Anacostia Coordinating Council Celebrates 30 Years

The Anacostia Coordinating Council has co-sponsored many community events including the Metropolitan Police Department's National Night Out in August. Photo: Anacostia Coordinating Council 

Every September, Anacostia residents look forward to the Anacostia Coordinating Council's (ACC) Boat Ride on the Nina Dandy. ACC's flagship fundraiser gives attendees a chance to meet elected officials like Mayor Vincent Gray and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and network with each other. According to the ACC's website the event has been sold out for the last 17 years. However, the event is only one of many things the ACC does to help residents improve their community.

What Is the ACC?

According to its website the ACC is “a volunteer, membership consortium of organizations and individuals involved with the revitalization of Anacostia and its adjacent neighborhoods.” Former Councilmember Arrington Dixon has served as its chair since 1994. Philip Pannell, a community activist who worked with Dixon on the city council, was appointed as executive director a year later. While the organization meets every last Tuesday of the month (except in August and December) at the Anacostia Community Museum, Pannell runs the ACC from the office of Arrington Dixon and Associates (ADA), Inc., on Shannon Place.

Although the ACC was incorporated on Jan. 6, 1983, the framework began earlier. “There were folks that were meeting to discuss the impacts of the Green Line coming to Anacostia,” recalled Pannell. “They predicted that the Metro would spur more economic development in the area.” The book “The Unintended Consequences: Family and Community, the Victims of Isolated Poverty” contains a first-hand account of the ACC's first campaigns, including a study of the Historic Anacostia area. “The study was prompted by reports that some of the historic buildings in the area were in a state of serious neglect,” wrote authors James and Peter Banks. “Under the aegis of the ACC a group of students from nearby Kramer Junior High School were trained to observe housing deterioration and, under close supervision, performed the survey.” Their findings helped the ACC develop a plan to encourage owners to restore their properties.

Anti-Drug Paraphernalia Efforts

Since then the ACC has extended its focus to other community issues. “There is absolutely no issue in Ward 8 that the ACC has not been involved in,” declared Pannell. One such issue is the sale of drug paraphernalia in Ward 8 liquor and convenience stores. According to city law, drug paraphernalia consists of “objects used, intended for use, or designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing Cannabis, cocaine, hashish, hashish oil, or any other controlled substance into the human body ...” This could include bongs, rolling papers, pipes, and blunts.

Since 1997 the ACC and its partners have conducted poster drives and community meetings with business owners to find solutions, including the launch of the East of the River Anti-Drug Campaign. In January 2006 they adopted their most successful tactic: working with Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to protest the liquor licenses of specific businesses with the hope that the owners will sign voluntary agreements saying that they will not sell drug paraphernalia. By June, 21 business owners had agreed to sign, but only two owners, who did not sign, attended a press conference announcing the agreement. Despite the setback all 32 liquor stores agreed to stop selling drug paraphernalia in 2007.

Cynthia Woodruff-Simms, community resource officer for the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), said in a Washington Post article that “these businesses had never before been protested. This was the first time that residents had protested licenses, and they ended up with 100 percent participation.” The campaign continues, with Mayor Vincent Gray announcing in July that he will support strengthening the drug paraphernalia law.

Environmental Dialogue

The ACC also helped promote environmental issues in Ward 8 by partnering with organizations like the Sierra Club to present community discussions on topics such as green jobs and creating sustainable communities. They also co-sponsored “The East of the River Eco-Expo 2020,” an event that brought representatives from city agencies such as the Department of the Environment, the Water and Sewer Authority, and the Office of the People's Council, as well as organizations like the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation.

Community clean-ups have provided another opportunity. One such campaign centered on posters for events and political candidates, which were eyesores on telephone poles and abandoned buildings and also created hiding places for termites and other vermin. Despite the Go-Go Alliance’s decision in 1995 to stop using posters for events the problem persisted. Then-Ward 8 Councilmember Sandy Allen tried unsuccessfully to gain passage of the “Sign, Advertisement, and Poster Control Act of 1997.” Fortunately the ACC's clean-up efforts helped solve the problem.

The ACC Board

The ACC also boasts a large board of elected officers, community leaders, and residents. One member is Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells. “This year has seen Anacostia flourish with new investments from the Anacostia Playhouse to Uniontown Bar & Grill, from fitness trails to community engagement, and the Anacostia Coordinating Council has been a leader in these wonderful accomplishments,” he said in a statement. “There is much, much more work ahead of us. I remain committed to furthering investments in Anacostia and neighborhoods east of the river to ensure this is a city where everyone can live, work and raise a family regardless of where they live.”

In July the ACC designated a faith committee, led by the Rev. Anthony Motley, another board member. “The faith effort of the ACC has been around for some time,” he said. “However, it was not designated as such.” Motley knew about the ACC since its 1983 inception and joined to take advantage of information-sharing networking opportunities. “It keeps us informed about those things which might impact the area,” he explained. “It also provided opportunities to hear about those things that homeowners and businesses can benefit from.” When asked what he plans to do with the faith committee, Motley replied, “The same that we do with ACC: information sharing. We would share opportunities for the faith community to know about those things that will either impact in a negative way or bring benefit and resources to support the faith community.”

Future Plans

Pannell hopes to meet with the Anacostia Playhouse to plan an official anniversary celebration. “We would honor past and present commissioners and help promote the arts,” he said. If those plans do not materialize, the ACC will continue serving Ward 8 communities. For instance, this month the organization will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham, Ala., bombing with a service at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ and a reception for the Anacostia Art Quilters and their upcoming exhibit at the church. In October, at the Willard Hotel, the ACC will hold its annual Mother's Tea, an event that promotes healing for families affected by violence and homicide.

How to Help

Since its inception the ACC has been at the forefront of change in one of the city's poorest wards. However, the goal has always been to provide opportunities for collaboration between residents and community leaders. “When you don't have enough money and resources are scarce, collaboration is the key,” said Pannell. To participate Motley suggested three things for community members: “Attend the meetings. Make donations. Let others know about the work of the organization.”

The ACC meets every last Tuesday of the month (except August and December) from noon to 2:00 p.m. at the Anacostia Community Museum (1901 Fort Place SE). For more information visit, call 202-889-4900, or email