An Audio Documentary of Ivy City

Men of Ivy City at Ivy City Reunion, Summer 2011

Ivy City is a neighborhood in northeast DC. Bordered on one side by Gallaudet University and Mt. Olivet Cemetery on the other, it’s a little off the beaten path. Not being within walking distance of a Metro subway line, development and it’s not so welcome counterpart displacement have not overwhelmed the area. For those in the neighborhood whose incomes cause them to fear the harsh winds of gentrification this is both a blessing and a curse. Nearby Trinidad, which is just a little closer to the H Street Corridor, has gotten a state-of-the-art recreation center along with its increased property values and higher-income neighbors. Ivy City on the other hand can’t get a library kiosk or a basketball court but it has gotten a youth detention facility. This is in keeping with the slow decline of Ivy City which was one of those DC neighborhoods where African-American families were able to thrive despite segregation during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Unfortunately, like many low-income and working class African-American neighborhoods, it began to decline in the 1970s and ’80s. Many Ivy City residents site the closing of Crummell, the community’s elementary school, in 1972 as marking the downward trajectory of the neighborhood. For more than thirty years, the Crummell School Alumni Association has tried to convince the District Government to turn Crummell into a community center or a recreation center or a workforce development center, anything that would be a positive investment in the community and uplift its residents. The following audio documentary produced by Empower DC as part of their Ivy City History Project gives you a good idea of how much work has gone into the effort.

We Act Radio’s Live Wire: Empower DC Community Hour 2-27-12 – Ivy City Audio Documentary [haiku url=”″ title=”Ivy City Audio Documentary”]

This version of the podcast varies slightly from the original as we broadcast it on We Act Radio’s Live Wire: The Empower DC Community Hour. Unfortunately, this was to be our last episode of the radio program as the Grassroots Media Project is already stretched beyond our limited capacity. We are continuing to produce radio features to air on WPFW, and hopefully We Act Radio as well, but a one hour broadcast each week is not possible at this time. With that in mind, I’d like to invite anyone out there in radio land who would like to help us build our capacity to a…

Grassroots Media Project Open House Meet the Director of the Grassroots Media Project & Find Out How You Can Contribute To The Work of Empower DC’s Media Corps. Sign up for classes in basic radio & video production and help Empower DC get the word out about our work! Saturday April 21 & 28 Anytime between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM 1419 V Street NW (2 ½ blocks northwest of the U Street/Cardozo Metro Station, 13th Street Exit)

Snacks Will Be Provided. Children Are Welcome. Please RSVP Liane Scott at 202-234-9119 ext 106 or email


An Increase in Rent for DC’s Poorest Residents

This post has two features. The first is the latest edition of We Act Radio’s Live Wire program, The Empower DC Community Hour, which airs on Monday evenings from 7:00 – 8:00 PM. This week’s show was hosted by Empower DC Afforadable Housing Organizer Linda Leaks and focused on recent proposals by Congress and the Obama Administration to raise the minimum rent that section-8 housing voucher holders are required to pay. This weeks guests were Venus Little from the Task Force to Oppose the Minimum Rent Increase and Diane Hunter from the Perry School Community Service Center, Inc. Please listen and support the show.

[haiku url=”” title=”The Empower DC Community Hour for March 5, 2012″]

Empower DC Community Education Event

This second is a cross-post from Kathy Baer’s really informative blog Poverty & Policy, from which I took the title of this post:

What Would HUD’s Proposed Minimum Rent Mandate Mean for Extremely Poor DC Residents? Researching the impacts of the mandatory minimum rent proposal in the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, I asked myself what it would mean for extremely low-income District residents who benefit from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental housing programs.

The answer, I think, is maybe less than for the poorest beneficiaries in most of the country. But it’s hard to be sure because we don’t know how broadly HUD would apply the new policy.

Here’s what we do know.

DCHA (the District’s public housing authority) doesn’t impose a minimum rent, as it could under the current law. It’s chosen — wisely I think — to let the lowest of low-income households conserve their cash for other needs.

These, recall, are households whose adjusted incomes are so low that the usual 30% they’d owe for rent is negligible, except to them.

In one scenario, they’d have to pay $75 a month, as would more than half a million of the poorest households nationwide, though DCHA could grant hardship exemptions for some of them.

But DCHA is one of the 34 public housing authorities that participate in HUD’s Moving to Work demonstration project. As such, it’s exempt from many of the rules most PHAs must comply with.

So it’s possible that DCHA could preserve its current rent policy for most residents who’d otherwise be affected.

According to DCHA’s latest annual report, 12,752 individuals and families had Housing Choice vouchers in its MTW program. It plans to increase the number to 12,784 by the end of this fiscal year.

DCHA says that close to 20,000 additional residents live in public housing units.

If the proposed policy change is like the one in a bill the House is considering — and it does seem that way — then the minimum mandatory rent wouldn’t automatically apply to either the voucher holders or the public housing residents.

Or so I gather from a bill analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But the minimum mandatory would apply to residents of project-based Section 8 housing, i.e., units that have federally-funded vouchers attached to them.

That, says CBPP, would put 1,273 extremely low-income District households at risk of “serious hardship and even homelessness.”

Do we really need anything more to push up our homelessness rates?

The Empower DC Community Hour

We Act Radio store front in Anacostia.

Hello all you folks out there in radio land. Empower DC’s Grassroots Media Project has just started producing an hour long program on We Act Radio 1480 AM airing out of Anacostia. The show which we’re calling The Empower DC Community Hour is part of We Act Radio’s Live Wire series. It airs live on Monday nights at 7:00 PM but you can also listen to it at as well as right here, where we’ll be archiving the program along with all the other work of the Media Project. Our first show aired February 20, 2012. Empower DC’s Youth Organizer Jonathan Stith and Ivy City Community Organizer Andria Swanson co-hosted the program. Their guests, Empower DC Education Organizer Daniel del Pielago and Bruce Monroe Parent Sequnely Gray, spent the hour focusing on the impending school closings and the implications of the Illinois Facility Fund report. Besides learning about what to expect should your family’s school be closed or to turned over to a charter management company, the show also suggests how you can get organized along with other members of your community before that happens. No one should have to face a school closure alone. As Jonathan Stith says on the show, “get organized because we’ve got your back.”

The Empower DC Community Hour for February 20, 2012

Please listen in and support the program.