Members of the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. of Hampton University stand behind trash they helped pick up in Ward 8. (James Wright/The Washington Informer)
Members of the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. of Hampton University stand behind trash they helped pick up in Ward 8. (James Wright/The Washington Informer)

Over 20 volunteers gathered on Nov. 27 to pick up trash in Ward 8’s Anacostia and Fairlawn neighborhoods.

Salim Adofo, the chairman of the 8C advisory neighborhood commission who also chairs the District’s chapter of the National Black United Front, spearheaded the trash pickup.

“It is up to us to clean up our neighborhoods,” Adofo said at the start of the event.

The trash pickup in Ward 8 occurred as a national conversation on citizen-driven cleaning up of neighborhoods begins to take shape.

Penn Today, a publication of the University of Pennsylvania, revealed in an article “Cleaning up Vacant Lots Makes Neighborhoods Safer,” published March 2018, that cleaning up trash-laden homes and blocks can dramatically influence how one perceives the community in which they reside.

The article reported neighborhoods where vacant lots were cleaned up experienced a 29% reduction in gun violence, 22% decrease in burglaries and 30% drop in nuisances like noise complaints and illegal dumping. Additionally, the article reported residents living near those cleaned-up spaces having 58% fewer security concerns and more than 75% saying they participated in more outdoor recreational activities.

Picking up the Trash

Adofo, residents of the Anacostia and Fairlawn neighborhoods and members of the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. of Hampton University started their work in the front lawn of Anacostia High School. Each volunteer received a trash bag and a stick to pick up the garbage.

At the high school, the volunteers pick up mainly crumbled sheets of paper and cups. After they finished at the high school, the volunteers proceeded west until they arrived at the 1500 block of 16th Street SE, where they encountered beer cans, plastic plates, papers, milk cartons, cans, condoms and face masks and a pink kitchen sink in the wooded area across the street beneath the pedestrian bridge.

The volunteers proceeded north on Fairlawn Street SE to pick up trash. They stopped at the intersection of Fairlawn Street and 18th Street SE and headed south to collect the full trash bags they left on the curbs of the street for retrieval. The trash pickup drive ended a few yards short of the 1500 block of 16th Street SE near the wooded area.

Building Enthusiasm for Picking up Trash

Brandon Andrews, who serves as the chairman of the D.C. Commission on National and Community Service, participated in the trash pickup. He said more neighborhoods should have resident-initiated trash pickup programs and money exists to supplement the efforts.

“Many of the city’s advisory neighborhood commissions have programs where residents clean up their communities,” Andrews said. “But there is no citywide program for this. There are funds available through the ANCs and subgrants through Serve DC for organizations that want to engage in this type of activity.”

Camryn Reddick, the parliamentarian of the Gamma Theta chapter, said many of her sorors wanted to participate in community service during the Thanksgiving holiday break.

“We have sorors who celebrated Thanksgiving in Chicago and here in the DMV,” she said. “So sorors got together where they were and said we wanted to do something to help the community. We decided to push ourselves. We saw information about the cleanup in Anacostia and Fairlawn on social media and we contacted Commissioner Adofo.”

Reddick said her sorors had a great time “giving back.”

“It is always good to take time out and clean up the community,” she said.

Adofo said he liked the turnout and the effort put forth by the volunteers.

“It is really good to see college students and residents engaging the community outdoors,” he said. “Cleaning up this area will help guarantee safe passage for children to get to school. When people think of safe passage they think of traffic but they also should think about keeping the community clean. Some bad things can happen to our young people in wooded areas that are not maintained well.”

Adofo understands some residents think the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) should clean neighborhoods. Adofo doesn’t argue with that assertion.

“That is true that DPW is in charge of keeping our city clean but they can’t do it alone,” he said. “We all have to work together to do this. We get better results if we work together.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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