Serita El Amin is the granddaughter of Samuel B. Ethridge, a former National Education Association official who worked for racial integration of state teacher organizations during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In 1968, he was named head of the NEA’s newly created center for Human Rights, which developed leadership programs.
So further in her life, Serita El Amin was inspired to follow her grandparents’ dreams and legacy and wanted to represent in changing relationships between organizations. She has struggled in many areas of separation and displacement, and truly believes in human rights and remembering our ancestors and what they fought for. Serita lives in Washington, D.C., in the NE Brookland Manor apartments, where tenants are now trying to protect their rights and preserve affordable housing. She has been there for 18 years -- has one biological child and raised 16 children. Serita loves life and believes we should live life to the fullest with equal shares. She happily joined ONE DC's Making the Just City Project in 2017 to move forward to success and equal rights.
Raheem Anthon is a native of Washington D.C. His childhood consisted of relocating many times due to systemic circumstances of a low-income, single-parent household. He grew up in Congress Heights, Baltimore, and Charlotte, N.C. where he witnessed and experienced the physiological effects that struggle can take hold on people, especially his family. This led him to try to understand the reasons why this takes place in society. When life led him back to D.C., he was stunned to see the effects of gentrification and displacement take place where he considered home. Places seemed familiar, but faces were complete strangers. This, along with the election of 2016, compelled him to get politically involved, begin reading revolutionary literature, and led him to local organizations, such as ONE DC. Being a member of ONE DC has been integral in reconnecting him back to the DC community and he is currently involved in the Making the Just City campaign. This campaign is an ethnographic study of late and new gentrification stages and its adverse effects in the Orange County, NJ and Shaw area. Raheem hopes to continue working with the people in order to restore our roots, not just with revolutionary ideology, but to bring people to revolutionary ideology- a praxis for the people. He believes this will truly create social change by having the people fight for what is theirs and build a new society together.
Derek Hyra (associate professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University and author of Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City) and Dominic Moulden (ONE DC Resource Organizer) speaking at DC Ideas Fest about the innovative Making the Just City project that brings together researchers and community organizers in neighborhoods facing displacement in DC to understand and produce community-level responses, such as affordable housing and social capital, to reduce health disparities.
Click here to view presentation slides
Mid-City Financial, the developer that owns the Brookland Manor property in Northeast Washington, D.C. has hired RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, a consulting company that is becoming the "go-to" for developers looking to justify the tearing down of affordable housing in order to build luxury apartments and condos. RCLCO has written an outrageous report, submitted to the D.C. Zoning Commission, claiming that Mid-City will not be gentrifying if it goes through with its redevelopment plan at Brookland Manor, because gentrification in Ward 5 is "an established trend." On its face, this is a preposterous claim.
While the report in its entirety is nonsensical, there are two particularly egregious quotes that are telling of Mid-City's intentions at Brookland Manor in particular, and in Ward 5 in general:
1. RCLCO used a quote in their report from a Slate article to justify Mid-City's redevelopment plan for Brookland Manor. The quote reads: "When you have enough construction, you get filtering rather than gentrification. Lower-income people move into dwellings that used to house rich people but that aren't shiny and new any more and don't have the most up-to-date fashions. When you don't have enough construction, you get rich people moving into poor people's houses and installing granite countertops." This is a shocking statement as we witness brand new luxury developments in D.C. pushing working class Black people into sub-prime markets run by slumlords, like we've seen with Sanford Capital at properties like Congress Heights.
2. RCLCO used a second quote in their report by "liberal economist" Paul Krugman to justify Mid-City's redevelopment plan for Brookland Manor. The quote reads: "Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply. There's still room to build, even in New York, especially upward. Yet while there is something of a building boom in the city, it's far smaller than the soaring prices warrant, mainly because land use restrictions are in the way." This shocking quote very clearly states who Mid-City is building for. They boldly and blatantly state that the supply of housing they offer is to meet the demand for "urban living by the elite."
Consulting companies like RCLCO are acting as facilitators of predatory redevelopments that seek to profit at the expense of working class communities of color.
Mid-City Financial plans to eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom units, and most 3 bedroom units,
effectively displacing hundreds of working class black families from Brookland Manor.
Recently, Mid-City has pushed the narrative through media outlets that if they were able to build higher density at Brookland Manor, there would have been an appropriate amount of affordable housing. However, even in Mid-City's original plans which would have quadrupled density (as opposed to current plans which propose to triple density), they never planned to replace the 535 units of affordable housing currently on the property, and they always planned to eliminate family-sized units.
Segregation and inequality are the obvious manifestations of arguments like the recent one pushed by the Editorial Board at the Washington Post. Privately-owned land and private money does not abdicate a private company’s responsibility to the public. Previous investigative reports by the Washington Post expose public problems perpetuated by Mid-City Financial, including the loss of family housing at Brookland Manor. Mid-City's eviction campaign has also been documented by groups like the Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP). At ONE DC, we believe we have a communal responsibility to ensure equitable development without displacement. Additionally, there are rules in place that require plans like those of private company Mid-City at Brookland Manor to gain PUD approval through the government zoning process. This process is designed to ensure that plans like Mid-City’s protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Clearly, a plan that eliminates affordable housing while tripling density on the 20 acre site, and one that eliminates family housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, does not promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community, and therefore should not be approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission. This is the legal standard that Mid-City must be judged by.
Tenants at Brookland Manor propose that Mid-City be allowed to redevelop and triple density only if they include the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at their existing subsidy levels and bedroom sizes. Furthermore, tenants ask for the right to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of. Working class residents of color who are affected by the affordable housing crisis have a right to seek to preserve affordable housing at every turn, whether it be through private redevelopment plans that require zoning approval, or through the preservation and expansion of high quality, high functioning public housing. The government to this point has completely failed in that respect.
The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association has repeatedly offered to partner with Mid-City and with Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie to access money through the Housing Production Trust Fund in order to finance a true one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units at the redeveloped property. To this point, neither Mid-City nor Kenyan McDuffie has taken the Residents Association up on their offer to work together to preserve the existing affordable housing at Brookland Manor as a part of redevelopment plans moving forward. What is happening at Brookland Manor illustrates why Washington, D.C. is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that is only getting worse. Sadly, city government officials like Kenyan McDuffie continue to refuse to act in the interests of their constituents, and instead work to increase the profit margins of private companies like Mid-City.
Brookland Manor tenants continue to lead a fight to preserve affordable, family-accessible units at Brookland Manor, and it is critical that we continue to keep up widespread public pressure on a system that puts the interests of profiteers before those of the people, and one that continues to develop by way of displacement. We expect the D.C. Zoning Commission to finally make a decision on Monday, May 22, as to whether Mid-City can move forward with its planned displacement of working class Black residents from Brookland Manor to make way for a redevelopment that will build over 1,750 luxury apartments. On that day, once again, we will come out in big numbers to demonstrate our continued solidarity with tenant-led struggles to save affordable housing and family housing in the District of Columbia, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to working class black communities under attack by private developers and city officials who do their bidding.
Please join us on May 22nd. We will rally outside of 441 4th St NW at 5:00PM, and then move into the building starting at 6:00PM to pack the zoning hearing, which will begin at 6:30PM.
RSVP here: Final Action Rally! Support Brookland Manor!
ONE DC tenant members and residents at Brookland Manor request your support on Monday, April 24, 2017 at a 5:00 PM rally followed by a public Zoning Commission meeting at 6:30 PM. Click here to RSVP
The Zoning Commission is expected to publicly discuss and announce their decision as to whether or not to continue to allow Mid-City Financial to move forward with their plan to eliminate affordable housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and to cut out desperately needed family sized units at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, D.C. Mid-City's plan is particularly egregious when one considers the fact that they are calling to cut family housing and affordable housing while simultaneously tripling density.
It is CRUCIAL that the public show up to demonstrate opposition to a plan that would displace families from the city, keep them warehoused in shelters, or forgotten in the streets. Working class Black communities are under attack across the city by wealthy developers, and the politicians who do their bidding. It is IMPERATIVE that the public hold the Zoning Commission accountable and stand in solidarity with the tenants of Brookland Manor who have led and continue to lead this struggle to preserve their right to the city.
The location is 441 4th St NW and the closest metro station is Judiciary Sq (red line).
RSVP on our website and please share and invite friends, family, and neighbors on Facebook.
Here are three other things you can do to support the movement for our human right to housing:
1. Sign up to phone bank for the upcoming rally by emailing Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org
Background on Brookland Manor
Currently, Brookland Manor houses 535 affordable units, including 3, 4 and 5 bedroom units that accommodate families. Mid-City’s redevelopment plan proposes to eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom units, and most 3 bedroom units. It also proposes to reduce the overall number of affordable units from 535 to 373 while restricting 200 of those units to seniors only (aged 62 and older). Mid-City plans to simultaneously triple density by building over 1,750 units of luxury apartments at Brookland Manor.
Latest Updates on Brookland Manor Zoning Hearings
Mid City’s plan to redevelop Brookland Manor must be approved by the DC Zoning Commission. Zoning Commission approval occurs in multiple stages.
At the first stage zoning hearing on Brookland Manor back in 2016, representatives of Mid-City suggested that due to “natural attrition,” some tenants would leave Brookland Manor, and that their absence from the property would help to justify Mid-City’s plans to build luxury apartments in place of deeply affordable housing. Rather than “natural attrition,” what residents at Brookland Manor have been subjected to is a calculated and planned displacement campaign. Mid-City has 1) divided and evicted dozens of families; 2) erected fences that physically divide the community and hinder freedom of movement 3) hired armed security guards to patrol the property and serve tenants with notices of infraction for breaking “community rules,” which include transgressions such as having a plant in the hallway, standing on the grass, and standing outside.
However, Mid-City’s plan to intimidate and harass tenants has not worked. In fact, their heavy handed tactics have galvanized the both the tenants at Brookland Manor and the surrounding community.
At the most recent Zoning Commission hearing, which took place over two days (February 23, 2017 and March 16, 2017), Mid-City’s attorney attempted to use loopholes in order to avoid discussion on the key issues of their plan with respect to affordable housing and displacement, and instead attempted to focus the meeting on the color of the bricks and the kind of shrubs that would be planted as part of their planned redevelopment. The Tenants goal was to ensure that the Zoning Commission recognize that Mid-City’s redevelopment plan denies Brookland Manor residents their right to live in the redeveloped property and that Mid-City has engaged in an extensive campaign of planned displacement (A video of the hearing can be found HERE).
Throughout the night, resident stories of how private security targeted them by serving arbitrary infractions for leaning on fences or waiting for the bus with their children clearly troubled members of the Zoning Commission. Residents explained how when they began to organize to protect their community Mid-City’s private, armed security harassed and threatened local organizers with arrest. Organizers also recounted stories of being barred from attending meetings organized by Mid-City, despite the fact that the Residents Association requested their presence. It was clear to many in attendance that Mid-City’s actions demonstrate that they desire nothing more than sweep the Brookland Manor residents out of the community.
At the close of the hearing, the Chairman of the Zoning Commission put out a call for a “trust meeting” between Mid-City Financial and the Brookland Manor residents. Ms. Minnie Elliott, president of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association reiterated that Brookland Manor residents have always been willing to work with Mid-City Financial, and that in fact, Mid-City Financial has refused to work with the community to accomplish their extremely reasonable and viable demands. To be clear, the tenants do not oppose the overall redevelopment project. However for the tenants, any such redevelopment must include:
- The Preservation of the 535 units of affordable housing that currently exist on site at the current bedroom sizes and current subsidy levels;
- The right of tenants to remain on the property during the process of redevelopment (redevelopment in phases to prevent any displacement) i.e.: build first;
- The right for tenants to access employment opportunities through the rebuilding of their own community, which they have a fundamental right to be a part of.
In conclusion when discussing Mid City’s current proposal, ONE DC organizer Delonte Wilkins summed their plan perfectly, “If you consider us human, then there’s no question. Displacement is not acceptable. This development has no legitimacy.”
Mid-City Financial, the corporation responsible for pushing forth a redevelopment plan that has resulted in mass evictions and displacement of working class Black residents from the Brookland Manor community in Northeast DC, attempted to hide numbers from the DC Zoning Commission to cover up their plan to eliminate over 360 units of affordable family-accessible housing in the midst of a housing crisis in Washington, D.C. If the redevelopment goes through as planned, Mid-City will build over 1,750 units of mostly luxury apartments, reducing overall affordable units from 535 units currently on the property to a mere 373 units, while also restricting 200 out of the 373 units for seniors only, aged 62 and older. In addition to slashing affordability and restricting eligibility of existing residents to live in the affordable units, the redevelopment will eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom family sized units, and most 3 bedroom units, rendering the property almost completely void of large families.
At the first part of the second stage zoning hearing on February 23, 2017 (second part to take place this Thursday, March 16, 2017), Mid-City Financial executives and attorneys refused to discuss the displacement of existing residents at Brookland Manor. Mid-City has repeatedly claimed that “qualified tenants” and tenants “in good standing” will be eligible to return to the property after the redevelopment. However, they refuse to define the criterion of a “qualified tenant”. Will Merrifield, Brookland Manor's/Brentwood Village Residents Association attorney, analyzes Mid-City’s numbers in his testimony, which you can read here. Watch his cross-examination of Mid-City, which starts at 1 hour 20 minutes and 52 seconds, and you will see how they attempt to hide the numbers by refusing to talk about them: http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?PGD=dczoning&iID=4324.
Mid-City is attempting to mislead the DC Zoning Commission, Ward 5 residents and the wider public, and most egregiously, Brookland Manor tenants. In their feeble attempt to “prove” to the DC Zoning Commission that tenants “support” their plan to eliminate family housing, Mid-City submitted this letter to the zoning record. Ironically, the letter details the conditions of a tenant living in a one-bedroom with four children – a family that will be at imminent risk of displacement as a part of the new redevelopment. This is just one of many underhanded ways that Mid-City is attempting to sell a project that they cannot defend – a project that will push working class Black families into the streets and out of the city. While Mid-City’s attorneys discussed shrubs and the color of building bricks, they tried to use procedural loopholes to avoid a discussion on displacement. The good news is that Mid-City is so transparent in their cover up that their plan has backfired and shifted momentum to the side of tenants. We are in a position to win this fight and we need the whole community to stand behind us. It may not be quick, but with sustained community support, we can win the fight against developers that displace in Washington, D.C. Development without displacement is what Brookland Manor tenants demand.
Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, while tweeting about the need for family units, remains silent on Brookland Manor. It was only after repeated requests by his constituents at the property did he agree to a 30 minute meeting with tenants earlier last month. McDuffie has not reached out to tenants since then regarding the redevelopment, and to-date has in no way committed to help save affordable family housing at Brookland Manor. Last week, reports showed McDuffie introducing a bill to encourage the production of family units through the use of the Housing Production Trust Fund in the future. Not only do we have no idea if the bill will pass or be implemented, but it is also perplexing that McDuffie is willing to introduce bills but seemingly unwilling to take concrete action by standing with Brookland Manor families and signing onto their tenant resolutions. To reiterate, the tenant resolutions oppose Mid-City’s redevelopment plan that would eliminate large bedrooms, and hundreds of units of affordable housing for families in the midst of a city-wide housing crisis. If Councilman McDuffie is serious about protecting families, he should demonstrate it by supporting families in his own backyard at Brookland Manor. Again, McDuffie acknowledges that the city needs family units, so why isn’t he supporting Brookland Manor tenants who are fighting to preserve family units? Tell McDuffie to ACT – Stand with Brookland Manor, and support development WITHOUT displacement.
Here are ways you can help Brookland Manor tenants in the fight against violent displacement:
1. Show up to pack the hearing room this Thursday, March 16, 6:30pm, part two of the second stage of the Brookland Manor zoning hearing (441 4th St. NW Suite 200). RSVP here: http://www.onedconline.org/events.
2. Submit written testimony or sign up to give oral testimony at the zoning hearing this Thursday, March 16 in support of Brookland Manor tenant demands. Email Yasmina Mrabet at email@example.com if you can support Brookland Manor tenants with a testimony.
3. Call or email Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie at 202-724-8028 or firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to stand with his constituents at Brookland Manor who are fighting to protect their homes and families. He can support them by opposing Mid-City’s redevelopment plan until or unless it preserves 535 units of affordable housing, at the same bedroom size and subsidy levels currently at the property. McDuffie can also help by signing onto the Brookland Manor tenant resolutions, and opposing any and all redevelopment plans that propose the elimination of family sized units and affordable housing.
On February 23, ONE DC members stood with Brookland Manor residents in their struggle against displacement at the hands of Mid-City Financial and the District of Columbia. We were joined, in force, by SURJ-DC, IWW DC, Metro DC DSA, the Black Workers Center Chorus, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Housing Advocacy Team, GW Young Progressives Demanding Action, Black Lives Matter DC, API Resistance, DC Jobs with Justice, Fair Budget Coalition, DC for Reasonable Development, Americans for Transit, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, Justice First, DC Right to Housing Initiative, MLOV, the Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, UFCW Local 400, and many more partners and supporters. Simply put, our presence was undeniable. Before we could even begin, security mandated we move a paltry distance from where we had set up to the red brick sidewalk behind us (even though much of our comrades were already occupying it). Separated by the empty space of the courtyard nothing was more clear: The power of the people terrifies the capitalist class.
||Pictured Brookland Manor residents Dorothy Davis & Serita El Amin
Black Workers Center Chorus members Luci Murphy, Ma Krstn, and Eric Sheptock opened the rally by leading the group in song. Brookland Manor residents Yvonne Johnson, Dorothy Davis, Neeka Sullivan, Cheryl Brunson, Valarie Scott, and Serita El-Amin shared stories of their vibrant community. They were joined by spoken word poet Nkechi Feaster and activist-organizers Linda Leaks, Eugene Puryear, and Yasmina Mrabet. "Brookland Manor is a place where families become families," Cheryl Brunson explained, "It's our home." Ms. Dorothy Davis reminisced about raising her children in Brookland Manor and how she now has the joy of helping raise her grandchildren there as well. Transforming a space in which one merely dwells into a community that one lives takes decades of support and compassion; a labor of love that goes beyond the pull of self-interest. Ms. Cheryl Brunson humbly recounted how, during a tumultuous time in her life, it was her neighbors in Brookland Manor who served as a vital support system for her and her family.
In addition, residents provided a deft critique of the repressive measures taken by Mid-City Financial in the struggle for Brookland Manor. For those unaware, Mid-City Financial has fenced off the courtyard, blocking an essential element in maintaining their communal life. "We can't even stand outside and watch our kids," Neeka Sullivan explained. Similarly, Mid-City Financial has hired new security guards whose only purpose is to harass residents and produce an endless proliferation of infractions. These tactics, as well as the overall struggle, are dramatically affecting the quality of life of the residents of Brookland Manor. Painfully, Yvonne Johnson observed that in her 20 years there she hasn’t come across this level of depression. Children are weighed down by the possibility that one day they may no longer have a home to come back to.
Despite these realities the residents of Brookland Manor are undeterred. "We haven't seen a gathering like this in a long time," Linda Leaks shouted, passionate yet focused, "We are not going to move and we are going to win." Indeed, the line for those who showed up to support the Brookland Manor residents nearly wrapped around the building and we easily filled the overflow room.
|The line to enter the hearing stretched down the block
Once inside, Mid-City Financial undertook what appeared to be a rather bizarre testimony. Over an hour long, they fixated on minute details concerning the types of shrubbery they wanted to plant and the hue and crispness of their brick selection. Mid-City Financial is just as comfortable prioritizing aesthetics over the concerns of their residents as they are putting their profits before the community. Here, we are reminded of Walter Benjamin's warning about the dangers inherent in introducing "aesthetics into political life" and the displacement it brings (See the epilogue in Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Yet, despite the absurd performance, the tactic was deliberate. The zoning commission proceeding only allows the cross examiner to question the Defendant based on the testimony given. Presumably, if the testimony is filled with vapid details and dead-ends the cross examiner will be barred from initiating a meaningful line of questioning.