D.C. Mayoral Candidate and Ward 8 City Councilman, Trayon White. (Photo by D.C. City Council)

By Cara Williams,
Special to the AFRO

Councilmember Trayon White Sr., 38, was born in Ward 8, where he serves today. White’s Southeast D.C. roots helped him appreciate both the beauty and the challenges faced by Ward 8 residents and prepared him to defend one of the city’s lowest wealth residents and neighborhoods. 

White, whose grandmother raised him after his father abandoned the family, had encounters with law enforcement but credited the mentorship of Chrissy Anderson of Soul Factory. White also credited former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry for not being sucked into a life of crime. 

“For me, it was about falling and getting back up over and over again,” White said in a recent interview. 

“It was about navigating the waters and not falling prey to the gun violence and the prison system,” he continued. 

Councilmember White graduated from Ballou Senior High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. 

As White witnessed the violence in his community, he followed the teachings of Mayor Barry and used the violence to bring communities together.

White’s robust efforts, in the office of Attorney General Karl Racine as a Community Development Specialist, allowed him to see that youth organizations, and coaching little league football, were not enough. It was to prevent the young men he was mentoring from being killed. 

After hearing of five young men involved in his football league being killed in D.C. between 2004 and 2006, White decided there was more work to do.  

“Coaching football is not enough; we need to do more for our Black boys beyond sports,” White said in a 2022 interview.

The South Capitol massacre, the brazen 2010 shootings that killed three youth in Southeast D.C., and his love for his community motivated White to serve through political involvement. 

White supports several programs to help the community with affordable housing, education, healthcare disparities, and public safety.

In 2019, he introduced the “East of the River High-Risk Displacement Prevention Services Fund Establishment Act of 2019.” The bill helps improve housing conditions and repress evictions, and it also supports tenant associations and expands foreclosure prevention assistance. 

To squelch gentrification in Ward 8, White plans to rehabilitate the dilapidated houses in D.C. and afford people experiencing housing disparities the opportunity to enjoy a better quality of life.

“We need to rethink how D.C. spends on the housing production trust fund,” White said.

While on the board of Education, White was a part of the new Ballou High School groundbreaking in 2013. 

He also established (HICKS), Helping Inner City Kids Succeed, which provided training for youth engagement and prevention activities. 

“The greatest influence on a young person is another young person,” White said. 

White’s outlook on quality healthcare and mental health awareness includes his experience with trauma.

“Every Wednesday at 8 a.m., I sit in front of my therapist on zoom to address the trauma I’ve experienced as a young Black man burying 258 individuals in my community,” White said.

Councilmember White recognized there was a lower standard of healthcare in his community. So, he did not simply want to build a hospital; he wanted to create a healthcare system. 

“A system that works for everyday people,” White said.

Seeing the trauma in his community, White was part of a coalition of councilpersons guiding plans for the construction of the new Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center. That new facility, on the grounds of St. Elizabeth Hospital in Ward 8, had its groundbreaking this February.  

But, with all of the Councilmember’s good intentions and accomplishments also came controversy. 

As a young councilmember, White admits that he sometimes speaks “off the hip,” which has cost him tremendously. 

In 2018, White made an anti-Semitic comment that cost him personally and politically.  

“Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation. And D.C. keeps talking about, ‘We are a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based on the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

—Trayon White Sr., March 16, 2018

White, who had a long-standing relationship with the organization Jews for Justice, did not immediately understand the depths of his comment. But with the help of the organization, he understood his need to learn the history of the Jewish faith and statements made against them.

“I did not intend to be anti-Semitic, and I see I should not have said that after learning from my colleagues,” White said.

“Growing up as a young man in Ward 8, I had no idea what antisemitism was,” White said. “As a leader, I should be held accountable,” he offered. 

White apologized to the Jewish community, and while some forgave, White’s comments remain problematic for others. 

Phillip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, said, “Even in the face of the sincerest apologies, people may forgive, but they’re not going to forget.”

Whiter says his passion for housing, education, public safety and health come from a personal understanding of trauma. He is focused on creating schools, jobs, prosperity and public safety that reinforce safe, stable neighborhoods for all Washingtonians.   

“There is an 81 percent wealth gap between Whites and Black Americans in D.C. and that has to change; don’t just stand there, do something,” White said.

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