MAKING COMMUNITIES SAFER
Root + Branch calls Northwest Washington, DC home, and our headquarters is nestled between the Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods. Our founding was inspired by our changing community, which is experiencing intense investment and gentrification.
As a historically Black neighborhood, Georgia Avenue and its surroundings have suffered the same disinvestment and disenfranchisement as communities of color all over America. We face many of the same challenges as sister cities, such as Baltimore and Chicago: Too many drugs. Too many guns. Too many underserved populations.
Spring of 2015 was a particularly dangerous time for our community.
On June 22, Root + Branch founder and Georgia Avenue resident Laura Recchie sent a memo to Councilmember Brianne Nadeau outlining specific challenges our neighborhood faces, explaining why assistance is needed, and outlining practical solutions, many of which have laid the foundation for actions by both Councilmember Nadeau and our community as a whole.
FROM OUTRAGE TO ACTION
Like many neighborhoods in disenfranchised area, ours had a history of drug use and sales, petty theft, and other criminal activities, but violence in our neighborhood spiked in 2015. This troubling trend culminated one watershed summer evening. At 9:30pm, right outside of Root + Branch headquarters, Derick Black died of gunshot wounds in the middle of Georgia Avenue.
This senseless loss of life so close to home spurred Root + Branch and our neighbors to channel outrage into action.
A Public Safety Task Force met every other week to share information, collaborate on actionable plans, and create a cohesive community. Participants at our meetings include representatives from the Mayor’s office, Councilmember’s office, our local Advisory Neighborhood Commission commissioners, and the Metropolitan Police in order to ensure that our information, concerns and ideas are reaching DC leadership.
Root + Branch spearheaded outreach on this groups onset because when our group is inclusive, neighbors connect and share resources creating value for the whole community.
Since creation, this community group has:
- Added surveillance cameras along our corridor [to assist the police in enforcing the law].
- Worked with local law enforcement, which resulted in an increased police presence in the neighborhood, with officers paying particular attention to a troublesome corner of Georgia Avenue and Lamont Street.
- Assembled a team of neighbors to carry out local litter clean ups and brought the Department of Health’s Health Mobile to our neighborhood multiple times. We have even inspired local developers to increase participation and involvement in the very neighborhoods they work in.
- Collaborated with neighboring groups to maximize efforts. We work with our surrounding neighborhood groups, social service providers, churches and business associations.
- Provided assistance to local developers to find appropriate tenants that will support the surrounding neighborhood. We build relationships with developers along the Georgia Ave corridor to ensure we are all good neighbors. Since inception this group has helped bring independent book stores, restaurants and organizations into the area to fill vacant spaces and lots along Georgia Ave.
- Initiated work to develop placemaking activities to unite the neighborhood and repurpose vacant spaces. Our placemaking activities create safe, inviting and fun spaces for neighbors to connect and engage. Since inception the group has held block wide festivals, outdoor movie nights, book clubs and more!
Since then the group has evolved into a strong and important force in the community; Georgia Ave Thrive. They meet monthly as a group to discuss neighborhood needs and organize around solutions. They have working committees that meet regularly to discuss place making activities, small business development, safety and other important issues to neighbors. Following closely the original approach, they work closely with community leaders, council members, adjacent neighborhood groups and local developers and businesses to continue improving the area. They’ve even added a regular book club for neighbors to discuss relevant information that helps inform their activities serving the neighborhood!
You are invited to join our Google Group to receive updates, meeting minutes and meeting reminders.
Please attend the neighborhood meetings, share your ideas, and help us improve our community! Stay up to date on our progress and receive announcements by simply joining the google group site!
Not in DC? Learn from our approach and goals to improve your own community!