Shaw Residents and Community Organizers Strategize to Stay in Their Neighborhood

By Brenda Hayes, This Light: Sounds for Social Change

In a town rife with Non-Profits that seemingly have all the answers for what ails longtime D.C. residents as they face gentrification-fueled displacement, ONE DC’s July 26th meeting was a much needed breath of fresh air for me. I asked permission to record the meeting for my radio show This Light: Sounds For Social Change, thankfully permission was granted to me to do so.

The meeting opened with a visual recap of June’s meeting. A 1950 to present timeline of redlining and economic cycles that lead to displacement hung on one of the walls. An adjacent wall held a visual that had the word “Concentrated Poverty” written in the center, surrounding those words were some of the commonly held beliefs about people who live in poverty; rampant drug abuse, crime, apathy.

We all sat in a familiar “meeting circle,” introduced ourselves and said how long each of us has lived in D.C.; there was one man who has lived in D.C. since birth, 60+ years.

eyesclosed.jpgNext we were led to do an exercise in which attendees were asked to present a physical movement that represents their perspective of gentrification and displacement. Some of the poses and movements included a young white woman who stood with her back to the rest of the group as she covered her eyes, blind to what was going on just behind her. A few people held stances of defiance, arrogance, indifference and helplessness.

For the second part of the exercise, we were asked to physically represent empowerment, action and change. I was most struck by what one Shaw resident, who happens to be a black woman, did; she held an invisible protest sign high above her head, two young white participants quickly stood in support behind her holding their invisible placards up. What these three participants represented to me is the need for community lead, driven, and sustained movement for equity in housing, work, and education.

Before the meeting, I interviewed longtime community activist Linda Leaks who handed out Terms of Empowerment, a seven page glossary of housing-related terms in which residents should become familiar when trying to remain in neighborhoods besieged by gentrification.

I also interviewed Patricia Trim, a 40+ year Shaw resident. During our conversation Ms. Trim told me how her mother would come to D.C. during the week for her job with the Federal Government and leave her with relatives in Virginia. Ms. Trim’s mother couldn’t afford to have her stay here in D.C. until she was sixteen years old. Ms. Trim and her mother moved several times, Champlain Street in Adams Morgan, 18th and Wyoming, 17th and T Sts., each time staying in apartments until the rent was raised to a prohibitively high amount. protest.jpg

Ms. Trim recently drove to Columbia Heights to see a dentist on 14th Street. As she drove to her appointment she realized she was in the neighborhood where she grew up. After her appointment, she
decided to drive around a bit and was astonished at and dismayed by all the changes that have taken place in recent years. She couldn’t bring herself to drive down Champlain Street the street where she first lived when she and her mother moved to D.C.

When she arrived back home that day, she went to her bedroom to pray. She tearfully asked “What I have done to fall so far from grace to be treated less than a human being.” I fear too many D.C. residents people are asking that same question.

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Phyllissa Bilal of Barry Farm Study Circle Testifies Against Displacement

My name is Phyllissa Bilal and I am the cofounder of the Barry Farm Study Circle. Though I am the cofounder of BFSC I feel it necessary to present as a public housing resident in addition to cofounder of the Barry Farm Study Circle. Below I have included my accounts of causes to question the application to demolish the Barry Farm community due to violation of the basic human rights of residents in the community.

Soon after moving into the community in January of 2012 I found out the community was in the process of being redeveloped and my family would soon have to move. I thought how could management forget to share that with me prior to my move-in date? I sent an email to the project manager Reyna Alloro who called me and told me that I would not have to move for at least two years. I would soon receive email invitations to project and planning meetings in the resident council office. These meetings led me to question the process even further. During this time I was volunteering for the resident council to take the minutes for meetings on the property. Ultimately I was questionably excused from the resident council. I started the Barry Farm Study Circle after testifying at the DCHA Counsel to try to get a better understanding of how this resident council was operating and attending meetings where the human rights, wants, needs and questions of residents were being completely ignored. For example, at a meeting facilitated by Janice Burgess in 2012 I questioned her directing residents to move to offsite housing specifically Matthews Memorial Terrace and Sheridan Terrace. I asked her if residents who had already been relocated would write their rental checks to DCHA as they had done while living in the Barry Farm community. Her response was no. I then asked her if Matthews and Sheridan are tax credit properties and if residents had entered into a tax credit property lease. Her answer was yes. My answer to her was that means these residents are no longer housing authority residents therefore how can they be placed back on the housing authority list since it had closed. She agreed they would not be allowed back on the list. I attended two other meetings one of which was an oversight hearing facilitated by Muriel Bowser where Linda Miller the former Resident Council president gave heartbreaking testimony that she had been tricked into moving to offsite housing and now was being told she cannot return. She gave similar testimony in a meeting facilitated by the cofounder of the Barry Farm Study Circle and the Chairperson to the Citywide Advisory Board Karen Settles.

Additionally, in 2012 I sent a letter to Reyna Alloro who is the DMPD project manager for the Barry Farm property asking for better clarification about the redevelopment process which turned into an invitation to attend planning meetings in the resident council office. As stated before, those meetings left me with more questions and concerns. One evening in particular I received a call from Janice Burgess of the DC Housing Authority. She said she had been given my name by Nella Peterson the resident council president at the time and Ms. Burgess was going to give me a list of developers and I would have to go through them and condense the list down to seven. Then she said that the deadline would be the next morning at 8am. I declined her request and sent an email to Ms. Peterson explaining why I declined, stating that I felt it was not a fair process to the residents of the community.  In short the Barry Farm Study Circle believes the continued path of demolishing public housing properties will only increase homelessness in DC. In fact, DCHA has not been transparent or inclusive in their process to redevelop our historical community and have used other harmful tactics against us, which I will not include at this time. As I wake up some mornings and look out my windows I still do not know why the houses of some of my neighbors have been boarded up and, more ominously, where are they now.

Today the rights of public housing residents have been violated all across the city. There has only been a 8-13% return rate of residents to their original and newly developed communities. And in the case of Temple Courts no return rate at all because the community is now a parking lot renting spaces for $8 a day. 

More recently the Barry Farm Study Circle had received several complaints of a 30 day eviction notices and suddenly inflated rental ledgers for amounts such as $6000. Through our partnership with the United Planning Organization Petey Greene Center we found their housing caseworkers shared the same concern for the influx of complaints and requests for support. We put together an outreach team consisting of United Planning Organizations workers, One DC organizers and members, and American University students. We did door-to-door outreach in Barry Farm on March 22nd in the Barry Farm community to collect 30 eviction notices and inflated rental ledgers, as well as to connect residents with legal support and other resources through our partnership with Neighborhood Legal Services.

The fight to have the voices and basic human rights of Barry Farm public housing residents protected and included in the redevelopment process continues. We only asked that the Zoning Commission take a stand against the human rights violations that continue in the Barry Farm community.

Thank You,

Phyllissa Bilal

Cofounder Barry Farm Study Circle


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Our DC seeking canvassers to build political power!


Email for more info.

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DC Co-op Clinic 2014

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Job Opportunity: Full-time Right to Income Community Organizer Beginning Immediately

ONE DC is seeking a creative and dynamic individual with a proven track record to join the ONE DC team as a Community Organizer.  The successful candidate will:

  1. Serve as strategic principals for the campaign work.  Community organizers are responsible for coordinating weekly outreach goals, including outreach strategy, membership recruitment, leadership development, one-on-one’s, and coalition building activities
  2. Must exercise a collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership development and membership recruitment to Right to Income campaigns. 
  3. Work with Organizing and Coalition Building Committee to implement popular education and organizing strategies to achieve community controlled development, living wage jobs, local hiring policies, and worker cooperatives in Washington, DC.
  4. Research and Develop a Black Worker’s Center to focus on structural unemployment, employment issues for African American workers/unemployed and other people of color, and to develop economic alternatives such as worker cooperatives that support workplace democracy and living wages. Manage the Center’s Steering Committee and Advisory Board.
  5. Develop an analysis of, reflection on, and action about workforce development challenges connected with ONE DC’s recent efforts to work with the city and the new Marriott Hotel at the Convention Center to have 500 DC residents employed at the new hotel.
  6. Build coalitions with partner organizations to achieve citywide employment policy goals through the People’s Platform
  7. Conduct 15-25 hours of outreach, leader visits, etc. per week with Right to Income members and recruits.
  8. Assist in mentoring Right to Income members and ONE DC organizing apprentices.
  9. Secure media coverage of ONE DC organizing work.
  10. Assist in the planning and implementation of ONE DC organizational events.
  11. Perform organizing campaign-related administrative tasks as needed and appropriate to sustaining the organization.
  12. Attend regular staff meetings, Shared Leadership Team meetings, and other campaign-related sessions, etc.
  13. Report directly to Resource Organizer; in addition, ONE DC’s Personnel Committee will conduct evaluation and exit interviews.


Minimum Requirements:

  1. Several years of demonstrated direct organizing/base building experience;
  2. Strong computer and internet skills;
  3. Ability to build unity and motivate others to action;
  4. Good communication skills, written, verbal, and interpersonal; and
  5. Self-motivated and skilled at working as part of a team.


Additional Qualifications:

  1. Must be a resident in the DMV area, DC residents are strongly encouraged to apply and given strong preference;
  2. Must be willing to commit to at least a 2 years involvement in ONE DC;
  3. Knowledge of Washington, DC issues and organizations;
  4. Learn about and commit to ONE DC’s organizing model;
  5. Willingness and ability to work with diverse community residents, particularly low-income residents, to address barriers to developing their strength as a community;
  6. Spanish, Amharic, or Chinese language proficiency preferred;
  7. Strong research skills;
  8. Eye for detail;
  9. Flexible hours, including a willingness to work evenings and weekends;
  10. Creativity and sense of humor;
  11. A desire to deepen political analysis and learn about the history of social movements;
  12. A reflexive professional practice and active commitment to self-critique;
  13. Willingness to engage in honest, though constructive, mindful, and compassionate reciprocal critique of work with teams and other staff.


ONE DC offers a generous salary and benefits package. ONE DC is strongly committed to staff development and training. This is an opportunity for an individual to build meaningful relationships with grassroots communities and to be a part of real, concrete social change. People of color, women, LGBTQ and bilingual applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.


To Apply:


Please submit resume and cover letter (including salary expectations) electronically to Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.


About ONE DC:

ONE DC (formerly Manna CDC) was founded in 1997 in the midst of rapid neighborhood change. Our work centers on popular education, community organizing, and alternative economic development projects. Stemming from a deep analysis of race, class, gender, and power, our approach to community development addresses the structural causes of poverty and injustice in Shaw and throughout the District.

Moving beyond service provision, ONE DC builds the political capacity of low-income people of color in order to create and preserve racial and economic equity in the district. Our grassroots leadership development draws deeply on the principles and achievements of Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). We seek to learn from and build upon this history and that of people-led movements for justice and human rights throughout the world.


About the Right to Income Campaign:

ONE DC's Right to Income campaign supports longtime DC residents struggling for living wages, decent working conditions, and for DC to enforce and uphold the local hiring laws. We work against displacement of longtime DC residents of color. We conduct listening sessions with DC residents to let their concerns be heard. We use popular education to inform and organize workers and the unemployed about and around their concerns. Through direct action and a slew of other organizing strategies, we demand and work to ensure that jobs stay in DC, are offered to longtime local residents of color, pay living wages with benefits, and that the city put resources into supporting workers, the longtime unemployed, and the development of worker cooperatives and worker ownership. Our citywide People’s Platform advocates for policy initiatives and legislation that will create and support good jobs in DC and end the displacement of longtime residents in an increasingly inequitable city.

Organizationally, ONE DC has formally implemented a non-hierarchical, shared leadership structure that recognizes, supports and encourages the abilities and contributions of its board, members, and staff. In addition, ONE DC desires applicants who are self-starters and motivated to perform at high levels and can meet strict deadlines.

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RSVP for the next People's Platform Meeting


We've brought our demands to the DC City Council and returned on September 22 to hear their response. Now it's time to take action to make sure the People's Platform policies are introduced to preserve affordable housing, ensure community control over land, and create an economy in DC that supports ALL of its residents!
The People's Platform is a multi-organization, multi-year alliance made up of long-time, low-income DC residents who are organizing around the following principles:
●             Community control over land use
●             Development without displacement
●             Permanent housing affordability
●             Community and family stability
●             Community and family wealth creation

Don't forget to sign your endorsement of the People's Platform!

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Join DC for Reasonable Development this Monday to Demand Good City Planning!

This coming Monday, September 15, at 11:15am, DC for Reasonable Development, a citywide coalition representing all eight wards, will stand in front of an audience of the media, the City Council, and Mayor on the steps of the John A. Wilson building downtown to demand an end to bad planning in DC!
DC4RD will deliver a letter signed by 100+ of the most politically engaged voters in the District demanding that:
  • Any action on the proposed zoning regulations be deferred until after a robust public discussion of (and a Council vote on) amendments to the Comprehensive Plan,
  • The incoming Mayor appoint a new Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, a new Director of the Office of Planning, and a new member of Zoning Commission,
  • The Council require, as a condition of confirmation, that candidates for these positions have a track record of, and a commitment to, constructive engagement with diverse groups of citizens, and that,
  • Decisions on controversial public land PUDs be postponed until after these new leaders have been appointed and confirmed.
Event Details:
What: DC for Reasonable Development Press Conference / Presentation of our letter to City Council and Mayor
When: Monday, September 15, 2014, starting at 11:15am
Where: Front steps of the John A. Wilson building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; (Metro: Federal Triangle; or Metro Center stops) See the online map here >>
Please RSVP: Chris Otten, 202-810-2768,
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ONE DC seeks dynamic & creative fall interns

ONE DC is seeking creative and dynamic individuals with a genuine interest in getting on-the-ground experience with community organizing around economic & racial justice issues, as well as a strong desire to learn, grow, and contribute to social change and community-building campaigns.

We are currently seeking interns to support our on-going campaigns and administrative work.

Organizing Intern Responsibilities

  • Help recruit and develop relationships with ONE DC members by conducting outreach via phone banking, one-on-one visits, and neighborhood door-knocking throughout the District.
  • Help develop leadership capacity of ONE DC members
  • Research economic and racial justice issues and legislation related to the Black Workers’ Center, Right to Income, Right to Housing, or People's Platform campaigns.
  • Attend staff meetings and strategizing sessions
  • Assist with facilitation and planning of ONE DC organizational and campaign events and popular education workshops
  • Track organizing and outreach efforts through data entry into Nation Builder contact database.
  • Help develop and/or edit outreach materials such as flyers, email blasts, and social media posts

Administrative Intern Responsibilities

  • Update ONE DC database (Nation Builder) to track membership, donations, and attendance at events.
    • Import spreadsheets from events and campaign meetings
    • Apply appropriate tags for individuals and organizations based on campaign interest, location, method of signup, email list, etc.
    • Merge duplicate memberships
    • Enter donation & paid membership information
  • Assist with communications through social media, email blasts, and website updates
    • Help edit email blasts and monthly e-newsletter
    • Edit & publish website, Facebook, Twitter posts
  • Attend ONE DC staff meetings and take notes or facilitate as needed
  • Attend & help facilitate ONE DC events & campaign meetings as needed
  • Assist with outreach for organizing, meetings, and events
    • Phone banking
    • Outreach Days


  • Strong written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrated interest in direct, grassroots organizing, base building, and membership development.
  • Strong computer and internet research skills
  • Ability to build unity and motivate others to action
  • Self-motivated
  • Skilled at working as a part of a team
  • Flexible hours and ability to work some evenings & weekends.

Additional Qualifications

  • Knowledge of Washington, DC issues and organizations
  • Spanish or Amharic language proficiency a plus
  • Knowledge of social justice issues surrounding race, class, gender, & sexuality.
  • High level of empathy, curiosity, and autonomy
  • Eye for detail
  • Desire to deepen a political analysis and learn about the history of social movements
  • A reflective professional practice and active commitment to self-critique
  • Willingness to engage in honest, constructive, mindful, and compassionate reciprocal critique of work with teams and other staff
  • Knowledge of Nation Builder a plus

Intern Outcomes

  • Develop organizing skills and learn about methods, strategies, and challenges
  • Learn ONE DC history and organizing strategy
  • Learn DC organizing history and present economic and racial issues faced by DC residents, such as displacement and unemployment, and current movements to effect change
  • Develop communication skills
  • Learn about DC housing and employment policy issues and other community organizations in DC
  • Gain Nation Builder skills

Additional Details

  • Approximately 10-15 hours per week in office and in the community. Ability to work some evenings and weekends for campaign events, meetings, and outreach as needed.
  • We cannot provide stipends at this time, but will work with your school, university, or program to provide course credit or verify community service hours.
  • Native Washingtonians and/or DC residents given strong preference.
  • People of color, women, LGBTQ and bilingual applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.
  • To apply, please email with resume and cover letter.


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Join the People's Platform!

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Affordable Housing and Mount Vernon Plaza

"For Ebony, Brown, and Tesfamariam, the expiration of Bush’s tax-credit obligations has meant paying more rent, struggling to get by, and most likely trying to move in a year’s time, when the rent will rise to the full market rate. For some of their neighbors, it meant moving out immediately. In both cases, the previously affordable units were lost forever to the ever-rising demands of the free market."

--from Aaron Wiener, "Why D.C. Is About to Have Even Less Affordable Housing," Washington City Paper 8/6/14

Read the full article describing the organizing efforts of ONE DC members and analyzing DC low-income housing policies here.

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Organizing for Neighborhood Equity in Shaw and the District