- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2018

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off Black History Month on Thursday by unveiling a project to usher more of city’s black residents into the middle class, and effectively jump-starting her re-election campaign.

Addressing an audience at the historic Howard Theatre, Miss Bowser presented the project called “Fair Shot: A Toolkit for African American Prosperity,” which provides access to resources for residents and businesses to secure, tax rebates, scholarships and other services.

“What we all know is that the diversity and the history of our city is what makes it strong,” she told a crowd of about 100 people in front of the theater’s wooden stage. “People come to Washington, D.C., because of our richness of our history. They come because of ‘Black Broadway.’ They come because of our fantastic neighborhoods filled with African Americans who built this city.”

The U Street area of the Shaw neighborhood was once known as “Black Broadway” for its social clubs, music halls and performance venues, like the Howard Theatre.

“And so the uniqueness of who we are and what makes us cool is exactly the thing that we have to be sure as leaders to preserve, and that is really what we are here to talk about today,” said Miss Bowser, who formally announced her re-election bid in September and currently faces no challengers in the June 19 Democratic primary.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting representative in Congress, spoke about how the city has worked to create wealth by reclaiming federal lands for the city, such as the Wharf and the Navy Yards.

“Unused land. No jobs, nothing for us Now they are up providing amenities and jobs for the residents of our city,” said Ms. Norton, who also is up for re-election in November. “There is the Walter Reed [medical hospital] site, which we have had the federal government just transfer to the District of Columbia [and] which will bring a whole new neighborhood and set of jobs and developments in part of Ward 4.”

According to a 2017 Georgetown University study, blacks earn more in the District than in any other metropolitan area, with a median household income of $68,246. But the median household income for white D.C. residents is $120,000, the same study found.

This income disparity may be one reason homeownership among black families recently decreased amid the city’s affordable housing crisis. Nonetheless, the District still has seen the country’s largest leap in black homeownership rates over the last two decades (9.6 percent), DCist reported this summer.

The mayor’s tool kit includes the “Home Purchase Assistance Program” to help increase the home-ownership rate.

“I not only have keys to my house. I now have keys to the city,” Robin McKinney, one of the program’s recipients, said during Thursday’s event.

Another element of “Fair Shot” touted by the mayor is a commitment to produce better-paying jobs for D.C. residents via the city’s youth employment program and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

After speaking at the Howard Theatre, Miss Bowser led a commemoration of the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis for better working conditions for black workers. In front of the theater, Ms. Bowser gathered with employees of the D.C. Department of Public Works and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who recently negotiated new terms for employers of the D.C. government.

Union member Francis Snyder, 70, has worked as a D.C. street-sweeper for 20 years. He said the investment in black workers and businesses has had “major changes” in his community in Anacostia.

“They have new houses, new schools, new everything. They’re really building it up,” Mr. Snyder said. “You can come out and be safer in the community, and people are friendlier to you.”

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