Last night, the wife and I went to the joint meeting of three Columbia Heights community associations. Muriel Bowser (councilmember from Ward 4) and numerous high-ranking members of the police force were there.
The biggest topic of conversation was a letter that went out to many residents that, among other things, called the park at 14th and Girard NW a “hellhole”.
As you can imagine, many people who spend time in that park took offense. Much of this anger, I think, is because they feel this is an attack by the rich white people moving into the neighborhood on the poor black people who have lived there for years. And they probably have a point.
As one of the white people who has recently moved into the neighborhood, I try to be sensitive to this kind of thing. I don’t want to remake Columbia Heights in the image of Fairfax County. I don’t want to drive out the long-time residents. I LIKE Columbia Heights. Sure, there’s some crime, and I want to help get rid of it.
I think there is a communication problem. For example, I frequent the Columbia Heights Community Forum. There are people there who want to close the park. They think the shootings recently on the 1400 block of Girard originated at the park, and I think they are totally wrong. But I didn’t see them at the meeting. They communicate online. And frankly, that’s my preferred way of communicating. But it has to go beyond that. The people at the meeting last night don’t read the forum. I think many people on the forum would think differently about the park if they listened to the people who spend time there. I was also disappointed that there was no representative from the Latino community at the meeting. Columbia Heights has a large Spanish-speaking population, and I didn’t see it represented. I don’t know whether this is from the meeting organizers not reaching out, or the Spanish-speakers not responding, but it needs to change either way.
I wish I knew what to do about it. I want to stay in Columbia Heights. I want to raise children here, and I want to be able to send them to public schools and know that they’re safe, and that they’re getting a good education.
But I don’t really know what to do. I think we’ll keep going to the meetings. The police attendance at this one was not the usual, and this meeting felt rushed, so maybe normal meetings are different.
NB: I changed the name of the post from “Columbia Heights associations' meeting” to “Columbia Heights associations meeting”, because the second version is correct. HOWEVER - I wasn’t as dumb as you think the first time. I really did mean to use the plural posessive. However, I don’t think the plural posessive is appropriate here. Arguments welcome in the comments.