By SW DC Action
SW Action, which primarily consists of residents of Southwest DC, came together organically in November 2019 as neighbors who wanted to learn about, and advocate for, antiracist development and policies in our surrounding community. We have been meeting monthly ever since. We are an all-volunteer group and have four working groups – community development, housing, environment, and youth – that allow individuals to focus on specific issues that matter to them. Since our group’s inception, we have collectively:
- Provided feedback and testified on the Office of Planning’s Comprehensive Plan;
- Written a piece on how neighbors can interrupt cycles of harm rather than perpetuating them;
- Testified in front of, and submitted written testimony to, the Zoning Commission on new developments in the neighborhood calling for more affordable housing and pointing out the racial impact of not doing so
- Written letters regarding the environmental impact Vulcan concrete is having on nearby residents;
- Met with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, on issues related to Southwest (including getting better housing for a resident living in Greenleaf), as well as staff of Council members on the housing committee, the Director of Real Estate, and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development about affordable housing.
We welcome anyone to join our meetings. Our next meeting will be November 7 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. in Lansburgh Park (email swdcaction at gmail dot com to be notified of any location change should weather not cooperate).
In the struggle for social and racial justice, we believe that relationships based on solidarity and cooperation must be built between people of different races, backgrounds, and incomes to achieve collective liberation. Trust and truth are integral to this effort; thus, we seek to grow at the speed of trust and recognize that trust is built over time and requires consistent work.
Our current initiatives include:
Creating more affordable housing
SW Action seeks to use public land for a community land trust that will put the interests and needs of low-income Black Southwest residents first and foremost. Community land trusts allow for permanently affordable housing, affordable retail space, and for the community to oversee how the property should be used. SW Action believes that expanding the Douglass CLT, a city-wide community land trust initiative, into Southwest will allow the residents most in need of justice to determine how best the land can serve their needs and interests.
A lot of development has landed in Southwest over the last two decades. With increased development:
- The median price of homes has increased 55%;
- The median income level of residents has increased 117%; and
- The Black population has decreased nearly 40 percentage points.
The median rent in the neighborhood is now more than the median household income for Black families. New developments have overwhelmingly catered to affluent and white newcomers. Because we know that Black, low-income residents have been historically and intentionally underserved, we believe that justice dictates that their interests and needs should be put first.
How we build a collective consensus:
Building Trust — Southwest is a diverse neighborhood with nearly 14,500 residents of varying ages, races, and incomes. Given this unique composition of many different perspectives and backgrounds, SW Action believes that true community organizing and building of solidarity requires time, consistency, and sincerity. We seek to keep these intentions in mind through all of our engagements and outreach.
Community Outreach — Starting in April, SW Action has conducted outreach to Southwest residents to provide information about the CLT model and receive feedback and ideas. SW Action has actively tabled at neighborhood events, such as the opening of the new Southwest library, the SW Mutual Aid clothing swap (which SW Action helped organize), the DC Housing Authority’s Back to School Event and Stop The Violence event at King Greenleaf Rec Center, and Paul Taylor’s Southwest Day. We have also conducted presentations through established community hubs like ANC meetings, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The environmental group has partnered with a neighborhood community garden, where many members regularly volunteer, on a pilot community-supported agriculture program where two young people who are Greenleaf residents are paid to harvest and deliver produce to seniors living in Greenleaf Senior. The program, supported by the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, also included a cooking demonstration in September on how to use the produce from the garden.
The community development working group conducted a survey of Southwest residents to learn more about what types of businesses and community organizations residents would like to see in our neighborhood. The plan is to use the survey results to inform our outreach to elected officials. The surveys were distributed three times at Christ United Methodist Church, during their food distributions in December 2020, January 2021, and February 2021. Online surveys were also conducted via social media, NextDoor, and posts to local building links by SW Action members, and an article in the February 2021 edition of The Southwester, directing people to the link for the survey. Nearly 300 Southwest residents completed the survey, and the results were shared in September in The Southwester and on our website.
We will continue to find ways to reach residents, wherever they are, and advocate for social justice and environmental sustainability. We understand that public housing residents are our neighbors most in need of justice and we strive to put their interests and needs first.
For more information, please visit our website at www.swdcaction.com.