Saturday, October 24, 2009

Institutional Eckington?

I have been doing some digging with respect to the community organizations/institutions present in Eckington...still some more work to do but found out about the Eckington Civic Association, which has been around for a while apparently but has only just launched a's a nice one too...check it out here. I look forward to seeing much more there soon and learning more about them.

Also, there's the ANC or Advisory Neighborhood Commission for our area, which is 5C. 5 because I am in Ward 5 and then the ward's broken up into commission sectors, mine happens to be C. Each ANC has a set of Commissioners who represent SMDs (Single Member Districts). I live in SMD 06 and am represented by Mrs. Mary Lois Farmer-Allen. Click her name to check out her page. The entire ANC 5C page can be found here. I already missed the ANC meeting for this month so will have to look into that for November.

In Memorium: Kenyetta Daiarra Nicholson-Stanley

As I sought to learn more about the opportunities to volunteer with Hyde Leadership Public Charter School, I also learned about the tragic death of Ms. Kenyetta D. Nicholson-Stanley. She was a 17 year old student at Hyde PCS, although she lived east of here in the Brentwood neighborhood and was shot just north of here in the Edgewood neighborhood.

I had hoped to meet with my contact at the school on the way home from work but had gotten a call from her mentioning that they were having a candlelight vigil for Kenyetta that evening. She invited me to join but it didn't feel appropriate to be attending as I didn't know her and had just moved to the neighborhood myself. We made arrangements to meet the following morning but the cloud of Kenyetta's untimely death couldn't help but overshadow our brief morning meeting. The school had prepared giant framed pictures of Keyetta with condolence messages from her fellow students around the edge. There were three of these I believe and they were leaning against the walls of the office.

More on the incident here and here and here. As the last article notes, there have been no leads in the case. MPD contact information is below, for those who may have information about this case.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call police at (202) 727-9099 or 1-888-919-CRIM [E] (1-888-919-2746).

The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone that provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons wanted for any homicide committed in the District of Columbia.

Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to DC CRIME SOLVERS at 1-866-411-TIPS and to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411. If the information provided by the caller to the Crime Solvers Unit leads to an arrest and indictment, that caller will be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Pictures of the shrine that's been set-up in Kenyetta's memory outside the Edgewood Terrace Apartment complex where she was shot.

RIP Kenyetta...nada te turbe...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

...I am Brother's Keeper, I am my Sister's Keeper...

When then Senator Barack Obama uttered these words at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts in late July 2004, I had taken some Peace Corps vacation days and was visiting my friend Josh in Nevis. I still can't remember whether I caught the speech live or was watching a replay of it later that night at Josh's house but those words spoke to my life's purpose.

Of course, I was in the midst of the opening chapter of my decision to embark on a career in sustainable international development focused on helping rural communities to not only survive but also thrive in an increasingly inhospitable 21st Century globalized environment. I was essentially 6 months into my Peace Corps term but looking back, nearly every piece of my life prior had built me for those experiences. I was fortunate to have a loving family by my side as I endured childhood travails and key mentors as I began the long and slow process of recovery. To quote Paul's Letter to the early Christians at Philippi:

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Foregtting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead..."

So as an imperfect vessel, I navigate life's turbulent waters constantly aware that I have an obligation to contribute where I can. As I am now in DC, it's only natural that I look to see how I can be meaningfully engaged in this urban, largely African-American milieu. Again, my previous experiences have built to this. Having spent three years in the Caribbean, I am a young Caucasian man who is more in tune than most when it comes to comfort and familiarity with being a minority. I by no means claim to be an expert or claim some special exemption in this area, but as I did today, I can go into an African-American church and feel relatively comfortable where most white folks would feel awkward (and that's based primarily on the different styles of worship). Of course, generally the Sunday church service is considered one of the most segregated hours in the country. This church, Franklin P. Nash UMC, will likely become my church home here in DC for the time being. I will still make occasional forays to Foundry and, eventually, I will get myself over to the National Cathedral for Evensong, but I will be the white guy in the African-American church for the time being...just like when I was in the Caribbean.

This week, I made some progress with learning more about tutoring and/or mentoring opportunities at local DC schools. Right now, I am looking at helping out at either Hyde Leadership Public Charter School or Thurgood Marshall Academy (also a charter school). Hyde is 2 or so blocks from the house here and TMA is over in Anacostia. Chatting with the contact at TMA, I came in just a hair too late for the mentoring program but he would like to at least get me cleared and then, if a mentor drops, I might be able to fill in. With Hyde, they have a Saturday academy...tutoring for middle and high school students. The contact I made there is checking with some of the teachers to see if there is a need for me in that capacity. If these don't work out, there are many other organizations and schools around the city (and even the neighborhood) where I could help out one way or another, I will find a way to support the youth here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How did I get here? - Part II

Before I got to Eckington I had to do my time outside the District in Prince George's County...mind you, I was a stone's throw outside the District...a few minutes from Naylor Road Metro. I had located a conveniently priced sublet on CraigsList, which is getting increasingly sketchy these days. Anyway, it was good for what I needed at that stage...a roof over my head, a high speed internet connection, and walking distance to Metro. I didn't have to make too many trips into DC initially so it was cool but Metro expenses eventually began to add up and the sublet term was going to be ending before I knew it.

Of course, my original plan had been to live in River East and I am still convinced that's where I will live eventually. I had been 'stalking' this small apartment block in Congress Heights for the month or so following my decision to move to DC. I looked at them and was really impressed with the quality of the work that had recently been done in the apartment, the ample light, and the fact that the property manager lived upstairs. 2 bedrooms for about $900 in a supurb location. However, I couldn't secure that awesome apartment on my own. My parent's really were not in a position to co-sign so it was back to CL to wade through all the too good to be true apartment listings and gorgeous homes where people had to leave suddenly to go work overseas for an oil companies in Nigeria. Eventually, I came across the post for this room in Eckington.

After dashing around town to interview for my current temp position (perseverance paid off in that respect I believe), I headed on up to Eckington and the vicinity of N. Capitol and Rhode Island. This is the part of DC that Washington CityPaper in it's 'Hoods and Services' edition last May labeled 'Turrets Syndrome'...Eckington really doesn't do turrets but Bloomindale across N. Capitol does. I arrived on time but Metro's Red line was playing it's usual drama with my future housemate Brian. It was actually a good thing because it allowed me to evaluate the neighborhood...I liked the fact that there were kids playing on the sidewalks and that it was an actual residential neighborhood. The house is a brick rowhouse built in 1912 and had hardwood floors and a very nice had a cozy feel while still having enough space for me and Salish, when I got a chance to bring her down. I also enjoyed chatting with Brian and he seemed like a cool, relaxed guy. While I did run over to Arlington and check out this other place later that day, Eckington and the rowhouse had impressed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How did I get here?

So how did I land in Eckington and DC? Well, to be completely honest it feels like I am meant to be might say, part of God's plan of whatever higher being you might ascribe such interventions to.

DC was farthest from my mind when I received my Master's in Sustainable International Development this past Spring. Ironic, I know...all the jobs are here or in NYC, unless I was prepared to head abroad but I actually wanted to head west again...Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, maybe Seattle. I had a few friends who had recently moved to Wyoming, my grandparents are in Colorado and Montana had always interested me. Reality of interest were few and far between and so by early July I began doing my research on DC to see what it might offer me. What I had been searching for out West, beyond the obvious job, was a community vibe and a place to feel rooted during my next 3-5 years in the US. I felt DC might just be a constraining urban jungle

Thanks to the cool bloggers over in River East however (Congress Heights on the Rise, Barry Farm (Re)mixed, and And Now, Anacostia) who reminded me once again that Seattle had been a great environment for me because I had a community of friends around me and it offered me the opportunity to give of myself. Regardless of where I ended up, I could still find community and connection. While I gave myself some more time to ponder DC, it was becoming clear that I could accomplish numerous personal and professional objectives, while maintaining proximity to my family and to my 'fanmi Dominitjen' back in the Eastern Caribbean.

To be continued...

Monday, October 12, 2009

New in the neighborhood...

After much polite cajoling on the part of some of my new DC friends, I am pleased to announce the launch of the 'Earl of Eckington'. I haven't had a blog since my Peace Corps days and I don't intend for this to take over my life but occasionally you will find my observations concerning the goings on in the Eckington neighborhood of NE Washington, home for the next year.

To start, I want to provide some background on my new surroundings:

You can start with the wikipedia article on the neighborhood, which will give some historical context to this area.

You can then check out my fellow Eckington blogger HERE. While s/he also links to the wikipedia article they have also come across historical photos and there are links to more.

Finally, there's the conventional media's take on the neighborhood with this WashPo article from earlier this year.

What you will gather from these sources and if you care to walk the streets of Eckington is definitely the sense that this neighborhood is evolving. My impressions are still limited (I will be celebrating my two week anniversary here as of tomorrow) but this blog is meant to chronicle my arrival here in DC and Eckington, as well as my impressions of life in the neighborhood. I plan on getting involved in the area and so I should have ample fodder for my posts here. Furthermore, as a minority in the neighborhood, my posts here will be informed somewhat by my three years spent living in a similar context in the Eastern Caribbean. Happy reading!