Over the next several days and weeks, you’ll no doubt read many testimonials of Oramenta Newsome who ran LISC DC’s office testifying to her tireless efforts to make the nation’s capital a more equitable and inclusive city. It was with great sadness that we learned of her passing last week – a huge loss for the city, but her impact will be felt for generations.
I remember an early lunch with Oramenta several years ago when I first shared our vision to transform an aged out freeway into a park stitching together city. She was a skeptical at first given the project’s size and scale, but appreciated our relentless community engagement. Oramenta started showing up at our stakeholder meetings where we asked local residents to determine the park’s programming. During one such convening at Anacostia Coordinating Council annual meeting, attendees asked a number of questions and shared thoughts, ideas, concerns. As the gathering broke up, Oramenta pulled me to the side and shared “you know Scott, you don’t have to answer every question. Sometimes people just want to be heard.” A powerful lesson that continues to shape our work.
Oramenta became a believer that the Bridge Park could follow a new path. One that was formed through hundreds of community meetings and emphasizing the importance of investing not only in bricks and mortar but also investing in people. LISC made an early commitment supporting our first full time staff. And in a time of rapid change in the District, Oramenta encouraged us to think early, intentionally and with the community to ensure nearby residents could thrive in place. She allowed LISC program officer Adam Kent to spend half his time project managing what became known as our Equitable Development Plan. After releasing the Equitable Development Plan’s 19 community driven action items, Oramenta made an eye-popping $50 Million commitment to the residents who lived and worked in a 1 mile area around this future civic space. With a quiet yet determined Oramenta leading the charge, LISC’s “Elevating Equity” initiative demonstrated a keen vision and constant commitment to create resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity. Most recently, she served on the Brigde Park’s Advisory Committee helping to shape our collective work.
We will forever be indebted to Oramenta. We will continue to be inspired by her charge to build a more inclusive and equitable D.C. She will be greatly missed.