While the 11th Street Bridge Park’s Equitable Development Plan’s goal has always intended to ensure that the park is a driver of inclusive development, we also believe it should be a living document addressing additional community needs as they arise. A few years ago, local residents asked for assistance to help lead impactful change in their neighborhoods. In 2018, the Bridge Park partnered with leadership development expert Robert Hoffman to pilot our Community Leadership Empowerment Workshop (CLEW) to provide existing and nascent community leaders tools to demystify the planning process, advocate and become more effective agents of change.
CLEW is a tool that amplifies the voices and power of community residents. It seeks to empower participants in their respective communities, inspire future civic leaders and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and most importantly shape the neighborhoods around them. It is a nine-session course over a three-month period that focuses on these key areas: personal leadership; community organizing; and understanding the urban planning process. CLEW participant Norm Nixon shared, “I think people will be interested in taking this workshop because it actually takes your leadership to another level.”
Now in its third year, CLEW prepares residents to advocate for change and disrupt inequitable systems. Residents are empowered to design and implement solutions that address the disparities that impact them the most. Participant Tawana Bostic reported “I think because of the time we’re in, people don’t feel like they have a voice. And the more people you can empower and that you teach them that it doesn’t stop with you, you have to share the wealth, and bring more people to the table, I believe that there will be a change in the environment, a change in the atmosphere that we do have a voice.” CLEW participants have bolstered their capacity to advocate for change in the areas of education, food access and housing.
In order to ensure that participants were able to apply their new tools, participants were provided funds to implement their own capstone projects in their community (up to $500 per participant.) Participants were encouraged to partner and collaborate with one another. The 2019 Cohort presented three different collaborative capstone ideas: recognizing young adults in Washington, D.C. for their community work; teaching meditation exercises and healthy food demonstrations; and mobilizing residents around public housing advocacy.
In January, the first capstone was completed. Over 200 youth from all over the city were recognized for their community work over the last year. Students from elementary to high school also participated in an essay contest. Prizes ranged from $50 gift certificates to brand new laptops.
Another capstone will hope to foster self and community awareness and a collective and cohesive call to action for change east of the river. The workshops will include gentle Tai Chi Movements to settle self and stressors through meditative movements along with food cooking demonstrations and ways to create healthy sauces or snacks on the go.
The third capstone seeks to impact the community of Stoddert Terrace. Current hearings are being held to demolish this community and displace families that have lived there for more than 30 years. The community has voiced issues they are seeking to address: how to engage an already disenfranchised community further disadvantaged by displacement for renovation; residents fearful they will not be allowed to return to homes after renovation; and raise awareness of these impending changes. They plan to hold community forums whereby government officials, public housing advocates along with local residents can discuss how to address their very real concerns. We are excited for these capstones to take place spring.*\
For more information on our CLEW program, contact Vaughn Perry at email@example.com.