Annapolis public housing walk reveals concerns Problems include gun violence, mental health and living conditions
Capital - 7/28/2019
Dashi Williams didn't seem the least bit fazed when she came out on her front porch Saturday morning and found herself face-to-face with three state lawmakers, asking her how life could be better in the Robinwood community.
Without pausing for a second, Williams launched into a rapid run-down of what her neighborhood needs: better security, a more responsive maintenance department in the Annapolis housing authority - one that fixes stopped-up toilets after a single phone call - and accessible therapists to walk residents through grief.
And most of all, mentoring and bullying prevention programs to rescue kids who are sinking into depression and falling back on drugs.
"If nobody else is gonna speak for them, I'm gonna speak for them, because those kids are our future," Williams announced, as state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, Del. Alice Cain and Del. Shaneka Henson listened closely.
What started out as the latest push to end gun violence in Annapolis public housing communities wound up being a morning packed with conversations about all sorts of issues facing residents, as representatives and activists moved through three neighborhoods, offering an ear to families.
The Elfreth-Cain-Henson trio were joined by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, County Executive Steuart Pittman and a squad of gun violence-prevention activists as they knocked on about 300 doors in the Robinwood, Eastport Terrace and Harbor House public housing apartment complexes.
The campaign was prompted by the recent deaths of beloved Annapolis rapper Edward Montre Seay and 16-year-old Elijah Wilson, who were both gunned down near public housing communities. Wilson was shot between Eastport Terrace and Harbor House, and Seay - better known as Tre Da Kid - was found just over a mile from Robinwood.
While the crew heard about the pressing need for more affordable dental healthcare services and more educational programs for kids, families also talked about guns - specifically, how it's way too easy to get your hands on one.
"Everybody that I talked to said fewer guns [are needed]," said Pittman, who has launched a gun violence task force to study the issue. "Some said get rid of them altogether."
For two gun activists, the morning hit close to home. Bishop Charles Carroll and Tanya Cooper-Johnson both lived in Robinwood at some point in their lives and lost sons to gun violence.
Sunday will mark three years since Carroll's son was found shot outside the Bywater Mutual Homes complex - an anniversary made all the more painful, as still nobody has been charged in his killing. There will be a vigil demanding justice for Charles Carroll Jr. at 5 p.m. Sunday at Bywater Homes.
After his son's death, Carroll became chair of Pittman's Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, a team charged with recommending actions to prevent gun violence in Anne Arundel County. What lawmakers and activists learned Saturday will help inform the task force's work, Elfreth said.
Walking around Eastport Terrace today, Buckley also heard from residents that there are just too many guns around. He emerged with an even stronger conviction that people should know the police walking around their communities - an impression he'll pass along to Ed Jackson, his pick for police chief.
Throughout the morning, the crew circulated glossy postcards crowded with the numbers for local nonprofits and crisis hotlines. The cards also included phone numbers for Elfreth, Cain and Henson, which the women encouraged residents to call.
"Who do y'all work for?" a young man asked, perched on his porch railing.
"We work for you," Cain responded.
While talking with residents, the state lawmakers took detailed notes. Cain even jotted down the position the young man said he played in baseball - centerfield.
Before walking away, Henson also summarized what had just been discussed. Doing so not only helped Hensen ensure she had understood everything her constituents were trying to convey to her - it also offered them a sense of validation.
"I want them to know that I heard them and that I'm not just here nodding and smiling," she said.
Caption: Bishop Charles Carroll, left and Tanya Cooper-Johnson, founder of Weeping Mother's Inc., right, speak with Robinwood resident Tonisha Brown.
Del. Shaneka Henson speaks with Robinwood residents. Local and state elected officials, along with community activists and clergy, toured the Robinwood neighborhood knocking on doors and speaking with residents as part of a Preventing Gun Violence Canvas.
Autumn Horton, from left, Dashi Williams, Tangela Jones and Carlisa Williams speak about conditions in the Robinwood neighborhood.
Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette
Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette photos