A former D.C. Council Member, who rallied on behalf of economic development in the District to ensure a viable and vibrant city, and a community leader who fought for a once blighted and beleaguered Northwest neighborhood, counted among those recognized for their contributions over the past 30 years during a recent awards presentation.
The DC LISC [Local Initiative Support Corporation] celebrated its 30th anniversary by hosting a gala at the Arena Stage in Southwest on Sept. 24 to acknowledge the efforts of community, political and corporate leaders who worked on developing predominantly black neighborhoods of the District from the late 1960s to the present.
Touted as "community development trailblazers", the evening's honorees included the Rev. Jim Dickerson, founder of Manna Inc.; former D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis; Karen Kollias, senior vice president, American Security Bank-Nations Bank; Robert Moore, president and chief executive officer of the Development Corporation for Columbia Heights and Chris Smith, chairman and CEO of the William C. Smith Co.
Mayor Vincent Gray (D) joined the festivities and showered the award recipients with accolades for their determination and foresight.
"What an all-star cast," the mayor said, to the scores of guests who attended the after 6 cocktail reception and awards ceremony. "All of the honorees wanted a diverse city and they were visionaries that saw down the road what the city could look like," said Gray, 69.
Lloyd Smith, president emeritus and CEO of the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization; housing advocate Jim Banks; Retta Gilliam, president and executive director, East of the River Community Development Corporation and Madeline McCullough, director, District of Columbia Office of Enterprise Community Partners received acknowledgements posthumously.
Organizations such as community development corporations started the work of redeveloping neighborhoods in the District several years after the 1968 riots because well-known development companies shunned the District for fear of crime, the abject poverty and the appalling reputation of the city's school system. In predominantly black areas of the city, economic development didn't exist and District residents traveled to the suburbs to shop.
Marshall Heights, the Development Corporation for Columbia Heights and other development corporations transformed the areas and today black neighborhoods are the hottest properties for businesses and newcomers.
Jarvis, 71, served on the D.C. Council from 1979-2001 and chaired the powerful economic development committee for many years. Jim Gibson, a high-level administrator during the Marion Barry administration, said that Jarvis took the steps to make the city more viable.
"When she became chair of the economic development committee, whites were fleeing the city and blacks were leaving it to go to Prince George's County," Gibson said. "Stores were leaving for the suburbs. Jarvis used her committee to address those concerns."
Jarvis thanked the staff of DC LISC for the recognition but said she didn't do it alone.
"I want to thank the staff of the economic development committee for their work during those years," said Jarvis who lives in Northwest. "I am also proud to be with individuals who had the highest commitment to rebuild lives and communities."
Julie Rogers, president of the Meyer Foundation in Northwest, said that Moore has made a difference in Columbia Heights.
"The night of April 4, 1968, 20 blocks in D.C. were destroyed and so were 4,000 homes and countless businesses," Rogers said. "For 25 years, the Columbia Heights area languished but one astonishing man brought it back. It would not be what it is today were it not for him."
Moore has been credited for the building of the Nehemiah Shopping Center, the rebuilding of the Tivoli Theater and DC USA, a large shopping mall.
Moore, 73, said that community development is important in the District.
"We just need to keep going," said Moore who lives in Northwest. "DC USA has 1,800 employees and most of them live within walking distance of the building."
In his remarks, Gray referred to Moore as "Mr. Columbia Heights." Those who attended the ceremony received a special gift to mark the occasion – a book about the honorees – Becoming What We Can Be: Stories of Community Development in Washington, D.C." by Tony Proscio, published by DC LISC.
In closing, Rogers said that Moore's work is reflective of all the honorees.
"Community development can be done and can be done well," she said. "We honor you and thank you for what you have done."