Upcoming Events and Actions
Join the Empower DC List Serve
Twitter: @EmpowerDCTweets by @EmpowerDC
Join our campaign to save DC public schools and protect public education. read more
Empower DC is helping lead the fight against the demolition of public housing in DC. read more
As the DC government plans to close down community public schools to convert them into charters or condos, parents are fighting back. read more
Empower DC is organizing public housing residents in Barry Farm and Greenleaf Gardens to fight against the Choice/New Communities gentrification projects which will reduce the public housing stock. read more
Empower DC hosts a one-hour radio show on WPFW 89.3, Taking Action, every Tuesday at 1:00 pm to talk about critical issues facing DC's low-income communities of color. We bring in DC residents -- the real experts -- to talk about the challenges our communities face and solutions designed to uplift our people. If you have a suggestion for a show, a question, or a comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 19, 2015: Karl Racine, DC's first elected Attorney General joins Empower DC's Executive Director, Parisa Norouzi, in studio. Mr. Racine clarifies the role of the Attorney General, talks about his life and how he became Attorney General, and brings us up to date on the recent attempt by Mayor Bowser to usurp the power of his office.
It's WPFW's Spring Membership Campaign. If you appreciate shows like Taking Action -- where you hear the voices of DC residents talking about issues important to us -- please show your support by making a donation. On the pledge form, choose Taking Action from the drop down list of shows.
“The bottom line is that overall there was not a huge difference performance change between students in schools which closed and all other students. The small difference there was was actually negative, so it’s probably just better to avoid this angle if it does come up.”
-- Greg Garrison, DCPS Deputy Chief, Office of Data and Accountability (former) to Peter Weber, DCPS Chief of Strategy (November 7, 2012 - Bates # 014934)
In March 2013 Empower DC and our members filed a lawsuit to block the closure of 15 DC public schools. Although the injunction we sought, which would have stopped the closures entirely, was blocked the judge allowed the lawsuit to move forward on several counts, including our claim of disparate racial impact. The closures ultimately displaced 2,642 children, of which only 2 were white.
As part of the “discovery” phase of the lawsuit, Empower DC received thousands of internal DCPS emails related to school closures and had the opportunity to question under oath four high-level DCPS officials, including Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
We undertook this lawsuit because we know that corporate education reform is hurting our communities, particularly Black and Brown communities where school closures have taken place. These emails show how external, education privatization organizations are having a significant influence on DC education policy behind the scenes, in particular pushing for closures, the rise of charter schools, etc.
Among the many emails that stood out to us are:
1) An exchange between Chancellor Kaya Henderson and former Mayor Vincent Gray dismissing Ward 8 advocates and residents (Bates # 007037)
2) An email from Peter Weber, DCPS Chief of Strategy, to Chancellor Kaya Henderson about setting up a “straw man” (definition: a fake argument set up to be defeated) for school closures (Bates #001233)
3) An email from Chancellor Kaya Henderson dismissing the federal Department of Education and Empower DC’s concerns about the discriminatory impact of school closures (Bates #002579)
Though we’ve pored over these for hours, we know we haven’t found all the significant emails yet. We are releasing all of the thousands of emails to the public. And we look forward to hearing what you find. What did we miss?
Search for your name, your school, community leaders. What jumps out at you?
Note that the files contain many duplicate emails, and each PDF should be read from the last page to the first (the order in which the emails were sent). We have posted the emails as they were given to us, each with it’s individual “Bates Number” stamped at the bottom right hand corner. We also posted each Disc of emails as one long merged pdf document so you can search the whole thing at once.
Additionally, we are making the deposition transcripts for Peter Weber (DCPS Chief of Strategy), Lisa Ruda (DCPS Deputy Chancellor for Operations), and Kaya Henderson (DCPS Chancellor) available for your review.
Our campaign to save neighborhood schools is not over, and with your help we will be able to learn as much as possible from these emails to inform the rest of our work. Tell us what you find by posting on our Facebook page (facebook.com/empowerdc), tweeting @empowerdc or by contacting Daniel, Empower DC’s education organizer (202-234-9119 x104 / email@example.com).
Some suggested search terms to get you started:
Bowser, City Bridge, Catherine Bradley, WTU, Charter, Kipp, US DOE, Ed.gov, IFF, DME, ERS, Scott Pearson, Donors, Donor Briefing, Empower DC, Kamras, DC Public Education Fund, DCPEF, Vincent Gray, firstname.lastname@example.org, Broad, Walton, DGS
Parents, activists, City Council members, reporters, State Board of Education members - make sure to search your name as well!
Sunday's forum on Barry Farm was a great success! For those of you who didn't make it or who weren't able to see everything (the rooms was packed!), here's a quick overview of the highlights with links to information that was distributed and one of the videos that was shown.
We also watched a video on the fight to save Barry Farm.
Much of the forum was a panel of residents and two lawyers who have been working to save public housing. Residents strongly spoke of the need to keep traditional public housing, to ensure all residents can stay in Barry Farm, and the ways that residents have been fighting to save their community.
The city and developers continue to push forward with their plans to displace more than 400 families from Barry Farm, a public housing community located in Ward 8 not far from the Anacostia Metro Station. Come hear how residents and allies are resisting displacement, and how you can support them.
City-wide Forum on Barry Farm Displacement
Sunday, February 22; 2:00 - 5:00
1800 Good Hope Road, SE
For more info, contact Schyla at 202-234-9119 x.101 or email@example.com. Free childcare (with reservation!) provided by the DC Childcare Collective.
Click here for fliers to put up in your community.
District, December 9, 2014
By Bryan Park
Paulette Matthews wakes up early every morning to check on her four children and grandchild.
Afterwards, she goes around the house to make sure the cracks on the wall haven’t gotten larger over the night, and to dust the kitchen to avoid a fire breaking out.
“The house two doors down from mine burned down recently,” Matthews said, shaking her head. “Fires are all too common around here.”
Matthews is living in one of the 434 public housing units that make up the predominantly black community of Barry Farm, located in Anacostia, a neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C. She is fighting to keep a piece of this neighborhood under a threat of gentrification and development in the face of what she calls inaction from city housing officials.
Next City, January 23, 2015
By Alexis Stephens
Clashes over urban space are often characterized as different groups staking out their territory. Casual observers might even imagine the same apartments are up for grabs among struggling families and artists. But, as I wrote about in “Boston CDC Asks Tough Gentrification Questions,” city governments and planners need to dig deeper than anecdotes to make policy decisions that benefit all citizens.
The Washington, D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer did some of that digging and recently released data that show people are leaving the city once they have children. The city has seen meteoric growth over the past decade, but families are not feeling as welcome in D.C. as singles. Using income tax data from 2001 to 2012, they found that exit rates for parents with children under four are higher than the rest of the population. This trend was particularly pronounced between 2007 and 2011.
The Nation, January 6, 2015
Jules Boykoff and Dave Zirin
When Muriel Bowser was sworn in last Friday as the new mayor of Washington, DC, she made clear in her inaugural address outlining her vision for the future of the city that a major goal of hers was “winning the Olympics for Washington, DC, in 2024.” This reveals a set of priorities that is deeply disturbing.
The Olympic Games—time and again, according to a slew of academic research—have revealed themselves to be defined by debt, displacement and the militarization of public space alongside attendant spikes in police brutality.
Think Progress, December 19, 2014
By Alan Pyke
WASHINGTON, DC — It’s a cold, grey Friday morning in Washington, D.C., and Schyla Pondexter-Moore is standing next to a coffin, asking the assembled homeless activists and non-profit housing advocates to get radical.
“Regardless of how much money I have, my education level, whatever I’ve been through, I don’t deserve to die on the street,” the energetic Empower D.C. activist shouts into the microphone in a small tent set up across the street from the building that serves as the District’s city hall. “We need to go back to sitting in there,” she says, pointing across Pennsylvania Avenue, “not leaving, house protests, find out where they live and go to their houses!”
When we recently asked some of our members this question, here’s what we heard:
In 2014, our persistence and willingness to push leaders to do right by DC’s low-income neighborhoods led to our most noteworthy victory of the year: the DC Council allocated $9 million to renovate Ivy City’s historic Alexander Crummell School for recreation purposes! While we continue to fight our environmental justice case in court, this investment makes it more likely that polluting tour buses won’t be coming to the Crummell School parking lot to spew their fumes -- a huge win for a neighborhood treated as DC’s dumping ground. But we’re not done. Join us in 2015 as .... read more!
Use the blue button above and to the right to show your appreciation for Empower DC
and help us have a successful 2015!
The Washington Post, November 4, 2014
By Courtland Milloy
In 1867, newly emancipated African Americans created a first-of-its-kind community called Barry Farm. With help from the Freedmen’s Bureau, they had purchased 375 acres along the banks of the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington and built homes, a market, a church and a school.
The settlement is long gone. What sits on the much-reduced site today is a public-housing complex that bears the same name. The District wants to raze it, put up “mixed income” housing and commemorate the historic Barry Farm through street signs and public art.
The concept, which the National Capital Planning Commission is scheduled to review at a public-hearing Thursday, looks good on paper. But the city has failed to implement similar plans at other public-housing sites. Promises that displaced residents would return to newly built housing developments have, for the overwhelming majority, amounted to a cruel joke.
The Washington Post, October 28, 2014
By Courtland Milloy
As chairman of the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association, Detrice Belt already knew about the District government’s jacklegged housing scheme, called the “New Communities Initiative.” Word gets around about a scam that brazen:
Promise public housing residents a new life in “mixed-income communities.” Demolish the public housing complex. Renege on the promise. Repeat.
Four public housing complexes had been targeted for redevelopment when the program began in 2005, including the 444-unit rowhouse-style Barry Farm in
Southeast Washington. There’s no question that the complexes are run-down, and the neighborhood has been plagued by crime. But by now, three of the projects should have been completed with a total of 1,500 public housing units incorporated into new mixed-income housing developments.
So far, each of those projects has stalled, and only 490 of the promised units have been built. That wasn’t a housing plan. That was a gentrification sting.
Empower DC is releasing selected internal District of Columbia Public School documents that we obtained as a result of our lawsuit against Chancellor Henderson and Mayor Gray (Smith et al. v. Henderson , Gray, et al.). Culled from over 18,800 pages, the documents -- which will be released in a serial fashion -- reveal:
1) The real reasons behind DCPS school closures and the attempts to conceal these reasons from the public;
2) The startling degree of power and influence that corporate foundations pushing education reform wielded over DCPS decison-making processes; and
3) The incestuous, revolving door relationships between DCPS officials and top management of the privatizer, DC Public Education Fund, and its funders, and Teach for America.
After private funding ran out, closing schools without trying to save them became the alternative funding source for DCPS.
The Washington Post, October 16, 2014
By Jonetta Rose Barras
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) declared this month that his administration had “invested $1.3 billion to create nearly 6,500 affordable housing units across” the city. He called that an “unprecedented” investment.
Don’t shout hallelujah.
His statement raised questions, especially considering comments by Michael Kelly, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development , at the same news conference. Kelly said the District would spend $142 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund to “finance 2,097” additional affordable units.
Wait, wait. If the city is spending $142 million for nearly 2,100 units, why spend $1.3 billion for 6,500?
Racism in the New DC: A Panel Discussion
as part of Empower DC's 10th Annual Membership Meeting
Saturday, September 20, 2014; 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Christ United Methodist Church
900 4th Street, SW
Limited, free childcare provided. Contact Jennifer to reserve your spot.
For questions or more info, contact Jennifer (202-234-9119 x105; firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This year, Empower DC's annual meeting features a panel discussion on how racism and discrimination currently manifest themselves in DC. How are long-time, mostly Black residents of the city being affected by the influx of younger white people? Why do our -- mainly Black -- city leaders push policies such as gentrification and school reform that hurt low and moderate income Black communities? Speakers include Courtland Milloy, Ron Hampton, Dr. Sabiyha Prince, and members of Empower DC's public housing and public education campaigns.
We'll also be voting on proposed changes to Empower DC's bylaws and electing members of Empower DC's Board of Directors. Bylaw changes include amending who can be on a committee in order to be in compliance with DC's nonprofit code and adding the Executive Director as an "ex officio" member of the Board. Click here to read a flier with the line-by-line text changes.
For the elections, there is one new candidates that has been vetted and approved by the full Board: Amanda Northcross. In addition, two current members of the Board, John McDermott and Diana Onley-Campbell, are candidates to renew their two-year terms of service.
Only dues-paying members of Empower DC can vote on the bylaw changes and elect Board members. Sign up and pay your dues today. You can do it online, or by mailing a check to Empower DC, 1419 V Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.
“People are concerned and need some predictability.... We can do better.”
-- Anthony Hood, Chairman, DC Zoning Commission
On Monday, July 28, the DC Zoning Commission again considered the Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposed by developers and the city for Barry Farm. This was not a public hearing, but instead a Zoning Commission meeting for the members of the Commission to discuss the PUD and subsequent information submitted by all parties.
It is clear that the work of Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association (BFTAA) and Empower DC is having an impact. We’ve delayed – and hopefully will prevent – the displacement of hundreds of low-income families by educating residents about the truth of this redevelopment and the relocation plan; by showing the Zoning Commission that real human beings – not just statistics and numbers – will be affected; and by exposing the callous greed and disregard for residents shown by the developer and city.
At the meeting, the Commissioners noted several critical instances where the developers and the city were intentionally vague or blatantly ignored the concerns of residents. For example:
After their discussion, the Zoning Commission scheduled another hearing for Thursday, September 18 – and we’ll be back in the room! This will be a hearing with testimony and presentations from all concerned parties.
To get ready for this hearing, Empower DC is organizing an outreach day to “Wrap Our Arms Around Barry Farm” on Saturday, September 6. All are welcome – we need your help! Meet at 3:00 pm at 1336 Stevens Road, SE. RAIN DATE INFO!: The forecast is calling for thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon. If it's raining hard, we'll postpone the outreach day until Sunday, September 7 -- same time and same place. If you're unsure, call Schyla at (202) 704-7592.
For more info about our campaign to Save Barry Farm, contact Schyla Pondexter-Moore (202-234-9119 x.101; email@example.com).
Post fliers around your neighborhood for "Wrap Our Arms Around Barry Farm" day on September 6.
Read the PUD application and other materials on the Zoning Commission website. (Enter 14-02 in the seach box.)
Read Empower DC and BFTAA's analysis of the PUD and residents' demands here.
Bring ID to enter
Contact Schyla Pondexter-Moore (202-234-9119 x.101, firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions
After two previous hearings and the submission of several hundred pages of documents, the DC Zoning Commission is set to rule on the future of Barry Farm. Barry Farm Tenants & Allies Association (BFTAA) calls on Empower DC members and supporters to turn out and stand with them to tell the DC Zoning Commission to Reject the Developers' Planned Unit Development (PUD) application!
Barry Farm and Wade Road Apartments, totaling 444-units on coveted land near the Anacostia Metro, is the latest community to be disrupted and displaced, and residents' rights put at-risk because of planned development. The developers' Planned Unit Development (PUD) application must be rejected because it inadequately addresses critical questions about affordability and the well-being of residents, and would cause an immediate net-loss of desperately needed affordable housing in the District at a time when we are experiencing a housing crisis among low-income and homeless families.
Click here for more detals about the PUD and to read Barry Farm residents' demands.
Click here to go the the DC Zoning Commission website to view the documents submitted by BFTAA and our expert witnesses, as well as those by the developer.
Are you passionate about organizing community power? Do you support Empower DC’s work, and want to lend your hand to grow, sustain and steward the organization? Please nominate yourself or someone you know for the Board of Directors!
To be eligible the nominee must:
Empower DC is very interested in recruiting Board members who are residents of traditional public housing or those who have children/grandchildren in traditional DCPS public schools.
The Nominations Committee will review all nominations and meet with candidates to review the requirements of the position. A roster of candidates will be sent out to our members in preparation for the vote. All nominations must be received by July 15, 2014.
To nominate someone – including yourself – fill out the nominations form and return it to Empower DC, 1419 V Street, NW Washington, DC 20009; by email to email@example.com; or by fax to (202) 234-6655. Direct all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 234-9119 x105.
Monday, June 2, 2014; 7:00 pm
In front of McKinley High School
151 T Street, NE
Questions or for more info contact Daniel (202-234-9119 x104, email@example.com)
Black and Latino parents are increasingly being pushed out of their children's schools by administrators and others who don't want parents to express their opinions. Join us for a press conference and candlelight vigil to highlight the death of democracy for communities of color in our schools. If you have a story about being pushed out of your child's school that you would like to share at the press conference, please contact Daniel.
Click here for bilingual (English/Spanish) fliers to put up in your neighborhood.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANCs) are the most local form of elected government in DC -- and they can have a big impact on what happens in your neighborhood. Come to Empower DC's next Empowerment Circle to learn more about ANCs, including how to start the process of running for the November election. Our guests will include Gottlieb Simon of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions; Kathy Fairley, Special Assistant, DC Board of Elections and Ethics; Eboni-Rose Thompson, ANC7F02; Pho Palmer, ANC8C07; Nancy MacWood, ANC3C09; and Renee Bowser, ANC4D02.
Before the training, make sure you know what your ANC is by looking it up here.
Saturday, June 7, 2014: 2:30 -4:30 pm
Benning Road Library
3935 Benning Road, NE
Questions or to RSVP for childcare, contact Jennifer (202-234-9119, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Download fliers to put up in your neighborhood.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, February 15, 2014
CONTACT: Daniel del Pielago, Empower DC (202) 234-9119 x 104 (office), 202-276-4475 (cell)
In Federal Court, Black Parents Refute DC’s Justification for Closing 15 Neighborhood Public Schools
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the federal court case challenging the constitutionality of the January 2013 decision by Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson to close fifteen public schools in Black neighborhoods, plaintiffs filed papers Monday showing that the claimed justification for closing the schools was false. Plaintiffs Shannon Smith and Marlece Turner’s children’s schools were among the schools defendants closed. The plaintiffs are members of Empower DC, a citywide community organization promoting the self-advocacy of low and moderate-income DC residents that has led organizing efforts to block school closures.
Plaintiffs’ opposition to summary judgment argues that on the week 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education,”[ t]he vision of high-quality and integrated public schools articulated in the Brown… landmark decision has been steadily and intentionally replaced in the District of Columbia by a divided system in which certain, mostly White, affluent students West of Rock Creek Park enjoy the benefit of serious investments in their traditional public schools, while mostly Black students East of the Park witness their public schools being closed and increasingly and intentionally replaced by publicly funded but privately operated charter schools”.
Update: Death by a Thousand Cuts: Racism, School Closures, and Public School Sabotage, a report by the Journey 4 Justice Alliance, has just been released publicly. It's a damning look at the devastation caused by the planned growth of charter schools and the concurrent closure of neighborhood public schools in communities of color across the country. Download and read -- we'd love to hear your comments.
Also today, Journey 4 Justice filed three complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,
May 17 marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case that legally ended segregation in public schools. However, the struggle continues as public schools across the country are being closed in communities of color and our neighborhoods are losing access to free public schools that children can attend as a matter of right. Join Empower DC and our national partners for a series of events to commemorate Brown v. Board of Education and continue the fight for high-quality education for all our children.
For more information about these events, contact Daniel at 202-234-9119 x.104 or email@example.com.
Rally at the Supreme Court, then March to DOJ
End at Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Local Day of Action
Saturday, May 17, 2014; 11:30 am - 2:00 pm
Sousa Middle School
3650 Ely Place, SE
Local day of action that includes a community forum and workshops. Topics include school closures, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the privatization of education. Co-sponsored with DCJWJ, MLOV, Our DC, Teaching for Change, WTU, and The Council of School Officers.
And listen to the most recent edition of Empower DC's radio show, Taking Action, to hear local parent activists Marlece Turner and Shannon Smith talk about how school closures have affected their families and the ongoing fight for high-quality neighborhood public schools.
We need to demand that DC invest in public housing and stop pushing people out of DC or into homelessness! We demand that the city:
The city now has fewer thatn 8,000 units of public housing, down from 20,000 -- and a homeless crisis. In its budget, DC allocates money for housing police, but none for the actual housing, relying solely on drastically dwindling federal HUD funds. And when the Mayor and Councilmembers talk about investing $100 million in affordable housing, they don't mean housing for our city's most vulnerable residents. They mean "workforce housing" for those earning $60,000.
Is this the city you want to live in?
Join us for a rally and testify at the DCHA budget hearing:
Wednesday, April 30
Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
For more information or to find out how you can get involved, contact Schyla (202-234-9119, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Empower DC works to preserve and protect affordable housing, ensure the creation of more affordable housing, and heighten tenants’ knowledge of their housing rights. We do this through developing the leadership and collective power of tenants directly impacted by the need for affordable housing
In 2012, our focus is working with residents of Public Housing to ensure they are informed about their rights and are able to collectively...
Empower DC’s Public Education Campaign is campaign is building an organized and empowered group of parents and community members concerned about DC Public Schools, who through collective action are becoming a political force and holding officials accountable to their needs. The campaign is currently focused on informing the public about potential school closures and organizing residents to demand investment in, not closure of, DC Public Schools...
Empower DC is assisting the historic Ivy City community with re-establishing a strong and sustainable Civic Association, and developing neighborhood leadership and strategic campaigns around several issues including the restoration of the Alexander Crummell School for use as a workforce development and community center..