Rosemary Akinmboni left Nigeria in 1975 to make a future for her family in Washington. Now she has her legacy.
The 52-year-old mother of seven has lived for nine years in Garfield Terrace, once a dirty, crime-ridden public housing project. For each of the last eight years, Akinmboni applied to the District's housing homestead lottery. For eight years, she lost out.
Akinmboni made the best of living at Garfield by working to make it better. She's been president of the Garfield Terrace Family Council for five years. She started an after-school program for Garfield children and runs it as a volunteer. She works in a janitorial service she helped create to employ the jobless. It is dubbed Willing Workers of Garfield Terrace.
In 1996, Akinmboni became a U.S. citizen. She is now studying at night at the University of the District of Columbia to become a social worker. In May, she tried to buy a house in Northeast Washington, but the deal fell through.
"Don't worry. God is going to provide me a home," she told a discouraged niece.
"How do you know, Auntie?"
"I know," Akinmboni replied.
When Akinmboni decided to apply again for the lottery this summer, she did not know that the city had decided to give preference to qualified public housing tenants such as herself.
When her name was called at the drawing, Akinmboni jumped up and screamed, "Thank you, Jesus!" She went right to her weekly Bible study group at First Christ Apostolic Church to announce the good news and praise God with hands upraised.
One of 11 public housing tenants to win a house, she was approved by the District Housing Finance Agency for a rehabilitation loan of $140,000.
Her 3,700-square-foot house--currently assessed at $62,848--was filled with the dregs of tenants or squatters past, from grungy mattresses to delicate dental bridgework.
The District is her home, where she now owns a little piece of America. All but one of her children live in the area, and "when I pass," she said of her row house, "this will be my gift to them."
CAPTION: Rosemary Akinmboni enjoys the playing toddlers at the Garfield Terrace after-school program she founded and runs.