“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter from Birmingham Jail, Alabama, April 16, 1963
Soon we’ll celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday — a day for service. But I want to suggest that it should be a day for justice, beginning in our own backyard. The injustice that my family and our neighbors are experiencing in the Beauregard area is a “threat to justice everywhere.”
For decades, the Beauregard neighborhood has been a welcoming place for families to make a home. This tree-filled valley in Alexandria’s West End is home to a unique multicultural community that my family and many others cherish. Indeed 70 percent of our neighbors are Asian, African, Latino and African-American.
The 10,000 Alexandrians who live in this neighborhood include those who built this city and provide the services that make it run. My wife and I clean homes. My neighbors drive the taxis that take you home from the airport; cook your meals and wash dishes in your favorite restaurants; build your homes and office buildings; pave the roads you drive on; file your papers; take you blood pressure; and provide care for your children and grandparents. Our tax dollars help fill the public treasury. In short, we help make Alexandria a great city.
But too many of my neighbors have been forced out of this community. Others work two or even three jobs to afford to stay here and provide a good future for their children. Our landlord, JBG, is destroying one of the most affordable and diverse neighborhoods in Alexandria. JBG isn’t waiting for the bulldozers, which will demolish 2,475 homes to make way for a new development of hotels, shops and luxury apartments. It is driving out families by increasing rent and utility charges by hundreds of dollars a month for many residents.
City leaders tell us that JBG has promised that eventually — sometime over the next 25 years or so — 12 percent of the units in the new development will be affordable.
But that’s not enough, and it comes too late.
Meanwhile, will JBG completely drive working people and people of color out of Alexandria’s Beauregard neighborhood? Surely that’s the kind of injustice that Dr. King struggled against throughout his life.
Will Mayor Bill Euille and the new city council allow this injustice to continue or will they stand up to save a vibrant, multicultural community? Our leaders should work with JBG to stabilize rents at fair rates and create an enforceable plan that guarantees affordable housing for all residents.
We envision a Beauregard in 30 years that is a thriving, diverse neighborhood that includes our children and grandchildren. We invite Mr. Michael Glosserman of JBG, Mayor Euille, and city councilors to make this dream a reality. Only then will justice be done.
Hector Pineda is a longtime resident of the Beauregard neighborhood. He is president of the Beauregard Tenants Association and a member of Tenants and Workers United.