Two local Delta Sigma Theta sorority chapters and dc.gov held a discussion with D.C. residents on systematic social inequalities, such as the lack of affordable housing, insufficient healthcare, and inadequate incarceration. The event, organized by the Delta Washington, D.C. Alumnae and the Federal City Alumnae chapters, was held on July 19 in Northwest D.C. and focused on reasons and solutions to community disparities that coincided with the organization’s “program for economic, educational, political, international, and health awareness. The program provides an extensive array of public service initiatives for residents.
“We have been planning this event since February and wanted to do our best at bringing powerful, dynamic speakers to help educate and inspire D.C. residents and combat some of these social inequalities,” said Selerya Moore, committee chair of social action for the D.C. Alumnae chapter.
The panelists for the event included R. Denise Everson, director of Community Empowerment; Charles Thornton, director of D.C. Office of Returning Citizen Affairs; Marco Clark, founder and CEO of Richard Wright Public Charter Schools for Journalism and Media Arts; Polly Donaldson, director of D.C. Housing and Community Development; and DaShawn Grooves and Joe Weissfeld, project managers for the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance.
“D.C. is still experiencing high incarceration rates among Black residents with women becoming the fastest growing population in America,” Thornton said. “At the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs program, residents can look to readjust back into society with community involvement and look to find proper housing.”
Alongside incarceration, the D.C. region also battles housing disparities among residents. The area’s median income is currently $110,000 annually, according to a 2015 dc.gov report. Eighty percent of the city’s Black citizens bring home below that average, according to the report. “We are currently looking at a 5-point plan that sets out to create more affordable housing, preserve existing housing, increase home ownership opportunities, end D.C. homelessness, and transform vacant property space as we lead the way into taking public funding and transporting it in a more positive way,” Donaldson said.
Another topic of interest included a need for better D.C. health care practices in terms of personal prevention, such as proper nutrition and exercise, to bring awareness to health illnesses and lower the District’s population (42 percent), who are currently enrolled in Medicaid.
Proper housing and medical assistance all range high in cost for D.C. residents and a huge solution to the problem seemed to fundamentally stem from the need to have more adequate educational practices, Clark said. “Education saved my life. It took me 5 years to graduate from high school and now I am a doctor. The school systems are just that bad, but at the same time, parents need to already be preparing their kids for school, by doing little things like teaching them to read to place their kids on the same playing field,” he said.