By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
The District of Columbia has a history of racial division. Lately, that has been heightened by its growing affluent White population and a Black populace struggling to stay in the city. However, not all Blacks and Whites are at odds. The majority Black Hillcrest Community Civic Association and the predominantly White Palisades Citizens’ Association have maintained a close relationship over the years.
“Hillcrest and Palisades are reaching hands across the city,” Karen Williams, Ward 7 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education, told the AFRO. “We are bringing together two extremes, but as city residents who have similar desires and dreams for our families and communities.”
Both groups are in upper-middle class enclaves. Hillcrest is around Alabama and Branch Avenues in Southeast while Palisades is around the MacArthur, Foxhall and Whitehaven thoroughfares in far Northwest.
Penny Pagano, a former president of the Palisades Citizens Association, embraces the relationship with Hillcrest. She told the AFRO the relationship started when her members wanted to be more pro-active in the District. “We wanted to get out of our ward and make friends across the city,” Pagano said. “We talked to a number of groups and it seemed that Hillcrest was very interested in what we wanted to do.”
A Hillcrest resident, Miles Steele III, and Alice Stewart of Palisades had a mutual interest in art that helped to cement the relationship of the two associations. Steele said the formal process of solidifying the relationship began in 2005-2006.
“We wanted to communicate with people in different parts of the city,” Steele told the AFRO. “Even though people in D.C. are different, they are also alike.”
Steele said since the associations have bonded, there have been garden and house tours as well as potlucks in both neighborhoods. Hillcrest association members regularly participate in the Palisades July the Fourth parade, considered one of the finest of its type in the country, and Palisades members have played a part in “Hillcrest Day” and in Hillcrest’s chili festivals. On the Palisades web site, there is a link to Hillcrest’s web site.
Both Pagano and Steele express a desire for more associations from different parts of the District to link up. “This is a model for the city,” Pagano said. “We wish more people would do what we are doing.”
Steele said, “This collaborative is good for the city.”
Earl Williams is the president of the DC Citizens Federation, an umbrella group of citizens associations. Earl Williams, the husband of Karen Williams, told the AFRO he is trying to duplicate what Hillcrest and Palisades have done throughout the District.
“I am trying to use their model,” Williams said. “The citizens’ associations of River Terrace, Deanwood, Congress Heights and Marshall Heights have expressed their interests in linking with associations west of the Anacostia River. We are talking to Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park and DuPont Circle to see if they are interested as well.
“We should have more of this. We are one city and face the same challenges.”
However, Earl Williams said no paternalism will be tolerated. “We want to be equal partners in whatever we do,” he said. “We don’t want a big brother, little brother relationship.”