Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thoughts on the ECCA Meeting

I haven't posted anything on Monday's ECCA meeting partly because I've been busy and partly because I wanted to think about it first. There's a thorough recap on the Mount Vernon blog and lots of commentary on In Shaw.

I had to leave early, so I didn't personally hear everything that went on, but I heard enough to be stunned by the degree of anger being expressed by older residents (in the sense of being here for a long time) against newcomers. I think that's really what it is because newer black residents also came in for lambasting as well, even though what came out was put in mostly in black vs. white terms.

It's as if the two sides (for want of a better word) are speaking different languages. What set things off, was when a (white) resident asked the 3rd district police representative what his advice would be on dealing with people hanging out on the street at 1 or 2 in the morning, playing loud music or setting off firecrackers. That seemed like a reasonable question to me.

However, other residents obviously heard this as code language for something else, and they responded with accusations that white people moving into the neighborhood have no regard for African-American culture and regard all black men as criminals and have no respect for the people who have been living in the neighborhood for many years. Evidently, the rest of the meeting went on pretty much in that vein.

Well, there undoubtedly are white people who hold such views, but I would be very much surprised if any of them were attending the ECCA meeting that night. It seems to me that if someone takes the time and effort to attend a neighborhood association meeting then that indicates a desire to be part of the community, not stand apart from it. I had assumed that the ECCA was there to represent all of the residents within the area it serves and therefore would want to encourage newcomers to join and participate. Unfortunately, the way this meeting went seems likely to do exactly the opposite--the natural response would be to say who needs this and never show up again.

I have always thought ECCA President Mrs. Betty Newell to be a kind, welcoming, and fair-minded person, so I was surprised to hear that ANC2C 02 candidate Kevin Chapple was not allowed to speak except very briefly at the end of the meeting when people were leaving and other activities were taking place. His opponent, incumbent ANC2C chairman Leroy Thorpe spoke at great length, as did Mary Sutherland who is running against Alex Padro for the ANC2C 01 position. It seems only fair that Mr. Chapple should be given adequate time to present his ideas to those present, and I hope he will have that opportunity at the next meeting in October.

But back to the original observation about the anger that came out at the meeting, I really think that many newcomers have little idea about the resentments expressed nor understand much about where the hostility is coming from. Clearly, there is a problem here. I don’t know exactly what needs to be done to remedy the situation, but increased estrangement between newer and older residents certainly isn’t going to help anything.


At 9/19/2006 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I should thank you for contextualizing what went on at the last ECCA meeting (although I doubt that this was your intention).

If I had only Si Killian's "reporting" to rely upon, I would have been left with the impression that Ms. Sutherland's "lengthy impassioned speech" came out of the clear blue sky, right after a discussion about photos being taken of Ms. Newell's home for an "online project on area churches."

Thanks for the clarification: In fact, Ms. Sutherland erupted after one of our neighbors complained to the police about the boys on her block hanging out and, well, being boys. Apparently, the leftover resentment from that complaint infected much of the rest of the meeting.

Funny, though, how all of that was lost despite all of the online kvetching about the meeting...


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