Board Position Statement: Discriminatory Practice & SW Community Center Planning
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 3, 2022
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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. We relied on public address records of Board members to determine that the SW tract containing the greatest concentration of Black residents in Southwest does not have representatives from our communities (Figure 1). A SWDCC Board member Gail Fast confirmed this morning that no resident representative from this tract is on the Board presently. The Southwest Voice editor-in-chief had previously discussed the lack of inclusion with Chair Will Rich in-person at the Southwest Farmer’s Market in early 2022.
The nonprofit Board of Directors was officially formed in September 2019. Its mission is to “serve as a vibrant, central hub for the Southwest and Navy Yard neighborhoods, and will foster inclusive community participation and collaboration…to achieve a shared vision of what everyone would like to see in the new Community Center” (www.swdccc.org). The Board cannot fulfill its mission if it continues to maintain a leadership body that is not reflective of the social diversity of Southwest. The services and programs to follow will not be positioned to meet diverse needs for youth development, cultural preservation and education, and community strengthening.
We would like a community center that furthers values of heritage, community, and diversity and builds programming and social spaces to close gaps in current services and needs to include, but not limited to intergenerational teaching and learning, Southwest history, African American heritage in Southwest, entrepreneurial skills-building, community dialogue, artist showcases, and a liberation safe space. The SWDCC’s efforts are yet another form of psychological injury and cultural displacement that are causing us to experience social isolation and marginalization in Southwest at a time of historic neighborhood change.