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Activists, community address crisis in Black D.C.

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jan 1, 2014 - 3:03:58 PM

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L-R, Student Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz and Dr. Francis Cress Welsing participated in a recent town hall forum in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy, Black Lawyers for Justice
WASHINGTON, D.C. (FinalCall.com) - The nation’s capital has become a tale of several cities, based on race, income and skill set. Once called, “The Chocolate City”, D.C. now encompasses a host of disparities and inequalities that were the subject of an emergency mass town hall meeting and public hearing organized by grass roots activists and community groups.

“Dissatisfaction, disillusionment and even desperation is spreading rapidly across the Nation’s Capitol. Washington, D.C. is changing; yet not nearly enough debate, dialogue or straight talk has occurred on whether the changes are positive or negative. Black Lawyers for Justice convened the hearing to highlight and raise the alarm bells about the clear and dangerous adverse effects of D.C.’s urban renewal and gentrification scheme,” said Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz.

“The Black population, once 75 percent as recently as 1990, has now plummeted to just 45 percent. Black population removal is a reality and is the ironic underside of the “new and improved Washington D.C.,” added Atty. Shabazz, head of Black Lawyers for Justice.

A packed crowd filled Union Temple Baptist Church, which is in the middle of ground-zero for gentrification changes in downtown Anacostia.  A panel of community leaders and activists spoke to the residents’ concerns at the Dec. 14 gathering.

“We’ve got to take an appraisal of ourselves,” said student minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque No. 4. 

“We’ve let things get out of hand.  We’ve made room for new neighbors by moving out of the city.  When we left, White people moved in and beautified it,” Mr. Muhammad added.

The top issues addressed at the forum included the lack of affordable housing, police abuse and violations of Civil Rights that have dramatically increased while the police force becomes increasingly White.

Other topics included, concerns about the upcoming 2014 elections and how gentrification issues will affect the outcome, the real estate crisis forcing Blacks to lose their homes to foreclosures, tax sales and soaring high prices.

Organizers believe development in the city is favoring the wealthy and multi-millionaire developers who are intentionally violating the best interests of the community by wiping out affordable housing. 

Black Contractors are being wiped out and ethnically cleansed from D.C  and have become a besieged minority in their own city they argued.

“We need to consider Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint Ending Poverty and Want.  America is on her deathbed.  We need a Torchlight for America.  We live in one city with two realities,” Student Minister Muhammad pointed out.

Other issues included concerns about the increasing youth violence and school closures.

Solution-oriented action plans along with the call for unity was brought up by several panelists. 

“If we are not united we won’t go anywhere.  We are destroying ourselves more so than anyone else,” said Ron Moten, former head of the Peaceoholics.  “We want to blame everything on everybody else.  Let’s get rid of the jealousy and envy we have.  Let’s trust each other and build collaborations.  Why can’t we come together and buy some property?” he asked.

Other presenters included Union Temple’s Pastor Willie Wilson and Al Malik Farrakhan, head of Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers.  Community testimonials followed giving residents a chance to share their concerns on D.C.’s changing dynamics. 

Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, renowned psychiatrist and author spoke on her fight against a Jewish School that opened next to her home and the increasing noise that came with it.

“Black people are complaining about the pain of being pushed out and shoved out of urban centers.  This is taking place in D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia.  I don’t know any Black person that is talking about how wonderful gentrification is,” said Dr. Welsing. She compared gentrification to apartheid, racism and White supremacy.

Skylar Poindexter Moore of the Public Housing Campaign Empower D.C. said, “We are the forgotten people.  We’ve had nine public housing properties demolished.  They force us to move out and then create structures we can’t qualify for to move back.  Over 10,000 units of pubic housing have been destroyed.  Public housing is all we have left.”

Candidates for mayor showed up, including businessman Andy Shallal, the first Muslim to run for D.C. mayor. “I am the only candidate to tackle inequality and race.  We need a living wage.  I would put a moratorium on closing schools.  I want to make sure this city works for everyone.  I want to make sure housing is truly affordable,” said Mr. Shallal.

After the forum organizers offered legal rights booklets and foreclosure assistance, bankruptcy and tax sales assistance, help with  other real estate and legal issues, credit repair and consultation and provided mentoring and anti-violence options for youth.

The hearing was co-sponsored by the Black Studies Class of Washington, D.C. and supported by at least 20 grassroots organizations.

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