Powerhouses in D.C. take many forms. In the nation’s capital, one would find it most difficult to turn a corner and not see a political figure, famous activist or celebrity of some sort. However, during these cyclical times of oppression stemming from racial biases, District Fray Magazine thought it prudent to profile powerhouses in D.C. who happen to be Black.
When approached to curate and coordinate this effort, I was honored. I was also unnerved by the responsibility of narrating the experiences and impact of these resilient and mighty few. I was losing confidence – not in my abilities to write, but in my worthiness to share their plight and achievements. I’m not one without blemish, nor am I the best advocate for social justice.
But I thought, if not me, then who? So, I began to consider the significance of profiling these individuals. Each person showcased was recommended for their undeniable contributions across various sectors in support of the Black community. I specify the Black community, not only because Black people are those consistently slain in the streets by those of authority, but because an investment in the Black community is an investment in the greater community-at-large.
It has become common knowledge that uplifting the most marginalized and disenfranchised will positively impact the whole. As I began to speak with these nine powerhouses in D.C., shared sentiments started to unfold as stories of civic engagement, activism, mentorship and resistance were told. The notions in common were led by a selfless need to give back to the initial communities in which they found support and encouragement. Also, there was a consistent drive to facilitate means for the advancement of the next generation.
What surprised me the least was their shared difficulty in claiming the title “powerhouse.” Instead, they suggested they are merely doing what is needed to be done for their loved ones. Their blackness is an uncontrollable factor that produces joy while simultaneously soliciting unwarranted ridicule. It is a burden they are forced to carry and will happily never let fall to the wayside.
NEE NEE TAYLOR
Co-Organizer, Black Lives Matter DC
“I’m a D.C. native, born and raised east of the river in Southeast. When I was growing up, we had people in our lives who inspired us, took care of us and looked out for us. We had everything we needed in the community. We respected elders, and every mother on the block was your mother. That is the world I want to create for this generation. When I came back to D.C. after college, I wanted to give back what was given to me. When it comes to today’s youth, and the oppressed Black people who do not have food or housing, I try to make a way through BLM DC to provide those resources to the community. We strive to advance racial equality by dismantling systems that oppress.”
“I don’t consider myself a powerhouse. I always say I’m not a savior. I’m creating a movement. I always say the doors of the movement are open and if they’re not open, create it and the people will come. My goal and purpose in life is to walk on top of the railroad tracks, unapologetically Black, freeing our people and educating our people as Harriet Tubman did for me with the Underground Railroad. I just walk on top of the tracks being unapologetically Black.”
Instagram @dmvblacklives // www.blacklivesmatterdmv.org
Photographer + Co-Founder, Community of Creatives
“My role is to document these intimate spaces I am in, uplift the little homies [and] inspire them to be artists full-time. I’m a firm believer in the more you learn, the more you should teach. That’s one of the best ways to pay it forward.”
“What we need now is when Black creatives are talked down to or credit is taken, our white allies – or any allies – should speak up. Speak out when you see injustices. Remember, we’re
going for synergy, not energy.”
Instagram @community.of.creatives + @shaughncooper // www.shaughncooper.com
Founder, Rise Like A Girl
“One of the things I’m most proud of with my work is the safe spaces that I’ve been able to create with girls of all ages. We’re able to build a community, regardless of our differences, and stand together in solidarity. Solidarity means togetherness. It means joining hands with love and respect. While I’m encouraged by the solidarity of our society’s racial awakening over the last few weeks, I’m afraid many of us are missing the point. I do agree that it is important to speak up when you can, but I also want us all to understand that transformation isn’t a performance.
“Transformation isn’t always out loud. Sometimes it’s a quiet stirring that takes time to reveal itself. We have to show each other grace in these moments to achieve true solidarity. Now, more than ever, we all need less judgement and criticism, and more love for everyone choosing to enter this battlefield – no matter how they choose to do it. We have to set an example for our young Black girls that true progress is in the transformation, not the performance.”
Instagram @riselikeagirl // www.riselikeagirl.com
Co-Owner, We Act Radio
“The late [author and activist] George Jackson said, ‘The first line of defense is communications.’ So, I decided to create a platform where we could control our own communications. We Act Radio was founded on the African proverb, ‘Until the lions have their own historians, the tale of the hunt will continue to glorify the hunters.’ Since our inception, I have planted seeds [and] kept the agitation and resistance alive, so [as] to continue the struggle and be there when the next generation is ready to rise, take the baton and run.”
Instagram @kymonefreeman // www.weactradio.com
Food Blogger, Feed The Malik
“In the blogging space, it is easy to stick to things that are trendy. I’ve made a deliberate effort to step back from that and focus on the true depth and bounty that D.C. has to offer – especially Black D.C. I’m Black, that’s my community and this is a significant group that has deep and lasting contributions to the city’s food scene, like the carryout culture, mumbo sauce and the latest viral sensation, Roaming Rooster. I wanted to show the beauty I’d seen from this aspect of D.C.’s food scene, so that’s my contribution.”
“I think there has to be room for activism across the spectrum. I’ve been trying to encourage people to take the concept of ‘Black Food Fridays’ or ‘Black Business Fridays’ and adopt that as a part of your lifestyle, which means that once a week on Friday, you try to spend your money with a Black-owned business. It’s a way of helping people think of more sustainable changes.”
Instagram @feedthemalik // www.feedthemalik.com
Assistant Coach, Washington Redskins
“I have an interesting perspective with my law enforcement background, and also as a Black female in America. I was a police officer for four years, and I feel part of police reform should include more transparency. Sometimes, I find myself explaining to someone why the police do some of the things they do, and the person suddenly has a better understanding of what they saw. I’m really hoping to use my experience and knowledge to bridge a much-needed gap between the community and police organizations. Nothing is perfect and police work in an imperfect, ever-changing environment. I would like to see training standards increased.”
“It’s very important that girls, particularly little Black girls, view me as a positive role model and living example that their potential is limitless. Representation is so important, and I’m honored to be in this position to help our youth see big dreams can come true.”
Instagram @jennifer.king5 // www.redskins.com/team/coaches-roster
Director of Programs, Makers Lab
“I like to think that I am an artist creating from a place of honesty and vulnerability, always talking about my blackness as being the forefront of my life. It’s one of the most important things that I am. I create music for people who look like me and feel like me. I also create and curate spaces with Makers Lab for Black LGBTQ folks, artists and creatives to be free, get free and feel safe. I think revolution music is necessary. In these times, it is our duty as visionaries, poets and artists to create art reflective of our times to help dismantle white supremacy.”
Instagram @patience.sings // www.makerslabdc.co
JANEESE LEWIS GEORGE
Ward 4 City Council Nominee
“There’s so much that needs to be done to advance racial equality in my profession. I know I’m just getting started, but when in office, I want to take a hard look at what advocacy should be in politics, and how I can make sure that myself and my new colleagues are doing what’s best for the residents of D.C.”
“As a young Black woman who saw the system and government was not working for me and people who look like me, I don’t have the luxury to not be an advocate for my community. We must do the work. We must be in the room, and we must step up as leaders. My blackness in these spaces is not only to be a voice but to push other councilmembers to listen to Black voices and Black stories, and to demand they make a change in how they legislate, how they run their city and how they serve the community. It is incumbent upon me to bring my blackness into every room and space until there is recognition and atonement reinforced by action.”
Instagram @janeese4dc // www.janeese4dc.com
Correspondent, 60 Minutes’ “60 in 60” on Quibi
“D.C. is a city that I love. It is an important place full of truly inspiring and fascinating people. [Yet] Black D.C. is often written off, forgotten [and] overlooked for the official Washington. Every day, living my life here, I encounter that portrait of injustice and disregard. That is one of the motivating factors behind what I write – not just here in D.C., but across the country. The experience of Black Washingtonians is not separate or different from that of Black Americans across the country. My work is an attempt to center and elevate those stories.”
Instagram + Twitter @wesleylowery
Langford Wiggins is a native Washingtonian and an advocate for diverse storytelling, transparent governments and racial equality.
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