Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
“To be honest, I never thought I would stay in Fairlawn this long. My wife and I moved to the neighborhood about 23 years ago. We met at the Union Temple Baptist Church and wanted to find a home that was not too far from the church. At the time, I knew of Anacostia, but I didn’t even know there was a neighborhood called Fairlawn. We are a working class neighborhood bound by the commercial strips on Pennsylvania Avenue and Good Hope Road, the Anacostia River and where Naylor Road and Good Hope come to a point. Think of it as a big triangle.
“When one of the members of the church heard we were looking, he approached us about buying a house here. We saw a few homes and really liked the area. The neighborhood had a nice feel, and neighbors sat outside and talked to other neighbors. We knew it was the right place for us.
“I was happy living here, but didn’t plan to get involved politically. Back in the early 90′s, there was talk about rebuilding the 11th St bridge. One of the proposals included a street level ramp at the end of 13th St onto 295 North. Well, I live right there, and just imagined all of the cars driving by my house on the way to the highway. I thought, this can’t happen.
“I started going to DDOT and Fairlawn Citizens Association meetings to see what was going on, and learn how I could stop it. Mrs. Jones, our famous past president of the citizens association, saw that I was getting involved, and asked me to join the transportation committee. Then, before I knew it, I was heading up that committee and getting more-and-more involved in community life.
“Eventually Mrs. Jones stepped down, and was looking for nominations for a new president. I just kept my head down and didn’t say anything. I was doing other things, and didn’t have much time. After the meeting, she came over to me and said, ‘I am going to step down. I think that you should be the president.’ I told her that I appreciated it, but had a lot going on. Then, I don’t remember if she took a step back or if I took a step back, but there was a little distance between us. Mrs. Jones looked me right in the eye and said, “Well, you gotta do something.’
“For that second, I wasn’t talking to the 81-year-old Mrs. Jones, but I was talking with my grandmother. The woman had divine authority. Christopher Jerry who is the current vice-president, caught the tail end of the conversation. He came over to me and said, “Let’s do this together. If you serve as president, I will serve as vice-president’. I figured, okay, between the two of us, we can manage this thing.
“Here we are three years later. I am still president and he is vice-president. It has been an up-and-down ride, but certainly more ups than downs. To be the president of a citizen’s association can really impact people’s lives and property values. Because of that, I take this very seriously.
“We are a neighborhood with a proud history and an active community. My goal is to bring more people together and get them talking and participating in Fairlawn. We are a community of 8,000 people, and the association has about 250 members. I am working to bring in more people so that all streets and groups are represented. When we’re all at the table together, we can work for all of our interests. Like Mrs. Jones said, we all gotta do something. And, as people, we are all better off when we have interaction with those around us.”
Graylin Presbury is the President of the Fairlawn Citizen’s Association.