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Willette on Taking Back Her Neighborhood

Friday, January 14th, 2011

“My eyes have seen so many changes in the neighborhood. All of the buildings and people done changed. Now, they make us think that Shaw is going to be the next Georgetown. I guess that means that a lot of us will be pushed out. That may help the neighborhood, but it won’t really help all of kids on the corners who don’t have nothing. Don’t matter it they are in Shaw or you move ‘em somewhere else, they are still going to be hanging out on the corner with no opportunities.

Now, I don’t let my kids go to the playground because of the violence. What kind of a world have we created where a mother can’t let her kids play in a playground?

“Because I work, live, and raise my kids in this community, I see this stuff everyday. Kids should feel like they can do anything in the world, but many of these kids can’t read or write. Some kids will only get one meal a day at school. Some kids get caught up and become offenders. Then, they find themselves on the street as teenagers and no one wants to give them a chance. All the time, kids be coming to me saying, ‘Ms. Willette, I just want a chance.’ Many of them won’t get it because of a mistake.

“When we talk about violence in our communities, a lot of it comes from these kids with no hope or opportunities. Everyone here has stories about seeing or being a victim of the violence. My 12-year-old daughter was out playing behind our house when some boy jumped the fence and started shooting. He was trying to hit another boy and started shooting everywhere. I acted fast and snatched her down. I thank God every day that she was not hit, but she had to go to the hospital because of the shock.

“Now, I don’t let my kids go to the playground because of the violence. What kind of a world have we created where a mother can’t let her kids play in a playground? How have we let things get to a place where you hug and squeeze your babies and tell them you love them everyday because you don’t know if it could be their last day? You know, my Dad is a homicide detective out in the 7th District. Whenever he hears about something that happens here, he immediately calls to ask, ‘How are you and my babies doing?’ I love my Dad, but even he can’t protect us all the time.

“Some people here want to just give up and let that stuff take over. Seniors will stay in the house and parents won’t let their kids out to play. That is not a way to live. We can’t let violence destroy our communities. I decided to give back in my own way by organizing a project called Safe Streets. I took some of the kids in the community and gave them a back pack, notebook, school uniform, and a pair of shoes. Many of these kids had nothing and no one to take care of them. Giving them these little things gave them some hope. I did it three times, and got people like the mayor and police chief involved. It was really successful and I want to keep doing it because people in the community keep asking me to.

“I realize that some people are lazy and feel like this cycle of poverty and violence is never going to end. But, there are so many people who have hope and just need a chance. Obama is down the street, but he can’t do everything. A lot of these kids are ex-offenders and they don’t get no chance. That means that we need to take care of ourselves and make our own situation better.

“I pray for a day when me and my kids won’t have to be around violence all the time. My goal is to one day open up a center of my own to help teens. We have kids with no food, no place to go, and no opportunities. I would hope that someone would do that for my kids if I needed it, so I want to do it to help theirs.”

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7 Comments

  1. Powerful message! There are more ways of taking back the streets than just building luxury condos and opening wine bars and coffeehouses on every other corner. Willette’s got the right idea.

    Comment by Golden Silence — January 14, 2011 @ 11:37 am

  2. How do I get in touch with yWillette; I want to help.

    Comment by Martha Mountain — January 17, 2011 @ 8:15 am

  3. […] on DCentric before, but I want to point you towards that excellent project again, because of their Friday post, from a D.C. citizen named Willette, who lives in Shaw: “My eyes have seen so many changes in the neighborhood. All of the buildings and people done […]

    Pingback by Shaw, Gentrification and Youth Violence, via People’s District | DCentric — January 18, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

  4. I would also like to find out how to help Willette.

    Comment by LavenderDimples — January 19, 2011 @ 9:00 am

  5. Hey Willette you and I are on the same page in the way we think, stop talking and do something. Get in touch let’s put our heads together and make things happen.

    Comment by Ms. Sharon — February 13, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  6. Ms. Branch I am very proud of your powerful message. You have arrived at that point in your life that many of us need too in order to save our community. I will support any event or be there for you thanks for being a soldier of our community. Nate Metts

    Comment by Nathaniel Metts — February 16, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  7. Willette – Your message really touched me. This is exactly what I have been thinking. We are a part of this community and would love to help the community in ways other than knocking everything down and starting over. Why can’t we all come together and help those who need it instead of pushing them away. I would like to know what you are doing currently and if you know of any other resources for helping the Shaw neighborhood. Thank you for caring!

    Comment by Amy — October 10, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

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