To My Fellow Community Advocates:
Let's be passionate, let's be bold, let's be committed but let's not assume that every single disagreement has to disintegrate into a full fledged fight to the death. There are no black hats vs. white hats here -- we're ALL trying to find a way. We're all trying to build something great out of what is right now a very small toolkit (in terms of financing and investment in East of the River). The good news is that the blueprint will evolve over time as we evolve. Nothing has to be set in stone.
So let's work together to find solutions and common ground. It's called "growing pains" for a reason. If progress was easy everyone would do it. We have to crawl before we can walk and we have to walk before we can run. Not everything is black and white. Let's have an open, honest, and RESPECTFUL dialogue about the root cause of the issues plaguing our east of the river community so we can understand (and then treat) the symptoms. Let's be brave enough to listen as well as speak. Let's be brave enough to hug as well as hit.
We may not always agree on everything, all the time, but lets remember that we are all (and that includes developers and property owners) in this together. "Community" is made up of a lot of different types of people -- that is why we call them "stakeholders." Everyone (myself included) does not fit neatly into predefined stereotypes (i.e. being the rich gentrifer or the greedy developer). You may be surprised at just who (like Stan Voudrie) has been working quietly behind the scenes for years to help us achieve our goals for a thriving and vibrant community for our future.
|Stan Voudrie showing his Southeast Love|
I know he would never say this for himself but as his friend and colleague I have to say a few things about Stan Voudrie of Four Points. I say them because they are true and they are things he would never say for himself, even to defend himself in the face of inaccurate assumptions about his character. I say them so that others not familiar with the history can know why he is "Stan the Man" for so many of us.
LUMEN8ANACOSTIA would not have been possible without Stan Voudrie. He not only volunteered the use of his properties -- FOR FREE -- but he also made it possible for the Curtis Brothers properties to be used as well. Stan did this for both years we hosted LUMEN8ANACOSTIA.
Even going above and beyond for the 2nd annual LUMEN8ANACOSTIA, Stan made it possible for us in the community to have use of the old police warehouse -- despite it interrupting the scheduled demolition and start of the remodel of the building. What was free for us in the community cost Four Points/Curtis Brothers time and money.
To help combat blight Stan/Four Points sponsored a series of public art projects that were installed along fence lines on MLK and Good Hope Rd SE.
And for more times than I can count when something went down that was contrary to a vibrant Anacostia and Ward 8 (anyone remember the "Pluck the Folice" incident?), Stan stood with us in the community in demanding that the installation be removed immediately because it did not reflect what we were trying to do in the community and were we had come from.
I can't even count how many times Stan has waived an opportunity to make some money to defer to the short and long term needs of Anacostia. I have been personally and professional inspired by not only his words but his actions. Which is why what happened at the ANC 8A meeting earlier this week hurt me to my core.
And when a long-time Ward 8 resident found himself without a job and a home Stan came through for both (which he did quietly and without self-promotion). Stan just did it because that is just the type of person that he is -- if he can help he does. Stan was the first person who asked me about my small business aspiration and he put me in contact with the organization that would be my first client and later where I would be hired as a full-time employee, ARCH Development Corporation.
Although it is contrary to a generally accepted stereotype you may be surprised at how many times profit has taken a back seat to community building with Stan. I know because I see it every day. As someone who works for a community development organization in Anacostia you would be surprised at the non community oriented proposals/business ideas that are submitted that we decline -- despite their financial offers.
Developers and community development corporations don't send out press releases and tweets every time we decline a bad project or business idea. So while Project X may not be ideal, Project Q and Project R were downright terrifying. And in the meantime, the mortgage still needs to be paid, the property taxes are still due (please note I am in year 4 of fighting a battle right now), and the gas company wants their money. As neighborhood activist who also happen to own some property you try to find a compromise that will allow you to make it another day, that will get you one step closer to the ideal. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will Anacostia.
So to my fellow advocates, let's remain passionate but lets not forgo logic and data -- even if it may take a little more time to gather both. There is important information on both sides that we need to gather and analyze before we react. Knowledge is power. Assumptions are the work of the devil and do more to divide than unit.
Let's not be afraid to ask for help, understanding and patience. And when our resources and allies are limited let's not alienate those helping hands that have stood with us -- for years -- even if they may have to compromise today to ensure a complete victory tomorrow.
Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let's start today.