Open Streets in Ward 7 took place on Benning Road in Northeast showcasing businesses and lots of activities for residents and children. (Courtesy of DDOT via Facebook)
Open Streets in Ward 7 took place on Benning Road in Northeast showcasing businesses and lots of activities for residents and children. (Courtesy of DDOT via Facebook)

Hundreds of people walked, biked, roller skated and rode motor scooters in the strip of Benning Road NE that encompasses Minnesota Avenue NE on the west and East Capitol Street on the east to observe the booths and partake in the food and entertainment at the second annual Taste of Ward 7 event held on July 29-30.

The Marshall Heights Community Development Organization (MHCDO) and the D.C. Department of Transportation Open Streets program co-sponsored the event. Vehicles didn’t have access to the Benning Road strip while the Taste of Ward 7 occurred. Derek Ford, a politically and civically active Ward 7 resident walked down the strip on July 30 and observed the festivities with a smile on his face.

“I think this is great,” Ford said. “It is good to see the community to come out and about. It is this type of event that bring the community together.”

The event’s stage stood on the open field next to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington.  The stage had musical entertainment performing throughout the event. A few yards away, five food trucks sold their fares to customers. On the street, a number of vendors representing District agencies and nonprofit transportation advocacy groups had booths and tents. Antoine Thompson, the executive director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition, had a tent with flyers about his organization and his latest cause: encouraging school districts to purchase electric buses.

“In D.C., we want the city to use more electric buses,” Thompson said. “In Maryland, there are hardly any school buses in the state that are run on diesel fuel. This is about clean transportation. Indeed, in three years, the overwhelming majority of cars produced in this country will be electric and Black people need to get ready for that.”

Thompson said he readily agreed to participate in Open Streets segment of the Taste of Ward 7.

“This is a great chance to educate the community about the benefits of clean energy,” he said. “We have had a number of people take our equity survey and learn more about us.”

A replica of a D.C. Circulator bus stood prominently near the western side of the strip while organizations such as Capital Bikeshare, the D.C. Connector and Metro Transit police had tents with staffers on hand.

Some political vendors also set up. Sean Dugar, the executive director of MoreVoicesDC.org, spoke to residents about the movement in the District to institute rank choice voting as the primary mode of casting a ballot. Lon Walls, a public relations entrepreneur, sat next to Dugar as he spoke and handed out literature to interested residents. Candidates seeking to get on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election such as at-large aspirants Karim Marshall and D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) as well as mayoral hopeful Rodney Grant asked people to sign their qualifying petitions while Democratic Party attorney general contender Brian Schwalb mixed with the crowd.

Businesses participated in the Taste of Ward 7 also. Denny’s offered free pancakes while The Tsunami Hair Studio gave out free popcorn, hotdogs and potato chips to snack on while children enjoyed the moon bounce.

Latisha Atkins, MHCDO’s Pennsylvania Avenue East Main Streets director, said the Taste of Ward 7, served its purpose.

“This went really well and the community came out,” Atkins said. “We wanted to highlight and share what is going on in the ward. We hear many residents say that they have limited options in this ward but some are actually surprised what is offered here. Through the Taste of Ward 7, we have the tremendous opportunity to not only support businesses within our community but to promote the viability of the ward as we continue to push for further economic growth that is beneficial and convenient to Ward 7 residents. Next year, we will be bigger and better.”

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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