AAPDEP DC: Taking charge of the development of our own communities

Along with the knowledge that “development” is coming to an African community often comes certain realizations.

Firstly, this development is usually not for the benefit of the African’s already in the community.

Secondly, not only are the infrastructure improvements not targeted at working class Africans, they often undermine their ability to live and thrive in their own neighborhoods. Throughout the US, gentrification—the displacement of low income residents in favor of a more affluent populace—is becoming an unstoppable force.

This is especially true in Washington DC where so called “progress” and “development” force the black population out of what was once known as chocolate city.

The All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP), the community development arm of the Uhuru Movement, has been operating in Washington since the beginning of the year.

AAPDEP DC has chosen to focus its efforts in Ivy City, a neglected African neighborhood in northeast DC with an average family income of $18,000 and where only 12 percent of the residents are homeowners.

The area has seen little development over the years.

Public transportation links are sparse at best, especially when compared to the northwest of the city where the majority of the white population and commercial interests are located.

Other public services are equally limited, with no easily accessible recreation centers, libraries or even supermarkets.

Over the last few months Ivy City has been the target of a massive city run “revitalization” project, which many residents fear will eventually result in their displacement, an ongoing pattern in the so called “regeneration” of DC’s black neighborhoods. 

This concern and sense of helplessness is further compounded by the limited involvement of locals and the influx of white volunteers and charity organizations into this historically all black neighborhood.

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The main objective of AAPDEPs work in Ivy City, and in the global African world, is to present our communities with a new way of thinking about our own development.

It is not in our benefit to wait for the so-called authorities or charities to regenerate our areas, especially since these efforts are at a minimum demoralizing and often carried out with ulterior motives.

Instead, all of AAPDEP’s work is spearheaded by and for Africans.

By organizing ourselves and utilizing our own skills for the benefit of the wider African community we are taking an important step towards true self-determination.

So far, AAPDEP’s efforts in Ivy City have included officially “adopting” several blocks in the area and organizing regular neighborhood cleanups.

Our main focus, however, has been the establishment of a small urban garden.

The garden is a first step towards combating the food security issues so prevalent in African communities.

Ivy City is a food desert where there is little access to fresh and healthy foods.

Instead, residents are forced to rely on fast food or convenience stores with limited options.

The limited physical access is further aggravated by rising food prices and falling incomes.

The garden aims to lead by example, encouraging residents to meet their needs by growing their own fruit and vegetables.

Now, AAPDEP DC aims to expand its work in Ivy City and Washington as a whole in areas such as youth development, health, gardening and vocational training.

We are calling on any black person in the area who wants to challenge and change the conditions in our community to join a workgroup and put their skills into action.

Contact dc@developmentforafrica.org to begin working for self-determination.

Learn more about AAPDEP at aapdep.org


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