saturday. One participant lamented how the activism of Black women often receives little or no attention.
“I am here from Atlanta because I, as a Black woman, know how important it is for women to have their reproductive rights protected,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SistersSong, a pro-choice organization. “It should be our decision as women what we do with our bodies. I also see this fight to keep abortion as a battle against white supremacy. Black women have always been involved in the struggle for reproductive rights, but we have not always gotten the attention. We are absolutely in this fight to help women of all colors get what they need as far as reproductive rights are concerned,” she said.
Simpson joined tens of thousands of people, mostly white, at a rally at D.C.’s Freedom Plaza in Northwest along with thousands more across the country in hundreds of cities and towns protesting the enactment by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) of a bill, SB8, passed by the GOP dominated legislature, outlawing abortions in the state after six weeks.
Push for D.C. Statehood Continues
The U.S. Supreme Court began the new term in October with an agenda that included a variety of controversial issues from voter representation and gun rights to a woman’s access to abortion services. In one of its first actions on October 11, the justices chose not to interfere with a ruling of a lower court that said District residents didn’t have the right to voting representation in the U.S. Congress. District residents serving as plaintiffs sued in federal court, arguing they have all of the obligations of U.S. citizenship but don’t have voting rights in either chamber of the U.S. Congress. Before the matter reached the Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit both ruled against District residents. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) expressed her displeasure with the high court’s decision.
Students at Howard Take Over Blackburn University Center
A student-led protest at Howard University’s (HU) Blackburn University Center entered its first full day on Wednesday, October 13, as more than 50 young people continued to demand a meeting with HU President Wayne A.I. Frederick and the fulfillment of other requests. At the culmination of a student-led town hall the night before, several dozen students stayed in Blackburn well past closing hours as part of what’s been called “The Blackburn Takeover.” Administrators then shut down the building. Though a university official reportedly attempted to quell the protest, students remained inside, sporting their pajamas, planting their sleeping bags on the floor and circulating calls for supplies on social media. By Wednesday morning, protesters circumvented security guards stationed outside of Blackburn to pass out doughnuts to their peers who couldn’t enter the building for breakfast. Aniyah Vines, a senior and leader of The Live Movement, an organization that has coordinated the protest in conjunction with HU’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), said protesters would not stop until Frederick agreed to meet with students before the end of the month and HU’s Board of Trustees reinstated its student, faculty and alumni positions. Protesters also demanded that Frederick and the Board of Trustees collaborate with students in the formation of a plan to combat what had been described as a housing crisis.
Nation Mourns the Death of General Colin Powell
Colin L. Powell, 84, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, died from complications from COVID-19 on Monday, October 18.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” a family statement said. They reported that Powell had been fully vaccinated.
Powell became the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. He also counted as the youngest and first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. Powell would be thrust into the global spotlight after leading the U.S. to victory during the Gulf War, many even considering him as credible candidate for president.
Congress Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Congress finally passed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. The White House called the measure, formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a once-in-a-generation investment in the nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. After Congress repeatedly failed to reach a consensus on the president’s domestic agenda and following the catastrophic losses in the November election, Democrats found themselves in a desperate situation, sorely in need of a landmark victory. The White House said the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.
Blackburn Takeover Ends
After 33 days of protest, 20 days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and seemingly endless visits from alumni, public figures and politicians, the Blackburn Takeover reached its end with students’ demands met by the Howard University (HU) administration. Blackburn Takeover leaders, donning HU apparel and cool demeanors, joined attorney and HU alumnus Donald Temple on Monday, Nov. 15, to reveal that they, in conjunction with HU President Wayne A.I. Frederick and others, completed a memorandum of understanding which realizes the goals of the protest.
“While the terms of the specific agreement are confidential, it can be said without any hesitation and reservation that the students courageously journeyed on a path toward greater university accountability, transparency and public safety,” Temple said. “This agreement marks a meeting of the minds between them regarding the issues of concern.”
Bowser Reverses Mask Mandate
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s announcement about the end of the District’s indoor mask mandate sparked concern among other elected officials and city residents who believed D.C.’s still was not out of the throes of a pandemic that had infected and killed thousands of people. On an edition of “The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi,” Bowser addressed their apprehension while expressing her willingness to remain covered, even without a mandate that binds people to this specific layer of protection. On Nov. 16, Bowser, with DC Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt by her side, announced the District’s indoor mask mandate would expire on November 22. Masks would still be required in private businesses that require them, on public transportation and in ride-share vehicles, dorms, schools, childcare facilities, libraries, nursing homes, correctional facilities and D.C. government buildings where employees interact with the public. Bowser cited high vaccination rates among District residents as a key impetus. As of November 20, 63.5 percent of District residents had been fully vaccinated while nearly 82 percent had received at least one dose. Children under the age of five, for whom no approved vaccine existed, counted among a significant portion of residents not yet vaccinated.
Good Foods Market Opens in Ward 8
A brand-new grocery store opened in Ward 8 with a community celebration welcoming Good Food Market to its newest location at South Capitol and Atlantic Streets in Southwest. More than 100 residents of the Bellevue neighborhood, and others who lived nearby, stood in the drizzling rain on Saturday, Nov. 13, to witness the ribbon-cutting. The occasion allowed D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 8 Council member Trayon White and other city officials to announce additional economic development plans coming to Wards 7 and 8.
“This is hugely important because we know too many Ward 8 residents have to travel too far to get to quality food options with only one full-service grocery store,” Bowser said. “So, we need many more good food options to come to this ward.”
Through the Neighborhood Prosperity Fund, an initiative launched by Mayor Bowser, South Capitol Improvement LLC received an $800,000 grant to ensure that Ward 8 had a Good Foods Market grocer.
Magic Johnson Reflects on 30 Years Since His HIV Diagnosis
In an announcement that not only shocked the sports world but reverberated globally, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson announced 30 years ago that he had contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. On a dreary November morning in 1991, Johnson and the Lakers held a press conference at the Forum in Inglewood, California, to announce his retirement.
“I have to battle this deadly disease,” the five-time NBA champion declared before an international pool of reporters and photographers.
In the still-early stages of the public – and medical science’s – understanding of HIV and AIDS, most believed the end of Johnson’s life had approached. Now at age 62 and three decades removed from that gut-punch of a revelation, Johnson remains not only healthy but has established himself as one of the world’s most successful businessmen and an ambassador for HIV/AIDS.
With a focus on COVID-19, recent advances in the treatment of HIV have largely gone unnoticed.
“The past year has provided the opportunity for reflection and one thing that’s become clear to me is how essential media coverage of COVID-19 has been in educating people around the world about the virus, its impact and what can be done to slow the spread of transmission,” stated Dr. Kimberly Smith, the head of external affairs and Communications for ViiV Healthcare, whose company dedicates its work to HIV medicines and research and focuses entirely on individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.
New COVID-19 Variant Detected
President Joe Biden addressed the nation during a somber press conference, informing Americans about a recently detected mutation of the coronavirus which had surfaced in several countries around the globe. And while the U.S. had no confirmed cases at the time, Biden urged Americans to remain calm as scientists worked to determine the strength of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus which appeared to be more contagious than previous strains and potentially immune to current vaccines. The latest COVID-19 variant was believed to cause a further delay in recovery from the nearly two-year-old pandemic and had Americans fearful of another spike in infections and deaths and shutdown this winter. But the president advised citizens to remain calm.
“We have the best vaccine in the world. The best medicines, the best scientists and we’re learning more every single day,” Biden asserted. “And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed – not chaos and confusion.”
Officials at the World Health Organization said the Omicron coronavirus variant carried a “very high risk of infection surges.”
DCPS Teachers Bemoan Standardized Testing
District education officials spent much of the summer pledging to meet students’ social and emotional needs upon their return to in-person learning but a growing contingent of teachers took to social media and other forums to say that it had been business as usual in the public school system. One particular qualm centered on data collection mandates and new assessments that teachers of various grades and disciplines had been tasked with giving to students throughout the grading period. Some teachers, including one who spoke to The Informer on the condition of anonymity, said these assessments, called required curricular tasks (RCTs), had not sparked academic growth because they failed to take into account pandemic-related skills gaps.
Students Disrupt MPD Youth Summit
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and George Washington University (GWU) recently hosted what had been described as the first of several meetings with youth to better understand their perspectives about police-community relations. While many students welcomed the opportunity to express their thoughts, a group of young people who attended the MPD Youth Summit condemned it as an attempt to overshadow the work they’ve done for years to amplify youth’s unfiltered perspectives about the policing of Black children. On Saturday, Dec. 4, the group disrupted the MPD Youth Summit, belting chants against MPD Chief Robert J. Contee III and demanding police-free schools. After Contee confronted the youth and MPD officers escorted them outside of Eastern High School in Southeast, they led a protest along East Capitol Street and passed out literature about their cause.
“MPD intended to create this space to be saviors and reach out to youth when youth have reached out for years and it’s been silent,” said one unidentified D.C. public school student.
The student said in the years before the pandemic, he and other affiliates of the Black Swan Academy had campaigned for police-free schools and expansion of mental health services for young people attending District public and public charter schools. Their organizing tactics included public service announcements, forums, events in front of District schools and testimonies before the D.C. Council. All the while, they’ve maintained that MPD leadership had been unresponsive to Black Swan Academy’s concerns, particularly amid protests that erupted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s police-involved murder.
Bowser Expands Gun Violence Intervention Efforts
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced an expansion of the city’s violence prevention and intervention program, including spreading the initiative into new communities. The efforts, managed by Gun Violence Prevention Director Linda K. Harllee Harper with the support of Del McFadden, director of the Office of the Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, now focused on the areas of Congress Park in Ward 8, Shaw in Ward 2 and Edgewood in Ward 5. Bowser said she would use every tool available to her to curb the city’s crime rate. Bowser said $1.1 million would be offered in grants to organizations that work to stop gun violence. Additionally, the Pathways Program would receive $4.5 million in federal funds to aid 130 at-risk residents. McFadden said floating teams of violence interrupters would be created to cover neighborhoods not under the ONSE program. The floating interrupters will work to facilitate peace among quarreling residents. Harper, who runs the city’s Building Blocks DC program launched in February, said helping victimized residents and those engaged in criminal activity to become employed remained a priority for her program. Bowser said jobs were plentiful in the District, even for those with spotty background records.