As the single largest mission and first grantee of the Potomac Association’s Social Action Ministry, Shaw Community Center, occupies a unique role advancing the social mission of the United Church of Christ. SCC has an opportunity, in particular, to represent the social justice mission outlined by the Potomac Association of the UCC Central Atlantic Conference, focused on ‘Dismantling The New Jim Crow.’
SCC’s evolving and historical role in creating and implementing educational and social programs that enhance the developmental growth of children, youth, and young adults the Shaw Community in Washington, D.C. takes on special significance as a mission vehicle for the UCC’s social justice focus. Our vision is to establish SCC as the premier social justice demonstration, while leveraging Lincoln Memorial Church in the Shaw community as a central location.
This makes sense because Shaw is the UCC’s foremost model for social engagement in the DC policy District. As a model, it sits in the center of Shaw Main Streets, a major development corridor that over the past decade has seen over $2billion in private development, and witnessed a remarkable visual transformation that earned Shaw Main Street, the Main Street of the Year Award for fiscal year 2015. Notably, Shaw’s housing occupancy rate has increased from a twenty percent vacancy rate to a one percent vacancy rate over the past decade.
On the other hand, SCC serves a particularly vulnerable and marginalized population. While the signs of development are obvious to anyone who visits the community, what is less apparent is the population that development has left behind. African American males served by SCC are particularly susceptible to the pitfalls of The New Jim Crow – namely mass incarceration. African American males in Shaw are experiencing "the disenfranchisement, marginalization and re-subjugation…..[and] the creation of a permanent caste of second-class citizens." (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow)
While the buildings have been renewed, their facades enhanced, the residents of Shaw – SCM’s core population – remains deeply marginalized. The majority of the African-American males in Shaw are involved with the criminal justice system in ways that restrict their ability to find jobs, register to vote and even receive public services and educational assistance. These barriers have led to disparities in housing affordability, family formation and civic engagement.
SCC’s vision is to serve as a model for efforts to “dismantle the institutional support and insidious effects of the New Jim Crow.” By positioning itself in Shaw as a counterbalance the marginalizing forces of social and legal disenfranchisement, SCM can become a model of sustainable ‘community ecology.’
This is a unique value proposition, but a potentially powerful one. We are calling on the Board of Directors of SCM, as well as the Potomac Association and the entire UCC, to envision a demonstration project in Shaw that will serve as an anchor for a flourishing national (and global) social mission.