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Anacostia Cherry Blossom Festivities Give Residents a Chance to Showcase Their Neighborhood

Frieda Murray/ Newsline photo by Hortense M. Barber
Frieda Murray in the Southeast park where she helped plant cherry trees.  (Newsline photo by Hortense M. Barber)
Hear what Murray thinks the government's role should be in helping Anacostia. (Real Media File, 12 seconds)
By Hortense M. Barber
Maryland Newsline
Friday, March 30, 2007

WASHINGTON - Frieda Murray, an avid gardener, missed the blooming of the cherry trees when she visited Japan almost 30 years ago.

“It was summertime there,” she said -- too late for the blossoms.

But a few years ago Murray, and other members of the Anacostia Garden Club she helped start, got an opportunity to bring the pink, red and white trees back home to a small park in her neighborhood, at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Minnesota Avenue.

We got [about eight of] the trees from festival organizers, who had some left over,” said the 25-year resident of Southeast Washington, as she sat on a bench near the trees she expects will be in full bloom by next week.

The small park is located in the heart of Southeast, not far from Anacostia Park, where 13 more cherry trees grow, courtesy of National Cherry Blossom festival organizers.

As area cherry blossom celebrations near the Tidal Basin in Southwest begin this weekend, some Anacostia residents and officials hope their own celebrations and blooms will not be overlooked -- and that those celebrations will provide outsiders with a chance to see all that the area has to offer.

Tomorrow morning, Anacostia will host a tree dedication at 9:30 a.m. at 1649 Good Hope Road, followed by a reception and a walking tour of the Main Street Anacostia business corridors -- Martin Luther King Avenue and Good Hope Road.

Those commercial areas are targeted for several major development projects, including construction of a Giant grocery store, said Al Williams, executive director of the Ward 8 Business Council.

During the next 15 months, the NAACP is also planning to move its national headquarters to Anacostia from Baltimore, and the D.C. Department of Transportation will move its offices to the area, said Yovocka Young, executive director of the nonprofit group Main Street Anacostia, which is dedicated to helping the area’s economic development.

Cherry trees in the Southeast park/ Newsline photo by Hortense M. Barber
A cherry tree, before its full bloom, in the Southeast Park. (Newsline photo by Hortense M. Barber)

Anacostia has played a key role in the history of the city, Williams said. For instance, abolitionist Frederick Douglass lived in a hilltop home in Anacostia he called Cedar Hill, which has been dedicated as a national historic site.

During the 1800s, Uniontown, now Historic Anacostia, was established as a residence for Navy Yard workers, according to the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.

But the area still has hurdles to overcome.

Boarded-up and dilapidated buildings along Good Hope Road show the area is still in transition.

“The community is currently under construction,” Williams said.

And according to the East of the River Community Development Corp., Ward 8’s poverty rate stands at about 28 percent.

Murray, a retired science teacher from Prince George’s County schools who is “pushing 90” years old, believes it is the citizen’s responsibility to make the neighborhood more presentable.

Which is part of the reason her club, with between 12 and 15 active members, decided to adopt the small park where the trees are planted.
 
But she said the community’s involvement shouldn’t end with the park.

“I think people can be more responsible to take care of their neighborhood by doing simple things, like picking up trash,” she said.

Banner designed by Maryland Newsline's Jackie Strause; spring 2007.

Copyright 2007 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism


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