Capitol Hill North Group Hosts BBQ to Break Ice, Build Friendships

Just blocks from where the notorious drug lord Rayful Edmond III operated more than two decades ago, new and old neighbors gathered along Fifth Street Northeast between K and L Streets on Saturday for their community association’s first barbecue.

Daniel Curry, a member of the Capitol Hill North Neighborhood Association, created the barbecue to bring out more neighbors to participate, socialize and learn about the association’s goals for rebuilding their neighborhood, which has had more than its share of crimes and drugs. Since May 1, Ward 6 has had more than 150 robberies.

“We just got incorporated last year and started with a group of neighbors who wanted to do some projects in the neighborhood and improve the quality of life,” Curry said.

Curry and other association members walked around to introduce themselves to neighbors, offering them grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, homemade tea and lemonade, chips, watermelon, macaroni salad, carrots and a variety of desserts.

“We have several different variations of hot dogs,” said Briant Stringham jokingly as he worked the grill and looked at well-done hot dogs, some that needed a little longer on the grill, some burnt and some unrecognizable.

As more neighbors straggled in, conversations and topics grew from the light “How are yous?” and “Nice to me yous” to the more hardcore problems and how they plan to join and fight back to make their neighborhood a better place.

“As a group, we want to encourage the community to watch and look out for one another and also help fight the drugs and crime,” said Debbie Lofton, vice chair, who has been in the neighborhood for two years. “Some of our things we have planned are designing the old police call boxes, trash cleanup and tree boxes.”

Other longtime neighbors, like Tony Brown, had a difference of opinion about the association and its goals.

“The barbecue is okay, but neighborhood associations really destroy cities,” Brown said. “They aren’t loved by everybody. You see why the only people out here are Caucasians that have been here two years and think it’s fashionable.” According to the African American Environmentalist Association, blacks dominate the population in Ward 6 by more than 70 percent.

When asked about the efforts to clean up the neighborhood, Brown went on to say, “I don’t think that’s going to happen; you see their main priority is painting call boxes.”

Clare Allenson, a new resident and recent graduate of international relations from American University, disagreed with Brown.

“I think it’s good what they are doing,” Allenson said. “It’s good to actually meet the people that I usually pass every day. I’m definitely going to get involved.”

Overall, organizers viewed the barbecue as a success.

“We are going to make this an annual event,” said Jennifer Chisholm, delegate-at-large, as she stood in front of a gate where neighbors Aranne Callender’s mutt, Hoover, and Christian Brown’s Dalmatian, Fannie, playfully ran around.