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MIDWAY my recent breakfast conversation with Kenneil Cole, a 21 year-old, District of Columbia Ward 8 resident, my mind fills with questions: Will he realize his dream of becoming a lawyer? Will he end up like some members of his family and several friends: face down with a bullet in his body, encircled by yellow police crime tape?

The narrative Cole unspools defies his clean-shaven, tie-and-shirt image. “Since 2000, I have seen in my neighborhood about 29 murders,” he says. “A guy got killed with an AK in his hand in 2005 right in front of me.”

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Crossing the River

DISTRICT politicians famously promise, primarily through sloganeering, to connect communities. Their delivery often falls short; neighborhoods remain mostly a string of silos. Former Mayor Vincent C. Gray, for example, repeated with passion his “One City” mantra. Instead of being the sealant people wished for, he proved to be more divisive than his predecessor, albeit for different reasons. Muriel Bowser marketed “All Eight Wards” during last year’s mayoral campaign. Once in office, she quickly jettisoned that catchphrase for “We Are DC.” That motto has jockeyed with her “Pathways to the Middle-Class.” It’s as if an ad agency is appended to the Bowser administration churning, at a moment’s notice, glib dicta.

What does any of it mean? Is there any significant and measurable effort to connect all District residents, marshaling collective talents, expertise and resources to tackle seemingly intractable problems? Does anyone believe the whole is only as strong as its parts?

THE GIFT: An Interactive Arts Healing and Reconciliation Experience

REGISTER NOW for THE GIFT. Seating is limited. Oct. 20, 2015, from 5:30 pm through 8:00 pm at the Frank Reeves Center-14th and U Sts. NW, Washington, D.C., You won’t want to this this powerful program, designed to bring healing to those suffering or who have suffered a traumatic loss. Presented by Esther Productions, Inc. and jonetta rose barras, the ultimate intent is to bring participants closer to self-reconciliation, greater self-appreciation, self-love and forgiveness, diminishing potential violence against themselves and others.

Call 202-829-0591 or write to for more information and to reserve your space.


HOW many other children are put in harms way each day because of neglectful parents or a cavalier government agency—sometimes both? Far too many, is the conclusion TBR has reached.

Consider seven year-old James,* whose well-being and safety the District of Columbia government, including the Child and Family Services Agency and the D.C. Superior Court, seemed to have given little regard, when it allowed his mother, Ismahan Elmoge, to swap custody with a neighbor, Christina Dinkins. That swap occurred without notification to the father, and as other relatives pleaded to have the opportunity to care for James. His story reveals indisputable and dangerous gaps within D.C.’s child welfare system.

BLACK EMPOWERMENT: Not Just a Black Thing

By Doug Patton

JIM Harris, a husky African American who could have easily found work as a boxer, burst into the 10 x 12 non-descript Dupont Circle office, shouting every known profanity. The white guy with him, George Strawn, attempted to calm him down. But without warning, Jim pulled out a .38 pistol and stuck it in my face. I didn’t believe he’d shoot, but the way his hands were shaking, I thought the gun might discharge accidentally. I couldn’t give any hint that I was concerned about any of it, however.

How had I, a white guy from rural Iowa, landed in an office working with a bunch of black people with hair-trigger tempers who possessed guns they weren’t afraid to use?

Good Question.