Civics Group Holds 89thAwards Celebration and Scholarship Luncheon

By Vyllorya Evans

On Oct. 26, members of SWNA (Donna Purchase, President, Vyllorya Evans, Chair, Education and Scholarship Task Force, Thelma D. Jones, Chair, Youth Activities Task Force, and Neo Morake, Co-Chair Transportation Task Force) attended the 2019 DC Federation of Civic Associations (DCFCA) luncheon and awards celebration. SWNA is a member of DCFCA, an organization dedicated to informing, representing and supporting DC residents by bringing together leaders of its diverse neighborhoods in an action-oriented body. 

This year’s luncheon theme, “Community or Chaos: We’re All in This Together,” brought community organizations from all over the city to the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Club to dine on a scrumptious southern meal. 

Mistress of Ceremony, former DC At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz, proved to be an excellent storyteller. She shared the story of her life during the past 11 years, which included writing her autobiography entitled Quite a Life! From Defeat to Defeat…and Back. The audience made enthusiastic purchases of her book and she cheerfully and graciously signed each one.

As always, SWNA celebrates youth who put the work into receiving scholarships to further their education. DCFCA provides scholarships and this year we congratulated Lamera Harris for receiving the DCFLA $2000 scholarship award that he plans to use towards expenses at Norfolk State University. 

Keynote speaker Joy Ford Austin, Executive Director of Humanities Council of Washington DC (Humanities DC), delivered a motivational message to the audience, saying that, “[There] are people who care and get things done.” She encouraged the Federation to adopt a mission that includes preserving, protecting, nurturing and celebrating the humanities, creativity, heritage, and stories of DC neighborhoods. 

Austin said the chaos we are facing is “clear gentrification and the reality is that not all our citizens can take advantage [of] or benefit from the changes.” She said Dr. Martin Luther King’s message was primarily a reminder that we must build community and tell our own stories at neighborhood meetings. That we use those stories as the fundamental unit of knowledge that is vital to preserving our past, present, and future.   

She shared the story of Patsy Fletcher, a notable writer and researcher hired by the Historic Preservation Office to prepare and present local and National Register nominations. In her role, Fletcher met residents from every area of the city and heard their neighborhood stories. This work lead Fletcher to implement a partnership with the Historic Preservation Office and the State Humanities organization. The DC Community Heritage Project provides grant support to help neighborhoods tell their history in brochures, videos, historic tours, and even comic books. Under Fletcher’s leadership, workshops were held and funding was provided to various organizations to tell the story of their neighborhoods and religious institutions.  

Fletcher passed away earlier this year, but Austin said that “we are all Patsy Fletcher” if we are so inspired to care about our history as Fletcher did. She encouraged civic associations to turn to each other for inspiration. Austin encouraged and assured us all that we, too, can do this. And for our part, we feel that SWNA is on the path to do so!

The SWNA Youth Activities Task Force, in partnership with the World Bank Group-IMF African American Association, received a grant from Humanities DC to conduct a six-week awareness project on Thurgood Marshall for the Fifth Graders at Anthony Bowen Elementary. Thurgood lived in SW on both G and 4th Sts. before ascending to the Supreme Court.

We are proud to share that Caitlin Carroll and Brad Forder received a film grant from Humanities DC to produce a short documentary film called “Jazz Night.” The film explores the history of the SW neighborhood and the legacy of urban renewal, the inclusive power of jazz, blues, and the potential of the arts to build lasting communities. The film will follow Westminster Church’s musical events and their redevelopment efforts to expand its arts offerings.

Another event highlight was a surprise award: The Office of the People’s Counsel

Lifetime Consumer Advocate Award. Congratulations Graylin!

With the increase of Humanities DC grant dollars by over 400% (from $165,000 in 2018 to $840,00 in 2020), there are great opportunities for SWNA, and other community organizations, to apply for grant dollars to do the good work that needs to be done.For more information on grants: www.wdchumanities.org.

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