Charles E. Wilson, Jr., president of the Ward 8 Democrats, is striving to improve the Southeast section of the city by making it politically, socially and aesthetically stronger. He is one of several individuals working to see Ward 8 thrive.

One of Wilson’s efforts is to host frequent events like happy hours at establishments in the engage residents in conversations that provide different perspectives on race and how the Ward 8 community is portrayed.

Charles Wilson Jr. is striving to make changes in the Ward 8 community in southeast D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Wilson became interested in helping communities during his undergraduate years at Hampton University in Virginia, where he was class president for four years. “With that experience, it helped me blossom into the person I am today,” Wilson told the AFRO. Wilson grew up in the area, attending Largo High School in Upper Marlboro, Md.

After graduating with a degree in accounting from Hampton in 1998, Wilson attended the University of Baltimore School of Law earning his juris doctorate and master’s in business administration. A year later he moved to Northeast and soon after to Southeast D.C.

In 2006, Wilson created the Historic Anacostia Block Association (HABA) organization. The organization provides a forum where people from the community could exchange ideas, information, and opinions that could improve the quality of life inside the southeast community. “Our goal is to really engage Ward 8 residents in the political conversation not just in our ward, in our city,” Wilson said.

After his unsuccessful bid for the Ward 8 council seat in 2008, Wilson focused on creating the River East Emerging Leaders (R.E.E.L.), a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the bonds between Ward 8 businesses, government officials, and residents. R.E.E.L. is “engaging residents to take advantage of personal economic development opportunities, such as home buying, raising credit scores and investing in the community, also improving personal health, and taking more of a leadership role east of the river,” he said. Through R.E.E.L., Wilson has held several events on how to start and run a PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), so that parents and community leaders could contribute to schools.

Wilson was also appointed as the president of the Ward 8 Democrats, a D.C. political organization, in 2015, where he presides over more than 50,000 members. The Ward 8 Democrats are viewed by many District political observers as defining trends for the rest of the city.

Under his leadership, the Ward 8 Democrats are currently working on the Youth Act Reform, which gives the court flexibility when sentencing youth offenders at the time of conviction. The act was designed to give youth offenders a second chance, however, reporting by the {Washington Post} exposed several problems with the law, such as not providing mental illness treatment to offenders before release.

“When I first became president of the Ward 8 Democrats, my No. 1 job was to rebuild the enthusiasm and involvement back into the organization,” he said. “Of course, when you are involved and create organizations to better a community you are going to have your struggles, it’s never going to be perfect.”

Wilson said some of the main struggles the organization is trying tackle include making the neighborhood more beautiful and getting residents involved. He is advertising community meetings consistently on social media and he is even hosting events so that people can socialize with one another.

In addition to being president of the Ward 8 Democrats, Wilson is also a manager in the District’s Department of Small and Local Businesses, where he is responsible for managing, planning, designing, developing and implementing programs to link certified business enterprises with opportunities with the District government agencies and private businesses.

James Wright contributed to this article.