Community Celebrates, Reflects on Legacy of Dr. King
People from across the DMV filled Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Southeast for The Washington Informer-sponsored 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade & Peace Walk on Jan.15, the birthdate of the iconic leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Participants later gathered at the Barry Farm Recreation and Aquatics Center for other events including a health fair. The “Peace Walk & Parade” has been an area tradition for more than 30 years — initiated in the late 70s by radio talk show host Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Washington Informer Founder/Publisher Dr. Calvin Rolark Sr. and Ward 8 Council member Wilhelmina Rolark — years before King’s birthday became a federal holiday.
Chronic Absenteeism Reported Among Ballou Senior High’s Grads
A report by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education confirmed that more than half of the graduating seniors from Ballou Senior High School’s Class of 2017 graduated without having spent the required time on the premises. According to the report, Ballou teachers felt pressured to pass chronically absent seniors and provide students with extra credit and make-up assignments, regardless of how much time they’d missed. The report’s release, following an explosive expose, prompted DC Public Schools to reassign Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves. Subsequent DC Council hearings and action on the part of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed a rising trend among other District schools: one-of-10 students who graduated from a D.C. school had missed a significant amount of instructional days.
Second Annual Women’s Day March Returns to National Mall
Thousands of women in “pussyhats” returned to the National Mall on January 20 for the second iteration of the Women’s March — the 2017 event touted as an organized response against the anti-woman, anti-LGBT rhetoric of President Donald Trump who once joked about grabbing women by the genitals. The 2018 march, themed “Power to the Polls,” garnered an accompanying gathering in New York City that highlighted the significant number of more than 300 women running for political office in the year’s upcoming midterm elections. The protest’s main event took place one day later in Las Vegas, launching a campaign to get even more women involved in the electoral process in the local, state and federal branches of government.
Jesse Jackson Targets Millennials at Ebenezer Baptist in Oxon Hill
Shortly after revealing his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis, The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a protege of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement, told millennials at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Oxon Hill that King’s work has yet to be fulfilled, especially given the ascent of Donald Trump to the nation’s highest office. In his sermon, he referenced Alabama Governor George Wallace’s refusal to integrate public schools in 1963, noting that Blacks responded at the ballot box, securing the election of a Democratic senator later that year. Howard University students and other young people attending the service later met with Jackson who encouraged them to vote in the 2018 midterm elections and to do whatever they could to prevent the rollback of laws for which King and his contemporaries fought so vigorously.
D.C. Council Approves Public Financing Program for Political Campaigns
Fair election advocates lauded the D.C. Council’s unanimous passage of the Fair Elections Act of 2017 that henceforth provides the public financing of political campaigns of those who refuse to accept contributions from corporations and interest groups. The legislation, introduced by nine of the 13 council members, states that qualified candidates will receive a 5-to-1 match of small donations as a base grant. To the chagrin of D.C.’s shadow delegates, only those running for mayor, D.C. Council or the Office of the Attorney may receive grants. The Fair Elections Act is estimated to cost $5 million annually. A coalition of more than 70 organizations circulated a petition endorsing the legislation. Upon its passage, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said she wouldn’t fund the Fair Elections Act, slated to start during the 2020 election cycle, in her upcoming budget proposal.
Seasoned WI Columnist Askia Muhammad Releases Autobiography
Veteran journalist, photographer, poet and longtime Washington Informer columnist Askia Muhammad released his long-awaited work, “The Autobiography of Charles 67X,” chronicling his impressive career in journalism, along with vignettes about his personal life, spiritual devotion to the Nation of Islam and growing political and racial consciousness. Muhammad, born Charles K. Moreland Jr. to a single mother in Indianola, Mississippi, has served a bevy of news organizations in his decades-long career, including The Chicago Defender, The Final Call, Newsweek and National Public Radio and counts among the pioneers of the journalism industry, due in part to his coverage of the Carter administration. Muhammad’s book, released in February, included a never-before-released photo with then-Senator Barack Obama and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan that Muhammad had agreed to withhold due to its potential impact on the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.
Obama Portraits Unveiled at National Portrait Gallery
The atrium of the National Portrait Gallery in Northwest overflowed with political and cultural luminaries — including Joe Biden, Eric Holder, Michelle Norris and Steven Spielberg — who celebrated the unveiling of former President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama’s portraits, now part of an extensive collection of artistic renderings of U.S. heads of state and their wives. The event occurred on the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln who attributed his presidential victory to his portrait artist. What made this occasion unique, however, was the introduction of Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, Black artists hailing from Brooklyn and Baltimore, respectively, and the masterminds behind the abstract portrayals of the nation’s first Black president and first lady, unlike any ever conceived. At the event’s conclusion, actress CCH Pounder noted that the portraits would become a game-changer for the two artists.
Antwan Wilson Resigns as Chancellor Amid Enrollment Scandal
Chancellor Antwan Wilson offered his resignation to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) days after news broke of his misuse of the school lottery system. According to reports, Deputy Mayor of Education Jennifer Niles gave Wilson’s daughter preferential treatment for an out-of-boundary school assignment, violating a mayoral order given last year. Wilson’s daughter gained entrance into Wilson Senior High School instead of attending Dunbar High School, her neighborhood program, prompting calls from some D.C. council members, and others, that he resign. Wilson, who had only served a year as chancellor before his resignation, sat at the helm of the Oakland Unified School District in California before moving to D.C. to replace Kaya Henderson. Longtime DCPS official Amanda Alexander took over as interim chancellor. Wilson’s actions prompted an investigation by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General.
Terrence Sterling’s Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit
The District reached a $3.5 million settlement — the highest reportedly given in the aftermath of a police-involved shooting death — with the family of Terrence Sterling, a District man who had been fatally shot during an attempted arrest for reckless driving. Sterling’s family originally sought $50 million from the city after Officer Brian Trainer shot Sterling in the neck and back on the morning of September 11, 2016. Seconds before, Sterling allegedly struck the police car door while trying to get around Trainer and his partner on 3rd and M streets in Northwest during a police stop. Though he faced no criminal charges, the Metropolitan Police Department internal review board recommended Turner be fired, as he had not been defending himself or others during the incident. Trainer, who appealed the board’s decision, didn’t turn on his body cam before the incident. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) echoed the police department’s calls for Turner’s resignation, saying “there could be no real accountability if the officer is still on the force.”
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Memorialized in Bronze
Thousands, including council colleagues and political rivals, braved the cold weather and gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue for the unveiling of an eight-foot statue made in the likeness of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, the political stalwart and civil rights icon affectionately known as “Mayor for Life.” Barry, who transitioned in 2014, served four terms as mayor and 16 years on the D.C. Council. In her public remarks, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) credited Barry with championing Home Rule, paving the way for the revitalization of Chinatown and the H Street corridor, launching the city’s marquee summer jobs program and expanding the District’s middle class. According to the mayor’s office, Barry stands as only one of three African-American figures with a statue in the nation’s capital.
Councilman White, Residents Protest Bozzuto Project
With claims circulating that Bozzuto Construction Company had failed to extend employment opportunities for Ward 8 residents in the construction of the ward’s Maple View Flats, a crowd of protestors, including Ward 8 Council member Trayon White (D), forced the suspension of work by the construction company who sent construction workers home for two consecutive days. At a later community meeting, White asked for a list of Ward 8 residents working on the project, discovering that just three out of 60 names forwarded to him could verify their participation in the development. Reaction to the project revealed deeper fears about displacement. A subsequent hiring fair yielded less than 10 jobs for Ward 8 residents, a Bozzuto representative said. Maple View Flats, located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast, has over 100 affordable housing units, 87 of which will become one-bedroom dwellings and a Starbucks franchise. Those conditions, residents said, speak to concerns about an impending displacement of current families.
African Diaspora-Focused Mahogany Books Opens in Anacostia
More than a decade after its founding, a husband-and-wife duo transformed their online book store into a brick-and-mortar location inside the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road in Southeast. Their store, Mahogany Book, has a collection of more than 1,000 works by authors of African descent. Book aficionados living in Anacostia heralded Mahogany’s opening as a win for the community — the last frontier in a quickly gentrifying city that suffers from high rates of illiteracy. Mahogany Books has received endorsements from Go on Girl! Book Club and the Hurston Wright Foundation. Founders Derrick and Ramunda Young said they want to integrate technology to reach people globally as illustrated in a live-streamed poetry event held within weeks of Mahogany’s opening.
D.C. Youth Join Other Teens in ‘March for Our Lives’
Hundreds of thousands of people, including local teenagers traumatized by gun violence, converged on the National Mall in efforts to honor victims and pressure U.S. lawmakers to pass sweeping anti-gun legislation. Survivors of the 2017 shooting at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida organized the event. Participating D.C. youth used the protest to publicize and voice their concerns with local elected officials. Some came on behalf of friends — innocent victims like Zaire Kelly, a Thurgood Marshall Academy student fatally shot during a robbery attempt last year. The march drew national attention, attracting “star power” the likes of George Clooney, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Common and Demi Lovato. Yolanda Renee King, the nine-year-old granddaughter of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke, telling onlookers, “I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun-free world, period.”
HU Students Hold Sit-in, Occupy Administration Building
Hundreds of Howard University students protested for more than a week following the dismissal of six administrators found guilty of misappropriation of financial aid. A student group, “HU Resist,” led the protest at the University’s administration building and lodged several demands that included the resignation of university president, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick. However, the call for him to step down would later be rescinded. University officials did meet other student demands such as an overhaul of the school’s sexual assault policy, a review of policies that allow police officers to carry weapons, the creation of a food bank to serve students and residents in the surrounding community and agreeing to consider both a freeze of undergraduate tuition rates and adding more adequate campus housing for students.
NAACP Files Lawsuit Against Trump, Census Bureau
The NAACP, along with the Prince George’s County NAACP bureau and county resident H. Elizabeth Johnson, filed a lawsuit March 28 against President Donald Trump, U.S. Census Bureau and Secretary of Commerce to ensure minority populations are accurately counted in the 2020 census. According to the suit, the county had one of the highest undercounts in the nation at 2.3 percent in the 2010 census. Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said the county lost about $200 million in federal money due to inadequate census data, emphasizing how the lost funds could have been used for school and road improvements and other needs. A judge ruled in July on a separate lawsuit to be heard in regard to a proposed citizenship question on the upcoming census and whether it might deter legal immigrants from responding, thereby decreasing the number of people counted in a jurisdiction. Both lawsuits remain pending. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump nominated Steven Dillingham to head the Census Bureau and replace Acting Director Ron Jarmin. As of Dec. 20, Congress still had not confirmed Dillingham’s appointment.
Aminta Breaux: Bowie State’s First Female President
Following an emotionally-charged inauguration ceremony, Aminta Breaux became Bowie State University’s president April 12 and the first woman to lead in the school’s 153-year history. During her tenure, the school established the Maguire Foundation scholar’s program for students who reside in underserved communities, particularly youth in southeastern Pennsylvania. In September, Trump appointed Breaux along with 12 other college presidents and business leaders to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In November, Breaux and Maryland lawmakers hosted a celebration to launch a scholarship in honor of the late Lt. Richard Collins III who died in November 2017 after being shot and killed by a University of Maryland student on the College Park campus. In a statement, Breaux noted that the school’s marching band, Symphony of Soul, had been placed on a one-year probation after investigators determined members violated a policy on hazing and the student code of conduct.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92
Former first lady Barbara Bush died April 17 at the age of 92. Bush, married to one president and mother to both another president and a former Florida governor, decided to forgo further medical treatments days before her death. Bush endorsed The Washington Informer Spelling Bee and invited WI Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes and a crew from NBC-4 to the White House to record a message of encouragement to the nearly 2,000 participants who sought to represent D.C. in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Bush remained married for 73 years to former President George H.W. Bush who died Nov. 30 at age 94.
Wizards Advance to NBA Playoffs
The Washington Wizards faced the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. On April 22, Washington won Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2. However, Toronto took control in the next two games and ended Washington’s season April 27 at Capital One Arena in Northwest. So far, the 2018-19 season has been a struggle for the Wizards whose record stands below .500. The team recently traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to the Phoenix Suns for veteran forward Trevor Ariza who played two seasons in the District (2012-14). Ariza, 33, had one of his best seasons as a pro in the 2013-14 averaging 14 points and six rebounds. The Wizards lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals that season against the Indiana Pacers. As for Ariza’s second stint with the Wizards, he averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 steals in two back-to-back road losses.
Prince George’s Schools Superintendent Resigns
Kevin Maxwell resigns as the CEO of Prince George’s County public schools after a myriad of controversial incidents that included allegations of grade inflation, excessive student absences and pay raises for central office staff outside his office. Also, the school system was stripped of $6 million from a federal agency earmarked for a Head Start program following allegations of child abuse and neglect. In July, Monica Goldson took over as interim CEO. In her prior position with PGCPS, the 27-year veteran served as deputy superintendent of teaching and learning and chief operating officer. In one of her first administrative actions in October, she announced a reorganization of the central office estimated to reap $2.4 million in savings. About $800,000 will go toward reimbursement for teachers who purchased school supplies — each instructor allowed to apply for up to $100 in compensation. Goldson, a county native, now serves as one of the top three Black women leaders in Prince George’s along with County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.
Bill Cosby on House Arrest after Sexual Assault Conviction
A judge placed Bill Cosby under house arrest after his conviction April 26 on three counts of aggravated indecent sexual assault against former Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. Although dozens of women accused Cosby of harassment or sexual assault, Constand’s case became the only one that led to criminal charges. In September, the long-time comedian received a three- to 10-year sentence. One month later, his legal team filed a petition to have Cosby released which includes a notarized document from former District Attorney Bruce Castor of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Castor claims sealed civil dispositions used to convict Cosby should have never been used in the trial. Although eventually unsealed, Castor agreed no future district attorney could use them to convict Cosby. In addition, Castor acknowledged a long-standing feud with county Judge Steven T. O’Neill who presided over Cosby’s trials including the trial that led to Cosby’s assault conviction. Cosby’s wife, Camille, filed a complaint in September with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The same group rejected a complaint filed by a group of lawyers and individuals not associated with Cosby’s criminal trials that accused misconduct by O’Neill and Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele. Camille Cosby also penned an exclusive op-ed for the Black Press that decried the treatment of her husband by O’Neill and Steele.
Black Panther Pounces on Students at Howard Graduation
Actor and Howard University alum Chadwick Boseman gave the keynote speech at the school’s 150th commencement May 11. Boseman, a 2000 graduate, received an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters. He starred in the year’s Marvel Comics blockbuster film “Black Panther” — one of the highest grossing movies ever. He joined others who received honorary degrees: Vivian W. Pinn, former National Institutes of Health associate director; and Colbert I. King and his wife, Gwendolyn Stewart King. The acclaimed actor has portrayed several historic Black figures during his career: fellow Howard alumnus and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Hall of Fame baseball player Jackie Robinson; and James Brown, known as the “Godfather of Soul.” Boseman said he plans to lead a campaign to create a separate college of fine arts at Howard currently within a division the university’s college of arts and sciences. At the end of his speech, Boseman crossed his arms across his chest and said, “Howard forever.”
Stacey Abrams Wins Democratic Nomination in Georgia
Stacey Abrams became the first Black woman to win the Democratic primary in Georgia’s gubernatorial race and sought to be the first Black woman governor in the nation. The May 22 victory marked a historic change in Georgia politics and a focus on the Deep South. However, the Spelman alumna who later graduated from Yale Law School, lost in November’s bitter general election against Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams joined two other Black gubernatorial candidates, former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, as progressive voices emerging onto the national political landscape. As for Abrams, who turned 45 in December, she supports a lawsuit filed weeks after the election to overturn state laws which highlight how election officials closed and relocated polling places and the claim that some voters never received requested absentee ballots while other voters had to stand in line for hours before they casting their ballot. Kemp worked as Georgia’s Secretary of State and remained at that position to oversee and administer elections. According to recent published reports, Abrams may seek to run for the state Senate in the 2020 election or take on Kemp again in 2022.
Washington Mystics Advance to WNBA Finals
The Washington Mystics signed superstar forward Elena Delle Donne last season who helped the franchise advance to the playoffs. This year, the 29-year-old veteran led Washington to a good start with an 82-75 season-opener victory May 20 against the Indiana Fever. That first win helped Washington propel itself to its first ever WNBA Finals against the Seattle Storm. Unfortunately, the Storm swept the Mystics in three straight games in September to capture Seattle’s second championship. As for Delle Donne, she made the WNBAs All-First Team and was ranked in the top five in scoring and top 10 in rebounding. In her first season in Washington, point guard Kristi Toliver ranked third in the WNBA in minutes per game and 10th in assists. Toliver currently works as an assistant coach for player development with the Washington Wizards and became the organization’s first woman on the coaching staff. She’s also the first Black woman ever hired in the NBA and the fourth woman overall behind Nancy Lieberman (Sacramento Kings), Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs) and Jenny Bo Jenny Boucek (Dallas Mavericks).
DC Streets Bleed Red, Fans Celebrate Caps during Stanley Cup Victory Parade
Thousands of fans, some die-hard others more casual, supported the Washington Capitals, flooding into downtown D.C. on June 12 to celebrate the team’s first ever Stanley Cup Championship in its 44-year history. It also marked the region’s first professional championship and parade since 1992. Metro workers distributed “WE WON THE CUP!” and “WE ARE #ALLCAPS” signs to commuters at various Metrorail stations. Some hoisted signs along the festive parade route filled with cheers, beer and red beads tossed by the players from firetrucks, buses and other vehicles. Thousands wore red Capitals sweaters, t-shirts and other paraphernalia and greeted each other like long, lost friends. A portion of a speech from Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin may became one of the most remembered in D.C. sports history: “We’re not going to [expletive] suck this year. We’re Stanley Cup Champions. Yeah! It’s yours, boys and girls!” As for the 2018-19 season, the Capitals currently lead the Metropolitan Division and rank sixth in the National Hockey League in goal’s scored. As of Dec. 20, Ovechkin, 33, leads all players in goals scored with 29.
Mayor Bowser Cruises in Democratic Primary
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser easily won the June 19 Democratic primary, garnering nearly 60,000 votes while the runner-up, James Butler, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 5, received about 7,500 votes. As the mayor celebrated her victory with supporters at Town in Northwest, a few members of the District’s Black Lives Matter movement expressed their dissatisfaction with Bowser because of increased murders among Blacks. They yelled “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” The mayor’s supported shouted over them with repeated chants of “Four more years!” After last month’s general election, Bowser became the first mayor since Anthony Williams in 2002 to become re-elected to a second term. About eight days after the election, Bowser launched a campaign for residents to submit comments on what they want for the city. Also, a Second Term Working Group will recommend future policies and processes for the city that’s scheduled to be released next month.
Ben Jealous Wins Stunning Victory in Gubernatorial Primary
Former NAACP president Ben Jealous received about 40 percent of the vote in Maryland’s gubernatorial Democratic primary against eight other candidates on the ballot. Jealous presented a progressive agenda that included health care for all Marylanders, ending mass incarceration and providing free tuition for those attending the state’s community colleges. Jealous, during his first foray into elected politics, won 22 of the 24 jurisdictions in the state. He only lost Prince George’s County by less than 16,000 votes and Calvert County by 52 votes. However, the general election campaign didn’t go so well as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan won re-election for a second, four-year term in one of the most liberal states in the nation where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1. Hogan garnered more than 1.2 million votes and won 20 out of 24 counties. Although Jealous won the three main jurisdictions of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City, he didn’t capture enough votes. Hogan won the three main Baltimore suburbs of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties. More important, Hogan had $9.4 million for his re-election campaign in August, more than 10 times the amount of Jealous.
Alsobrooks Easily Snags Democratic Nomination
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks stood atop nine candidates June 26, receiving 62 percent of the vote to win the Democratic nomination for county executive. Alsobrooks ran in a contested race against the top challenger, former Rep. Donna Edwards, who criticized her opponent for being “on the side of developers.” A super political action campaign called “We Are Prince George’s” contributed $660,000 for campaign signs, polling and other materials to the Edwards campaign. Some political observers considered a Super PAC unusual in a county election. Meanwhile, the Alsobrooks campaign calculated that 70 percent of contributions came from the county with donations of $6,000 or less. Alsobrooks received public support from residents, community and religious leaders and local, county and state politicians. She ran unopposed in the November election to become Prince George’s first woman ever elected county executive. In her first public appearance as county executive-elect at Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier, she spoke about boosting the county’s arts and tourism industry. In her Dec. 3 inauguration ceremony speech, she expressed optimism and the importance of collaboration as she’s poised to lead the state’s second largest jurisdiction.
Metro’s Largest Union Threatens to Strike
Metro’s largest union threatened to authorize a strike due to what its officials described as constant disrespect toward workers by the agency CEO and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. In a statement released on July 16, workers laid out their feelings toward Wiedefeld and his failure to adhere to a collective bargaining agreement particularly in light of the fact that their contract expired in 2016, followed by binding arbitration ordered last year. “For the past two years, ATU Local 689 has come to the WMATA board demonstrating to them the many ways Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld — the man that they hired — had been pissing on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between ATU Local 689 and WMATA and they still don’t get it,” according to the statement. “It is time for him to take responsibility for his failure to hold up his end of the agreement and stop blaming his workers for the incompetence of him and his team.” The strike ultimately did not happen.
DC First in Nation to Establish Green Bank Policy
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the District of Columbia Green Finance Authority Establishment Act of 2018 into law this week, officially making the city the first in the country to establish the innovative “green bank” policy. Green banks are capitalized with public funds which are then used to offer loans, leases, credit enhancements and other financing services to close funding gaps for clean energy projects, according to the mayor’s office. By creating a green bank, DC will be able to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technology by removing upfront costs, leveraging private investment and increasing the efficiency of public dollars, the office said in a statement in July as Bowser signed the legislation.
Metro to Sell Jackson Graham Building
Metro’s board of directors in mid-July green-lighted agency officials to begin the process of selling the Jackson Graham Building in Northwest, which has served as its headquarters since 1974. According to a proposal released before its weekly board meeting, the transit agency would save about $134.5 million over 20 years with the sale and subsequent acquisitions of regional offices in Maryland and Virginia. The proposal would reduce the total office footprint for the new headquarters by 100,000 square feet. In addition, the agency would decrease ownership and leasing of buildings in the region from 10 to seven.
“The conclusions of the office consolidation strategy are that Metro should sell JGB and acquire new office space in each Washington, D.C., and surrounding Maryland and Virginia,” the proposal states. “Washington, D.C., would continue to serve as Metro’s headquarters location, which is centrally located for Metro’s stakeholders across the region.”
Street Artists Blast Council’s Proposed Noise Bill
As the summer heated up in July, pending legislation penalizing high noise levels in public spaces brought temperatures to a boil for some as artists argued that such a bill could discourage street vocalists and instrumentalists from making what Percussionist Malik Dope Drummer asserted has been a lucrative career move. That’s why his attention turned to rallying support among his fellow performers to protect a resource he said afforded him numerous opportunities as a performer and entrepreneur.
“This bill would make people who use their talent of instrumentation less motivated. It would make them not want to be out there so much anymore,” the artist, whose real name is Malik Stewart, told The Informer days after attending and livestreaming a July 3 D.C. Council hearing about the Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018. If passed, the bill would expand noise protections to residences in the District’s commercial areas. It would also impose a $300 fine and 10-day jail sentence on street performers repeatedly cited for playing amplified sound that travels beyond 100 feet in a public space.
Ben’s Chili Bowl Celebrates 60th Anniversary
Ben’s Chili Bowl in northwest D.C., which has been a staple in the U Street community and the nation’s capital for 60 years, celebrated in grand style with a block party and tribute to owner Virginia Ali, widow of the namesake founder. The block party took place on Wednesday, Aug. 22 outside the restaurant at 1213 U Street. The event was followed with an anniversary celebration gala, “A Tribute to Virginia Ali,” next door at the historic Lincoln Theater.
“All of us at Ben’s are humbled by and thankful for the love and support we constantly receive from our guests and the city of Washington, D.C. as we continue to build upon the rich history of community service that Ben’s has been known for throughout the years,” the family said in a statement.
Visitors to D.C. have often heard about Ben’s Chili Bowl long before their arrival. Many remember the news of President Barack Obama stopping by to enjoy a chili half-smoke. The restaurant has been featured on TV shows such as “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Daily Show,” “Man vs. Food,” “Oprah,” “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning” and “Larry King Live” and has been profiled by countless other local, national and international shows, newspapers and magazines.
DC Expands Affordable Housing Targets ‘Grandfamilies’
Two noteworthy statistics unearthed in August revealed the number of children nationwide who reside with an estimated 2.9 million grandparents — a number released by The Children’s Defense Fund in 2017 that has continued to rise annually since the mid 1990s; and several changes among contemporary social conditions that have been attributed to today’s surge in “grandfamilies.”
But years ahead of the need for safe, affordable housing for “grandfamilies,” a Pentecostal preacher from Columbus, Ohio, who moved to the District at the age of 19, first preaching on the streets with a fireplug as his pulpit before founding the Bible Way Church in Northwest that would one day become a global ministry, saw a need.
Bishop Smallwood E. Williams discerned that leaders of the District needed to provide better options for the elderly, the poor and particularly for Blacks and other minorities. In August, his vision, which first took shape after construction plans by the city for the highway threatened the physical existence of his church and led Smallwood to advocate, working with both federal officials and D.C government for the construction of affordable housing for seniors that would also include an intergenerational center, has become a reality.
Protests Counter White Supremacists Rally in District
About two dozen organizations held a protest to counter a White supremacist rally in D.C., one year after a similar rally in Charlottesville, Virginia resulted in the death of a counter-protester.
“Our lives were forever changed on August 12, 2017, when neo-Nazis, KKK, militia members and alt-right trolls from across the U.S. and North America converged on the town of Charlottesville, Virginia for their Unite the Right rally,” Black Lives Matter said in a statement.
“White supremacists lit torches and attacked students as young as 17 last year while the police looked on and did nothing.”
A mix of anti-fascist, or antifa, groups and affiliates joined forces for the protest. Organizers included Black Lives Matter D.C., Maryland Antifa, Smash Racism D.C., the Socialist Party of D.C. and other progressive groups.
Using the hashtag #DefendDC, the groups called on “all anti-fascists and people of good conscience” to mass mobilize and participate days of protests Aug. 10-12.
Surge of Overdoses Bring K2 Epidemic to the Forefront
K2, the synthetic cannabinoid that causes hallucinations and paranoia, propelled the District toward a crisis once again in August as law enforcement officials and grass-roots activists struggled to close loopholes in current laws amid hundreds of recent overdoses. For some, like community activist Ron Moten, the K2 epidemic has never stopped. He said the product, over the last two years, has earned a spot among a handful of narcotics that young people and other vulnerable populations in D.C.’s majority-Black, low-income communities use to escape substandard conditions in an economically vibrant city.
“This generation is using K2 for recreation and they’re getting hooked,” Moten said while describing an Aug. 10 event at Check-It Enterprises in Southeast where youth, public health experts and law enforcement officials will discuss the epidemic. “I don’t think we’ve come up with a plan to deal with it.”
In late 2015, amid a similar crisis, Moten and Chis, the front man of go-go group Takeova Band, spearheaded an anti-K2 campaign with a CD addressing the issue. Other efforts have brought large signs to Metro stations and other public spaces throughout the Greater Washington Area that feature lifeless beings in a graveyard and warn against the rise of “zombies” — an allusion to the psychotic episodes K2 users often experience.
Metro GM Secures a New Two-Year Contract
Metro board of directors approved a two-year contract extension in September for agency General Manager Paul Wiedefeld which would allow the leader of the second-largest transit agency in the nation to receive a nearly 10 percent increase for a base salary of $435,000. According to an employment amendment, severance benefits will increase from 12 to 24 months “for termination without cause.”
Although Wiedefeld still had one more year under his current four-year term scheduled to end Nov. 2019, board chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans said this allows leadership to remain intact and maintain “stability of Metro.”
“I want to make sure that he stays, and I want to be sure his senior staff who work for Metro … [stay] as well,” said Evans, who joined six other colleagues to approve the contract extension. “We have a very good general manager and staff who are being pursued by other transit organizations. I would not want to see them leave.”
Bowser Cuts Ribbon on Family Housing Program, The Kennedy
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser cut the ribbon on September 25 on The Kennedy, a short-term family housing program in Ward 4, marking another step forward in her vow to close and replace the outdated DC General Family Shelter with dignified, service-enriched programs across all eight wards.
The Kennedy, located on 5th Street in Northwest, became the first of three short-term family housing programs opening this fall.
“Coming into office, I promised we would close DC General and replace it with programs throughout the District that do a better job of supporting our most vulnerable families.” Bowser said. “[Now], we are making good on that commitment. With this short-term family housing program in Ward 4, we will be able to provide families with the shelter and resources they need to get back on their feet and back into permanent housing quickly. By working together, our community can and will make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring.”
Families at The Kennedy will have access to service-enriched programming to help them stabilize and exit homelessness. The site includes 45 family units, computer labs for the residents, administrative space for staff and providers, an outdoor playground and recreational space, an indoor recreation space, a homework/study lounge for residents and other amenities.
Bowser Appears on NBC’s ‘Today’ Show with Adopted Baby
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser showed off her newly-adopted baby girl in September during a segment of NBC’s “Today” show. Bowser, 46, who adopted her 14-week-old daughter Miranda Elizabeth in May as a single parent, said when she held her for the first time, she knew they would always be together.
“I never thought I wouldn’t be a mom.” Bowser told “Today” host Hoda Kotb during a visit to the mayor’s home in northwest D.C. “I did feel like that part of me was missing and I knew that I had a lot of love to pour into a child. And I didn’t know how long the process would take.”
Bowser, who secretly began the adoption process last year, admitted she was inspired by Kotb’s own adoption of an infant.
“I literally sat up on my bed, the edge of my bed, watching the ‘Today’ show when you shared your experience and I was like, ‘She has a lot of my vital statistics, so let me listen here,’” said Bowser, who is running for re-election.
“The message I hope to send is that families are made in all kinds of ways and they are all special,” she said. “And we should celebrate family in whatever way that children are loved.”
Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes Earns Prestigious Award
The Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC) announced in September that Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, had been named a 2018 Top 100 MBE recipient.
The prestigious award recognizes owners of minority business enterprises in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia who have demonstrated exceptional entrepreneurial accomplishments, a high level of professionalism and have made substantial contributions to their community. Established in 2007, the Top 100 MBE Awards ceremony welcomes nearly 1,000 attendees in celebration of the creativity and innovation of regional MBEs who are role models and inspire the entire community.
Sharon R. Pinder, CRMSDC’s president and CEO, said, “Our board of directors and our corporate members congratulate the 2018 Top 100 MBEs on their stellar accomplishments. We are proud to add this year’s class of winners to our circle of leadership.”
The Top 100 MBE Awards will be presented at the CRMSDC’s 37th annual Leaders and Legends Awards Ceremony, on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at the MGM National Harbor.
Rolark Barnes said, “I am honored and excited to be recognized and to be among such an outstanding group of awardees. I am grateful to our staff, clients, partners and family for their commitment to The Washington Informer’s success.”
Mother of Philando Castillo Bring Message to DC School
Demont “Picasso” Pinder happened to be hosting philanthropist Valerie Castile in Washington that same day and so a unique confluence of art and activism was brought to about 20 jersey-clad members of the football team who sat spellbound by stories from Castile and Wiley Brown of the Chuck Brown Band. The gathering took place in October at Kingsman Academy Public Charter School in Northeast.
Castile’s firstborn son Philando worked in the Minnesota school system as a cook until he was killed by police during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016. The incident was highly controversial as the police alternately claimed that Castile had a broken taillight and also that he “fit the description” of a robbery suspect who had a wide-set nose.
His mother emphasized the need to be compliant and careful when dealing with the police as young Black men in America.
“I did everything humanly possible to protect my son by giving him the information that he needed to be a productive citizen,” she said. “If you want to carry a gun, you get your permit to carry. He did all of that. He was responsible and he was respectful, but he was still killed by the police.”
Emergency Legislation Prevents Providence Hospital Closing
As he sat in his chair on a chilly October evening, Council member Vincent C. Gray (Ward 7) pondered over the news he’d heard earlier in the summer when Providence Hospital announced plans to close acute care services by year’s end, continuing their previously detailed decision to exit inpatient psychiatric and obstetrical care services.
But when the hospital failed to send a representative to a recent hearing that Gray scheduled in his stead as the chairman for the Council’s Committee on Health — one which resulted in hours of testimony from residents and advocates on the negative impact the closure would have on those who live East of the River — he said that the situation, particularly a Dec. 14th date on which Providence said it would officially “transition out of all services,” (excluding its facility for nursing care and primary-care services) had grown to one best described as “beyond dangerous.”
But as the council member predicted, emergency legislation that he introduced with Council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) was approved on Oct. 16. The Clarification of Hospital Closure Procedure Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2018 passed unanimously. Later, Providence extended the deadline date until April 2019.
Domestic Violence Bill Lies Dormant in DC Council
D.C. Council members Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) introduced legislation earlier in the year requiring barbers and cosmetologists obtaining and renewing their licenses in the District to undergo training that would help them recognize signs of domestic violence and sexual assault in their customers and connect them with resources. In October, the bill still lay dormant.
After a council recess and vigorous discussion around tipped workers’ wages, amplified noise in public areas, evictions and a bevy of other issues, this bill, one of a rare few to materialize nationwide in the #MeToo era, lied dormant under committee review with no plans in place to schedule a public hearing about the law.
“This is a great bill that could make a big difference. Given the significance of the ‘Me Too’ movement and the importance of addressing domestic violence, the bill hasn’t received as much attention as I think it deserves,” said Joshua Fleitman, Todd’s director of communications.
“A lot of women will share personal life experiences with barbers and cosmetologists and for that reason, they are in an excellent position to notice signs of domestic violence,” he added.
Shaw’s Lincoln Temple United Church Folds after 149 Years
Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ was packed with people and tearful emotions as hundreds gathered for the final service of a church that has been a beacon of faith in the Shaw community for 149 years. During a three-hour service, people sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as well as “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand.” Then a plethora of ministers prayed, a baptism took place and then the congregation took part in a responsive reading that chronicled the church’s rich legacy and various ministries.
“It was amazing and a blessing. Even in times of struggle God still showed up,” said the Reverend Barbara Breyland, pastor of Lincoln Congregational, who preached for the last time in a sanctuary that was filled with more pastors and visitors than the usual entire Sunday congregation which had dwindled to as few as 20 people.
“After today, I won’t have a job,” joked Breland during the service which the Informer reported in its Oct. 3 editions.
Transportation Forum Held at Capitol Hotel
Regional business leaders converged on the Capitol Hilton Hotel in northwest D.C. for a transportation forum aimed at improving transit between Baltimore and Richmond. The forum, held in November, generated several ideas including increased tolls on roadways near business districts, the expansion and modernization of D.C.’s Union Station and building both mixed-use and affordable housing developments so low-income residents have more access to mass transit.
One topic of discussion was a recently-released report titled “Capital Region Blueprint for Regional Mobility” which suggests ways local and state governments in Maryland, the District and Virginia can make transportation more cost-effective.
“The blueprint builds off of prior plans and recommendations for our region uniting many different efforts and coordinating good ideas from many sources into a strategy intended to move us forward together,” said Jason Miller, CEO of the Greater Washington Partnership which issued the report.
The 40-page report released Monday, Nov. 26 comes two weeks after Amazon announced its plan to build new headquarters in New York City and Arlington County, Virginia.
Congresswoman Norton Ramps up Statehood Push
At the start of the 115th Congress, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton formally asked the speaker of the House for the ability to vote on amendments and procedural issues. And, as has been routine during a Republican-majority Congress, Norton’s request met with denial. However, with Democrats set to take over as the majority in the House for the 116th Congress, Norton may finally get her wish.
“The Democrats are talking about restoring her vote on the House floor in what’s called the Committee of the Whole, which considers amendments even though she will not be able to vote on final passage,” Norton’s communications director Benjamin Fritsch confirmed to The Washington Informer in November.
It was a vote that Norton enjoyed from 1991 to 1994, when Democrats controlled the House and again from 2006 to 2010. However, seeking to maintain a voting advantage over Democrats in the House, Republicans regularly took away that vote. Fritsch said Norton has always been able to vote in standing committees, such as Oversight and Government Reform and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — just not floor votes.
Civil Rights Trailblazer Dr. Janette Hoston Harris Dies
Dr. Janette Hoston Harris, D.C. historian and fierce freedom fighter, died Friday, Nov. 2 in her District home. She was 79. Harris was one of six Southern University students arrested in 1960 for attempting to desegregate an all-white lunch counter in Baton Rouge. The group was subsequently expelled from the university and, by order of the governor, prohibited from attending any college in the state.
“The Southern University family expresses our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Dr. Harris,” Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System and chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus, said in a statement to Baton Rouge television station WBRZ.
“While a student here, she bravely participated in one of the most prolific sit-ins in Baton Rouge as part of this nation’s civil rights movement,” Belton said. “For this and her many contributions nationally, we will always salute her.”
Bonds, Silverman Prevail in DC Council Races
After months of political intrigue and jockeying more reflective of a political reality television show, D.C. Council members Anita Bonds (D) and Elissa Silverman (I) retained their seats in an at-large council race that highlighted significant local issues and revealed deep-seated racial and political schisms.
Shortly before the D.C. Board of Elections declared her a winner, Silverman, reluctant to relish in her victory, made known her commitment to continuing her progressive streak, mending fences with political rivals and addressing the concerns of the District’s most vulnerable residents.
“We’re making sure that we take care of families, implement paid family leave and close our achievement gaps in the schools,” said Silverman while celebrating with campaign staff and supporters at Tabard Inn in Northwest.
On Election Night, she gained nearly 27 percent of the vote compared to opponent Dionne Reeder’s 15 percent.
Compiled by Stacy Brown, William J. Ford, Sam Collins and D. Kevin McNeir