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ONE DC Statement on Family Size Discrimination Litigation At Brookland Manor

Borum, et al, v. Brentwood Village, LLC, et al
Family Size Discrimination Litigation Regarding Brookland Manor

By: Dominic T. Moulden, Resource Organizer
Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC

ONE DC is honored to be here today with residents of Brookland Manor, our community legal partners the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and legal counsel at Covington & Burling to announce the filing of litigation to challenge redevelopment plans for Brookland Manor that will discriminate against families.

As you have heard, the proposed redevelopment of Brookland Manor will eliminate and reduce family-sized housing for nearly 150 families. This redevelopment will eliminate significant affordable family sized housing in the Brentwood neighborhood and force ONE DC members and residents to move from the community in which they have long resided and which they call home. The exclusion of these families from Brookland Manor destroys their community and will disrupt their children’s education and the networks of services and supports that many residents rely on. Medical doctor Mindy Fullilove calls this health condition “root shock”—a phenomena which tears up primarily Black working class communities. ONE DC’s organizing is designed to resist these conditions, and our legal team supports us in these efforts.

The developers wrote to the tenants that large families must be excluded from the redeveloped property because large families are “not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community.” They justified the negative impact that the elimination of large units would have on families by telling the Zoning Commission that “housing very large families in apartment complexes is significantly impactful upon the quality of life of households as well as their surrounding neighbors.” These statements reflect a hostility towards families that violates both federal and District of Columbia Fair Housing laws, which prohibit discrimination based on one’s familial status. ONE DC supports our legal team through our organizing to make “the developers obey the law.” If the residents and ONE DC members don’t make the developers obey the Fair Housing laws, they will violate them. We join the families of Brookland Manor who are bringing this lawsuit in demanding that the developer obey the Fair Housing laws!

Our members and our legal team support the choice of Brookland Manor residents to have a large family or a small one, to live with multiple generations or to live alone which is protected by law.

Many of the residents of Brookland Manor have lived in the neighborhood a long time. Some families have lived there for generations. They have built a community and invested their lives in the neighborhood. They should not be displaced and removed like the families at Valley Green in Southeast, Ellen Wilson on Capitol Hill, and Arthur Cappers in Southwest. Now, when amenities are returning to Brentwood, when the neighborhood is becoming a destination and families with means are moving in, longtime residents are being forced out. The design of the proposed redevelopment will not benefit the families who currently live in Brookland Manor, and instead appears to be for those who are new to DC and the Brentwood neighborhood.

ONE DC recognizes Black low-income DC residents’ right to housing and right to the city. Our People's Platform organizing work speaks to ONE DC's solidarity with working class people and we defend these rights through legal action to protect all DC citizens' right to fair, equitable, and large family housing units at Brookland Manor.

The residents and ONE DC members who filed this suit today and those that are here with us at this press conference bear witness to the possibility of DC being the Human Rights City it claims. ONE DC’s Shared Leadership Team during this 10th Anniversary year is calling DC’s political leaders and human rights organizers to task to join us in humility and solidarity with all of the original 535 families at Brookland Manor who claim their right to live and work in DC. We remain encouraged and envision a victory for all these families who put their lives on the line for a just and equitable DC. We honor all of you today in filing this lawsuit and claim loudly IT IS OUR DUTY TO WIN!


Low-Income Families File Lawsuit to Halt Discriminatory Redevelopment of DC-Based Brookland Manor Property

WASHINGTON, DC- As plans move forward to redevelop Brookland Manor, a group of long-standing resident families, along with community-based organization ONE DC, have filed a class action lawsuit today challenging the discriminatory redevelopment by developer Mid-City Financial Corporation and its affiliates.

If allowed to go forward as planned, the redevelopment would eliminate many apartments with three bedrooms and all apartments of more than three bedrooms, and displace up to one hundred and fifty families. Defendant Mid-City Financial Corporation has “justified” this discrimination on the basis that large families are “not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community.”

Tenants, who have lived at Brookland Manor with their families for years, disagree with this notion. Named plaintiff, Adriann Borum, comments: “They say it takes a village to raise a child. I was raised at Brookland Manor, and have raised 5 children here. Brookland Manor is our village, and our village is being torn apart.”

Ms. Borum has lived at Brookland Manor for 28 years, but her four bedroom apartment is among those that would be bulldozed and left un-replaced in the proposed redevelopment. She and other residents bringing this lawsuit want to preserve their homes, which are among the only affordable apartments with three, four, or five bedrooms in the District.

The complaint filed today details the resident families’ claims that Defendants seek to exclude and displace up to 150 families by eliminating family-sized units (three-, four- and five-bedroom units) in the redevelopment, which will have a discriminatory and disproportional impact on families. The lawsuit also seeks an order from the court halting the proposed redevelopment to prevent any further forced displacement of tenants prior to the resolution of this court action.

Covington & Burling LLP will be arguing the case in court. Maureen Browne, a partner at Covington, notes the importance of this matter, stating, “the residents of Brookland Manor deserve to continue living in a community they have nurtured and supported for many years and, in some cases, for generations. The proposed redevelopment seeks to destroy the fabric of this community by excluding and displacing larger families. We are hopeful that this lawsuit encourages Mid-City and its partners to reconsider and rework the current plan.”

“Discrimination against families in housing is not only illegal, it is wrong. A diversity of family size and familial relationships is essential to a strong and healthy inclusive community. Our clients built and invested in their community at Brookland Manor and should not be pushed out of the very redevelopment that will bring the community amenities,” said Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which joined Covington in representing the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Speaking on behalf of organizational plaintiff ONE DC, who joined the Brookland Manor tenants in bringing this action, Dominic T. Moulden stated that “ONE DC recognizes Black low-income DC residents’ right to housing and right to the city . . . and we defend these rights through legal action to protect all DC citizens’ right to fair, equitable, and large family housing units at Brookland Manor.”

This redevelopment, coupled with the extreme geographical limitations on available affordable family-sized apartments, will perpetuate segregation along economic and racial lines. Moreover, if unable to find housing, the affected families at Brookland Manor may face a serious risk of homelessness, a risk which is even higher for households with five or more people. For tenants, some of whom were homeless before they came to Brookland Manor, this lawsuit is a last-ditch effort to save their homes.

The action was filed by the Covington & Burling LLP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee on behalf of the tenants.

A copy of the complaint is available here.



Ribbon Cutting and Fourth Annual Soul Fiesta Celebration

ONE DC members and supporters are invited to come out July 30th for the 1417 N St. Cooperative ribbon cutting celebration and fourth annual SoulFiesta. The ribbon cutting will be to celebrate the culmination of a decade of community organizing and progress with the ribbon cutting of the 83-unit limited equity cooperative! There will be open house tours of the cooperative and following the ceremony will be the SoulFiesta community celebration with art, music and tamales.  This is all organized by the Norwood cooperative and City First family. 

If you are interested in attending RSVP here.



Tenants Report Lockdown Situation in Northeast DC

By: Tiffany Joslin - www.notabigspender.com - Follow Tiffany @in_a_tiff

Imagine your granddaughter, age seven, is playing on the grass in front of your apartment building with a group of kids that live in your complex. You and several neighbors are watching over them. A security guard approaches and demands that you get off the grass and go on the sidewalk that lines the edges of Brentwood Road, a bustling four-lane street. This is the first time you’ve heard of this rule. Kids used to be able to play where they wanted. These new, ever-changing rules seem to be an element of the redevelopment initiative, the same initiative which is also transferring families around.


This is what Neeka Sullivan, a nine-year Brookland Manor resident, said she experienced in early May. Brookland Manor is an affordable housing complex in Northeast DC that is set to be demolished and renovated starting in 2017. Residents said they have experienced an uptick in numbers of violations and infractions given for activities like children playing on the grass or residents sitting on their front porches. “The kids don’t have nowhere to play no more. All they have is the steps, the rails, and the trash thing,” Sullivan said, referring to a dumpster that she tries to keep the children away from.


The situation has turned into a lockdown, said Will Merrifield, a lawyer who represents the tenants. “They are telling people to go inside if they’re outside. They’re hassling old women and children.” Sullivan corroborates this claim. “We don’t have nothing on paper but it’s happening,” Sullivan said. “If a lot of whites lived in this neighborhood, [security] wouldn’t be doing things like they doing.” And, according to Sullivan and other residents, the situation has worsened in the last month.


“I can’t respond to that,” Michael Meers, the Executive Vice President for Mid-City Financial Corporation, said in regards to the reported increase in harassment by security staff. “I’m not aware of any changes.” Meers said that the company’s private activities are in full support of its public commitments.


Yet tenants and advocates are concerned about the company’s public commitments as well. The new design cuts over 160 of the current low-cost units. Merrifield called this “criminal” because the District is in midst of an affordable housing crisis. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute reported that in 2015, the city contained half as many inexpensive units than in 2002.


Meers said that the new property will remain “real, deep affordable housing,” unlike several other developments around the city, and said that the planned number of affordable units was “three times what was legally required.” According to the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development website, zoning law requires 8 to 10 percent of new or redeveloped properties to contain affordable units. Brookland Manor will be 21 percent affordable. Even still, Merrifield and residents are continuing to push for the same number, and same bedroom size, of redeveloped units.

RIA—the name chosen for the neighborhood redevelopment—will be a mixed-income community. “Our thought was that a mix of incomes will create a better environment and opportunity for everyone,” Meers said.


Yet Brook Hill, a fair housing advocate at the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, disagrees. According to Hill, gentrification is the root cause of D.C.’s affordable housing crisis.“This is a uniquely African American crisis,” said Hill. Many neighborhoods are becoming out of reach to people of color. In the last 15 years, the black population in the 20001 zip code (a large strip down the middle of the city) has decreased by 33 percent. Brookland Manor’s zip code is currently 86 percent African American, but it would be easy to imagine that number falling as well if steps aren’t taken to stop displacement.


Most importantly, “if people are displaced from Brookland Manor, they will not move to communities with lower concentrations of poverty or where African Americans are underrepresented,” Hill added. “They will move to communities in Southeast and Prince George’s County that are more racially segregated and that have greater concentrations of poverty.” Hill foresees the attempt to create a racially and economically integrated community in Brentwood—another name for the community—being hampered to a large extent.


Washington City Paper reports that with other, similar mixed-income developments around the city, the owner tears down aged affordable housing structures with a plan to rebuild one-for-one. However, according to City Paper, these projects have, “faced tremendous hurdles, putting its four projects well behind schedule and leaving many residents displaced longer than expected.” Moving people off the properties caused a portion of these delays, which Merrifield said has not happened yet at Brookland Manor. Instead residents are being relocated around the property.


The relocation process itself remains opaque to tenants. Several families have been asked to move multiple times in the last year. Minnie Elliott, the President of the Board of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association, was relocated to a new on-site apartment less than six months ago and is now being asked to move again for reasons that weren’t immediately explained to her. “It’s a hardship,” Elliott said of the first move. “If it hadn’t been for my family, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”


Elliott said the next move will be even harder. She doesn’t understand where management will place her and the 21 other families that are being asked to move. Elliott said, in response to management’s claims that they have enough space for all the families, “That was a lie.”


It is certainly not the goal to move people around multiple times,” Meers said. “It is a complicated and involved process.” In regards to Elliott’s second move, Meers said it came about because of a change in plan from what was originally approved by the Zoning Commission. According to an email exchange with Meers, “the reason for the change relates entirely to being able to build as much replacement housing on site as possible at the earliest possible date.” Mid-City aims to file a Second-Stage Planned Unit Development (PUD) Application for the two buildings this summer.


Meers said he understands residents’ fear. “I get why people are anxious. But we are committed to allowing everyone in good standing to stay. Our public commitments stand and we will be accountable.”


Tenants, along with community organizers like ONE DC, are fighting back. Through canvassing and one-on-one meetings, community leaders and ONE DC members were able to raise Tenant’s Association attendance to between 25 and 50 residents each month. ONE DC also maintains a database of over 200 tenant contacts. “Tenants will be capitalizing on nearly two years of slow organizing in coming months to put pressure on the city council and zoning commission to withhold approval for the project if all the units aren’t replaced as affordable housing of the same unit sizes,” Hill said.


In the meantime, many residents think the developer should do more to ease their worries. And they say that some promises made, like money for moving assistance, have not been kept. “It’s so rough out here,” Sullivan said. “The developer needs to do something to help us relax, because right now they’re throwing people on the street.”


For the victims of the Orlando shooting

We at ONE DC would like to express our deepest sorrow for the victims of the Orlando shooting and their loved ones. Our hearts go out to those impacted by this terrible tragedy. To the LGBTQIA community, the Latinx community, and to all those this act of violence has affected, our deepest sympathy. In a time of fear, hatred, and ignorance, we stand united. In a month in which LGBTQIA pride is celebrated, the LGBTQIA community has been victim to the worst mass shooting in history. We stand with you. You are not alone. As we gaze into the future, let us always remember those lives tragically, cruelly, and needlessly taken. In their memory, we will continue the fight for equity and liberation for free expressions of love and human sexuality.


Buy Your Tickets to ONE DC's 10th Anniversary Celebration!


Click here to buy your ticket. This event is ticketed as it is a fundraising event in honor of ONE DC's 10th Anniversary. However, we want our active & long-time ONE DC members at this event and we do not want the $20 ticket to be a barrier to your attendance. You can reserve a ticket for free or at reduced cost by clicking here.

Children attend for free and childcare will be provided. Please let us know how many children will be attending with you by clicking here. You can also call 202-232-2915 or email organizer@onedconline.org.

If you need transportation, please meet at one of the following bus pick-up locations on Saturday, June 18th.

11:45 AM - United Black Fund, 2500 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE (ONE DC Black Workers Center) - closest metro: Anacostia

12:00 PM - Mount Vernon Plaza, 930 M St NW - closest metro: Mount Vernon Square

11:45 AM - Brookland Manor Community Room - Brookland Manor property - closest metro: Rhode Island Ave



Statement about ONE DC Changes, May 2016


“We, the people of ONE DC, envision the nation's capital as a place where low income, people of color, and immigrant, communities are organized, educated, and trained to take action to create and preserve racial and economic equity."

ONE DC has a big vision for what is possible in Washington, DC. This vision will not be realized overnight or without struggle. As ONE DC strives to realize vision and live our values, we recognize that the road to transformation is not without twist and turns, and bumps and bruises. We acknowledge these things as part of the fodder for social change, and commit to dealing with them head on.

As with any transformative work, we know people will come along and leave handprints on ONE DC, and then transition to other organizational endeavors. We recognize that we cannot make people stay with us past where their story is complete. We know most people view transition as a negative thing, and see it as weakness. So much of the damage of capitalism and racism in the District tells us relationships are disposable. We reject these notions and strive to be a place where change and growth are embraced, and community is valued. We value the contributions of staff both past and present and members both active and not. All these people are instrumental to our growth, and teach us, as we teach them.

Clearly, no organization is perfect. We know that there are no easy or straight paths on the way to liberation, but at ONE DC we try to live out our values. And we understand that ONE DC exists within an imperfect city. DC’s structural and interconnected forces of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy under-value certain populations, challenge the city’s Black working class, prioritize profit over people, and mistreat Black women leaders. To change that, we have to collectively build power through both an alternative vision and the relationships to carry that vision out. As an organization, we choose time and time again to see the possibilities in people, and help to develop them.

As with any organization, we are shifting and changing; and although some of these growing pains may seem scary, WE INVITE THEM. We know that because of the work we are doing now we will be stronger and bolder to handle all of the changes that come with living in and loving this imperfect city.

Two of our full-time staff, Marybeth Onyeukwu and Jennifer Bryant, are voluntarily leaving ONE DC employment. At ONE DC, we have valued every member or staff person who walked through ONE DC’s doors and gifted us with their time, energy, and passion. Ms. Onyeukwu and Ms. Bryant are no exception to this ONE DC ethic. While we will miss having them employed with us, we know our organization is stronger because of their work and efforts. They have been instrumental to ONE DC’s growth. For their many great deeds at ONE DC, we thank them! Please check our next newsletter for highlights of their contributions and accomplishments.

The People’s Platform Coordinating Committee and our Shared Leadership Team are also going through some leadership shifts, as is common. To both bodies, we thank everyone for their hard work. ONE DC is stronger because of their leadership! Even in the midst of these transitions, former staff and members/volunteers should know that ONE DC is committed to their ongoing growth and development, and looks forward to the ways they stay involved.

Click here to view upcoming events & meetings

No matter what, our deep love and commitment to low and moderate income people in the District and our commitment to organizing for racial equity and social change remain. We hope our members and supporters will also see the BEAUTY IN OUR GROWTH and accompany us as we give birth to new and exciting possibilities.

In Solidarity,

ONE DC Shared Leadership Team


"Collective Courage" Wisdom Circle, Part III


Join us for Part 3 of the Collective Courage Wisdom Circle at the Potter's House on Thursday, May 5th from 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm. For the first hour, Jennifer Bryant will interview author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard. The second hour will be reserved for community dialogue, introspection, and visioning. Below is a link to the Potter's House. We look forward to a lively discussion for the last section of Collective Courage!

Click here to RSVP

In Collective Courage, ONE DC Shared Leadership Team member Jessica Gordon Nembhard chronicles African American cooperative business ownership and its place in the movements for Black civil rights and economic equality. Not since W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1907 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans has there been a full-length, nationwide study of African American cooperatives. Collective Courage extends that story into the twenty-first century. Many of the players are well known in the history of the African American experience: Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph and the Ladies' Auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Jo Baker, George Schuyler and the Young Negroes’ Co-operative League, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panther Party. Adding the cooperative movement to Black history results in a retelling of the African American experience, with an increased understanding of African American collective economic agency and grassroots economic organizing.

Click here to RSVP on Facebook


Jessica Gordon Nembhard is Associate Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, City University of New York.


1417 N Street NW Cooperative Housing Available

Looking for cooperative housing in Northwest DC?

The housing co-op of 1417 N Street NW is currently offering affordable living spaces with a variety of features. By owning a share in this co-op, you can have affordable long-term housing while managing your building.

Centrally located in Logan Circle, amenities include HVAC, remodeled bathrooms, a laundry room, bike storage, and more. Units available include the small studio (225 square feet) and the studio (330 square feet); respectively valued at approximately $950/month and $1,144/month, costs cover maintenance, insurance, water, and payments to the co-op blanket mortgages.

To qualify for the apartment, you must undergo credit and background checks, demonstrate an interest in co-op participation, and have income between the minimum and maximum values. For more information, contact Hernan Sotomarino at 1.202.630.1417 (fluent in both English and Spanish).





3rd Annual Equitable Development Conference