It has been a heavy week for our community. I’m dedicating this newsletter to updating you on all of the work that is happening to address gun violence in Ward 4.
And as always, I’m sharing a wide range of events and resources in our community. This weekend alone we have a National Symphony Orchestra performance and outdoor film screening at the Parks at Walter Reed, an interactive garden planning event at Upshur Community Garden, a community yard sale in Takoma, another Petworth Summer Saturdays concert, an opening for a new exhibit at Art of Noize gallery, and the Crestwood Citizens Association annual barbecue.
It’s also a big week for Ward 4 families with pets! Tomorrow there will be a Pet Health Fair at Lorenzo Allen Memorial Park, while Sunday will include DPR’s Doggie Day Swim at Upshur Pool. Then to top it all off, we’ll be cutting the ribbon on a new dog park at the Parks at Walter rEED on Tuesday evening!
Responding to Gun Violence
Community Update on Gun Violence in Ward 4
My heart is heavy this week after our community was again devastated by gun violence, including a shooting on Longfellow Street that claimed the lives of three people and left three others injured. Each life lost to gun violence is an unspeakable tragedy that sinks loved ones into grief and traumatizes our community as a whole.
My team and I have communicating with Chief Contee, speaking to neighbors, and gathering information since Saturday. And last night I convened leaders from our major public safety agencies to brief ANC Commissioners and community group leaders in Ward 4 about all that’s taken place. I want to update all of you on the status of the investigation, what’s being done to prevent further gun violence, and the broader work being done to turn the tide on the gun violence epidemic in DC.
MPD has confirmed that the shooting on Longfellow Street involved feuding neighborhood crews. A major case squad within MPD has taken on the case and brought investigative resources from across the city. MPD is also receiving support from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a federal agency that is conducting a full gun search to aid forensics and link the case with any others. The shooting was particularly brazen: it happened with a police vehicle stationed nearby and in full view of an MPD camera. As a result we have significant footage of the shooting, which has been carefully reviewed as part of the investigation.
MPD has also released a photo of the vehicle connected to the shooting (a black Honda Accord sedan) and has increased the award offered for information that helps hold the shooters accountable to $110,000. Commander Griffin from the Fourth District shared that he is receiving all of the law enforcement resources needed to close this investigation and address the public safety issues in Ward 4. Chief Contee has reported significant progress in the investigation and expects that the perpetrators will be identified and held accountable.
At the same time, agencies are working around the clock to prevent the retaliatory gun violence. This is incredibly important, especially given the likelihood that this was a retaliatory shooting following gun violence that took place earlier in the week. MPD is maintaining a significant presence along the Kennedy Street area and other neighborhoods that have experienced gun violence. That includes overtime units, community patrols, mountain bike units, and K9 units sweeping for weapons.
Staff from our Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement have also been working around the clock to prevent retaliation. They responded to the hospital where the victims were taken to support the individuals who were injured and provide direct assistance to the families of those we lost with burial costs, relocation, etc… They coordinated an emergency meeting with credible messengers, Roving leaders, and other leaders from our community, and each took on specific neighborhoods where they have pre-existing relationships to follow up in and deescalate. ONSE staff are also attending memorial services for the victims to continue building relationships and discourage retaliation. Agencies have also identified specific neighborhoods where there is conflict so CSOSA can conduct accountability checks for individuals under their pre-trial or probation supervision.
Beyond the immediate response to this weekend’s shootings, there is a long-term, comprehensive effort underway to address gun violence in the Kennedy Street area and across our Ward. ONSE’s violence interruption team has been engaging the crew on Kennedy Street that was targeted in Saturday’s shooting for months through culturally competent outreach and relationship-building. ONSE is also deploying violence interrupters to Rittenhouse Street and is in the process of hiring more credible messengers and full-time violence interrupters from our community to meet the growing need for these services. Sometimes people criticize violence interruption initiatives, but DC has a long history of these programs effectively curbing gun violence, including in Uptown DC. And violence interruption efforts are tailored made to address the neighborhood conflicts and personal disputes that law enforcement says are driving the surge in gun violence in DC.
Additionally, ONSE announced that they are dedicating a new cohort of their Pathways Program to residents of Ward 1 and Ward 4. Pathways is an intensive transitional job training and employment program focused on decreasing participants’ involvement in the criminal justice system and improving their life outcomes. It has been remarkably effective, and I’m grateful that more Ward 4 residents will soon be able to benefit from it. In October, the start of the new fiscal year, there will be a major expansion of community safety resources because we worked to secure these investments in DC’s budget. That includes $14 million in violence interruption at the Office of Neighborhood Safety, a doubling of the OAG’s Cure the Streets and Restorative Justice programs, $4.5 Million to expand the Pathways transitional employment program, $11 Million in aid, coaching, and peer navigators for returning citizens, and much more. Earlier this summer I laid out in greater detail what public safety resources we already have in Ward 4 in this update.
Another important aspect of our long-term strategy is addressing conditions in our neighborhoods that exacerbate public safety issues. Issues like inadequate or broken lighting and vacant and blighted properties are statistically linked to crime and should be addressed with urgency. Here in Ward 4 we are increasingly seeing how blighted properties and abandoned vehicles are used to facilitate illegal activity such as hiding weapons or facilitating drug dealing. In partnership with community members, ANC Commissioners, and business owners, our Council office and the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety’s team are canvassing impacted neighborhoods and following up with the relevant agencies to address vacant and blighted properties, remove abandoned vehicles, repair lighting fixtures, and increase access to cameras for properties and businesses where there have been public safety concerns. The legislation passed and funded by the Council in this year’s budget to overhaul DCRA aims to improve its action on vacant and blighted properties, and I have also introduced legislation to improve DPW’s removal of abandoned vehicles. The abandoned vehicle legislation already has a hearing scheduled on October 26 where anyone can testify.
Our long term strategy for addressing gun violence is also focused on addressing the root causes of gun violence. We have seen time and time again that the safest communities are those with the most resources. That starts with providing each child a quality early education that facilitates healthy social emotional learning, as well as a strong K-12 education in well-resourced, supportive school environments. It’s tied to guaranteeing each person dignified housing where they can feel safe. It’s linked with the need to provide quality health care and robust mental health services to help process the trauma that so many of your young people have. And it’s connected to having jobs and opportunities that facilitate stability in the lives of our residents. Addressing these root causes is a moral priority for me. That’s why I helped pass the Homes and Hearts Amendment to provide housing to thousands of our unhoused neighbors, fund child care, and put more money in the pockets of low-income families. That’s why you see me constantly supporting our local businesses and their events. And that’s why I hosted a job fair on Kennedy Street specifically for our community members who spend their time on the corridor. We’re investing in building a DC where no one feels the need to pick up a gun in the first place.
Since February, I and countless community leaders and fellow Ward 4 residents have asked for Kennedy Street to be included in Building Blocks, the city’s major gun violence prevention initiative. Building Blocks brings a surge of agency resources to areas impacted by gun violence and addresses gun violence in a strategic, comprehensive way. At the time, we were told that Kennedy Street did not meet the data requirements to be part of Building Blocks. Yet last weekend the Kennedy Street area was the site of the most deadly mass shooting in DC this year. We cannot afford to be reactive to gun violence, then leave our communities to pick up the pieces. Kennedy Street and its adjacent blocks must be added to the Building Blocks initiative and receive the resources needed to curb this violence. Regardless of whether this happens, I will continue to do everything I can to bring more resources to Kennedy Street and other impacted neighborhoods and continue working with city agencies to apply Building Blocks methods in our communities.
I also want to be clear in saying that our approach as a city can never be to give up on people. Yes, holding people accountable for their actions is important, but a strategy that solely relies on policing and incarceration and neglects the underlying conditions in peoples’ lives is designed to fail. One of the most jarring details about the Saturday shooting is that earlier in the day ONSE’s violence interrupter team (sensing that danger was near) reached out to the group on Longfellow Street and asked them to leave the area and join them for dinner. And Keenan Braxton, one of the people who lost his life that day, was at our job fair on Kennedy Street and even dedicated his time to packing up the water we brought to hydrate attendees on a hot summer day. Our community was unlucky that these specific interventions weren’t enough to prevent the tragedy this time, but consider how many lives can be saved and transformed over time if we are regularly providing these resources to all of our residents who need them.
What I’m Doing As Your Councilmember and How You Can Help
The two most common questions I receive related to public safety are what I’m doing as Ward 4 Councilmember and how neighbors can help.
- Responding to every shooting. After every shooting in Ward 4 I go to the scene, gather information, immediately contact the ANC Commissioner to brief them, and speak to family members and neighbors. I also typically return to the scene the next day to canvass the neighborhood more broadly to share information.
- Addressing vacant and blighted properties. DC taxes vacant and blighted properties at very high rates to compel owners to utilize them. In some cases fines can also be issued for specific conditions such as overgrown weeds, trash, and windows that aren’t boarded up. My team and I regularly coordinate with DCRA and OTR to ensure that these properties are classified as such. You can can submit a Vacant Private Property Inspection Request at this link.
- Addressing abandoned and dangerous vehicles. Abandoned vehicles aren’t just an eye sore and take up valuable parking space; they also pose a safety risk and are often used to conceal unlawful activity. Report abandoned and dangerous vehicles on your street using the citywide 311 call center. (The same can be done for lighting that needs to be repaired and other city maintenance issues.) You can also support our legislation to make the removal of abandoned vehicles easier by testifying at this Council hearing.
- Addressing nuisance properties. Our office can also work with the Office of the DC Attorney General to take adjudicate nuisance properties that are problem hubs for gun violence in our neighborhoods in order to correct these issues. Learn more on the DC Attorney General’s website or this recent training DC OAG held for community leaders.
- Resources for substance abuse. My team and I coordinate closely with the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to bring support to drug crises areas to help neighbors struggling with addiction. You can contact DBH’s 24-7 Community Response Team by calling 202-673-6495 to ask for assistance for residents who are experiencing emotional, psychiatric or substance use vulnerabilities.
- Coordinate with MPD’s Fourth District. We regularly communicate with MPD’s Fourth District about the public safety issues we identify or hear about from neighbors. This typically involves coordinating on patrol strategy or planning neighborhood walkthroughs with the community. You can sign up for updates from the Fourth District by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Support families impacted by gun violence. Our office works with ONSE and ONSE’s violence interruption teams to provide support to families impacted by gun violence and connect them to other resources in our community.
- Supporting local businesses and residential buildings. In partnership with Main Street Associations, we regularly support local business owners, homeowners, and tenants who have faced public safety issues to install security cameras, improve lighting, and secure cameras to improve safety. Check out DC’s Private Security Camera Rebate Program for more information.
- Advocate for more gun violence prevention resources. Through Council hearings, letters, and consistent engagement with agency leaders I advocate for more gun violence resources in Ward 4. You can do the same by testifying at Council hearings or directly contacting government leaders and the agency that houses the program or services you’re interested in.
- Addressing root causes of gun violence. As a Councilmember I use my oversight, legislative, and budgetary powers to invest in programs that bring affordable housing, just wages, health care, mental health services, and opportunity to Ward 4. I also work directly with our community to host events like job fairs and rent assistance application pop ups that help move the needle on these issues. We can all help address the root causes of gun violence by getting involved with Ward 4 Mutual Aid and the many other organizations working to lift up our neighbors.
Finally, I wanted to share this march that community members in the Kennedy Street area are planning to call for an end to gun violence and lasting peace in our neighborhoods.
Please consider joining us for this peace walk on Wednesday, September 15 as we meet at 1st & Kennedy Street NW at 6pm and march to Horton’s Funeral Home.
If you cannot join the march, please leave your porch lights on for us as a sign of solidarity. Special thank you to Sheila Boykin for her work planning this event and Salina Chiles for helping design this flyer.
Double Header: National Symphony Orchestra Performance and Outdoor Film Screening of Soul. On Saturday, September 11 The Parks at Walter Reed will host a double header performance on the Great Lawn with delicious vendors such as Anxo Cider; Kennedy Street ice cream shop Everyday Sundae; popcorn by Capitol Kettle Corn; and tacos from local favorite J&J Mex-Taqueria. Bring a picnic, blankets, and chairs, and enjoy great weather!
- 6pm: Outdoor Chamber Performance featuring a quartet of world-class musicians from the NSO that will perform Haydn and Mozart.
- 7pm: Outdoor film screening of Disney Pixar’s Soul. The film will start at dark. This is the second of the Movies on the Lawn series organized in partnership with Blackfilm.com, the Home Rule Music and Film Preservation Foundation, and HR Records owner Charvis Campbell.
Six Free National Symphony Orchestra Concerts in Ward 4. From September 11 to September 22, the National Symphony Orchestra will perform no less than six free concerts across Ward 4 as part of the “NSO In Your Neighborhood” series. Catch the talented musicians at La Coop Coffee, the Great Lawn at The Parks at Walter Reed (as mentioned above), Rock Creek Nature Park Center, Roosevelt High School, Fort Slocum Park, and Emery Recreation Center! Get the details from Cesse Ip in Petworth News!
Planning Your Fall/Winter Garden Event. On Saturday, September 11 at 10:30am-1pm the Share a Seed project and Slow Food DC will host an interactive garden planning and cover crop event at Upshur Community Garden (1325 Upshur Street NW). They will be celebrating the launch of the seed library project and helping neighbors prep their gardens for the fall and winter season. All attendees will be given their own FREE bag of cover crop seed while supplies last (priority will be given to those who RSVP). RSVP here!
Free Pet Vaccinations at Lorenzo Allen Park! On Saturday, September 11 from 10am-12:30pm the Humane Rescue Alliance will host a free Pet Health Fair at Lorenzo Larry Allen Memorial Park (9th & Gallatin NW) to administer distemper and rabies vaccines to community pets free of charge, no appointments necessary. You can find additional information at this link. There will be a Pet Health Fair in each Ward, but Ward 4 comes first!
Takoma Community Yard Sales! On Saturday, September 11 from 10am-3pm homes across the Takoma neighborhood will be hosting a community yard sale! There are rumors spreading that homemade goodies and lots of enticing plants will be available at several homes. Find the full map of the yard sales at this link. The map even allows you to click on each home for a summary of what will be sold there.
Petworth Summer Saturdays Concert in September! On Saturday, September 11 from 5pm-7pm Petworth Summer Saturdays will host another concert with hip-hop emcee, vocalist, and music producer Fleetwood DeVille. Fleetwood has independently booked and funded three tours since 2015, and performed over 400 shows in 15+ states. The performance will take place in front of Willow on Upshur Street, NW – with excellent food and drink options nearby. Come enjoy this great Petworth tradition.
“A Woman Amongst Men” Exhibit Opening at Art of Noize. On Saturday, September 11 from 3pm-8pm the Art of Noize Gallery (821 Upshur St. NW, Rear) is hosting an opening reception for “A Woman Amongst Men,” an exhibit featuring the work of Nyeusi Mwezi. The works in this exhibition are comprised of photography, film, and poetry, and chronicles Nyeusi’s travels within Accra, Ghana with a group of seven men, while creating balanced, healthy, and vulnerable experiences. The exhibition will be on view through October 2nd, 2021 and will be open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 12pm-6pm.
Doggie Swim Day at Upshur Pool! On Sunday, September 12 from noon-4pm DPR will be hosting Doggie Day Swim at Upshur Pool (4300 Arkansas Ave NW). We’ll be ending summer pool season in style by allowing our puppies to get some rare swimming time too! Please remember to register your pup for the event and read up on the rules at this link.
Crestwood Citizens Association After Labor Day Picnic. On Sunday, September 12 from 4pm-7pm the Crestwood Citizens Association will host its annual After Labor Day Barbecue at Triangle Park, located at Argyle Terrace & 18th Streets NW. Please bring a favorite dish to share. They’ll have a grill going and will provide water, cutlery, and paper products. They’ll also provide condiments for burgers and hot dogs and ice for drinks, but please feel free to bring meat to grill and buns, and your own coolers and beverages. Seating is extremely limited, please bring your own picnic blankets and folding or camping chairs.
“Yappy Hour” to Celebrate New Dog Park at the Parks at Walter Reed! On Tuesday, September 14 from 5:30pm-7pm join us at the Parks at Walter Reed to celebrate Ward 4’s newest dog park, which will be nearly 10,00 square feet! There will be a cheerful ribbon cutting, giveaways, DJ, tacos, and drinks. Doggie treats and adult beverages provided by Booze Bruvas will be free, including a fun dog-themed cocktail, wine, or beer. Tacos from J&J Taqueria will be $2 apiece.
Main Street Park(ing) Day and Art All Night! On Friday, September 17 from 9am-4pm Uptown Main Street will host Main Street Park(ing) Day on Kennedy Street. Don’t miss the Urban Oasis and delicious treats. Then a week later on Friday, September 24 from 4pm-12am Uptown Main Street will host Art All Night 2021! This free arts festival will include live music, fire dance, Bollywood class, artisan markets, comedy, a documentary screening, visual arts and more! Please visit our web page for updates. Volunteer for either event by emailing email@example.com.
Petworth Community Health and Wellness Fair 2021. On Saturday, September 18 from 9am-1pm the Petworth Get Wise Coalition is coordinating a community health and wellness fair! Come for free health tests and screening for the full spectrum of residents in Petworth and Ward 4, including on COVID, STD, HIV, Blood Glucose level, Breast Cancer prevention, Mental Health, and Fitness Demos. The Fair will be held near Grant Circle on the Petworth campus of Center City Public Charter School at 510 Webster Street NW. For more information call 202-731-1815.
Chevy Chase Day. On Saturday, September 18 from 1pm-4pm the Chevy Chase Citizens Association is bringing back Chevy Chase Day on Connecticut Avenue at the Commons. Plan to come for the music, puppet show, juggler, magician, balloon art, outdoor yoga, sidewalk chalk art, the free ice cream giveaway, and so much more!
Tour de Roosevelt! On Sunday, September 19 at 10am at the main entrance of Roosevelt High School (4301 13th St NW) Roosevelt High School its annual community bike ride! The event is free and open to all riders regardless of age skill level. The ride will follow Roosevelt’s in-boundary geographic feeder map. Please RSVP at this link. Remember to wear orange and blue, wear a helmet, and bring water and a snack.
Northern Bus Garage Fall Community Engagement Meeting. On Tuesday, September 21 at 6pm WMATA is hosting its fall community engagement meeting on the Northern Bus Garage Reconstruction Project. Join Metro to discuss recent project updates. Topics will include design and fieldwork updates, Metro’s zero-emission strategy, and a follow-up on environmental management process.
Used Book Sale at Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library! On Friday, September 24 from 2pm-5:30pm and Saturday, September 25 from 10am-4pm there will be a used book sale at the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library (7420 Georgia Ave NW). They’ll have more than 1000 books for sale, and they’ll be priced to move! All proceeds will help the Friends of the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park library in its efforts to prevent the recommendation by D.C. Public Library that Shepherd Park Library be shut down at some point in the future.
Art All Night Brings Film and Fun to Georgia Avenue! On Friday, September 24 and Saturday, September 25 Upper Georgia Avenue Main Street is organizing a weekend of fun for the city’s annual Art All Night celebration. On Friday, September 24 at 7pm kick off the weekend at Cinema Night + Art All Night Launch on the Great Lawn at The Parks at Walter Reed. Then, come out again on Saturday, September 25 at 7pm for four more Art All Night activations along Georgia Avenue:
- Arts & culture walk featuring jazz at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, visual arts at Tomoka Coffee House, poetry readings led by Huffington Post contributor and founder of Day Eight Robert Bettmann, Zenith Gallery pop-up and mobile woodshop at PS2G, and more in the 7300-7800 blocks of Georgia Ave NW.
- African cultural bands and ping pong in the 6400 block of Georgia Ave NW.
- Family-friendly comedy talk show led by Brandon Wetherbee, who has performed at the Kennedy Center and was featured in Washingtonian Magazine, at the Emory United Methodist Church, 6100 Georgia Ave NW.
- Latin American cultural bands with art and retail vendors in front of the Fourth District MPD Headquarters, 6001 block of Georgia Ave NW.
The Parks Main Street Art All Night. On Friday evening, September 24 the Parks Main Street will host Art All Night, a free arts festival that showcases performances from musical, visual, and movement artists. If you’re interested in performing or vending at the festival, fill out this form. And get your free tickets at this link!
Celebrate Petworth! On Saturday, September 25 between 11am-5pm Celebrate Petworth makes its grand return. This is a free neighborhood festival organized by and for the residents of Petworth—celebrating the creativity, diversity, culture, and people of Petworth and its surrounding neighborhoods. It takes place on the 800 block of Upshur Street NW and features a Kids Zone with music, a Fire Engine, a soda explosion experiment, chalking, and a Balloon Bounce Community Art Project!
Save the Date: Open Streets Returns to Georgia Avenue. On Saturday, October 2 from 10am-3pm Open Streets will return to Georgia Avenue in Wards 1 and 4. During that time period, a miles-long stretch of Georgia Avenue will close to cars and will instead host an urban festival of activities ranging from food, drinks, fitness classes, obstacle courses, children’s games, live music, and other educational and entertainment programming.
Save the Date: Down in the Reeds Festival. On Saturday, October 9 from 11am-7pm Down in the Reeds Festival is back in Ward 4 hosted by The Parks at Walter Reed! It’s a free all-day festival celebrating the power of music to heal across communities and cultures. Check out the website for ways to plug in and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates as the festival takes shape.
Ward 4 Weekly Farmer’s Markets. We have:
- Tuesdays at 11am-2pm: Produce Stand at The Parks at 6922 Georgia Ave NW
- Saturdays at 9am-1pm: Petworth Community Market at Upshur St & 9th Street
- Saturdays at 9am-1pm: Uptown Market at 5500 Colorado Ave NW
- Sundays at 10am-2pm: Farmers Market at the Parks at 6922 Georgia Ave NW
Spray Parks to Remain Open through September 26! Today DPR announced that in light of the hot weather we’re experiencing all 33 of DC’s stand-alone spray (splash) parks will remain open every day, starting September 7 from 11am-5pm through September 26. In Ward 4 we have spray parks at Lafayette-Pointer Rec Center, Fort Stevens Rec Center, Takoma Community Center, Petworth Rec Center, and Riggs-LaSalle Rec Center. Find your nearest spray park on this map.
Housing Available at the Vale at The Parks at Walter Reed. The Vale apartment building at The Parks at Walter Reed is now accepting applications for units to rent at both market rate and affordable rates at 50% and 80% average median income. You can find more info and contact information at this link.
Temporary Closure of Beach Drive NW on September 11. DDOT will temporarily close Beach Drive NW between the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway NW and Tilden Street NW between the hours of 9am-5pm on Saturday, September 11, weather permitting. This temporary closure is necessary to construct the new pedestrian bridge and multi-use trail on Beach Drive over Rock Creek as part of the Rock Creek Park Multi-Use Trail and Pedestrian Bridge project.
Apply to be Ward 4’s New Constituent Services Coordinator. I am searching for a new dynamic, caring constituent services coordinator to complement Matt and Tamira in supporting and empowering Ward 4 residents. Please take a moment and share the job listing with any of your neighbors who could be a great fit.
DC Public Library Evil Laugh Competition! For the first time ever the DC Public Library is hosting an Evil Laugh Contest! Residents can submit a 10-second video of themselves or a family member doing their most wicked, spine-tingling evil laugh. Make sure to submit your video no later than October 15. Trophies will be awarded in several categories such as, Best Vocals, Art Direction, Dramatic Performance. If you win, you must be able to pick up your prize at your local participating DC Public Library. If DCPL’s recent Dinosaur Roaring Competition is any metric, I expect the competition to be fierce!
I want to close by wishing our Jewish community in Ward 4 shanah tovah for Rosh Hashanah earlier this week, as well as extend wishes for a meaningful Yom Kippur this coming week. May the new year bring everyone peace, good health, and joy.
And finally, Sully would like to remind all of his four-legged neighbors to stop by the pet health fair on Saturday, Doggie Day Swim at Upshur Pool on Sunday, and “Yappy Hour” on Tuesday to celebrate the new dog park at the Parks at Walter Reed. It’s a great week for Ward 4 puppies!
Yours in Community,