Jim’s Column


Jubilee Housing recently held its 2nd annual “Coming Home Breakfast” to raise critical funds to bring more justice housing and supportive programming to the vital neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights.

In reflecting on the 125 new justice housing units Jubilee is developing, I couldn’t help but contrast that number to the thousands more affordable homes our city needs. A recent proposal by Mayor Bowser calls for 12,000 new affordable units by 2025. 

I was reminded of the old story about rescuers pulling drowning people from a river. When more and more people kept needing help, one rescuer asked, “Why don’t we go upstream and see why so many people are falling into the river in the first place?”

As I told those gathered for breakfast, this journey upstream may be the most important journey facing our society right now. The issues we seek to address will keep coming back, over and over again, until we address the divides at their source.

The journey upstream will require a new stance by those of us who have benefited most from the dominant white culture. This culture has created the river, promoting wellbeing for some at the expense of many.  

The upstream journey will require that we be learners, rather than instructors or rescuers.

Few of us understand, for example, the feeling of safety that can come from living in a Jubilee community after years of living with overcrowding or in unsafe communities. One Jubilee resident has described how different it is to step out of his building and see his neighbors carrying yoga mats and wearing flip-flops. He said Jubilee Housing offers a different world, one where he feels safe to walk outside. 

Few of us are aware that D.C. residents with low incomes are being pushed out of their neighborhoods at some of the highest rates in the country. Or that D.C. has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the U.S., and that while African-American men make up 4 percent of the country’s population, they make up 40 percent of the people in prison. These gaps are structural, systemic, and fueled by the dominant culture.

Unexamined beliefs shape systems and perpetuate gaps in opportunities, resources, and outcomes. We won’t close these gaps until we confront our roles in upholding the current system.

I acknowledge my own need for growth in this area. I am not very far along. Yet, I realize that to continue I must allow for the discomfort that comes with new understanding.

The inner work that fleshes out biases and connects both our heads and hearts to a new vision of a fair, inclusive D.C. is hard and hopeful. We at Jubilee Housing are committed to traveling upstream as learners. We invite you to join us.

Breaking down the systems that created these divides requires justice-hungry people. Justice housing helps address society’s divides at their source, bringing greater opportunity for all.

Please enjoy the selection of articles in this edition of The Jubilee and know that your partnership is crucial as we move ahead together.