The killing of reporter Charnice Milton one year ago Friday is one of many unsolved east of the Anacostia River. News4's Mark Segraves shows the "photographic morgue" a community activist made with photos of victims.
NBC Washington: One Year After Reporter Charnice Milton's Murder, Family Works to Turn Tragedy Into Turning Point
Every weekday morning before dawn, Francine Milton drives past the intersection where her daughter was killed. She used to steer her Mazda onto side streets to avoid the triangle in Southeast D.C. where Alabama Avenue, Good Hope Road and Naylor Road meet. But, listening to the Christian radio station WGTS on her way to work, she decided to face her fear head on.
"I can't walk in fear," she said. "I have to dwell on the positive, and I have to speak life. That's what we have to do: speak life at all times."
Charnice Milton was shot and killed as she waited for a bus the night of Wednesday, May 27, 2015. The 27-year-old reporter was hit by a stray bullet within sight of Skyland Town Center, the huge development site leaders say could change lives in Ward 7 and Ward 8.
As the first anniversary of Charnice's death approaches, local leaders and her family say the tragedy shines a spotlight on the problems and possibilities of the neighborhood. They are working to catch her killer, prevent violence and bring new life to a troubled intersection.
Scattered neighborhood communities in Ward 8 can start unifying to share concerns and celebrations with the help of revitalized civic associations. Members of the Anacostia Coordinating Committee (ACC) reached out to the Hillsdale and Bellevue neighborhoods three months ago to rebuild their neighborhood leadership. They hope to establish new civic associations so residents can address public safety, living environments, and locally sponsored events such as parades, fundraisers, and holiday celebrations.
Bellevue’s meeting was the first in two years, said Philip Pannell, executive director of the ACC. He hopes to have Hillsdale and Bellevue groups up and running by the end of 2015. Next year he plans to add several more neighborhoods to the list of those with active associations. “Civic associations give people a sense of place, a sense of belonging to a particular community,” he said. “During these days and times when people lead busy lives, there seem to be fewer opportunities for people to get together face to face to get to know their neighbors.”
About four civic associations met regularly in Ward 8 two years ago, Pannell said. Undefined neighborhoods broke down the communication. But future economic development plans in the Anacostia area need the support of communities and leaders. “The district government no longer defines the neighborhood boundaries,” Pannell said. “It’s up to the residents.”
Representation at the neighborhood level keeps strong values between old and new residents, said Arnehl Lyon, president of the Hillsdale Civic Association. With thousands of people moving in and around DC in more recent years, local identity can easily disappear. “DC is going through so many changes, not just racial but economic,” Lyon said. “We see an increase in numbers in our population and we are not properly represented.”
Lyon plans to bring together the home associations, tenant associations, small businesses, schools, and churches. Unified goals will help combat safety problems and keep the area’s history alive. And welcoming committees can invite newcomers to a home in which they can feel safe and settled. “We try not to have a dividing line between new and old,” she said. “The ones that want to tear our neighborhoods down, no, but the ones who want to keep the values, we want to keep those residents, yes.”
As the city develops and changes, though, many people continue to express concern about the outsourcing of jobs and costs of living rising higher than the means of long-time residents. Lyon said she knows Ward 8 neighborhoods need an influx of fresh businesses and employment opportunities but worries that too much could threaten people’s ability to stay.
In September the city announced plans to build a $55 million arena in Ward 8 as home to the Washington Wizards NBA team and the Washington Mystics WNBA team. City officials estimate a $90 million economic impact on the area around the arena.
During the October ACC meeting Ward 8 residents again expressed caution over who will work the estimated 600 contract and 300 permanent jobs for the construction. People don’t want the contracts to go to out-of-city companies, and want to keep the jobs available for workers east of the Anacostia. They want to build the local economy without displacing its communities, Lyon said. “The biggest fear is gentrification, but we don’t want gentrification, we want economic change,” she said. “To get that you have to have people coming into the community who have money to bring the average salary up and bring in what other neighborhoods have.”
The other seven wards maintain active civic associations. It shows in the number of successful restaurants, stores, and community-planned events, Lyon said. Ward 8 wants that balance. “I’d like to be able to walk to a grocery store,” she said. “And right now we only really have two sit-down restaurants, where just across the river at the Yards there are dozens.”
Pannell explained that civic associations also help give locals information about government assistance programs for which they may qualify. For example, residents may need home improvements or repair funds that the city can help with. The meetings can host speakers and experts to guide the locals through each process. If crime increases, police representatives can meet with the local associations to listen to the ongoing problems and offer safety tips or updates on potential investigation leads. It’s always better to be working with a group than individually,” he added.
At the October meeting for Bellevue at least 50 people attended as well as local officials. “We had Councilmember May, representatives from the mayor’s office, police department, and office of planning,” Pannell said. “People are getting excited about getting together.”
Providing a collective voice for a neighborhood empowers its people, said Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May. Instead of sifting through numerous concerns or complaints, officials in Mayor Bowser’s office and the councilmembers’ offices can respond more effectively to a group’s requests. “I like to go meet residents where they are versus having them come to me. I like to take services to the people,” May said. “It becomes easier [with a civic association] to get opportunities for the government to come to their community to talk with them about those things that are specific to their neighborhood.”
Attendees at the Hillsdale meetings showed appreciation for the efforts and an interest in building their representation, she said. It’s a grassroots mission to bring life back to the residents and their families. “Ward 8 has been muted for so long. The concerns have been silent,” May said. “Neighbors and residents in Ward 8 have always expressed their concerns, but being able to express their collective concerns is important.”
May supports the initiative of the ACC and Pannell. As in other wards, the city’s historical legacy can foster a sense of pride with its residents, she said. Continuing traditions and adding new ones can help engage the younger generation. Pride brings responsibility and care for neighbors.
Said Pannell, “People are just living in neighborhoods. Folks are not getting together to discuss community issues.” Pannell plans to help the civic associations gain attention and elect leaders. Then he and the ACC will guide them on raising and maintaining funds and applying for grants to pay for meeting flyers, refreshments, and sponsored events. Eventually he said each organization will charge annual dues of around $10-20, build a budget plan, and establish regular meeting schedules.
The next Bellevue Civic Association meeting is on Nov. 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the William O. Lockridge Bellevue Neighborhood Library.
- See more at: http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/content/acc-helps-reboot-ward-8-civic-associations#sthash.6bLMxOlj.dpuf
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Campbell AME Church
2562 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE
6:30 p.m. -- 8:30 p.m.
Brought to you by:
Anacostia Coordinating Council, Ward 8 Arts & Culture Council, DC Humanities Council
What do you really know about your neighborhood...and what do you tell the youth?
By Doug Siglin
The Anacostia Coordinating Council threw an appreciation event for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners from Wards Seven and Eight on Tuesday June 30th at the Anacostia Playhouse in Historic Anacostia.
Nearly all the Commissioners from the two wards east of the Anacostia and many guests turned out to be recognized for their hard work. Dignitaries including Councilmembers Yvette Alexander and LaRuby May, Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden, Department of the Environment Director Tommy Wells, and former Mayor Anthony Williams took turns praising the ANC officials.
ACC chairman Arrington Dixon served as the event's Master of Ceremonies and Executive Director Philip Pannell closed the meeting with a typically enthusiastic appreciation of the Commissioners' contributions to the east of the river community. Both men were involved in the creation of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions nearly four decades ago.
Former Mayor Williams and Doug Siglin introduced the audience to the newly-formed Anacostia Waterfront Trust, a priority initiative of the ACC. The nonprofit Trust has been created to work with the District government, the National Park Service, and private interests to plan and implement a comprehensive improvement of the Anacostia River, the National Park surrounding it, and nearby communities. Williams is the chair of the group, which was developed by the Federal City Council with the help of the Summit Fund of Washington, and Siglin is Executive Director. During his two terms as Mayor, Williams gave high priority to a similar initiative, the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.
Siglin, noting that families currently living in neighborhoods near the Anacostia should be able to enjoy the eventual benefits of a clean Anacostia and improved park, presented $1000 checks on behalf of the Trust to two organizations working to strengthen families in wards 7 and 8. The two recipients were the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative and the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. He asked the Mayor's Office, the Councilmembers and the ANC Commissioners to work closely with the Trust to develop initiatives for the river, the park and the neighborhoods.
The Anacostia Coordinating Council has done similar events for the ANC commissioners three times previously.
by Art Slater
On May 30, 2015, at the monthly ACC-Collaborative Faith Leaders Breakfast at the Conference Center on the campus of St. Elizabeths West, ACC delivered a brief presentation to Ward 8 clergy about a program, already in place since the summer of 2014, called Make the Right Choice Campaign, which is implemented by the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and facilitated by Wards 7 & 8 DC Prevention Center, Ward 8 Drug-Free Coalition, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, with support and linkages with DC Department of Behavioral Health (www.k2zombiedc.com) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), and ACC.
Many in the Ward 8 Community already know that as far back as 1997 the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) was a pioneer in efforts to combat the sale of drug paraphernalia as well as reducing the overwhelming amount of marketing of alcohol and tobacco products aimed at Ward 8 residents, especially youth, in a ward where positive health outcomes lag behind other parts of D.C. and chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and negative health conditions are registered among the highest in the city.
The idea behind the Make the Right Choice Campaign is simple. DC residents, community stakeholders, local businesses, city agencies and area non-profits get together for training on what synthetic marijuana is, what effects it has on the human body, and why its effects are so devastating to the to the mental and physical health of our community as a whole, and to youth in particular.
The second ingredient is the encouragement/enforcement piece which encourages businesses to sign the Make the Right Choice pledge, similar to a voluntary agreement, not to sell these illegal substances. Failure to abide by the agreements can result in fines and/or revocation of their business licenses.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Campaign shows how you as a resident and community steward can have a direct impact by being trained to engage your local businesses on being good neighbors and by fostering mutual respect in building a healthier environment in which customers and business can thrive.
ACC was set to help roll out a local implementation of the program in Ward 8 this month in fact when, as the saying goes “man proposes but God disposes”. Over this past June 5th weekend, various news and media outlets, along with the DC government, reported mass overdoses in D.C. on synthetic marijuana products known as K2, Bizzaro, Scoobie Snax, Spice and under other names, that are cheap, marketed in brightly colored packaging and that cause immediate and serious damage to its users, their families, and has short- and long-term ripple effects throughout our health care system.
While there are so many “we’re here to help” agency programs ready to address serious community issues, and we are grateful for them and contribute to them with our tax dollars, the Make the Right Choice Campaign is one that provides the community a way to participate personally in helping to ensure a safe and productive summer for us all with more options to make healthier choices.
As early as this week, ACC, along with its training partners, will be offering training sessions for the Make the Right Choice campaign, once arrangements for the training site(s) have been finalized. We ask that you please be ready to receive training, participate, and prevent the events of this past weekend from happening in the community in which we live, work, play, worship, and raise and educate our children.
 History to End the Sale of Drug Paraphernalia and Synthetic Marijuana in Stores, Wards 7 & 8 DC Prevention Center circular.
 District of Columbia Health Needs Assessment 2013, DC Department of Health.
 Thomas à Kempis, in Of the Imitation of Christ, ca. 1450 A.D.
 DC Executive Office of the Mayor - Public Health Advisory: Dangerous Synthetic Drug Use Leading to Overdoses
May 29, 2015 Press Release
Rescues Shepherd Parkway for the Community
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced another major step that has been taken for consolidation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8. The National Park Service (NPS) has transferred eight acres located in Shepherd Parkway to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to use to make infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate the next phase of DHS’s consolidation. Earlier this month, the National Capital Planning Commission and Commission on Fine Arts approved the land transfer.
“The transfer of these eight acres may seem a small matter, but these acres are essential for the DHS consolidation to move to the next stage,” said Norton. “GSA will now be able to move forward on the construction of a new access road parallel to I-295 that also will unburden the surrounding neighborhoods from the inevitable increase in car traffic, which is of special importance to the surrounding Ward 8 community. I am particularly pleased that the GSA construction will also rescue Shepherd Parkway from dumping, an issue the community and I have been working to eliminate for months to make Shepherd Parkway a pleasant park experience for the neighborhood.”
In March, Norton wrote to NPS requesting that NPS expedite the land transfer so that construction at St. Elizabeths would not fall behind schedule. Norton got $144 million in the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill for DHS Consolidation at St. Elizabeths and for GSA to make infrastructure improvements there, including a new access road to support federal employee traffic into St. Elizabeths. The access road has ripened as an issue because construction of the headquarters for the DHS secretary and 100 top DHS officials is now underway. The access road will be parallel to I-295 and connect Firth Sterling Avenue with Malcolm X Avenue and South Capitol Street. GSA will also provide improvements to the long-neglected Shepherd Parkway, including construction of a protected trail and bike path.
Link to Shepherd Parkway press release on Congresswoman Norton's site.
It is again, with heavy hearts, that the greater Anacostia community, local journalism and DC itself bids a fond farewell to another of its bright lights, Charnice A. Milton, a reporter for the Capital Community News. The tragic circumstances of her passing have been reported elsewhere on local media and will not be repeated here. We invite you to take a moment with us to reflect on her brief life but broad works on behalf of the Ward 7 and Ward 8 communities, and local journalism.
As announced by Capital Community News,
For more on Ms. Milton and her work, we invite you to visit the Capital Community News website where you can become reacquainted with her work, view remembrances from her colleagues, and see why this chronicler of daily life in our city will be missed. Below is a just sampling of items for and by her:
by Art Slater
Following up on our earlier post this year, "Anacostia Blazes a New Trail", we at ACC (and surely many of you) have now been noticing new sign posts marking historical and cultural landmarks, people and events on the Anacostia Heritage Trail popping up around the area.
The official launch for Anacostia's trail is still weeks away, but for young and old, the vibrancy and memory of the past leads us to the here and now. While we may be sad that some of the trailblazers who have brought us thus far are not with us to see the fruits of their labors memorialized on these sign posts, it is always we of the community that carry history forward. And when our memories fade, these markers will help remind future generations that you, we and our predecessors lived, worked, played and worshipped in an area of the city of which we are the current stewards. Stay tuned...
Photos by A. Slater
On Thursday, May 21, 2015, from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm at the Anacostia Gateway Office Building, 1800 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE, the Anacostia Coordinating Council hosted a presentation of the Urban Institute Studio, School of Architecture and Planning, The Catholic University of America.
After a series of small gatherings in Anacostia over several years, Dr. Iris Miller, of the CUA Urban Institute Studio, introduced by ACC Chair Arrington Dixon, presented ideas to jump-start community conversations about was is possible along the eastern Anacostia waterfront areas. This open envisioning session featured designs from other world-class capital cities as well as local ideas involving participation of area middle and high schools, such as a learning center on the riverfront.
While development and construction may be happening around us East of the River, it is important that the community also take part in the design and planning of local green spaces and advocate for them with city officials and representatives. We invite and and encourage your direct input and participation and will let you know as future sessions are scheduled.
Photos by A. Slater