This week the SW Waterfront group had the opportunity to learn a bit more about SW beyond the the famous Fish Market. They interviewed community members who live, work, and/or volunteer in Southwest. On Thursday, the coolest day of the year by far, we split into three groups. One group met with J. Nickerson of the Gangplank Marina, one group met with Rachel Swan of Arena Stage, and the last group met with Paul Taylor who volunteers at the King-Greenleaf Recreation Center. I accompanied the group of students who visited the community center to meet Paul Taylor, which ended up being an enlightening and insightful experience for all of us.
Paul grew up in Southwest and though he now lives in Northeast he is in the SW community several times a week at King-Greenleaf Recreation Center working with various grass roots projects he has started. He recently became the executive director of the non-profit Southwest Comm-UNITY organization and founded a program for pregnant teens and a youth basketball league for young men 18 and older. Not only is Southwest UNITY day, which takes place on July 24th this year, a celebration of SW pride for its residents, but also serves as a memorial to remember those community members who have passed away in the last year. 2,500 to 3,000 people are expected to come out this year to celebrate their community with food, music, and games and to remember those that they've lost.
Paul feels that the work that he is doing in SW is his way of giving back to the neighborhood in which he grew up. Many of the friends he grew up with still live in SW and have started families of their own. When asked about the new plans for revitalization of SW he felt that it was a positive move, but a lot of residents are afraid that it will become too expensive and they will be pushed out of the neighborhoods and communities. I am glad he said this because I think it is essential for the teen participants to understand that while a neighborhood may be in need of improvement, some times it can have a negative impact on the community members that are the most vital to it and who are deeply woven in the fabric of its history.
Here are some photos from Thursday's site visit:
Please consider attending the Southwest Unity Day on Saturday July 24th. It's a side of SW and DC that I'm looking forward to being a part of. It's an all ages family event. King-Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N St. SW (Waterfront Metro).
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Part of the SW team collapsed in the Great Hall at NBM after a hot and steamy day on site. You guys were troopers!
Finally, a huge thank you to J. Nickerson, Rachel Swan, and Paul Taylor for taking time out of their day to meet and share with our students.