Remembering Charnice A. Milton, the District Journalist

Charnice A. Milton reports on a visit by the First Lady of Japan to THEARC less than a month before her passing. Photo courtesy of THEARC.

I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with grief, the past month, over the two-year memorial of the passing of our sister-in-arms Charnice Milton. She was not my blood, but she was my kinfolk. She was my fellow journalist.

At times overcome with emotion, I’ve called Rev. Oliver “OJ” Johnson, my dear and longtime friend. His comforting words for me and all those grieving are to remember that Milton served God and was able to live and follow her dream in becoming a journalist.

By the time Milton passed, she had become a machine of a journalist. Riding bus and rail, she gathered sources and reported on activities in more than 20 different neighborhoods across three city wards.

Neighborhoods she covered included her home town, Hillcrest, in Ward 7, where she was a frequent presence at the Francis Gregory Library, and Capitol Hill in Ward 6, where an advisory neighborhood commission was so moved by her death that they passed a formal resolution recognizing her life and reporting. “Charnice was a good reporter, obsessed with accuracy, and worked hard to improve our community,” the resolution stated. “It was not unusual to receive emails from Charnice with a timestamp well after business hours. Charnice was always cheerful, and her smiling face in the first row during our ANC meetings will be greatly missed. Our community is better for her efforts, and reduced by her passing.”

Milton also covered Old Anacostia, Barney Circle, Barry Farm, Bellevue, Benning Heights, Congress Heights, Deanwood, Douglass, Dupont Park, Fairlawn, Fort Stanton, Hill East, Hillsdale, Kingman Park, Lincoln Heights, Lincoln Park, Marshall Heights, Minnesota, Parkside, Penn Branch, Potomac Gardens, Randle Highlands, River Terrace, Stanton Park, Washington Highlands, Washington View, and others. Charnice was an old soul. She covered old Washington.

Two or three times, we crossed paths at events, and she was always very professional and attentive. She was serious about her craft. She was a writer. Not a “community reporter,” but a journalist. Most of my memories were seeing her around town, usually at a library or a Metro station.

A memory I will forever hold is seeing Milton in the lobby of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, returning a couple books. I complimented her on a recent story she had written. She thanked me and returned the favor, mentioning the most recent story I’d written about the Big K lot. We both expressed frustration at the endangered status of so many homes in Historic Anacostia.

I remember feeling great warmth when she shared that she’d looked into the prospects of the decades-long, ongoing discussions in creating a Congress Heights Historic District. I thought that was a great story idea and offered to send along a contact or two, if she needed. I can’t recall if she did a story about the possibilities of a Congress Heights Historic District, but it was on her radar. Milton had a good nose for stories.

Looking back at the moments we shared, I remember she always had a sense of grace. If you were her friend or ever met her just once, you know what I mean.

She was happy but she was shy. In personal conversation, she let you speak first. But when she was in journalist mode, she had no fear. Her questions were well-thought and usually so adroit they elicited the answer she wanted. That is a special skill – being able to ask the question that makes a city official answer your question!

Milton didn’t play the game of journalism, she lived the sport of journalism.

Milton was citywide. She was a District journalist. By the time she passed, she was covering Wards 6, 7, and 8. She was writing eight to 12 articles a month. One solitary woman covered nearly 200,000 people.

Thousands of us read her stories, dozens of us had an opportunity to meet and talk with her, but only two people, her parents Francine and Kenneth, raised her. And to them, our community owes a great deal of thanks and gratitude for sharing their daughter, not just with us in Ward 8 but the entire city.

Charnice Milton made our city a better place to live, a better place to call home. She is deeply missed and loved.

Her senseless murder on May 27, 2015, remains unsolved.