Every neighborhood in D.C. was represented Saturday night at the 50th Annual Awards Dinner of the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations. 5
Guest speaker, Dr. Benjamin Alexander, president of Chicago State University and a past president of the predominately black organization, stressed racial equality in his presentation to about 700 people attending the dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
"We're all God's children," he told them. "It's time to stop the nonsense about black and white. We're all Americans. We as Americans must work for the good of all people."
Mayor Marion Barry used the opportunity to remind the gathering, which consisted of many of the city's most active residents, that the answer to the city's budget crisis is community activism. Grassroots organizations such as the federation must band together and demand that Congress allot D.C. a fair federal payment, Barry said.
After McKinley High School's Jazz Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra entertained the dinner guests, the federation presented awards to 41 people, defined as Grass Roots Honorees, for various accomplishments, including "being an effective worker in many activities" and "leadership in maintaining the stability of the neighborhood."
Two recent Dunbar High School graduates, Pamela Christopher, now a Southeastern University freshman, and Marlene Frost, a freshman at the University of the District of Columbia, were each presented a $300 scholarship by the federation for their academic achievement and volunteer work.
The federation, which consists of 56 civic associations, was founded in 1921 by black D.C. residents after being denied membership in the Federation of Citizens Associations, then an all-white group. Blacks in Washington, a minority of the city's population at the time, saw a need to form their own federation as a means to oppose the widespread segregation and racism found nearly everywhere in D.C. -- from restaurants and barber shops to government buildings.
As D.C. became a predominantly black city, those neighborhoods which at one time were represented by all-white citizens associations were replaced by all-black civic associations. Thus, the balance of power tilted to the side of the Civic Federation and the Citizens Federation has dwindled to about 20 member organizations. The "white only" clause in the Citizens Federation was removed from its constitution in 1972.
Noting the Civic Federation's historical accomplishments, Nelson Roots, 77, president of the group from 1965 to 1967, told a reporter at the dinner, "Before we got home rule, there was no organized body that the D.C. citizens could use to speak for themselves [and] to fight for their needs."
Roots, who has been a civic association member for 20 years, added, "The federation has supported boycotts and demonstrations and fought for the first hiring of black clerks in downtown shops.
"We've fought for better housing and better schools and for the integration of the schools. We've gone before congressional hearings to speak on legislation. Generally speaking, the federation "fights for and upholds those things in the best interest of district residents and opposes what is detrimental."
Federation Grass Roots Honorees representing 41 civic associations are: Owen Banks, Benning-Ridge Civic Association; Betty Lee, Bloomingdale Civie Association; Mildred Isler, Brightwood Community Association; Walter Coleman, Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association; Raymond Mushal, Burleith Citizens Association; Thomas Bryant, Capitol View Civic Association, William Dunbar, Cathedral Heights-Cleveland Parks Citizens Association; William Gill, Central Northeast Civic Association; Clara McNeary, Central Northwest Citizens Association; Odell Spruiell, Civic Betterment Civic Association; Evelyn Jones, Civic League of North Portal Estates; Roberta Chesnut, Cleveland Park Citizens Association; Jane Vines, Congress Heights Civic Association; Vernon Howell, Deanwood Citizens Association; Leontine Smith, Dupont Park Civic Association; Nathan Carrington, East Central Civic Association; Ludaine Rudsille, Edgewood Civic Association; Florence Powell, Fairlawn Citizens Association; Araminta Anderson, Fort Stanton Civic Association, Inc.; the D.C. Fire Department, Friendship Citizens Association Inc.; Gladys Raper, Garfield Douglass Heights Civic Association; Christopher Keller, Citizens Association of Georgetown; Marjorie Nolan, Glover Park Citizens Association; Larry Glover, Ivy City-Trinidad Citizens Association; Mills Mayo, Kingman Park Civic Association; Reginald Mitchell, Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association; Hazel Marcus, Ledroit Park Civic Association; Marion Cole, Marshall Heights Civic Association; Louise Burge, Midway Civic Association; Lewis Lindsey, Mt. Olivet Heights Citizens Associations; Roscoe MacAllister, Northeast Boundary Civic Association; Viola Hilton, North Michigan Park Civic Association; Helen Latimer, Northwest Boundary Civic Association; Kenneth Davis, Penn-Naylor Citizens Association Inc.; Gertrude Hunt, Pleasant Plains Civic Association; Jane Jones, Public Interest Civic Association of Northeast Washington River Terrace Community Organization; Norris Dodson, Shepherd Park Citizens Association; Dale MacIver, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, and Virginia Perkins, Upper Northwest Civic Association.
Other awards winners are: Gregory Walker, president of the Edgewood Junior Civic Association, the Phillip T. Johnson Memorial award; the Congress Heights Junior Civic Association, the Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan award; Garrett Terrell, president of the Ivy City-Trinadad Civic Association; the Washington Gas Light Co. award; Lillian Huff, chairwoman of the Federation Budget Committee, the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. award; Rev. Isadora Atkinson, an evangelist, the Pepco award; Rev. Felton Wright, of the D.C. Council of Churches, the NAACP award; Councilwoman Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), the George H. Richardson Memorial award; the Burleith Citizens Association, the Washington Star award; and the Mt. Olivet Heights Citizens Association, The Washington Post award.