The “Radical and Rowdy” Commissioner from Deanwood

Anthony Lorenzo Green is Willing to Fight For What the Community Needs

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Anthony Lorenzo Green has represented Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) Single Member District (SMD) 7C04, the neighborhood he grew up in, since 2017. Photo: Dionne Milli

They call him the “radical and rowdy commissioner from Deanwood,” and Anthony Lorenzo Green says he is absolutely fine with that.

Commissioner Green, who represents Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7C04, knows people sometimes use “radical” in a pejorative way. “I am willing to be defiant in many different spaces,” Green said. “They may call it radical, but I call it being real.”

Green raises his fist from a vehicle in a Black Lives Matter car protest, July 2020. Photo: Dee Dwyer

Still, Green does not want it to be a negative word. He says radical politics are necessary because the politics of the status quo have kept back so many black and brown families.

“I’m willing to start a war for my people to get the things we need,” he said.

Growing up in Deanwood, Green has been fighting for his community as an elected official since 2010, first in Fort Stanton Civic Association, then for ANC 8B04 and since 2017, for ANC 7C04 in the neighborhood where he grew up. He said that he was galvanized to action by things he saw happening to the people he knew –and by the events in his own life.

“It’s about turning your pain into a fight,” Green said.

Bright and Smart, But Angry
Green was born in 1985 to teenaged parents. His father left shortly after he was born, and his mother pushed through her own issues as she raised Green with the help of his grandmother. They moved from Greenleaf Gardens to Deanwood, where he still lives, when he was three.

Green’s grandmother, Betty Washington took a huge role is raising him. The two are pictured together around 2003, about the time Green turned 18. Photo: Courtesy Anthony Lorenzo Green

It was a struggle for the whole family, and it was not easy. But Green said he spent his childhood nourished by three sources: strong women, including his mother and grandmother; his community school, Merritt Elementary (now headquarters for Sixth District MPD); and his Southwest church, where he was raised in the Holiness denomination. His grandmother wanted him to become a preacher, and Green was a choir boy who attended every service until he was 18.

But events transpired to disrupt this path. When he was a boy, he was walking by Marvin Gaye Park when an older man pulled him into the park and raped him. While he discusses the event openly now, at the time Green did not tell anyone, not even his grandma. However, those around him saw the ways that his outlook had changed, even if they did not know why. Teachers began to report that Green was “bright and smart, but angry.”

Then, Green started high school at H.D. Woodson in the last of the “tower of power” years. Feeling alienated and angry and without a clear path to success, he dropped out of school without graduating.

His uncle, the only father figure in his life, was killed in 2004 at the age of 48. Green says it is one of several examples of the ways the system failed the people around him. “He couldn’t find employment because of a record started before he was an adult,” Green said. “So, he got in the life and they killed him.”

“I’ve grown from being angry at the person that pulled the trigger, for whatever reason it was, to being angry at the system that forces people to make bad decisions like that,” Green said. “The system killed him.”

The Potential in Him
Encouraged by his grandmother, Green completed his GED in 2004 and began working for the Department of Employment Services (DOES) “I learned a lot about how government services function,” he said. In 2010, he moved to Fort Stanton where his ground floor apartment became something of a neighborhood hangout.

President of the Fort Stanton Civic Association Barbara Jones noticed that Green was connecting with the community and sharing all sorts of useful information with those who dropped by. She suggested that he may as well attend some association meetings. Soon after, she encouraged him to run for Secretary of the association, and later to represent Fort Stanton on ANC 8B04.

“I saw potential in him, and I saw how he gravitated to the community,” Jones said. “It’s very few people, you can look at a young person and just say: oh, he is going to go far.”

Standing Up for the Community
As a board member of the Fort Stanton Civic Association, Green helped organize his neighbors in championing a new $12.5 million recreation center. As a commissioner, he helped the DC auditor uncover misappropriated funds. He is proud of the work he did together with fellow community leaders to negotiate community benefits agreements for development projects that prioritize affordable housing and community support services. Green also successfully advocated for the redevelopment of the historic Dave Brown Liquors to include a black-owned medical cannabis dispensary that is also the first to unionize.

Anthony Lorenzo Green (in gray) is pictured at a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) action in October 2019. Photo: Jay Brown

After riots in the streets evolved from demonstrations after the 2018 death of Jeffrey Price, killed in a collision with an MPD SUV, Green was part of collective action by affected Deanwood residents and community advocacy organizations. That led to the first ever DC Council Public Hearings on Policing in Wards 7 and 8, with one hearing held at Deanwood Recreation Center.

It was important to Green that police were not present at the hearings so that residents could feel safe enough to speak their minds. Green said Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D), Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, really wanted to hear the voices of the affected young men. “You saw people really pour out their hearts in that hearing,” Green said.

The Councilmember said Commissioner Green has built a strong relationship with him personally as well as with the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. “Never afraid to speak his truth to power,” Allen said, “he has been a strong voice for many who don’t, or can’t, come forward to talk about their pain and trauma, and how the District needs to make changes to be a safe and just city.”

Fighting For What He Thinks is Right
Green was ultimately unsuccessful in a 2020 bid to represent Ward 7 on DC Council. He knows it was tough to run against incumbent Vincent Gray (D) and that his strong views may have worked against him.

Green has been vocal in his support of the defund the police movement.  In May 2020, the DC Police Union accused Green of inciting violence against police officers after he tweeted criticism together with footage of officers responding to a confrontation outside Nook’s Barbershop. Green said that he was trying to prevent violence, not incite it.

“There are a lot of people, members of our community, who are telling me they’re drawing a line in the sand. They’re tired of being harassed and treated as criminals no matter where they are or what they’re doing,” Green told DCist at the time.

Green has also come out in favor of decriminalizing sex work in the District, a position that puts him at odds with some of those he represents as well as city politicians including Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Always an activist in his off-work hours, Green became a Core Organizer for Black Lives Matter DC in June 2020. The roles as organizer and elected official complement one another, said Green. He sees both as platforms to fight for the community.

“There are things happening to Black folks every day,” Green said, “so it makes sense to integrate with the work I’m doing as a commissioner.”

Green knows many of his views are at odds with some of his constituents. But he believes in fighting for what he thinks is right.

He cites Cori Bush, the outspoken Congresswoman for Missouri’s First District who was an activist prior to her election in 2020. It took three campaigns for her to be elected to Congress, he noted, and Green said it inspires many people, “seeing someone who was defiant, and standing in her truth.”

He has faith that, with time and the change in perspective it brings, many will come to see his position. “Eventually, one day –it may not be the next go round, but it may be the one after that –it’s going to be clearer why we fight the way we do,” he said.