In his 32 years of life, Trayon White says he has buried more than 93 people. He’s lived his entire life in DC’s Ward 8, except for the time he spent away at college, and now leads the community as its city councilmember. One of his first initiatives is to start curbing the violence that takes away so many of his residents’ friends and families. “I want to use my position on the Council to empower more people like me on this issue,” he said.
On Feb. 7 White introduced the Safe Way Home Act of 2017, a bill designed to provide $5 million annually to a grant-management entity for the next three years – $15 million total. The money will go toward outreach and programming on violence in Wards 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
The bill stipulates that the mayor must establish the Safe Passage Community Outreach Program to manage part-time employees who will help students get to and from schools in designated neighborhoods in participating wards. “The idea is to figure out what programs have relationships in the community and give them the resources,” White said.
The Councilmembers who introduced the bill are White, David Grosso (At-Large), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Vincent Gray (Ward 7), Jack Evans (Ward 2), Anita Bonds (At-Large, Brandon Todd (Ward 4), and Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5). This bill falls to the committees on Labor and Workforce Development, on Human Services, and on Judiciary and Public Safety.
The legislation won’t start moving through each committee until June 1, so White has started a community movement of his own, the Red Ribbon Safe Communities Initiative.
Marching Against Violence
At least two shootings happened along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on back-to-back weeks between the end of January and start of February. One injured at least four when a gunman fired into a crowd. This prevalence of violence in the community demands action now, not when a bill can go through, said White. “Just the consistency of me having to visit families whose loved ones are gone, it’s a hurtful feeling,” he said, “but it’s a part of what has to be done as a leader in the community.”
In the meantime White has launched his Red Ribbon Safe Communities Initiative and organized neighbors in Ward 8 to march in support on Feb. 14. The goal is to build a community-driven outreach program against violence.
Lines of people at the first Red Ribbon meeting in January went out the door, White said. At least 133 people attended, and the next time he plans to host at a larger venue. The goal, he said, is to make this a community-led effort. “We want to create smaller community based organizations to do activities like mentoring, tutoring, etc.”
Several groups including the Washington Peace Center, Keep DC 4 Me, and Black Lives Matter DC have shown support for this initiative. “Community members and supporters must show up continuously and consistently to do the hard work in the streets of our community because ‘No One is Disposable,’” the Washington Peace Center wrote on its event page for the Feb. 14 march. “Interrupt violence strategically and intentionally as a community. Safe, healthy, and thriving Black communities are not only possible but essential.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Quoting the words of Martin Luther King Jr., White laid out the urgency behind reducing the violence in his Ward 8. He said that if residents work together and have a stake in what happens to their community, they will have an incentive to make permanent changes. He wants to empower the people to take back the community and use government resources both through the Red Ribbon Initiative and the Safe Way Home Act.
“We’re trying to see a 25 percent decrease in homicides and violent crimes,” said White.
To learn more about upcoming events with the initiative, visit www.trayonwhite8.com.