William Cardinal Baum, Archbishop of Washington, accompanied other religious leaders on an unusual, highly publicized walk through the ghetto yesterday morning to mark the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and asserted that the city is in a "time of renewal."
Noting that 10 years ago "our country was mourning the assassination of Dr. King," the Cardinal said after his tour through some of the city's poorer neighborhoods that he now sees Washington "is alive and vibrant." He added that he often visits such communities, but not in such a "very visible way."
Baum was accompanied on his walk by the Rev. Maurice T. Fox. director of the office of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington; Bishop Eugene Marino; Msgr. Ralph Keuhner; the Rev. Robert L. Pruitt, pastor of the Metropolitan Washington AME Church; the Rev. Cecil Bishop, pastor of the John Wesley AME Zion Church, and H. R. Crawford, a Catholic and one of the city,s best-known property managers.
Crawford is expected to announce next week his candidacy for an unspecified city elective office. But it was emphasized yesterday that his role in the tour had nothing to do with Crawford's political ambitions.
Crawford is a "personal friend who has been advising the cardinal on housing." Fox explained, "and H. R. wanted to show him this (some of Washington's poorer neighborhoods where revitalization has begun)."
Beginning at Sixth and R streets NW, the group strolled past the O Stree Market over to Marion Street NW, a narrow street that Crawford told a reporter used to be one of the "roughest, toughest" in the city. Now, there are telltale signs of renovation there, and a group of row houses have been sold for $45,500 each to young professionals, both black and white, according to a real estate broker.
But the religious leaders discovered there are others on Marion Street too. They stopped at the home of Geneva Williams, who has received an eviction notice and a renter who is trying to raise deposit money so she can buy her home. She told a reporter later that she is having difficiulty getting the deposit because she earns only $7,500 a year as a primary school teacher and has three chrildren.
Baum said the church hopes to "lend our support, raise our voices in favor of comprehensice housing so the needs of all are considered. The church advocates for the poor, and we are concerned that there needs to be concerted planning."
Through its Immacualate Conception Community Development Corp., the archdiocese has sponsored two projects for low and moderate-income families in the Shaw community, Fox said.