Enough! Southwest Voice Condemns the "Rawest Forms of Racism" in DC Following $20 million in Public Park Renovation Amidst Vast Inequity

May 19, 2024

I previously wrote about the $17 million investment at Randall park. The $3 million price tag for the Town Center park project between Westminster and Christ United has been announced and adds insult to injury. The District has some of the worst disparities in this country. In a recent hearing, Councilmember Henderson complained of the 20-year difference in life expectancy between the poorest and wealthiest neighborhoods. The educational gap is an utter embarrassment. The District has barely improved outcomes in 25 years and has yet to return to pre-pandemic attendance and educational outcomes. A fewer percentage of students who do enroll in college are graduating with a degree within five years. White wealth is 81x greater than Black wealth in DC. The income divide between Blacks and Whites in DC increased to $100,000 in the last decade. Already having one of the most fatal opioid overdose rates in the country, opioid overdose deaths in DC reached a record high in 2023.

 

A single displaced heritage tree can result in a fine upwards of $1,000s yet the District or developers pay zero consequences for Black displacement. The District is the number one city for Black displacement in the US in the 21st century - determined by combining the results of two major studies. Meanwhile, the District concedes unprecedented public dollars to corporate interests - both the District-financed baseball and soccer stadiums were the most expensive for their respective leagues when built. $500 million for Capital One Arena on top of other public financing! Any public asset from land, parks, government buildings, and schools have become the basis for corporate contract making while the material and health condition for DC's large poor and low-wealth populations hardly improves, if at all. 


The District tolerated and encouraged environmental racism in Southwest and throughout many pockets of the city - unlawfully relaxing or ignoring federal and District environmental regulation standards. Then, it refused to follow the law on environmental impact assessments when it passed the Comprehensive Plan in 2021. It allowed for an increase of 200 million square feet of land/air rights for "matter of right" development and didn't care to conduct an environmental impact assessment. The Office of Attorney General is currently misleading the court to say that DC's 6-page document was an "environmental impact assessment." It sold the undeveloped parcels at 4th and M St for less than $100. It sold the land on which The Eliot sits and did not require a single affordable housing unit. It excluded affordable housing at South Capitol and M St. Over the objection of St. Dominic's call for affordable housing on its former land prior to urban renewal, DC sold its eminent domain land at Capitol Square Place to make way for luxury townhouses. 


The District has steadily eroded the boundaries of Southwest to make way for luxury housing - placing the Wharf and Buzzard Point in their own small area plans essentially, adding a new Maryland Ave Small Area Plan, and using half of a public parcel on School St SW for a "boutique European hotel" instead of affordable housing. The District has not respected the ANC6D's wishes for preserving social diversity - consistently violating the "great weight" of ANCs. Now, the District attempts to convince the court that ANCs had no "great weight" on the 2021 Comprehensive Plan. It is again lying. The District oversaw and encouraged the slumlording and ghettoization of public housing. The District's poor planning caused declining housing quality for established residential communities because owners start divesting in basic maintenance in preparation for a sale. The Southwest neighborhood has a concentration of declining building conditions based upon an analysis of HUD multi-family inspection reports


The McMillan decision says that the District shares responsibility for these injuries. Council's weak oversight of DCHA directly shares responsibility for the injuries that families and households endured. The gender-based policy violence against women-led households and women resident leaders is a moral failing and structural racism of epic proportions. I saw firsthand how poor housing conditions caused a resident to relapse into drug addiction, which then made her vulnerable to male exploitation - representative of the deep racism coursing throughout the city. Just a few of years ago, former DCHA director Tyrone Garrett refused to even spend the measly $10 million that the District allocated to public housing repairs. When community benefits are negotiated, those dollars barely get to communities most in need. We have seen $250,000 allocated to a silly, simple art sculpture in Southwest when our resident councils and organizations could have put that money to better use. We have seen public housing resident councils see fewer dollars for resident participation funds because DCHA and the District have emptied public housing units. An entire building in Southwest has been emptied out following a sale that was catalyzed by concentrated development in and around Southwest! The District allowed developers to hop from one neighborhood to another engaged in social whitening. Those same developers come to Southwest and entice churches to redevelop that only invest in the minimum number of affordable housing units. The District induces moral decline in Southwest and the city. Meanwhile, the market is flooded with luxury housing, inflating housing costs throughout the city - to say nothing of the price-fixing in the rental market that has become subject of an OAG lawsuit.


This is not right. This is not just. This is racism in its rawest form.

Southwest Voice Calls on Council to Ask for Audit of Compliance with First Source Law

Letter to DC Council on May 18, 2024

Dear Committee on Executive Administration and Labor,

I have several questions related to DC's First Source compliance monitoring. I thank Dr. Rhonda Hamilton for bringing up this topic at a recent meeting. After additional research, it appears the DC's First Source law is an immensely valuable tool to narrow the divide on racial and economic inequality, if implemented and monitored. The District has a very unique position among US states to address deep inequity because the residency clause does not apply. Thus, it can prioritize District contracts to benefit DC residents. However, there are major concerns with legally required reporting, legislative oversight, transparency, and enforcement.

Editor Mistook Email Access Log

The editor mistook his email access log to suggest improper access. He is now in full possession of knowledge about IP addresses and DC Wi-Fi and apologizes for any inconveniences. 

Editor Calls for DC Council to Address Vast Educational Disparities

Dear Committee of the Whole,

I am deeply disheartened about DC's lack of educational progress. The District has failed to tackle vast educational disparities meaningfully and consistently. Educational outcomes have barely improved in the last quarter of a century. Graduation rates are inflated and not reflective of competencies. The percentage of students that enrolls in and completes college is low and declining. 


My personal story supports that school districts can and do address educational disadvantages for low-income and first-generation college students. I do not feel, however, that my story is possible in DC. In fact, I can recall several classmates from my middle school class in Central Virginia who benefited from major educational reforms to get low-income students on an advanced track for high school and, thus, college readiness. We also had teachers who mentored us. One classmate is a college professor. Another is a civil engineer for the Commonwealth of Virginia. I will graduate in May with my PhD. In other words, there are innovative models out there that work.


The Washington Post asserts that, "The city is embracing a new “moonshot” goal to have 80 percent of high school graduates earn degrees by 2050." It would be foolhardy to trust that the District can achieve this under the current model. Major reforms are needed.


1) Significantly shrink or eliminate the number of charter schools - The charter school system has ballooned. It is far too decentralized to ensure accountability. Neither the DCPS central office nor the DC PCS Board has the set of authorities necessary for major reform. The DC PCS Board cannot even say if charter school provided the teacher raise that Council approved.


2) Remove Mayoral Control - This was a rash decision to give control over to the mayor during the pandemic, complicated by Grosso's ineffective oversight as Education Committee chair. The politics need to be taken out of DC education.


3) Let Teachers Teach and Mentor - The current system is too punitive to teachers when confounders like neighborhood effects, poverty, and violence are exerting major influences on educational outcomes. I went through school when it was common for teachers to have 15+ years of experience. These teachers made great schools, programs, and loved teaching, mentoring, and support. These teachers who are committed to the profession are your most valuable asset. This also means that the District should phase out programs that heavily recruit transient teachers (e.g., Teach for America model).


4) Simplify the Curriculum and Focus on the Basics - Rather than DC trying to position itself as appearing to be ahead of other states in some areas, it needs to focus on the fundamentals before adding another requirement (e.g., financial literacy). Students are struggling with the basics - reading, writing, math, and science. That should be the focus.


5) Trade School or College Readiness - The dual enrollment nursing prep program is seeing high attendance rates. That is not surprising. It provides students with a focused, skills-based curriculum in addition to regular classes. All students need 1) a skilled trade by graduation that translates to current job market needs or 2) college readiness. I do not think that 80% traditional college attainment by 2050 is feasible or desirable. We must recognize the value of trade school, which can put disadvantaged students on a middle class pathway as well. A major missed opportunity to not prepare students to benefit from 20 years of the gentrification economy, especially blue collar job opportunities and entrepreneurship. We heavily relied on outside labor to the detriment of DC residents.


6) Addressing the Confounders - I never grew up in a neighborhood with gun violence. We were poor but had safe neighborhoods. Neighborhood effects are known as a major influence on educational outcomes. The District needs to do a much better job of ensuring safe, upwardly mobile, and strong communities. A policy and moral shift is needed.


7) Program Evaluation and Evidence-Based Reasoning - The District lacks adequate educational program evaluation and evidence-based reasoning. More in the email below.


Message to CMs Henderson and Parker on March 1, 2024

Dear Councilmembers Parker and Henderson,

I thoroughly enjoyed your questions during today's oversight hearing. I am writing to request a copy of the study about the high-impact tutoring program, once available. 


Here are concerns that I have based on direct observation of high-impact tutoring programs and research knowledge. I do have a concern that data may be over-interpreted.

Message to Council on October 17, 2023

Dear Councilmembers,

I strongly encourage a more meaningful bill than the one proposed by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Parker to address deep educational gaps. To advance educational reform, a broader scope and evidence-based practice are needed. Here are resources from the education literature. The articles can be downloaded using the following Dropbox link.


The District Failed Relisha, Age 8. It is Still Failing.

The Washington Post recently revisited the disappearance of Relisha, age 8. She and her family where sheltered at DC General. Relisha was last seen on camera after a janitor had taken her. “The children at D.C. General were neglected many years before Relisha Rudd went missing,” she said. “She was so symbolic of all the gaps in the safety net and all the ways we collectively have failed vulnerable children in our community,” according to the Post article. 

Southwest Voice is sharing a letter to DC Council in July 2023 to show how the system remains deeply broken. Two children, 6 and 8 years of age, were found walking aimlessly in Southwest. Resident leaders worked to locate the parents. In the process, major gaps in DC's shelter policies and practices were found, including its accountability for children and parental supervision. The letter also discusses scratches that raised major alarm.

July 10, 2023

Dear DC Council Committee on Health,

I am writing with grave concern about the wraparound services at the women's shelter in Southwest - The Aya. I pose several structural/policy questions at the end of this email.

 

1) Community leaders and I recently worked to locate the parent of two lost children outside my residence at Capitol Park Plaza and Twins. These children were 6 and 8 years of age. After making many phone calls and combing through social media, we located their mother who was a resident at The Aya. They initially did not want to take us to where they lived. A community person said that they saw the kids taking items from the Safeway. Eventually, the little girl gave us their mother's name and we surmised that they stayed at The Aya. As I understand, these kids were part of a set of 9 siblings housed there. I spoke with the program manager to convey my deep concerns about the kids roaming the neighborhood without adult supervisor. I also spoke to the mother when she arrived on the scene. We exchanged phone numbers. I asked her to reach out to me if she needed resources.

 

2) Since that incident, I have seen the children on two occasions. Once, five of the siblings were walking near the library without adult supervision. The second was with the mother and children sitting outside the library.

3) On Saturday, I ran into two boys from this sibling set outside of the SW library - one that I had met earlier (above). I noticed that they had rashes all over their body - arms, legs, face. The boy from (1) had what appeared to be two human scratches on this face that were about three inches long and parallel. Some of the rashes and bumps were open wounds, assumedly from scratching. Some of the bumps looked like bed bug bites. I asked the manager is the shelter had a bed bug problem. He said, "Not to my knowledge." The boy did not have these rashes when I saw him just the week prior. I asked the boys if they had eaten. They said only French toast.

 

I led them back to the shelter out of concern. I met a manager at the front door. To my astonishment, he explained to the boys that they were not allowed to return because their mother was not there. As I continued the discussion, I turned around and noticed that the boys had left. To where, I had no idea. I had asked them to stay close by. I asked the manager, "Doesn't the city provide funding for wraparound services?" He only knew that a caseworker was involved. As far as I am aware, the manager did not intend to call the mother. I called and spoke to the police after calling 911 when I arrived home (across the street).

 

Structural Questions

Sincerely,
C. Williams


Southwest Voice Editor Testified Before DC Tax Commission on November 6, 2023

I have several concerns and proposed revisions. 

The Commission did not work with the Mayor’s Office of Racial Equity (ORE). That concerns me immensely because equity experts have not reviewed the proposals, particularly under the racial equity theme. That should change going forward.

DC is one of the wealthiest US cities. The Commission is proposing many tax increases, but immense wealth has not translated to meaningful gains in social and racial equity. DC routinely wastes taxpayer money. The Commission should consider yearly taxpayer rebates to disadvantaged populations or nonprofits where the District cannot drive down disparities.

The individual income tax rates should create two taxable income brackets from $60,000-$250,000 into two brackets. Individuals making $60,000 versus $250,000 are in starkly different economic positions. 

I oppose the tax on multifamily buildings, as written. It should keep current property taxes for affordable buildings with 70% or more of households at 60% MFI or below. Otherwise, landlords are likely to pass on these costs to residents, increasing rent burden.

Economic mobility is challenging for DC residents, especially transitioning from public and subsidized housing to self-sufficiency. The tax code should reduce the tax burden associated with moving toward self-sufficiency.

TIFs are self-serving for the rich, as we saw with the Wharf. TIFs have enabled developments to divert property taxes away from the general budget in order to subsidize their own development. Renegotiating DC’s TIFs, as we see in other cities, would be a major source of revenue and rightsize injustices.

Editor Forwards DC Council Evidence-Based Data from Education Literature 

The District has struggled with proper planning and data-driven analysis, as we discussed in a prior issue. Education is no different. Prompted by a Council bill on addressing the needs and low performance of DC's bottom 5% of schools, the Southwest Voice editor-in-chief encouraged the District to build solutions based on evidence and the literature. 

Dear Councilmembers,

I strongly encourage a more meaningful bill than the one proposed by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Parker to address deep educational gaps. To advance educational reform, a broader scope and evidence-based practice are needed. Here are resources from the education literature. The articles can be downloaded using the following Dropbox link.

Sincerely,

Chris Williams

Editor-in-chief, Southwest Voice



Special Report: Census Tracts with >70 Black Population Carry Higher Disease Burden, Reflecting Apartheid Adjacency

 Southwest Voice recently conducted an analysis showing that the most populous Black Census tracts in DC shoulder immense health burdens. Fifty-eight (58) of the 179 Census tracts have a population of 70% or greater Black residents and contain 29% of the District's population. Yet, these tracts make up 46% of all DC residents who have experienced a stroke, 44% of all of those in DC with diabetes, 43% of all COPD sufferers, and 40% of those with kidney disease. Other diseases were also unevenly distributed compared to Census tracts' residents' share of the city population: heart disease (39%), high blood pressure (39%), asthma (34%), 7 or more poor mental health days in a month (35%), obesity (37%), no leisure physical activity (41%), and currently smoking (40%). Data analysis relied on the 2021 CDC Places estimates.

Southwest Voice previously discussed apartheid adjacency in Washington, DC in our September issue. These data findings support the longstanding neglect of city leadership to attend to unmet social, economic, and health needs of large minority areas of the city, particularly in Wards 7 and 8. The map below shows the Census tracts with 70% or greater percentage of Black (green) and White populations (purple). Neighborhoods that are East of the River or in the city's East End, along with areas in the vicinity of Fort Lincoln, Gateway, Carver Langston, have super majority-minority Census tracts. The Census tract containing public housing in the Southwest neighborhood also appears.

The District is without a strategic and sustained focus on narrowing racial health gaps. To achieve health equity, it must account for the public health economy, which encompasses the performance of the growth economy, skills-match for jobs, improving DC public school system, and curbing the excesses of the gentrification economy. It must seek to heavily invest long-term in public health and community health workforce funding to reach deep into communities for health promotion, coalition-building, and new models of community- and home-based healthcare. Hospital accountability for community health outcomes, as required under IRS regulations, is wanting.

The city is on par with other cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, and Philadelphia, that appear to have allowed deep structural inequity to flourish among the most populous Black neighborhoods (Table 1). The legacy of US segregation and political attitudes and inattentive leadership over decades help to explain these findings.

For 30 Years, DC Failed to Follow Law on Publishing Election Results in DC Register 

"I am writing to see if you can help me understand where I can find the DC Board of Elections published election results in the DC Register as required under DC law..."

An email from this paper in February 2022 to the DC Office of Attorney General sought answers on the absence of election results in the DC Register. The Board of Elections is required to publish the results of each election and the nominees or winners in the DC Register. It failed to do so for nearly 30 years until prompted by that email. Results from 1992 through June 2022 were finally published in the DC Register in July 2022.

This incident reflects the dire state of governance within both the executive and legislative branches of government. The Board of Elections went decades without publishing in the DC Register, except for a brief period between 2008-2010. The DC Council did not exercise adequate legislative oversight throughout the 30-year period. The implications of this story go well beyond an accidental technicality. This case exposes the District to legal challenges and reveals needed reforms to the DC Home Rule Charter, starting with a larger legislature.

Deep Racial Spatial Inequality in Four Graphs by Census Tracts in DC

Data obtained from five-year estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016-2020 American Community Survey (Policy Map) show stark racial difference in household median income. Census tracts (n=83) with majority white populations are on average $18,700 above the median citywide household income of $93,500 (Table 1). Census tracts (n=81) with majority black populations are on average $10,000 below the median citywide household income, excluding two outliers (Table 2). Census tract with no distinct majority (n=38) are on average $21,000 above the median citywide household income, excluding two outliers (Table 3). Table 2 illustrates the household median income for all 202 Census tracts with available data (Table 4).

Requesting Oversight of DC's "Smart City" Programs

Dear Councilmembers, 

I am writing with urgency to request oversight or an independent OAG or OIG investigation of DC's "Smart City" program. I recently found out that the District has the smart city technology. Advocates have raised serious concerns around privacy rights. I encourage you to research this because DC has a program that is operating without much oversight or public transparency. I had never heard of it until yesterday.


The District's program appears to involve data collection through digital kiosks, public wifi, and "various sources". I cannot make heads or tails of how this technology is being used specifically in the District. DC's smart city page is non-descript - http://open.dc.gov/smart-city. (This government page shows as "not secure" for me).


You may recall that I published a story on CRISP sounding the alarm on the possibility of a serious data breach. https://www.southwestvoicedc.com/crisp As I recall, that data breach occurred several months after my reporting and exposed a vast amount of personal data, including congressional representatives' and senators'. I ask that you look into this.


Sincerely, 

Chris Williams


About Smart City Technology

Washington, DC is using smart city technology to improve the quality of life for its residents, enhance economic growth, and address city challenges. The Smart City Initiative is a collaborative effort led by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) and involves partnerships between city agencies, the federal government, universities, business improvement districts, and the tech community[1].


Some of the smart city projects in Washington, DC include:


1. Smart streetlights: The city is converting all its streetlights to energy-efficient LED technology with remote monitoring and control capabilities. This aims to reduce energy consumption by more than 50%, optimize maintenance operations, and enable safer, more connected communities[7].


2. Digital kiosks and free public Wi-Fi: Washington, DC is working on providing free public Wi-Fi and installing digital kiosks to enhance the citizen experience and improve access to information and services[3].


3. Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 (PA2040): Launched in 2016, this smart city initiative focuses on enhancing public safety and introducing other smart city solutions without compromising citizen privacy. The project includes the deployment of OCTO-sponsored outdoor DC-Net Wi-Fi and remotely managed, sensor-based LED streetlights[5].


4. Data-sharing platform: The city is developing a platform to gather and analyze data from various sources, enabling it to make more informed decisions and improve city services[3].


These projects are part of Washington, DC's broader smart city strategy, which aims to leverage technology to create a more livable, sustainable, and economically vibrant city[3].


Citations:

[1] http://open.dc.gov/smart-city/

[2] http://open.dc.gov/smart-city/what.html

[3] https://www.aboutsmartcities.com/smart-city-washington/

[4] https://www.smartcitiesworld.net/news/news/washington-dc-progresses-smart-city-transformation-plans-7882

[5] https://the-atlas.com/projects/how-dc---s-smart-city-initiatives-don---t-sacrifice-privacy-for-safety-4

[6] https://www.smartcityworks.org/smart-region-initiative

[7] https://www.digi.city/articles/2022/7/18/washington-dc-progresses-smart-city-transformation-plans

[8] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/14/fact-sheet-administration-announces-new-smart-cities-initiative-help


Only One Conclusion: DC Resembles Apartheid 

The totality of persistent racial inequalities in the District of Columbia leads only to a single, logical conclusion — the District is an apartheid-adjacent city. While it lacks a system of institutionalized racial segregation, the effects are highly similar. Vast racial disparities persist in nearly every facet of life in the nation's capital. This paper has struggled since its first issue in 2019 to explain the root causes. It had assumed that contemporary sources of structural racism were the result of a handful of bad actors - errant government agencies, elected officials, and private interest groups. As with our last issue, we often blamed the DC Housing Authority. Our conclusions were not wrong, only short-sighted. Racial disparities across education, health, income, and opportunity are not only interrelated, but comprise a whole system and ideology that are adjacent to apartheid. Apathy, inaction, racial prejudice, and a high tolerance for structural racism define the District's contemporary character.

READ MORE

Housing Code Violations and Change in Black Populations in Census Tract

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: info@southwestvoicedc.com | www.southwestvoicedc.com

August 9, 2023

Three District wards show associations between housing code violations and decline in the percentage of non-Hispanic Blacks. Wards 2 (-11%), 5 (-8%), and 6 (-9.5%) showed that, on average, properties with violations were in Census tracts that declined in the percent of the Black populations between 2012-2016 and 2017-2021. 

Analysis is limited due to recent ward redistricting and lack of ward boundaries in mapping platforms. However, these data might suggest that there are particular dynamics associated with housing code violations in the District's most gentrifying areas. Southwest Voice recently conducted an analysis which found that the Southwest neighborhood has a concentration of HUD-assisted properties that declined in HUD inspection score by 18 points or more.

The District lacks comprehensive planning to understand how District-directed massive redevelopments are destabilizing affordable housing and eroding housing quality in highly gentrifying neighborhoods. For more than a decade, it has failed to conduct impact and environmental assessments, as required by law. Surrounded by two national league stadiums and a regional entertainment venue with the Wharf, Southwest is highly susceptible.  We speculate that rising property values are placing immense pressure on owners and investors of affordable housing properties. A portion of funds that would otherwise go to upkeep and repair are now redirected to paying property taxes. In addition, some Southwest privately-owned affordable housing is subjected to additional BID taxes. Compounding this issue, many properties require massive capital investments to extend the life or replace equipment such as elevators and boilers. The District shares responsibility for the financial decisions that force owners to sell, to exit, and to contribute to housing code violations.

Public housing in Southwest has experienced considerable underinvestment, prompting direct city funding for repairs. Ghettoization associated with gun violence and lax security was the basis of litigation by the Office of Attorney General, which forced security upgrades at James Creek and Syphax Gardens. A representative from OAG explained to Southwest Voice a couple of years ago that Greenleaf was not included in this settlement because DCHA said that Greenleaf redevelopment was imminent. Greenleaf residents continue to be subjected to gun violence.

Three wards showed no meaningful change (<1%) in the Black population percentage in this period - Wards 4, 7, and 8. Wards 7 and 8 both have the highest number of owners with outstanding violations and remaining violations. Unlike Wards 2, 5, and 6, violations in Wards 7 and 8 are likely a more historical issue due to its longstanding poverty concentration and neglect by the District. During the District's current gentrification and economic restructuring, Ward 8 is seeing increased poverty concentration.

Methods
Southwest Voice analyzed a public dataset containing all of the housing code violations that included the owner's name, property address, wards, and the number of inspections with violations and remaining violations. The data were geocoded in PolicyMap for 5,326 separate inspections. Prior to conducting analysis, we created a table to ensure non-duplicates in the list of owners. The number of remaining violations were summed for each owner and ward. The percent change in the number of non-Hispanic Black or African Americans relied on a variable in PolicyMap for the periods of 2012-2016 and 2017-2021 at the level of the Census tract. The average Black population change was calculated for each owner across all inspections.

The District Turned Southwest into a Perpetual Construction Zone, Residents Met with Harms and Hazards

The District has turned the Southwest-Waterfront neighborhood into a perpetual construction zone associated with noise and air pollution. Safety conditions for bikers and pedestrians are compromised with changing road signs and eliminated bike lanes. - Southwest Voice DC https://www.southwestvoicedc.com/ | Video taken on August 7, 2023

Southwest DC Sees Concentration of Declining Building Conditions Based on HUD Physical Inspection Scores

For Immediate Release
Contact: info@southwestvoicedc.com


August 6, 2023



The Southwest neighborhood has a concentration of declining building conditions based upon an analysis of HUD multi-family inspection reports. HUD assesses the physical condition of all HUD-related multifamily projects and assigns a score from zero to 100, with 100 being the best. The District of Columbia has 17 sites that have inspection scores that declined by 18 points or more between the most recent inspection and its third most recent inspection. Three sites in Southwest - Capitol Park Plaza and Twins, Tel Court Cooperative, and St. James Mutual Home - make up 18% of the city's properties with the most declining inspection scores. The 17 sites are 15% (n=113) of the analytic sample. The number of worst scoring properties varied by ward: Ward 8 (n=5), Ward 6 (n=3), Ward 7 (n=3), Ward 1 (n=3), Ward 5 (n=2), and Ward 2 (n=1).


Properties with the same address, although different names, were counted as one. Sites with two addresses for the same property were counted once. Sites without a third most recent inspection (n=7) were not included. This HUD dataset does not include public housing. The District's ward finder tool was used to determine the ward.

Mow the Lawn: Compounding Indignities in Public Housing

August 4, 2023

Dear DCHA Officials, 

Subsequent to my last email, I learned that DCHA staff are mowing the lawn today because there is an upcoming visit by a prominent public official(s). They also believe that residents are responsible for mowing their own lawns unless they are senior or with disabilities. They believe that this information appears in residents' leases at cost. I cannot verify at this time, but this is NOT covered in the ACOP. That cost appears to be $50 to borrow a DCHA lawnmower. No lawn mowers are on-site. For obvious reason, this is an untenable position for property maintenance. There is much confusion about whether this policy exists.


I ask that public housing communities are treated equal to all resident groups in the District, consistent with the law and human decency.


Sincerely, 

Chris Williams


August 4, 2023

Dear DCHA Officials, 

I am writing to again convey my deep dissatisfaction at the indignities that public housing residents suffer. The whole of the Housing Authority seem exempt from tenant laws and resident protection. You know well the conditions of the properties and displacement record. I wish to discuss the mowing issue.


I have spoken to many families, including the resident councils, at Greenleaf to understand why DCHA is not mowing the lawn across the property. They feel that it is part of a systematic pattern of mistreatment and human degradation. I agree. Grass grows to incredible length (see below). I have observed mowing on occasion, but it is always a handful of families that get their lawn mowed. From my balcony yesterday, I saw a man mowing the tall grass at one unit with a household mower. The grass was too tall and it caused his mower to malfunction. He appeared to be the same individual each time. This suggests that ONE INDIVIDUAL has the mowing contract or has the responsibility for mowing. I finally saw today the appropriate mower to use - a riding mower at Greenleaf. This time is was a different individual, but there was no team of people, no commercial company...no rakes, or bags. The tall dense grass was a challenge for his mower.


What is going on? Must public housing residents continue to experience compounded misery and indignity? I have never seen in all my experience, a government treat a group of people so badly so often. 


~Chris Williams


Southwest Voice Editor Puts Question on DC-directed Structural Racism to DC Mayor in Press Conference on New Police Chief

July 17, 2023

The question to @MayorBowser was clear during her press conference announcing Patricia Smith as the new police chief. She deflected. The city has deep racial disparities, made worse because of DC policies. The economic and social context matter. We cannot expect change as long as structural racism & root causes are ignored as problems.

Southwest Voice Editor Implores DC Council to Repair Harm to Public Housing Residents

July 14, 2023

Dear Council, 

I write to implore you to consider the immense harm to public housing families arising from DCHA's sustained dysfunction. In the debate over shoring up the agency, there is little attention on the victims. They are countless. You and I know well the physical and mental health toll, the laws and rights that were violated (and still), and the effects of wholesale displacement. I find that this discussion has taken shape as to exclude the harm to low-income populations because of low perceived deservingness and general prejudice. Their harm has been minimized - an added injustice. I encourage Council to undertake an independent investigation of the harm and concurrently develop a reparative justice plan. This is an issue of racial justice and gender equality. I have watched during my entire residential tenure in Washington, DC as Black families, especially Black women leaders, were systematically ignored, misled, marginalized, and mistreated.


As you know, I vehemently oppose the reparations  bill because the District has contemporary sources that first warrant reparative justice. This is one such issue. I am forwarding the latest issue as a reminder of the deep adverse impact. An independent review board should also consider criminal referrals, collectively and individually.


Sincerely, 

Christopher Williams

Southwest Voice Editor Denied Delivering Live Testimony Against Reparations Bill

Southwest Voice Editor-in-Chief Christopher Williams was not elevated to a speaker role to provide his testimony live during the DC's first hearing on slavery reparations on Thursday, June 15. While in the Zoom waiting room, he emailed, texted Mr. McDuffie's staff mobile, and messaged through Zoom to no avail. Mr. Williams strongly opposes the slavery reparations at this time in DC history due to the ongoing and severe harm that District policies have caused on Black residents for the last two decades. Kenyan McDuffie, at-Large DC Councilmember, is championing the bill. This is his second re-introduction of this bill. Derron R. Parks, Chief of Staff for CM McDuffie, apologized, "Whatever the circumstance or mishap, I apologize" in response to Mr. Williams' email to Mr. McDuffie and his staff. The following testimony has been entered into the record.

Southwest Voice Editor-in-Chief Statement Strongly Opposing Slavery Reparations

"I am testifying today to strongly oppose this bill. Slavery reparations are appropriate and long overdue, but the District is not ready at this time. The District first needs to repair the ongoing and acute harm from its contemporary systemic racism and policy violence, particularly over the last two decades. I have two major points.


1)      The first point. The District is a prime example of government-led flourishing structural racism. Since the Emancipation Proclamation 160 years ago, the District has had Home Rule for a third of that time. Yet, it has more often reinforced the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow than sought to undo it.

·       The racial difference in life expectancy between Blacks and Whites in DC is greater than 10 years and growing. This was before the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, this racial gap is closing for the US as a whole.

·       The District has repeatedly excluded or lowered affordable housing requirements to include large tracts in Southwest, Navy Yard, Downtown, and others. It has given away public land cheaply with severely minimal affordable housing. The latest Comprehensive Plan kept intact zoning for single family housing west of Rock Creek, which is supporting redlining.

·        The District has engaged in environmental racism. SW is one example. The current chair of the DC Council was quoted in the Post that the District’s sudden interest in improving air quality in Buzzard Point was “probably” due to the incoming white residents. As he suggests, no one really cared about poor air quality when it was only impacted Black residents in public housing.

·       DC’s racial difference in household income stands at $100,000 based on US Census data. It grew by nearly $25,000 in the last decade. That’s a conservative estimate due to use of median not mean.

·       The DC Housing Authority has traumatized Black women and families through ghettoization, displacement, corrupt policies, and status as the city’s most notorious slumlord.


2)      My second point is that DC’s actions during Home Rule, especially this century, weakens nearly every case that can be made for reparations. Critics need only point to DC where racism is coursing through DC policies. African Americans have a majority role in Executive and Legislative government positions. If the legacy of slavery is so strong and direct and reparations is really about a moral stance, then surely the District would have sought to diminish structural racism much more than it is doing. If DC proceeds with a slavery reparations task force, its actions could greatly harm the reparations movement precisely because DC has been deeply complicit in vicious forms of racism."


Sincerely,
Christopher Williams
Editor-in-chief, Southwest Voice

Reparations to Every US Descendant of Slavery? 

Letter from Southwest Voice Editor-in-Chief Christopher Williams to DC Council on Slavery Reparations

I am testifying on Thursday to oppose DC's reparations bill. My personal perspective is that it makes so little sense for the District to move on this at this time when it has been responsible for strengthening structural racism and the legacy of slavery. Instead reparations should be directed at the contemporary populations for which the District does share responsibility for their harm and abridgement of constitutional and civil rights. For starters, here are some populations deserving of reparations.

A reparations plan should be focused on repairing the damage from two decades of policy violence and racial discrimination. If racial equity is really the goal with reparations, then it logically follows that structural barriers to racial equity in political government and agency performance should be studied and vastly improved.


READ MORE - "DC Discussion on Slavery Reparations Makes Light of Its Role in Structural Racism"

DC Housing Authority Behind Policy Violence and Public Health Crises in Southwest Public Housing 

The DC Housing Authority held its final listening session on ‎Thursday, ‎May ‎18 at the King-Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest. DC Council required the Stabilization and Reform Board to conduct listening sessions with public housing residents throughout the city as part of a December law reforming the agency's board. The event featured remarks from a panel of Southwest resident council presidents, followed by public testimonies from more than a dozen residents. With few exceptions, all of those who testified were Black women. Their experiences living in poor conditions are best understood as gender and racial policy violence against women and families. Through their tears and justified anger at times, the public health consequences of DCHA's longstanding dysfunction as the city's largest landlord and most notorious slumlord came into full view.

Racism is Real,
Race is Not

Race is based on the falsehood that the world’s population of nearly 8 billion can be grouped into a handful of categories. The Biden administration is seeking changes to federal data collection requirements on race by providing options for "Middle Eastern or North African" and "Hispanic or Latino". However, this change would contribute nothing to the validity of race as a social construct. It is now widely accepted that there is no biological basis for race, although many areas of research perpetuate a scientific notion of race. A recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report warned against racial testing in genetics and genomics research. Race is the second most common variable in public health research. Due to its lack of conceptual and practical meaning, race generally weakens research quality. This issue is the topic of my dissertation study.

DC Budgeting: Urgent Need to Be Data-Oriented, Focused on Analysis and Outcomes

The District's 2023 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report opens with a letter from Mayor Muriel Bowser championing the District's commitment to reduce disparities, grow the middle class, and secure "a fair shot for all residents." Yet, no discussion on race, disparities, or social inequity appeared in the remaining 258-page document. This turn from heightened social awareness to deafening silence on deep inequity is typical of the vacillatory nature of political discourse in the District. That report assessing the city's financial performance was incomplete, particularly in weighing risks. It failed to mention that DC has yet to find a shared growth model that does not exacerbate racial inequities. 

DC Discussion on Slavery Reparations Makes Light of Its Role in Structural Racism

The District is seeking reparations for slavery. Yet, it has offered no compensatory relief for the racial injury that it directly caused in the last two decades. Public housing residents, gentrified communities, and victims of the early 2000s lead crisis have plausibly suffered acute emotional, economic, and physical harm. The District exacerbated the residual effects of institutionalized racism. If reparations should be made, they should begin first with these populations. It makes little sense for the District to call for reparations when its phalanx of lawyers is currently challenging several personal injury and class action lawsuits on contemporary sources of racial policy violence. The District needs to accept responsibility in these cases and develop a compensatory schema for broad classes of injury. The policy discussion on slavery reparations is a political coverup of the highest magnitude. 

Open Letter to DC Council on Slavery Reparations

Several Council members support the reintroduction of a bill to establish a panel to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans in the District of Columbia. While descendants of US slavery deserve reparations, it does not make much sense in the context of vast and growing racial inequity in DC.

Rethinking Race and Black History Month

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser joined Chairman Phil Mendelson, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and two US Senators in a press conference on January 24 to discuss a bill to grant District statehood. The mood of an otherwise choreographed and celebratory event suddenly shifted when this paper directed a question to U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), "The District has some of the worst racial health and economic disparities. A 2020 study showed that (the racial difference in) life expectancy in the US is shrinking but is growing in the District. The income inequality by race is now $100,000. Is this the type of government that we can expect under statehood?"  

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Remembering SW's role in Supporting Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy

A group of 300 residents from Southwest marched to the US Senate on June 3, 1964 to encourage passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 according to the Washington Post. Black and White residents from River Park, Greenleaf, Capitol Park Apartments (now Potomac Place), Capitol Park Towers, Capitol Park condos, and properties in Southwest Towncenter. "March coordinator Shirley Lockwood told [Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin] the group acted so a neighborhood with no great social problems because of Negro and white living side by side may stimulate and encourage other communities less open to change to accept every man as an individual regardless of his race." The group was also received by former SW resident and Vice President Hubert Humphrey who was US Senator at the time. 

Prison Color Used as Psychological Weapon 

I recently visited friends in Greenleaf Family Midrise Apartments. It was an otherwise uneventful start. I signed in with security and took the elevator. With my bike in tow, I stepped off the elevators. To my shock and horror, the recent renovations in Greenleaf had taken a turn for the worse. The distinct blue color used in prisons confronted me. The doors and trim were all painted in the same color as in the stock image of a prison above. Each door had a foot-wide blue area on the left that ran the length of the door.

This was "psychological," noted someone in the hallway. "Intentional," exclaimed another. This shade of cobalt blue is used for institutions, often associated with law and order and places with institutionalized populations. "I don't live in a prison, but they sure painted it to make me look like I live in one," said Patricia Bishop, President of Greenleaf Family Midrise Apartments. "When I do a walk-through with the newly elected (DCHA) Board, I will request a more positive color to represent Greenleaf." DCHA's color choice is intended to convey authority and control. It appears on the outside doors of the Metropolitan Police Department First District building on M Street, just across the street from Greenleaf. 

DC Should Become Bicameral, ANCs to Become DC House of Representatives

Former DC Mayor and Ward 7 Councilor Vincent Gray's public anger with Chairman Phil Mendelson's committee reorganization plan highlights a more serious issue with governance in the District. According to the Post, Mendelson claimed that Gray's health "interfered with (Gray's) capacity to manage the Health Committee’s robust workload." Gray contends that use of his health status following a stroke inaccurately and unlawfully mischaracterizes his capacity. Mendelson's concern about the demands of the committee "workload" reflects the acute crisis in Council governance. There is insufficient oversight of the Executive because the District has too few elected officials in its legislative body. As the Gray-Mendelson drama illustrates, the personal health challenges of a single Council member can expose major cracks in an already broken system. The situation is at crisis level with Mendelson declaring in an August 2022 tweet that, "This also speaks to a wider problem of the Executive not following the law." Mendelson diagnosed only part of the problem.

Southwest Coalition Calls on Council to Vote "No" on DCHA Bill 24-1144

Position Statement of the

Southwest Black Families Equity Coalition 

The Southwest Black Families Equity Coalition calls on DC Council to reject Bill 24-1144, the “District of Columbia Housing Authority Stabilization and Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2022” at the legislative meeting scheduled for December 20, 2022. The bill to reform the DC Housing Authority Board on an emergency basis reinforces the findings of the HUD report that DCHA and the District work against the interests of residents.

The removal of two of the three resident-elected Commissioners is yet another affront to Black families who pay our rent yet live in public housing conditions that neither the Mayor nor Council would permit their pet. We have repeatedly asked DCHA to follow the law to provide fair and equal housing, rather than pursue policies of displacement and gentrification. Diminishing our voice and representation on the Board signals that DCHA, DC Council, and the Mayor have no intent to see through racial equity. We had a full and transparent electoral process for resident commissioners in January 2022. The three resident positions on the Board must be preserved. In addition to Board members such as Bill Slover and Ann Hoffman, the records of past and current resident-elected Commissioners have exercised greater independence than the interest-driven cabal on the DCHA Board. It is because of resident leaders and advocates that full-scale privatization of public housing and more acute displacement did not occur.

While we support having a representative from the Interagency Council on Homelessness (Theresa Silla) and presentation of voucher holders (Ronnie Harris), neither position was elected by residents. Their appointment should not come at the expense of families currently residing in public housing.

Mayoral control of the Board has prevented DCHA from fulfilling its mission to serve the most vulnerable resident population and from exercising independence from the Executive. The HUD report criticized Mayor Bowser’s appointees as “vot(ing) as a group without individual review of the action requested.” After the initial version of Bill 24-1144 was released, the DC Office of Attorney General published its report criticizing mayoral control of the Board, “In order to address the dysfunction at DCHA, we believe we must start with making DCHA truly independent.” Bill 24-1144 does not achieve sufficient independence. There are considerable gaps in knowledge about the political activity of named appointees in Bill 24-1144, including campaign donations to the Mayor and DC Council members.

DCHA officials, DC Council, and the Mayor created this crisis - officials through negligence and corruption, DC Council through lax oversight and complicity, and the Mayor through her proxies. Rather than strengthen DC code Section 6-211 which governs the DCHA Board, Bill 24-1144 seeks to jettison the law because it became too much of an inconvenience to DCHA. It is widely reported that DCHA circumvented the law that the Board approve contracts and services over a set dollar amount by creating multiple increments of smaller contracts. Section 6-211 does not provide procedures for radical changes of the DCHA Board of this magnitude. It leaves little doubt in our minds that Bill 24-1144 is precisely what the HUD audit warned about - the lack of independence of DCHA from political influence and deep-seated corruption and cronyism. Bill 24-1144 is intended to grease the wheel for developer profits while our families' lives and homes are placed as bargaining chips. We shall not be idle spectators to the diminution and destruction of the law and Constitution, which guarantee us equal protection and fair and equal housing.

The Mayor, Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilors Kenyan McDuffie and Anita Bonds, and Ward 6 Councilor Charles Allen were all re-elected in November. None of the candidates indicated their support for the Board to be reformed by removing Resident Commissioners. Mendelson has indicated that he has the support of nine Council members, which means that several candidates hid their position and abused the American democratic process.

We are aware that there is grave concern inside Council that Chairman Mendelson is poised to use his committee chairmanship and appointment powers as leverage for a December 20 bill. Our anonymous source lamented, “The day after the vote, the Chairman will also tell Councilmembers what committees they will be assigned to chair or serve on for the next years. He has distraction plus leverage."

The Southwest Black Families Equity Coalition Calls on DC Council to reject Bill 24-1144 and seek comprehensive, measured reform in the next Council period.


The Southwest Black Families Equity Coalition Partners

Dena Walker, President of Greenleaf Gardens Resident Council, Patricia Bishop, President of Greenleaf Family Midrise; Rhonda Hamilton, President of Syphax Resident Council; Community Allies - Southwest Voice: The People's People and Christopher Williams, President of Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association 

DC Office of Health Equity Succumbs to Gentrification Forces, Report Lacks Analysis 

 The DC Council voted to approve the Congress Heights Small Area Plan in mid-November. The legislation received unanimous approval from all 12 members of Council present for voting. Situated in the District's most socially and economically vulnerable Ward, the effects of intense redevelopment will be felt throughout Ward 8 for generations and well beyond the technical boundaries of the study area. The Plan focuses on the area bounded by St. Elizabeths and Suitland Parkway, Stanton Road SE, Oxon Run Parkway SE, and I - 295. Intended to be "implemented through private redevelopment and public investment," the Plan makes an alarming admission — the District seeks to push the gentrification wave eastward through land use decisions and public subsidy. 

DC's Racial Equity Plan Seeks Slow Pace of Change, Overlooks Deep Social Inequity

  ga gaThe District recently released its proposed Racial Equity Action Plan to the public. Open for public comment until January 2, the 44-page document can appear to reassure residents that the District is preparing for a course-correction. Except it is not. Positioning its challenge of "undoing hundreds of years of discrimination" is disingenuous and deflecting blame. Leveling the playing field has been within the District's locus of control since Home Rule, even more so after the end of the Control Board when its coffers swelled. The District's tax revenue per capita from 2002-2019 increased by $6,500 - a rate of growth more than any US state. Yet, Southwest Voice's own research has shown that one-third of neighborhoods in Washington, DC saw a decline in Black median household income from 2010-2019 when the economy went from recession to expansion. Black median household income in DC of $42,000 is less than a third of the whites' at $134,000 - part of a national trend revealing no progress in reducing racial income and wealth inequalities between blacks and whites over the past 70 years. Black-white life expectancy gap by gender is 12 and 17 years, respectively for women and men, even greater in low-income neighborhoods like Anacostia. Despite consistent literature on vast racial gaps in life expectancy and health outcomes, the District has no coherent public policy approach. The plan fails to respond to the people's mandate for racial reform and anticipates no change in the systems of power that perpetuate modern-day structural oppression and racism

ANC6D Discriminating Against Seniors, Low-Income, Racial Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC6D) for Southwest does not allow any member of the public to testify live at ANC6D meetings unless they provide a written testimony and topic for discussion at least 48 hours in advance. This policy, which has been in place since the mayor declared a Covid-19-related public health emergency, is discriminatory against seniors, low-income residents, racial minorities, and persons with disabilities. "They are violating the American Disabilities Act," said Patricia Bishop, President of Greenleaf Midrise and a senior with disabilities. It is this paper's position that the ANC6D needs re-training and a change in policy. 

SW DC Residents Lead New Public Health Movement

Southwest DC residents recently announced the publication of their white paper, "Public Health Liberation – An Emerging Transdiscipline to Elucidate and Transform the Public Health Economy". ANC6D Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton, Greenleaf Midrise President Patricia Bishop, Greenleaf Gardens President Dena Walker, and Southwest Voice Editor-in-Chief Chris Williams developed a sweeping 21-page radical reconceptualization of public health, along with an international group of diverse authors from the US, Canada, and Uganda. 

How Ethical and Transparent is the Community Land Trust Discussion in SW?

"Last Friday, June 3rd, SW Action held a rally at 4th & M Streets SW to advocate for the parcels, located at 425 and 375 M Street, to be purchased by the DC government and transferred to the Douglass Community Land Trust. "

This is the opening line to a press release from SW Action in June of this year announcing that it had held a rally urging the District to not only buy privately owned land at 4th and M St SW, but also to subsequently transfer ownership to another private entity — the Douglass Community Land Trust. The audacity of the request struck this paper as unethical and highly questionable, as we will discuss. 

Discriminatory Practice & Community Center: Request to ANC for Denial of Contract to Operate

The Southwest Voice Editorial Board unanimously adopted a resolution respectfully requesting that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission ANC6D deny authorization to the Board of Southwest DC Community Center (SWDCC) to operate the proposed community center at 4th and M St SW. The SWDCC Board is not representative of Southwest racially or by income. We are dissatisfied with the composition of the Board and its lack of community outreach and tabling in our communities containing low-income households and Black residents.

DC Elections Raise Questions

Southwest Voice recently called for the District of Columbia to generate a semi-annual report on voter turnout rates by race. That article was positively received and widely circulated. In a follow-up, this paper seeks to raise concerns about additional issues concerning the integrity of elections in the District. We call upon the District to immediately study these issues and satisfactorily address these concerns in the current legislative session. 

SW Voice Calls Upon Attorney General to Investigate Hoffman

Editor calls upon Attorney General to immediately initiate an investigation into Hoffman and Associates based on OAG’s legal authority under protecting the public interest and to enforce the disparate impact rule codified under the Department of Housing and Urban Development discrimination housing practices and intercede now to prevent Hoffman from further construction activity and building occupancy in Southwest to prevent further harm to Southwest residents, especially its Black population.

SW Voice Endorses Candidates for 2022 Election Season

Issue: SW Voice Endorsements: Robert White (DC Mayor) | Phil Mendelson (Council Chairman), Lisa Gore (at-Large), Bruce Spiva (Attorney General); Opposing Candidacy: Charles Allen (Ward 6) | The District Must Protect Black Women and Families Against Structural Violence | DC Systematically Centralizing Patient Data | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place 

DCHA's Structural Violence Against Black Women

Southwest Voice is calling for an end to structural violence against Black women leaders and families in public housing. DC Housing Authority's continuing policies of Black displacement and repeated harm are forms of structural racism. We urgently call on DC Council to fund legal defense funds for resident councils undergoing redevelopment. Read on for more discussion and our call to action to the Black middle class and advocacy communities to defend Black women leadership and support their fierce commitment to community. 

April 2022 Issue 

Issue: Remembering the Pearl Escape of 1848 | Titanic 110th Anniversary | DC Must Address Structural Racism | Local Church Sponsors Scholarship Program | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place

Feature Story: The Pearl Escape of 1848 - April 15th marks the 174th anniversary of the Pearl Escape - the largest known escape attempt by enslaved people in American history. It occurred at the Southwest waterfront in 1848. Until recently, the Pearl Escape had been mostly a footnote in history, except among local historians and cultural preservationists. The Pearl Group formed in 2021 to share the story with a wider audience and celebrate Southwest's rich heritage in partnership with other community groups including the Pearl Coalition. The Pearl Group has grown this year thanks to generous grant support from the Diverse City Fund. The weekend event has now become a month-long remembrance. 

Read Issue

DC Must Address Structural Racism

The economic and health reality for African Americans in Washington, DC does not live up to the promise of equal protection or racial equality. Yet the political establishment through successive administrations and city councils continues to punt the need for addressing structural racism and inequality for at least the last 20 years. Kicking the can down the road is no longer a tenable position. As we illustrate, the lived experiences of Black DC residents are starkly different from other racial and ethnic groups. The severe health burden due to the social determinants of health remains a lingering injustice more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement. An often quoted mantra from that era, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” is as relevant today as it was then. 

Read Position Statement

Betrayal: No Build First for Greenleaf

Editor’s Testimony to DCHA Board of Commissioners about Greenleaf

Issue: Greenleaf Betrayed | Public Statement from Greenleaf Gardens President Dena Walker | Public Statement from Greenleaf Midrise President Patricia Bishop | Was Greenleaf Build First a Farce All Along? | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place 

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Call for Greater Attention to Racial/Gender HIV Disparities

Laquandra Nesbitt, MD, MPH Director, DC Department of Health
cc: DC Council Committee on Health, Phil Mendelson, doh@dc.gov, DC CFAR Community Partnership Council (CPC)

Addressing HIV/AIDS and Racial/Intersectional Disease Burden: Call for a Specific Strategy

Dear Director Nesbitt,
The latest Annual Epidemiology & Surveillance Report of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration (HAHSTA) highlights the tremendous progress in the District addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The mortality and incidence rates have declined steeply in the last decade. However, the data show startling racial and intersectional disparities, as the tables in the report illustrate (below). Southwest Voice calls on the Department of Health to explore more tailored, evidence-based interventions to address the HIV burden among Black residents, Black men who have sex with men, and Black heterosexual women. Black MSM are 34% of newly diagnosed HIV cases, followed by Black heterosexual women (15%). Increasing screening among this population could theoretically explain these trends, but that does not appear to be an effect since the report acknowledges “disruptions to screening services”. Comprehensive HIV testing, linkage to care, retention in care and adherence interventions for black MSM have shown to be more effective over behavioral interventions (Source). Black women are increasingly acutely vulnerable, accounting for 60% of newly diagnosed HIV cases among US women. We implore DOH to commit more HIV/AIDS training, resources, and population-based strategies to reduce the high burden of disease among these populations.
(Table on left accompanied the letter)
View report raising concerns about HIV/AIDS research funding and racial and sexual minorities. 

Editor Files Suit Against Congress and Council

Issue:  SW Voice Editor Files Suit Against Congress and Council | SW Voice Interview with Senator Joe Manchin | Housing Authority Headed Toward Receivership | Deepest Condolences | SW Coalition Prepares for Annual Cultural Event | Poetic Voice Corner | A Quiet Place 

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Southwest Voice Interviews
Senator Joe Manchin

Exclusive: We had an impromptu interview with the U.S. Senator who holds the key to the President's agenda. Subscribe to receive issue in your inbox.

Who is Enforcing the US Constitution in DC? 

Issue: Who is Enforcing the US Constitution in DC | SW Leaders Led National Webinar | Greenleaf President Dena Walker Issues Open Letter | Attorney General Takes on Zoning Commission | Support for Eriq Martin - Young SW Artist | Remembering Barbara Jordan - Former SW resident | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place

Read December 2021 Issue

SW Hosts National Webinar on Structural Barriers and Social Determinants of Health 

Issue: SW Hosts National Webinar on Structural Barriers and Social Determinants of Health | Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association Retains Legal Representation | DC Officials Makes Case Against Statehood | Creating Affirming LGBTQIA+ Spaces | SW Women on Reaching 100 | Poetic Voice | Quiet Space 

Read October 2021 Issue

Video on Southwest Social Injustices Goes Viral - 19,000 Views in One Week

Southwest Voice Editor-in-Chief, discusses Southwest's social and historical injustices in wide-ranging interview with Legal Zone with Attorney John Salatti, Dr. Arlena Cheney, and Attorney Solon Phillips 

Press Release - Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association Lawyers-Up 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 22, 2021

SOUTHWEST, WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association recently retained the Law Offices of Paul Strauss & Associates, P.C. The tenant association faces dual challenges - the prospect of sharply rising rents in early 2022 and an ownership transfer that many experts believe is violating tenants' legal rights. Mr. Strauss & Associates are providing legal support for residents to contest the building owners' claims that residents' rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) are exempted. Rather than accept these claims, which no government agency has evaluated for accuracy or substantiated, the CPPT Tenant Association is seeking to exercise all avenues to uphold the law. Read Complete Statement

Low-income Residents Face Crises in SW

Urgent message from Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association

October 14, 2021

Dear Neighbors,

My name is Diva Samai. I write to you as Co-President of the Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association. I am going to be blunt. We're in crisis mode here. We are facing dual challenges - the prospect of sharply rising rents in early 2022 and an ownership transfer that experts believe is violating our legal rights. We are a low-income housing tax credit building (LIHTC). 65% of our units are low-income, which means that the government provides housing security through property-based rent subsidies for financially vulnerable residents such as seniors, those with disabilities, and low-income households. Like Southwest as a whole, we reflect a rich tapestry of diversity in family/household size, income, age, and race/ethnicity.

We are committed to all of our CPPT neighbors like Angela G. (read her story below) whose livelihood hangs in the balance. As tenant association Co-President, I want to talk about our challenges and ask for your support. Thank you so much for taking the time to read our story. Because of neighbors like you, Southwest can continue to be a resilient and vibrant community. Will you join CPPT residents and other community partners by considering a donation or other forms of support? Read More


Click to donate

Sincerely,

Diva Samai

Co-President, Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenant Association 

"I have repeatedly asked the management office for a lease renewal. They are still ignoring me. I am retired on a limited income, so if they are planning to hold off on renewing my lease to significantly raise it in the new year, I don't know what I am going to do." - Dax, age 72 

How to Spot a Poverty Pimp: SW Action, Charles Allen, DCHA

Issue: Special Issue: How to Spot a Poverty Pimp | Congratulations to Council Presidents | Parking Wars in SW | DC Misspent Funds for Low-Income | Council Claims It Does Have to Follow the Law | Editor's Corner | From the Archives | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place 

Read September 2021 Issue

Paul Taylor Organizes Another Successful Summer in Lansburgh

Issue: Summer in Lansburgh | SW Resident Joins Others in Lawsuit Against City | Election Day for Public Housing Communities | Media Challenges with Reporting Gun Violence | SW Voice Intern Cody Paddack | Redistricting | From the Archives | Poetic Voice | Quiet Place 

Read August 2021 Issue

The Future of SW: Moving to Ward 2 or Ward 8?

Issue: Southwest Changing Wards: The Obvious Path? | Southwest Community Awards | Project SW: Community Survey Results | Capitol Park Plaza and Twins Tenants Organize | From the Archives: Historical Significance of Greenleaf Gardens | Poetic Voice | A Quiet Place 

Read July 2021 Issue

Greenleaf Women Protest, Pride Stories from Residents

Issue: Greenleaf Women Protest for Community | Pride Stories | Community Honors | Social Costs of BIDs | From the Archives | Poetry Corner | A Quiet Place 

Read June 2021 Issue

$100,000 Scandal Breaks

Cover Story: Litsky's $100,000 Scandal | "No Chip for Me" and Other Perceptions of the Unvaccinated in SW | How Resident Overcame Fears to Get Vaccinated | Archives: SW Marches for Civil Rights | GGW Report Gets it Wrong (Again) | Housing Authority Director is Out | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place 

Correction: The ANC did not vote unanimously in support of the project. The vote to support the project was only 5 (out of 7) commissioners in favor. In a separate vote, the ANC did vote unanimously to approve giving an ANC testimony supporting the project at the Zoning Commission hearing on Cotton Annex.

Read May 2021 Issue

Greenleaf Balks at Impending Displacement

Greenleaf refuses to be displaced - to issue own proposal.
View Video

Greenleaf redevelopment is turning out to be business as usual for the DC Housing Authority -  incompetence, broken promises, and decisions that veer away from common sense and equity-centered development. In February, we reported on a whistleblower's allegations of procurement violations regarding the redevelopment. Read More

Mendelson, White leave SW in Shock, Disappointment

In-depth Cover Story: State of Shock Following Council Meetings | Greenleaf in Crisis | Remembering 1848 SW Escape of Enslaved Families | SW Vaccination Site | Poetry Corner | Quiet Place .


Read April Issue

Washington, DC Shifts to
Jim Crow Economy

One-third of neighborhoods in Washington, DC saw a decline in Black median household income. Based on US Census tract four-year averages between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019, 48 out of 143 Census tracts saw an overall decline in Black income. The average among these tracts was -$14,633. Across all tracts for which data on Black median income was available (143 out of 179), household income spanning eight years only increased by $6,884. A Census block that does not have data for either or both periods are not included in analysis. These may include tracts with no African American households. Two outliers for tracts 11001000600 and 11001000802 were removed.


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March Issue Released

Press Release: March 2021 Issue of Southwest Voice: The People's Paper 

Hoffman Report | SW Voice Editor Takes on Build Mindset | Environmental Study Gets Underway | An Indictment of Charles Allen | Pandemic and Gentrification | Greenleaf Redevelopment: Black Box | Poetry Corner | Quiet Place

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Census-level Analysis of Hoffman Developments

Southwest Voice conducted a Census block analysis of demographic changes for 34 Hoffman and Associates developments between 2000-2016. We relied on their website for address data and year of opening. The number and percentage of Blacks and Whites for each block were based on Census data. We used Policy Map to conduct analysis. We split the data into two periods (2000-2009 and 2010-2019) because Census blocks generally undergo a change in size and shape across decennial Census. The columns are intended to show a potential estimate of the development impact. However, the direct relationship between neighborhood demographic changes and a specific Hoffman and Associates development cannot be fully accounted for without knowing all new residential construction in that Census block. Read More

Exclusive: Whistleblower Tells All, No Holds Barred

Southwest Voice conducted a phone interview with a whistleblower associated with the senior leadership for the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA). We use the third person pronoun "they" to protect the source's identity. They allege procurement violations, poor leadership by its executive director, and incompetencies among senior staff. Our January issue discussed the problematic selection of Pennrose, EYA, and Bozzuto Development as the potential co-developer for Greenleaf. Allegedly, three DCHA senior staff members including one from the Executive Director's (left) office, were assigned to attend the Greenleaf procurement meetings although they were not part of the voting panel. Read More



February Issue is Out!

As our readership continues to grow, we continue to put more resources behind quality reading. Click to read

In this Issue: Housing Authority Whistleblower | Attorney Joins SW Advocacy | Poor Housing Impacting Health | Young Couple Can't Buy in SW | Wayward Comp Plan | Greenleaf Asserts Rights | Poetic Voice Corner | Quiet Place


Housing Makes People Sick

Southwest Voice recently interviewed several residents familiar with the experiences of community members dealing with mold and poor air quality in public housing. At times, we have used pseudonyms to protect their identity. Their accounts are jarring and point to the multiple system failures that have left residents - often seniors and those with disabilities - little choice but to live in toxic conditions that exacerbate health conditions. Read More

"Well-Off" Couple Can't Afford SW

By Tom de Man, Associate Editor

Southwest DC’s inequality and gentrification are a major topic of discussion for our newspaper. Gentrification attracts wealthy people, so prices increase, restaurants target affluent newcomers, and the area becomes unaffordable for many residents who have lived here for a long time. Read More


Family Communication & COVID

The COVID pandemic has drastically changed the lives of individuals, families, communities, the world for many years to come – if not forever. Here are a few pointers to establish a communication climate in your homes that may provide the only silver-lining to this pandemic devastation – finding “US” again! Read More



Transportation Issues

The project proposed for 100 V St will more than double traffic on 4th St and Delaware. The developer's Comprehensive Transportation Review states 100 V will result in about 1,100 additional cars down 4th and Delaware in just 2 peak traffic hours each day. That is an additional driver every 7 seconds, folks coming in and out of the neighborhood at the expense to those of us who call SW home. Read More 

Dispelling Myth of DC's "Drop"

The selective interpretation of DC’s “drop” from 1st to 13th – The National Community Reinvestment Coalition conducted two major studies on gentrification. Released in 2019, the first study looked at data from 2000-2012 and showed that DC had the greatest number of Census tracts to gentrify in the US. The second study showed that only 16.8% of tracts gentrified from 2013-2017. It is important to understand how to interpret this data. Read More

A New Zoning Commission?

The Oct 1 Zoning Commission meeting on the 7-Eleven development was characterized by many feelings from commissioners that this project was incompatible with Southwest's architecture and diversity. "This development needs to respect the diversity of Southwest," said Rob Miller . Chairman Anthony Hood also spoke of the ongoing challenges with gentrification. Given the level of ANC6D and community opposition, the hearing was rescheduled for Nov 2 for the JBG Smith to engage with the ANC and community. As long as the Commission only considers the case a "design review," it will likely be left to the community to challenge in court.

Free Clothing Giveaway

Christ United Methodist Church and the Ward 6 Mutual Aid Group will cosponsor a community giveaway on Oct 3rd from 10am-3pm at I St and 4th St SW.  Featuring all the women's clothing that we have received in over the spring and summer -  there is an amazing amount of top quality clothes that need new homes.  It will also have baby & children's clothes and supplies and some men's clothes and a few household items.


SW Has Low Rental Rate of Vacancies

SW has an low rate of renting vacant housing units. While the citywide average is 46%, SW is only 30%. Lower rates appear at the Wharf and the western side of Southwest. Affordable properties such as Capitol Park Plaza and public housing have high rates of renting vacant units. Overall the renter-occupied units reflect trends in Ward 7 and 8, rather than demographically with more White residents.

More details: Twitter | Instagram

Where is Neighborhood Retail?

This image is pre-urban renewal on 4th St between E and F St on the east side. This is an example of the more than 1,000 businesses that were lost to urban renewal in SW. Residential SW does not have a Black barbershop - evidence of the general lack of neighborhood-serving retail. (Credit: Joseph Owen Curtis Photograph Collection)

Shulman's Market

Shulman's Market was one of dozens of Jewish businesses lost to urban renewal. It was at the intersection of N St and Union St, which no longer exists, but ran through what is now Harbour Square and Tiber Island (Credit: Library of Congress, Louise Rosskam - photographer)

Black Lives Matter Back to SW (1/2)

Participants in Commitment March on Washington march south on Maine Avenue. 

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BLM March (2/2)

A break in the downpour raised hopes for the march continuing down Maine Avenue.

SW Lives Matter

A resident gestures "Black Lives Matter' support, wearing a "SW Lives Matter" T-shirt. 

Significant Public Housing Architecture

Public housing in SW provide an excellent example of early century public housing architecture, reflecting aesthetics and communal living: “low-rise designs provided a human scale ...for tenants to view playgrounds, courts, and gardens..and allowed residents to supervise their children...” (Newman 1972) This approach would be largely abandoned in the 1950s and 60s, especially in major cities.

District Fadez: Important for Economy

Barbershops serve important needs for the local economy, health and wellness, small business, and racial equity building. District Fadez is located in L'Enfant Plaza in SW DC.

Instagram: [Make appointment]

BLM Messages at Arena Stage

A  pioneer in 1950 of the Regional Theater Movement, Arena Stage is a tremendous asset in the Southwest community and supporter of the Black theatre arts. These BLM messages represent a commitment to ensuring diversity in local theatre. Its 2020-21 season includes Toni Stone, August Wilson's Seven Guitars, and American Prophet. 

Subscribe to Arena Stage

Greenleaf Deserves New Name

Greenleaf public housing including the Gardens, 203N, and the Senior building is named after land speculator and slave-owner James Greenleaf. The Southwest Voice, which includes Greenleaf residents, is preparing a letter to the DC Council and DC Housing Authority to raise awareness about Greenleaf's slave-holding legacy and to request immediate renaming to a culturally appropriate historical figure such as Anthony Bowen.

LGBTQ-A+ Pride in SW

SW resident is pictured above wearing the LGBT colors in a breathy summer dress from Target. LGBT families and individuals, as well as affirming straight allies, are highly visible in the Southwest community. 

Industry Cheapens Development

From Vulcan and Superior concrete mixing plants and the large Pepco substation, Buzzard Point remains an active industrial site. The use of this land for professional sports could be deemed reasonable - despite the known carcinogens in the soil. However, the anticipated luxury high-density residential means easily half of residents will peer out of their windows to see unattractive industrial activity.

AG Sues Housing Authority

DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA). The lawsuit focuses on the drug and firearm-related issues around the city's public housing including James Creek and Syphax.

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Fire at James Creek

James Creek was the site of the second major fire in Southwest in less than two weeks. Flames engulfed a duplex that started at an upper unit. Residents in the entire building were evacuated. Representatives from the DC Housing Authority were on scene. 

Rally for Racial Justice in SW

The "Rally for Racial Justice in Southwest" was held on June 12. Sponsored by area churches, Southwest Voice, and Southwest Action DC, the event attracted hundreds of residents. The first part of the event involved participants holding signs and calling for racial justice, followed by speakers.

BLM Caravan Comes to SW

A caravan seeking to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement came to Southwest on May 30, bringing out local residents who greeted onlookers with messages of support. Several members of Southwest Action DC - a resident coalition - brought music, literature, and a megaphone to show support. 

10 Ideas to Transform Southwest

With gentrification and over-development looming large in Southwest, the community's historical and cultural heritage preservation could not come at a better time. Here are 10 ideas to restore balance in the remaking of Southwest. These ideas would create a vibrant and more equitable economy that draws on Southwest's many legacies.
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Southwest Action's Equity Report 

Co-sponsored by Southwest Voice,  "Promoting Social and Economic Equity in the Southwest Waterfront Community" advances community values in four areas. The coalition includes educators, lawyers, students, environmentalists, retirees, persons with disabilities, and parents.

Read More | Download pdf

Legacy of Urban Renewal

"Urban renewal projects displaced more than 300,000 people between 1955 and 1966, and the burden fell disproportionately on people of color." [1] Southwest was the first example in the city and one of the earliest in the country, though not without resistance. Two Southwest business owners challenged the government's ability to take private property.

Vulcan Concrete 

Vulcan Concrete is required to obtain an air permit to operate its concrete batching plant in SW DC. Buzzard Point residents have had longstanding opposition to industrial activity in their backyard. They say that poor community health has been attributed to polluters in the area, combined with increased construction activity and traffic-related pollution. 

SW Voice Supports Local Artists

SW resident Sergio Jiménez, Pentandra Digital Marketing Consultors LLC, illustrated SW DC animated graphic exclusively for Southwest Voice. Mr. Jiménez also designed the Southwest Community Gardens flag. 

Visit Pentandra

Brickies Must End

Established as the "Livable Walkable Awards" more than ten years ago under Tommy Wells, former Ward 6 councilor and current director of the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), the "Brickies" are highly questionable and must end in its current form. 

Poor Reporting at GGW

The Southwest Voice and Southwest Action recently emailed Greater Greater Washington with our concerns about their reporting on Greenleaf redevelopment. Our letter raises issues with conflict of interest for the lead writer, Nena Perry-Brown...

Read our letter to Greater Greater Washington 

Climate Change & SW

The District’s climate study also noted that Buzzard Point and Southwest DC are at great risk of flooding, due to sea level rise and land subsidence- a natural geological pattern dating back to the most recent Ice Age, causing Washington, DC to sink. Yes, we are sinking at the same time that sea level is rising. The Anacostia river is also a tidal river.

United in Peace Walk 

The Southwest community gathered on Saturday, November 2 to unite against gun violence that has claimed several lives throughout the summer and fall of this year. Organized by community leader and ANC6D Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton and Reverend Ruth Hamilton, Co-Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, the walk attracted residents from across the community. Residents began their march with a prayer for peace (pictured above).

Anthony Bowen

Anthony Bowen's legacy lives on in Southwest and around Washington, DC. The First District Station occupies the former building of Anthony Bowen Elementary School on M St and includes a permanent exhibit on his life and historical significance. Amidon-Bowen Elementary School also bears his name, along with Margaret Milburn Amidon, a teacher and principal in SW in the 1800s. The Twelfth Street YMCA Building in NW, also known as the Anthony Bowen YMCA, honors Bowen. 

Olympian Sheila Ingram

It was just something I did." This is how Sheila Ingram describes her silver medal win in the 4 × 400 meter relay at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Canada. Her characteristic humility understates her exceptional talent in track and field. Sheila was only 19 years old that summer, missing her graduation to compete. Yet, she set two American women’s records at various times throughout the competition, in addition to four national high school records. Only three high schoolers have beat her 400m semifinal time. 

The Disappearance of Relisha, Age 8: The System Failed Her and Continues to Fail Children