UPDATE :: JUNE 17TH RALLY & MARCH click here
Hi dear neighbors and friends, This is Vikram. Some updates on what’s been going on in the past five weeks or so.
Miguel’s body is still at the DC Office of Chief Medical Examiner awaiting the process of locating next of kin to proceed. The subpoena of Sprint and Yahoo on Miguel & his mother went in and returned results from Sprint—Detective Malloy and I worked through the many dozens of numbers but got no hits on next of kin; the next step is to go back to the judge to request she update her order to subpoena Verizon for records on a number associated with Miguel that was identified in the process—that will happen later this week.
For those who missed them, The Washington Post published three pieces on Miguel’s life and death and our community’s April 30 vigil in his honor, and the Plaza—
- May 7: News: Adams Morgan mourns a man who died homeless, steps from his childhood home by Justin Moyer. A spokesman for Truist admits they confiscated and did not return Miguel’s tent, sleeping bags, and other unhoused community members’ belongings. Also highlighted in this article and at candidate debates and forums since, we’re not sure why but CM Nadeau claims Miguel Gonzales was not part of the unhoused community at the Plaza—ignoring the direct testimony of people like Nate, Gasim, Shaun, Jeannie, and other unhoused people who lived there with him and other community members directly supporting them.
- May 20: Opinion: D.C. should help preserve the Adams Morgan plaza by Vikram Surya Chiruvolu and Kristin Adair, Council Member Anita Bonds joins in our community’s call for preserving the public space at that corner as we outline the history that would be swept away, and the opportunities lost, if redevelopment plans proceed. All the historic details briefly summarized and with actual underlying records are in this PDF (7.5MB).
- May 24: Opinion: I am an unhoused person. Here’s what happened to me in Adams Morgan. by Gasim Hashim. Unhoused Plaza resident Gasim Hashim details his experience with displacement from the Plaza and his view of its impact on Miguel.
On May 1, Derrick Ward at WNBC4 covered the community’s April 30 vigil for Miguel, and on May 13, we joined WPFW radio program The Latino Media Collective, hosted by Oscar Fernandez who was also Miguel’s neighbor growing up at the Pasadena building at 2633 Adams Mill Road, for a poignant hour-long discussion of his memories and our work (27.5 MB mp3 sound file download)
On May 26, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board ignored our calls to give the DC Court of Appeals time and deference to decide its case, and instead, it voted in closed session, in defiance of its own HRPB rules which state permit approvals expire after two years, to revive Hoffman & Associates luxury condo development plan at 1800 Columbia Rd NW without further review—despite it being six years since the initial approval and the hundreds of historical documents that have surfaced in the intervening time. We are again exploring options to stop the permit process from proceeding until the judicial process or other settlement is reached, as we did in 2016.
A few days after the April 30 vigil, Truist tore down Miguel’s memorial and admitted it was part of “regular cleaning” in a letter from their attorney Mary Zinsner. They failed to return virtually all the materials. In response, Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development retained attorney Daniel Hornal who also represented the Champlain Street Neighbors in the Line Hotel development dispute, as AMRD’s general counsel. Mr. Hornal on behalf of AMRD issued this cease and desist letter to Truist two days ago on June 4, to prevent them from tearing down this and further memorial materials. We again gathered and we replaced memorial items to Miguel at the place where he died at the corner of 18th and Columbia. Here’s a picture of Nate who lived on the Plaza for two years and knew Miguel well sitting in front of the memorial that was put back up.
Ward One Council Candidate Sabel Harris attended the June 4 event and spoke out on social media (Instagram)
What you can do going forward:
- Call on candidates and city officials to acquire for the public benefit the site at 1800 Columbia Rd NW.
- Tune in to WPFW 89.3FM this Wednesday morning at 9am to hear us talk with Reverend Graylan Hagler about the connections between what’s happened in Adams Morgan and corporate economic violence occurring nationwide.
- Attend the Democratic Ward 1 Council Candidate debate this Sunday June 12 at 6pm at Temperance Alley Garden, 1909 13th St NW (map), and let candidates know your concerns.
- Use your vote in the Democratic primary to let our elected officials know what you think of their actions. We are not making any formal endorsements but can say we have received inspired engagement from Anita Bonds (At-large Council), Sabel Harris (Ward One Council), Kelly Mikel Williams and Rev. Wendy Hamilton (House Rep), We’ve also gotten very positive engagement and event attendance from Ryan Jones (AG) and Salah Czapary (Ward One Council). For more, go to the Board of Elections voters page.
- Please reach out to us with ideas, resources, connections, or willingness to help. We’re on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook @admoplaza or email email@example.com, or call me directly on 202-250-1230 or reply to this email.
- Withdraw funds and close accounts at Truist and let them know if you may feel their behavior here does not at all show Truist Cares.
- Join our upcoming rally at the Plaza on the afternoon of Friday, June 17, 2022, at 3pm, to call for Truist, Hoffman, and city leaders to act, and to stop corporate violence in alliance with the Poor People’s Campaign National Moral March Weekend
To close on a personal note, I’d like to share one key thing I’ve learned in these past six years working—and also at times failing to work—with our community: there is, in each moment, the extraordinary opportunity to allow “neighborhood” to be a personal practice and commitment, like parenthood or brotherhood. To me, that has come to mean, in whatever ways our spirit moves us, if we try to love and respect our neighbors and the spaces we share in mutual aid, kindness, and genuine regard for each others’ actual needs, we are all inwardly nourished and outwardly better off. I learned this from Dr. Frank Smith, Marie Nahikian, and so many others who led the creation of Adams Moran Organization and our ANC system that won us the Plaza in the first place. Especially it takes great courage to seek to repair ruptures, and it’s my hope the weeks and months ahead become a powerful example of how, when a community comes together in this spirit of neighborhood, extraordinary things are not merely possible but inevitable.
Also, for those wondering about my take on what actually happened with Miguel—we don’t know for sure but I personally suspect it wasn’t an accident Miguel died with his head on the sidewalk next to the bench in the picture above. In my professional work as a psychotherapist focused on trauma and addiction, I often relate to people the adage that “trauma repeats itself to repair itself”—we can return to a scene, or recreate a scenario, or repeat behavior that harkens back to or echoes an unresolved traumatic event because we so deeply wish it will go differently and better this time—that we’ll do it time and again, knowing it likely won’t. Until resolved, trauma acts like a magnet, either repelling us strongly or in other cases drawing us back in. Miguel’s displacement from his mother’s condo through predatory lending two blocks from the Plaza was the trauma that led to his homelessness. Rather than be gentrified out of the area, he had such ties he chose to stay here—a hopeful act—and to live as an unhoused person at the Plaza he saw first built as a high school student, as part of a real victory for the community against economic racism. Community reports suggest he was fighting for life—going to the hospital about once a week but somehow not getting the help he needed and turned back out on the street in 12 or 24 hours, which happened perhaps a half dozen times in the last weeks of his life after his tent was taken. The dismantling and disappearance of his tent on the Plaza, followed by being denied from even entering the Plaza with the fencing—through the predatory attempts at economic development of Mayor Bowser, developer Hoffman, and owner Truist—may have been the traumatic triggers that led Miguel to come to that precise place and to despair of life in the freezing cold of that morning. For Miguel we do not know, but the principle is one I feel we ought to consider the next time we encounter someone who is in a bad way: even though they’re struggling immensely, it may be they are actually doing the best they know how to feel better and survive some very difficult circumstances. For more on what’s behind this perspective, see this 3-minute YouTube video summary of a webinar on trauma-informed approaches to DC land use policy.
May you all hold your loved ones close in your arms and your hearts, and may we extend Miguel and our antiracist neighborhood legacy the same grace.