Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Councilwoman Criticizes ABC

A D.C. Councilwoman called for a formal apology from ABC to the community of Deanwood at a Deanwood Citizen’s Association meeting Monday.

In the basement of the First Baptist Church of Deanwood, Councilwoman Yvette Alexander of D.C. Ward 7 said she had drafted a letter to the network in response to their characterization of Deanwood as “one of the worst neighborhoods in the country,” on the reality show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Alexander and residents of the community disputed that characterization at the meeting.

Each episode of the show follows ABC’s crew as they redesign a home or structure for a “deserving family,” according to ABC’s Web site.

“Extreme Makeover” came to Deanwood in August 2009 to renovate a youth center called The Fishing School, according to the DC Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

The “Extreme Makeover” team took down and rebuilt the center to include classrooms, recreation space, kitchens and offices, the DCOMPT said.

In addition to this recent expression of disapproval, Alexander criticized Sen. Jim DeWitt (R-S.C.) in March 2009 for his negative comments about D.C. public schools.

Deanwood resident Maurice Banks said he was “very disturbed” by ABC’s portrayal of his neighborhood.

At the meeting, Banks was recognized for his long-term contribution to the community. As a teen, Banks was part of The Deanwood Civic Association, one of the first such institutions in Washington, D.C.

At the start of the meeting, Officer Jason Medina of the Metropolitan Police Department stated that some crime in the area was down.

Medina told the story of one woman who reported seeing individuals coming out of a property that she knew did not belong to them. Upon responding to the call, police discovered a jeep filled with items that had been removed from the building, according to Medina.

Medina stressed the importance of community participation in fighting crime.

Though Medina said Deanwood was “in a good place” compared to the previous year’s crime statistics, he encouraged residents to take personal precautions.

“Please do not walk in a dark area by yourself,” Medina said. “Even if you have a can of mace, I do not recommend that you walk in a dark area by yourself.”

Several speakers at the meeting addressed the new Deanwood Recreation Center and Library. These facilities will open in the summer of 2010, according to Archie Williams of the Governmental Office of the D.C. Public Libraries.

Ward 7 Outreach Coordinator for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Linda Williams said the center would offer employment for young people in the community.

Beverly Goode, a resident of Deanwood for nearly 60 years, expressed concerns about the Friends of Program, an outcropping of the DPR through which community organizations can raise funds for a park or recreation site, which Williams mentioned in her presentation.

It is the responsibility of the city to provide those services, Goode said, “so we don’t have to go out here and kill ourselves to have a book sale to open the pool for Saturday, because that’s the purpose of the rec center, is to serve the community.”

Residents also inquired about a recent press release from the D.C. Department of Public Works regarding sanitation. Normal trash-pick up had been put on hold due to the heavy snowfall that D.C. incurred in early February.

“The temperatures are melting the snow, so it’s back to your normal routine,” Alexander said, in summary of the press release.

The last presentation came from Robert King of the Deanwood Recreation and Library Committee. In honor of Black History Month, King read a fictional story about a world without “black people.” Residents who had been shifting towards the door took their places again and quieted as King’s voice filled the room.

The white characters in the story first rejoiced at the absence of African Americans. Soon they realized how many inventions the black community had contributed to society over the years, including the elevator, the automatic gearshift and the air conditioner, according to the story.

After King finished, Deanwood resident Juanity Fairchild announced that the government recently recognized her great-grandfather, Benjamin Hicks, for inventing the “pea picker.” Though Hicks had discovered the device, he could not take credit for it, according to Fairchild.

“He couldn’t patent it because he wasn’t white,” Fairchild said.

The meeting concluded without further mention of Alexander’s letter. Residents streamed through the 105-year-old church, upstairs to the back entrance. Outside, a cold rain fell over them as they piled into cars.

Three ladies began to pull out of the parking lot with Goode at the wheel. At the stop sign, she rolled down her window and invited a university student into her car. Goode said no one should have been outside alone on that night.

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