(PHOTOS) MLK Holiday Peace and Freedom Walk 2013 — Washington, D.C.

Article and photos by Nick Westbrooks

TIMG_0628he 35th annual Martin Luther King Holiday Peace and Freedom Walk was held on Saturday, Jan. 19. Prior to the parade’s departure, marchers assembled at the United Black Fund at the intersection of Martin Luther King Avenue and Howard Road SE for a program of speakers and performances.

Several groups led by the Wong People paraded from the United Black Fund and traveled down Martin Luther King Avenue until they reached Shepard Park at Malcolm X and MLK Avenue SE. The groups included but weren’t limited to the Cass Technical High School Marching Band of Detroit, Total Sunshine, the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, Men in Motion and Empower DC.

Several speakers from around the District community engaged the crowd with reflections of Dr. King’s life, songs, poems as well as calls for action for issues affecting D.C. such as gun violence, statehood and the proposed public school closures.

Actor Nick Cannon addressed the marchers at the UBF. At Shepard Park, the community sang along with the DC Labor Chorus and heard words from DC Mayor Vincent Gray and Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes amongst many others. Barnes’ parents, Calvin Rolark and Wilhelmina Rolark along with TV and radio personality Ralph Waldo Petey Greene, started the MLK holiday parade tradition in 1977. View the pictures from the holiday parade below.

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[VIDEO] DC Action Summit Prepares Community for Forthcoming School Closure Announcement

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By Nick Westbrooks

Today [January 15], DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson is announcing which public schools the city will be closing. Ahead of the announcement, the empowerment grassroots organization Empower DC held a citywide summit on school closures featuring a panel of community experts. The panelists included DCPS school counselor and education blogger Candi Peterson, education finance lawyer and researcher Mary Levy, DCPS parent Julianne M. Robertson King Esq., River Terrace Support Committee member and Empower DC Board chair Diana Onley-Campbell and DCPS student Renard Gray.

The Jan. 12 program brought about 80 DC residents from all of city’s eight wards to Guildfield Baptist Church in Northeast. Attendees voiced their concerns on issues ranging from the threat of privatization of the public schools to the accountability of the mayor and the city council. Movement catalyst Max Rameau gave a presentation on action planning and how grassroots activism and agitation may be applied to the fight against closures.

Education activists planned their next steps and announced events relating to the cause including tonight’s vigil at Mayor Gray’s house, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday parade on Saturday which will meet at 9:30am at the United Black Fund, and the Department of Education public hearing discussing the impact of school closures slated for two weeks from today on Jan. 29. See the pictures and video below highlighting the summit.

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Celebrating the Foundations of the Future: Florida Avenue Baptist Church’s 100-Year Anniversary

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” –Isaiah 58:12

This week, the historic Florida Avenue Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. celebrates its centennial anniversary. During my summer stay in the District, I’ve had the privilege of visiting the church and being a part of the momentous occasion under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr. Many institutions observe anniversaries, but very few can say they’ve been around for 100 years, especially those established by the hands, heads and hearts of African Americans.

FABC was founded approximately four decades after Reconstruction, a time of illicit racism and segregation all over the United States. Already facing the problem of the “color line” in addition to scores of other challenges, the faith of the founders and members allowed the holy institution to thrive in the midst of those trials.

The 1919 Red Summer gruesomely afflicted Blacks across the country, including the nation’s capital. An exorbitant number of Blacks were violently attacked and killed at the heels of arguably America’s bloodiest race riots circa post-World War I. Despite the riots and the youth of the newly founded establishment, FABC survived the unrest.

In the late 1960s, FABC would also survive the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. Some of the church’s congregants would faithfully serve and bravely fight in each of America’s conflicts overseas. Through all of the major events–positive and negative—in America’s history, FABC is still standing strong.

It’s a blessing to see three and four generations of families congregating the pews and completing the Lord’s work at FABC. Members rearing their children and their children’s children in the church teaches them to love Jesus and live righteous lives, but it also maintains the church’s rich legacy.

As the Rev. Jeremiah Wright noted when he delivered the centennial Sunday service message on July 8, African Americans are the only group of people that doesn’t document its history or revolution, which is detrimental to our livelihood.

“Failure to write down your revolution means it will die when we die.”

One of the key points Wright had for the FABC family was that people have to teach their history to the youth, because they don’t know it. This isn’t necessarily the church’s history, but Black history in general. Unfortunately, Black children learn distorted and destroyed history from their oppressor; HIStory instead of OUR story. In turn, this disempowers Black children and negatively affects their perceptions of themselves.

With teaching the youth our story, both the good and the bad must be taught. Wright calls this repentance. Despite our achievements, there are many things that we are ashamed of as a people. On many occasions, we’ve turned our backs on our African past, but we have to tell all sides of our story.

Most importantly, the 100-year anniversary is a moment of celebration. It’s a time for the church to rejoice at its wealthy history and the faith that has brought it this far as it optimistically looks toward the future.  The centennial also serves as a reminder that much work remains to be done, and more laborers are needed now more than ever to spread the Gospel and tackle the many issues facing Washington, D.C.’s Black community.

Congratulations to Florida Avenue Baptist Church on achieving 100 years of stewardship, evangelism, missions, social justice and education. You’ve come this far by faith feeling no ways tired. And with that steadfast faith, there’s no limit to where you can go. I wish you 100 more years of continued blessings and success.

D.C. Public Allies Train Young Adults for Leadership and Community Service

The Washington, D.C. Public Allies held its annual “Presentations of Learning” program at the Greater Washington Urban League on June 8th and June 15th. Public Allies is a 10-month community service and leadership development program under Americorps. The objectives are to provide leadership training for young adults, expand the depth and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations, improve economics, health and education and introduce its participants to long-term social change.

Over the 10 months, the Allies work fulltime at nonprofit organizations or government agencies, develop service projects and form leadership curricula. At the end-of-the-year “Presentations of Learning” program, the Allies shared their service projects, their experiences working with the community and their personal development.

Through PowerPoint presentations, the Allies individually expressed what they learned, the challenges they faced and what they took away from the program. Collectively, the groups presented their team service projects. The projects usually provide services that are beneficial to the community and have the potential for longevity.

One group made a social services resource guide more accessible for the community by creating a mobile app. D.C. residents now have a list of health clinics, food, financial and other social services in the area at their fingertips. Using Google Maps, residents may also easily locate the closest services.

Partner organizations included Bread for the City, the Office of LGBT Affairs, the Maryland Viatnemese Mutual Association and Live It Learn It. Many of the Allies worked for Metro TeenAIDS and developed curricula to teach D.C. youth about HIV/AIDS prevention.

A key component of the Public Allies is its dedication to diversity. With the District’s cultural variety, Nakeisha Neal, the D.C. Public Allies executive director, says they strive to have its members reflect the population.

“We believe leadership should look like the communities we’re serving,” Neal says.

The Allies’ backgrounds vary in regards to ethnicity, education, age and sexual orientation. Most are D.C. natives, but other Allies include students from outside states who relocated to the area for school.

Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens and have at least a high school diploma or GED. The majority of the 2011-2012 class are college graduates. Besides the minimal requirements, eligibility is based more on personal traits. Neal, an alumna of the program, says the Allies look for individuals who are selfless, open to being coached and those who are able to persevere through challenges.

Neal explains that the leadership training, a fundamental aspect of the program, benefits both the participants and the community.

“Ultimately, it’s not just about developing leaders. It’s about developing leaders that are going to help the community.”

The 2011-2012 class graduates on June 29th.