Ward 8 is exceptional.
Despite the negative image portrayed in the media and the endless references of poverty and crime, the southeasternmost end of the city is a village with activists who strive to create a vibrant, livable community, particularly for its longtime residents and especially its youth.
Thus, it was no surprise, but still a site for sore eyes, to see several hundred Ward 8 residents, activists and supporters answer the call to attend a community meeting on Memorial Day to discuss and recommend solutions to end the increased violence and homicides that have overtaken the community. It was the horrendous recent murder of a 15-year old Ballou Senior High School student, followed by the murder of a respected businessman, husband, father and son Alex Mosby last Friday that sparked the outrage. And then, the double murder of a respected football coach and his wife that followed, inspired many folks to come together due feeling a sense of urgency.
Ward 8 Council member Trayon White put out the call, not only because he is emotionally worn out over these murders, but also as he said he’s simply overwhelmed by the number of funerals he’s attended of young black male victims of gun violence this year alone: four homicides of students at Ballou; victims at Anacostia; and the stabbing death of a student at Thurgood Marshall Academy.
“It is on us to protect our community,” White said to those at the gathering. “We can no longer depend on MPD to make sure our village is safe.”
The crowd shouted, “Amen” and “You got that right!”
White said he needs the community to understand that it is not only the government’s role to do something to end the violence as his now familiar phrase permeated the air with the crowd responding, “Do something!” following his command, “Don’t just stand there.”
Joined by his pastor, Community of Hope AME Church Rev. Tony Lee, White reiterated his popular pastor’s recent Sunday morning sermon theme: “What we need we have right here.”
By the end of the meeting, residents had offered solutions and cited resources to address the social needs of the residents of Ward 8 and the city, at large, which has also seen a spike in homicides.
There’s undeniable widespread disappointment with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser who many feel stands with developers who, with her approval, continue to build unaffordable apartments, condos, sports facilities and dog parks despite the greater need for jobs, affordable housing and after-school programs.
Residents are aware of a need for self-reliance in overcoming the deep-seeded neglect experienced in this part of the city that has gone on for decades. They agree that while change will not take place overnight, they’re committed to working overnight and all day to bring a difference to their community.
We invite everyone to pay attention, and when able, to lend a hand to support the good things soon to come. We are encouraged and hopeful that a change is coming to Ward 8 – a positive change due to the collective effort of the people of Ward 8.