On Feb. 4, residents of the Hillsdale section of Ward 8 met at the St. John CME Church to talk about the reinvigorated Hillsdale Civic Association, an organization of residents dedicated to civic participation, at a meet-and-greet session. The civic association’s president is longtime D.C. political and civic activist Arnehl C. Lyon and she said this is the right time for her neighbors to organize.

Arnehl C. Lyon

Arnehl C. Lyon is the new president of the Hillsdale Civic Association. (Courtesy Photo)

“There was a Hillsdale Civic Association that was operational in the early part of the 20th century but it stopped functioning in the 1950s,” Lyon told the {AFRO}. “We tried to get it started again in 2012 and 2013 but it didn’t work out. However, with the support of the Anacostia Coordinating Council and getting the right people involved by email and Facebook, we did well today.”

Thirty people attended the meeting, including D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and Devon Lesesne, one of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s community representatives for Ward 8.

“In our earlier attempt, we didn’t have the council member or someone from the mayor’s office to come to our meeting,” Lyon said. “We have them here now but there are no advisory neighborhood commissioners here. Still, this is a wonderful start and I am flabbergasted that so many people are here.”

Hillsdale is located in the northern section of Ward 8, with the Anacostia River as its western boundary, the Suitland Parkway and Morris Road S.E. intersection as its eastern end, Stevens Road S.E. as its southern border and the length of Morris Road S.E. as its northern terminus. Hillsdale traces its beginning to 1867 when the Barry Farm Project was established by the Freedmen’s Bureau to make land available to newly emancipated Blacks in the District of Columbia.

In addition, Hillsdale is located in the Anacostia economic development which offers tax and development incentives to individuals and businesses by the District government.

During the meeting, residents complained about developers calling their homes and sending them mail about selling their property. Renee Sumby, who lives in the new development, said that she supports the development of the area.

“When people say the name, Southeast, in this city, I want someone to say that they know someone who lives over there,” Sumby said. “I do know that the biggest threat that we have to deal with is gentrification and we have to stick together as a community to see that people aren’t displaced.”

Tendani Mpulubusi El is an arts activist and entrepreneur and a strong advocate for re-starting the civic association. Mpulubusi El, who designed a colorful brochure on the history of Hillsdale and maintains a web site on the community, said the Hillsdale Civic Association will be proactive in stopping any attempts of gentrification.

“We need to maintain our identity, heritage and legacy,” he said. “If we don’t, people will come

into our neighborhood, change the name and we as Black people are well acquainted with that.”