On a quick errand, some years ago, I remember driving through a very different Benning Terrace, at 46th Place and G Street SE, than the one that exists today.
Having grown up (like many Penn Branch folk) with firearms at home and knowing what they can do, I ignored my neighbor's urging to drop him off and speed away as fast as I could drive. Something seemed wrong and shameful about doing that--wasn't raised to think that way and didn't particularly care to regard Benning Terrace or any other troubled River East neighborhood as a leper colony or some mythical leviathan.
I knew that speeding through neighborhoods like Benning Terrace or building freeways over them, as was done in Southeast Capitol Hill (now 'Hill East'), doesn't make them magically go away or solve their problems. I knew that running off doesn't make them any better for people who have to pass through them to get somewhere else--certainly doesn't make them better for the folks, who have to live there.
So, this one didn't run.
Instead, I took a really good, hard look at the place. I saw the drug activity, loitering, noise, litter and stench thereof. Drank it all in deeply, and I could see very well that some of the horror stories I had heard about Benning Terrace were based in fact.
I could see very well how lucky I was to have grown up where I did, in Penn Branch, and was overwhelmed with pride for the men and women, who work so tirelessly and vigilantly to keep our opossum-littered hill [Got two opossum watching me through a window, as I type this!] such a great place to come home to. As Benning Terrace disappeared behind an umbrella of maple trees in my rearview, I thought about all the neighbors, who watched out for me, as I grew up, ..and how lucky I have been to know their discipline, love and protection.
I felt very proud and, at once, very humble also.
Today, there are people, who feel that way about the Alliance of Concerned Men and how, just a few years ago, this grass-roots nonprofit organization rallied the people of Benning Terrace, once nicknamed 'Simple City', to solve their own problems and invest, spiritually and economically, in a better future.
I have just added a link to the Alliance of Concerned Men, who mentor at-risk youth residing in high-crime areas of the D.C. Metropolitan area, to our Great Folks, Great Stuff section. I am very proud to do so.
Support these guys any way you can, my friends.