Attendees sing and dance at Lake Arbor Community Day.

Each year, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the nation, Lake Arbor, hosts its yearly Lake Arbor Community Day, to celebrate its residents and neighbors. This year community day took place on June 28 and featured pony rides, face painting, food, vendors, a health and wellness fair, a fireworks display, and a variety of live musical acts. The event brought out at least 1,000 men, women, and children to participate in the activities, including community leaders.

Monica Wormsley, chair of community day event, said everyone played a role in making the day a success. “Everyone was entertained,” she said. “We were able to entertain the kids and adults.”

Although sponsored by the Lake Arbor Foundation Inc. (LAFI), other businesses – including Wegman’s Grocery Store, AMC Magic Johnson Capital Center 12, Giant Food, CVS Pharmacy and others – contributed.

According to its website, the Lake Arbor Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community-based corporation organized exclusively for educational and charitable activities as a community organization in the State of Maryland in 1997. It received its IRS tax-exempt status in 1998. Its mission is to provide programs such as its 8-week summer enrichment program for children ages 6-12, a chess program, tennis program, swimming program, and a Saturday Academy in which tutoring is provided in math, science, SAT, and reading. “We’re one of the premiere communities where people feel ownership in the community, particularly in Prince George’s County as a whole,” said Samuel Dean, president for LAFI Board of Directors. “We’ve been doing the community day for 22 years now. This is another way that we show how we work together, especially to the new residents who come in.”

The event brought out at least 1,000 men, women and children who attended and participated in the numerous activities.

Lake Arbor is home to the most affluent African-Americans in the nation, dating back to the mid-1980 when Black Americans began migrating into the suburban neighborhood. The community is an unincorporated area that began getting attention when residents began advocating for schools, shopping centers, and other community amenities.

Residents like David Chapman, who goes by the moniker “Mayor Chapman” bestowed on him by the residents of Lake Arbor, whose community activism played a pivotal role in the construction of the three elementary schools, one middle, and high schools in the community.

“We fought for everything here,” said Chapman. “When my wife and I moved into this community in 1988, we didn’t have anything. There was no close schools for the kids to go to, no recreation center … nothing.”

Discovering the community lacked good schools and community centers Chapman and other residents organized a civic association. This civic association, the Lake Arbor Civic Association (LACA), serves as a non-partisan advocate for the community on matters affecting all of Lake Arbor, including zoning and development, public safety, beautification, and education advocacy.

“This was our vehicle to get the things we needed for this community, and so I worked with politicians, police officers, everybody to get what we have in this community today,” Chapman said.

Dean noted that though Lake Arbor Community Day was just a one-day event, it is just a small part of the community’s history and the people who helped in making it a “premiere community.”

“Its roots stems from those people like ‘Mayor Chapman’ who came and started the civic association, just in a span of months when he and his wife moved into the neighborhood in the 1980s,” said Delegate Erek Barron (D-24), LAFI board member.

Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO