Check out the blog of a movement trying to save Museum Square, a building whose demolition would displace low-income Chinese residents in China town.
From the blog:
"In early June of this year, tenants of Museum Square, a 302-unit Section 8 affordable apartment building in Chinatown, received a notice which revealed the owner’s plans to demolish the building. Tenants were told that they can only save their homes if they can raise $250 million to buy the building. [...] That price works out to just over $827,800 per unit; a completely unrealistic price for this building which is 7 times higher than the $36 million assessed value of the property. [...]
Museum Square represents one of two buildings still home to low-income tenants in this area of the city, and 302 rental units that are at risk of being permanently lost from DC’s stock of affordable housing. And ironically this future development seeks to demolish a building that currently houses the majority of the Chinese residents left in that neighborhood, ultimately so that disproportionately white and higher income people can live in Chinatown. Tenants are working tirelessly to fight for the preservation of their homes and the affordability of this building by any means available."
By John Duda, The Democracy Collaborative
Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a member of ONE-DC’s shared leadership team, offered two area talks to mark the release of her long-awaited book Collective Courage: African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Dr. Nembhard, who is also an Associate Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at CUNY’s John Jay College, and a member of the Grassroots Economic Organizing Collective, was the featured speaker in an evening program exploring the intersections of economic and racial justice at the new Impact Hub DC space on June 3rd, and spoke in Baltimore the next night at Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative bookstore and coffeehouse.
At the event on the 3rd, which was sponsored by The Democracy Collaborative, Impact Hub DC, and ONE-DC, Dr. Nembhard was joined by local cooperative development advocate and fellow GEO collective member Ajowa Ifateyo for a conversation on the history of African-American cooperatives uncovered in the long years of research that went into the book, as well as the way this history informs attempts to organize cooperative economic institutions in communities of color today. According to Nembhard, our understanding of cooperatives as primarily something that get created in relatively privileged white communities is by and large a total mistake.
In part, this mistaken impression is due to the consequences of the need to keep cooperative organizing in African-American communities clandestine due to fear of racist retaliation—because co-ops were kept quiet, they also were kept out of the historical record. Despite facing this challenge along with many others, an extensive and vital tradition of African American cooperative activity nevertheless provided a key economic base of support and an indispensible site of leadership training during the long civil rights movement. The hope expressed in the conversation was that this important and formerly unknown history can help guide and inspire today’s movements working to use cooperatives to empower marginalized communities.
Indeed, as the updates the audience in DC heard—on ONE DC's Black Worker's Center, Impact Hub DC's new worker cooperative incubator, Community Farming Alliance's DC-based farm cooperative for people of color and women, and on Black Belt Justice Center's efforts to expand African American community ownership of land—amply demonstrated, the struggle for economic self-determination so wonderfully chronicled in Dr. Nembhard’s Collective Courage is very much alive and well today.
By Ka Flewellen
The first Kelsey Garden tenants are excited and planning to move back to their Shaw neighborhood in the fall of 2014. It has been eight years of struggle and adjustment for Kelsey Garden tenants who were displaced from their 54 unit garden style apartment complex at 7th & Q Streets NW in the Shaw neighborhood. Their roomy garden style apartments with balconies have been replaced by a new development, Jefferson Marketplace, an eight story, 281 unit apartment building. The Kelsey Garden Tenant Association scored a major victory when they challenged the sale of their building and the tactics owners used to force residents from their homes.
In the 2006 Settlement Agreement, the Kelsey Garden Tenant Association won the right to return to 54 units constructed in the same mix of one, two, three and four bedroom units in the new development for 50 years. With ONE DC as their tenant representative, we have worked to challenge excessive fees, maintain the sense of community among the tenants, and ensure the tenants have legal representation.
- January 2014 we reviewed floor plans for the new development and discussed the move back schedule
- February 2014 we held a leadership training session for the officers of the tenants association to build their skills.
- March 2014 we ensured the KG Tenants Association had legal representation. The Jefferson Apartment Group provided a list of fees and charges facing tenants as they prepared to move back.
- April 2014 our legal team sent a letter to the Jefferson Apartment Group challenging some of the fees and costs KG tenants would be charged to return to the new development.
- April 2014 we met with the DC Housing Authority to get agreement on a special process for Kelsey Garden tenants to lease their new apartments lessening some of the bureaucratic hassles.
- April 2014 Kelsey Garden Tenant Association Officers tour the 1st and 2nd Floors of the building in the construction process
- May 2014 our legal team met with tenant association members to discuss the legal strategy. In a meeting with the Jefferson Apartment Group we were successful in getting over $250 in fees eliminated.
Over the summer months, final preparations will be made to ensure tenants are able to celebrate and move into the new building in the fall of 2014.
By Rob Wohl
For the past three months, ONE DC has been organizing a series of community learning forums called “From the Streets to the Rooftops” to bring together long-time residents as well as newcomers to DC to develop a shared analysis of the processes of gentrification and displacement that are affecting our neighborhoods.
In the first session, we learned about the structural forces driving displacement, focusing on how systematic disinvestment in low income communities of color intensifies poverty while creating opportunities for developers, banks, and other real estate interests to make big profits by buying up cheap land, building expensive housing, and marketing it to wealthier residents. Next, we studied the mythology that drives and justifies the displacement of long-time residents of DC and other cities. We discussed how politicians and academics have masked the problem of poverty, discrimination, and disinvestment in communities of color by pathologizing “concentrated poverty.” When the public is convinced that the city’s main problems result from too many poor people living together, displacing those people and bringing in new, affluent, whiter residents can be treated as the solution.
In our most recent session, we began to study the ways that communities have come together to resist displacement. We brought together a panel of organizers of six community leaders and organizers from DC and Baltimore to draw lessons from fights to preserve public housing, ensure that long-time residents have the right to return when their homes are redeveloped, hold landlords accountable to their tenants, and ensure that our city’s “redevelopment” and “revitalization” plans remain inclusive.
And we’re not done yet. Join ONE DC, community artists, organizers, new and longtime residents on Saturday, July 26th as we explore the cultural diversity of DC through music, poetry, art, and interactive activities. Join in the group meditation and reflection, and participate in discussions around topics of local concern which include the economic cycle of gentrification, the myths of poverty and entitlement, and the successes and challenges of past movements. As we celebrate our shared human experiences and our cultural diversity simultaneously, we will explore the next steps to fight gentrification and the displacement of communities.
We’ll come together from 1-5 PM at Impact Hub DC, 419 7th St NW, and we hope to see you there.
By Bianca Valencia, The George Washington University
From the start of the planning committee, GW’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service (CCEPS) was excited to have the opportunity to partner with a strong, substantive, community-based organization like ONE DC. The collaboration between Gregory Squires (GW) and Dominic Moulden (ONE DC) in writing the social policy article entitled “Equitable Development Comes to DC” truly initiated a great start. The symposium that occurred on Thursday, March 27, 2014 brought about 120 participants.
It was wonderful to have local residents and GW academic faculty and students all come together for this event. Each of them had the opportunity to learn from one another and grow in their networks. In regards to students, it is essential that they not only learn from books, but also from people within their field of study. In this way, they learn to value the knowledge that comes from the community members’ life experiences. This creates a greater sense of pride and connection between their major and the surrounding environment.
The planning committee consisted of the executive director from CCEPS (Amy Cohen), resource organizer from ONE DC (Dominic Moulden), GW sociology, public policy, and public administration professor (Dr. Gregory Squires), adjunct professor at American University (Kalfani Ture), and two GW student event coordinators (Leah Galasso and Bianca Valencia). They each played a critical role in determining the needs of the symposium and executing those plans. Specifically, it was absolutely great to work with Kalfani because of his involved nature with equitable development. In fact, he was an intern for ONE DC, and is currently a doctoral candidate of anthropology and an approaching faculty member.
As for the student coordinators, Leah and Bianca were both able to grow and develop new skills since working on the symposium. They both quickly realized that committee meetings were starkly different from a classroom environment. They also never worked in a participatory democracy before. However, after the readjustment period, both students were able to create their own mark and coordinate with each other in order to complete various tasks. By the end, they both became more confident in not only approaches of creating a large-scale event, but also in group collaboration.
Overall, the Equitable Development Symposium was a tremendous success. The hope is to make this event annual as to increase awareness and draw more networks to create solutions to the current problem. The Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, as well as the GW community are more than excited to continue their partnership with ONE DC.
Save the Date: 2nd Annual Equitable Development Conference - March 26, 2015. Details TBA
In my northeast Washington neighborhood, Deanwood, the last neighborhood grocery store closed over twenty years ago. Since then, 7-Elevens and fast food establishments continue to resurface. As a result, many people are suffering from health disparities created by these poor food systems. This has motivated me to invest in the health and well-being of the people in my community and others affected by poor food systems.
I began my journey in DC working towards social equity in 2008 when I volunteered with ONE DC. ONE DC is an organization dedicated to creating neighborhood equity. ONE DC believes that all people have a right to housing, a right to be employed with livable wage jobs, and that people have a right to be healthy. It was there that I learned the power of being an effective organizer. I learned the power we have as citizens to determine the destiny of our communities. While volunteering there I learned a lot. I also served as a board member and worked on the Right to Income campaign. I was also served on the original shared leadership team when ONE DC was working to create a new leadership model.
ONE DC inspired me to do the work I do now. The Right to Wellness Campaign inspired me the most. I have always had a desire to contribute to the health and well being of the people in my community. Currently I intern with Zenful Bites, a company dedicated to creating healthy, just and sustainable food systems in Washington, D.C. I assist the chef/co-owner of the company with providing food education to elementary school students at Savoy Elementary School in southeast Washington.
I am on a mission to gather the tools and resources necessary to assist my community and many others affected by these food systems in creating a culture of self-reliance by teaching them how to grow their own food and prepare and cook health-supportive meals. Our communities need healing. Over the last four years I have lost a cousin and five co-workers from diet-related illnesses, the most recent one being April of this year.
This summer I will be attending the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary School. This school is unique because it focuses on plant-based health supportive diets. The curriculum will give me the tools to become more efficient at teaching others how to prepare and incorporate healing foods into their diet. The academy has awarded me a $6,000 food advocacy scholarship to defray my $23,000 tuition. More support is needed.
Contact Ahri at email@example.com.
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been excited to partner with ONE DC over the last several months. On the housing side, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has joined with ONE DC to identify civil rights violations and ways to protect subsidized housing, particularly as subsidized housing transitions to market-rate housing and landlords may have incentives to encourage tenants with subsidies to move. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is working with ONE DC to ensure that tenants are aware of and able to enforce their protections under both D.C. and federal law.
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is also currently working with ONE DC members to help lay the groundwork for a Black Workers’ Center through ONE DC’s series of listening sessions. Our employment staff, with its background in litigation and mediation, is eager to see the Center get off the ground and to partner with workers to address issues of discrimination and unfair pay in the workplace.