8/10/2018 Newsletter: Priorities of Capitalism Exposed in Washington, D.C.

In this week's newsletter, we expose the priorities of capitalism as demonstrated by the support and special accommodations suggested for the white supremacist, fascist group, "Unite the Right," and by the city's so-called "New Communities Initiative," a plan to displace the working poor and gentrify the District of Columbia.

We also share a LinkUp interview with Yvonne Johnson, tenant at Brookland Manor, as well as our weekly update on slum conditions at Montana Terrace, a public housing property in Northeast Washington, D.C.

The priorities of capitalism continue to be highlighted in the nation's capital, where a fascist group, "Unite the Right," plans to rally in front of the White House on Sunday, August 12. Most recently, city council member and Chairman of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors, Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), suggested that running a separate train for the Nazis and Klansmen was an option under consideration - an option that would provide special accommodations for white supremacists planning to spread their messages of hate on the one year anniversary of the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia. The largest metro workers union, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 opposed and effectively shut down the plan to provide private trains for the hate group.

Justice First endorses the planned and permitted ANSWER Coalition counter-demonstration to take place on Sunday, August 12, 1:00 p.m. at Lafayette Park. We support a message that makes clear that the KKK and fascism have no place in Washington, D.C., or anywhere. We encourage our supporters to join us this Sunday to drown out the fascist message of hate and division. We will amplify the true sentiments of the vast majority of people in the United States, which favor a just system that encompasses all nationalities and meets the human needs of all people.

The priorities of capitalism in D.C. are not only highlighted by the example above, but also by the so-called "New Communities Initiative," a plan to privatize the city's public housing stock. In one of many statements from the Mayor's office, the plan purports itself to be a "District effort to revitalize Washington, DC’s most underserved neighborhoods and ensure that residents are able to stay in their neighborhoods while enjoying a high quality of life." Strangely, according to a report published by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, the New Communities Initiative seeks to build fewer than 2,000 new affordable units, despite that fact that over 6,500 public housing units are in need of serious repairs, over 40,000 families are on a waiting list for vouchers, and last year, the city managed to forfeit $15.8 million in affordable housing money

The plan to eliminate huge swaths of the dwindling affordable housing stock in the District through the privatization of public housing is effectively a plan to displace the working poor and to continue the long-established trend of gentrification in the city. The affordable housing crisis is further evidenced by the stances of city agencies and officials towards luxury redevelopment plans in communities like Congress Heights and Brookland Manor.

Video: LinkUp Interview with Yvonne Johnson, Vice President, Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association

LinkUp features an interview with Yvonne Johnson, tenant at Brookland Manor, and Vice President of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association, which continues to lead a struggle in defense of the interests of the community, under threat from continued displacement by a luxury redevelopment plan backed by the D.C. Zoning Commission and local politicians.

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Click to watch the LinkUp interview with Yvonne Johnson, Vice President of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association.

Montana Terrace Update - 8/10/2018

Justice First will continue to feature a weekly update on the living conditions of two families at Montana Terrace, a public housing property in Northeast Washington, D.C., managed by the D.C. Housing Authority. We are entering our seventh week of reporting on Montana Terrace, which began with interviews that exposed deliberate neglect by the Housing AuthorityThe purpose of our weekly reports on the status of the families of Yahvon Early and Gretchen Helm, is to demonstrate to the public the absurdity of a system that requires constant follow up to demand, and in many cases beg the city to protect its own residents from safety hazards caused by its own agencies. Click here to read last week's update.

8/10/2018 Update - Yahvon Early

On Wednesday, July 31st, Justice First reached out to representatives of the D.C. Housing Authority by email, with Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie cc'ed, to inquire about the results of a mold inspection ordered by the Housing Authority approximately one month ago. By early afternoon yesterday, August 9 we had not received a response, so a follow up request was sent by Justice First at approximately 2:30pm the same afternoon.

Shortly after the follow up email was sent, Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie made an in-person visit to Yahvon Early at Montana Terrace, checking in with her regarding the repairs ordered for her unit by the Housing Authority, and expressing his concern. Ms. Early informed him of the circumstances surrounding the conditions issues, and that she has not yet received the mold inspection report.

At approximately 4:30pm yesterday a representative from the Housing Authority responded to our email inquiries, stating that they are "attempting to locate the mold inspection report" and are following up with the appropriate parties to obtain the requested information "as soon as possible."

When Justice First inquired as to Ms. Early's sentiments on not yet receiving the results of the mold inspection, she stated, "We have a right to know what we have been exposed to living in these conditions for the last 10 years, and me and my child have suffered long enough."

Visible mold has covered the ceilings and spread across the walls, in closets and crevices, at Gretchen Helm's public housing unit at Montana Terrace in Northeast Washington, D.C., where she and her young children continue to live in hazardous conditions ignored by the Housing Authority. Photo credit: Francis Tatem.

8/10/2018 Update - Gretchen Helm

After three total inspections in the span of approximately one month, Gretchen Helm and her family have received no relief from the mold and rodent infestations that plague their public housing unit at Montana Terrace.

In the same emails referenced in Ms. Early's update above, Justice First inquired to the same Housing Authority representatives, with Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie cc'ed, about the results of last month's mold inspections.

Shortly thereafter, Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie visited Ms. Helm's unit in person, and she showed him the first floor, where she said "it smells like I have a dead mouse right now." The council member acknowledged the issues and expressed concern.

Beginning last week, and continuing today, the Housing Authority has begun various repairs on Ms. Helm's unit, including to the kitchen and shower faucets, broken lights, repairing one hole in the kitchen (that has recurred every year for at least three years), repairing some dry wall over the refrigerator, and repairing the wall outside of the second floor shower, and some painting. In an email sent today at 10:24am by a Housing Authority representative, it was stated that additional work will be completed on the unit including tile, however, there is no plan that we know of to address the mold and rodent infestations.

Ms. Helm, explained in her initial interview with Justice First that she had organized her own mold inspection that showed positive results years ago, but her complaints about mold were continually ignored by the Housing Authority. When discussing with Justice First the importance of receiving the results of the recent mold inspection ordered by the Housing Authority, Ms. Helm explained, "To confirm what my previous inspection already stated in a report provided to me by a certified mold inspector." Ms. Helm continues to wait for answers on this serious issue.

Donate to Justice First to support our work with tenants fighting slum conditions, displacement, and gentrification.

—Yasmina Mrabet

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