Our work in the community

The Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force

TAskforce meeting at ECACThe ECAC is a founding member of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, a community group that formed in December 2009 in response to the redevelopment of Georgia Avenue from New Hampshire Avenue to S Street. Our goal is to ensure the community is informed and has a strong voice in this process. Our efforts are leading to a Community-Based Development Plan that will ensure our opinions are factored into the current city plans, the Howard University Campus Plan, and new development. We also seek to strengthen the small business community so that Georgia Avenue can meet more of the needs of the residents. Over 300 stakeholders have been actively involved in the GACDTF by attending meetings or volunteering. You can download a Two-Year Report of the Task Force Activities.

Accomplishments of the GACDTF to date are:

  • Met twice monthly since January 2010 to study existing plans on Georgia Avenue, survey the community,  plan a Community Review and hear community stakeholders present their issues and concerns.

  • Maintained a mailing list of over 700 residents, business owners and stakeholders on Georgia Avenue who have an interest in working together to ensure community ideas are a part of new development.

  • Contacted owners of the more than 70 vacant properties on Georgia Avenue to involve them in the process of visioning the community.

  • people washing salad for a community event

    Distributed over 8,000 surveys door to door  and online during March and April seeking the community’s input on the types of housing, retail and public services they wanted to see come to Georgia Avenue. The report with the results is available to download.

  • Held a Community Review at the Howard University School of Architecture where over 100 people attended a day long sessions to discuss ideas and issues on Georgia Avenue.

ECAC Director Sylvia Robinson co-facilitates the Task Force, and the ECAC has hosted many of the Task Force meetings. 

The Pleasant Plains Neighborhood Network

ECAC continually finds ways to empower the residents of Pleasant Plains to create a vision for their community, and to communicate this vision to those seeking to redevelop the neighborhood. Although much of the focus has been on Columbia Heights, the Georgia Avenue corridor is considered the next frontier for redevelopment with many major projects underway. ECAC's goal is to reunite and reestablish the voice of the community leaders in this process. This is a natural extension of ECAC's role in the community. Since 2006 we have been a voice of the community through our activities. We have a strong presence in the Pleasant Plains Civic Association, ANC 1A and 1B meetings, Howard University Community Association meetings, and MentoringWorks2 Community meetings, and we promote our activities door-to-door monthly to at least 300 neighbors, and weekly via email to over 2,500 people. Building on our previous outreach efforts and relationships with businesses and nonprofits, we are establishing a network of residents and business owners that can be informed and active in the community.

In June of 2009, ECAC partnered with Mentoring Works 2, who works with the youth in the community, the Pleasant Plains Civic Association which has been active since 1921 and Sankofa Video and Books, a significant cultural bookstore, café, and entertainment venue, to create a neighborhood network and newsletter. This monthly publication, the “Pleasant Plains Neighborhood Network News” features articles on neighborhood events, volunteer opportunities, neighborhood history, environmental concerns, youth perspectives and civic issues. Future plans include business advertisements and web presence. ECAC will use this forum to educate the community about history and environmental concerns, new development, volunteer opportunities, social events and civic meetings. Feel free to download the electronic version of our first issue, distributed door to door to 1,500 households during the week of August 17th with volunteer help from American University.

The Georgia Avenue/Pleasant Plains Heritage Trail

people washing salad for a community eventHaving researched and documented the building's heritage, ECAC wanted to extend the research into the neighborhood of Pleasant Plains. Inspired by the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail, we approached Cultural Tourism DC in the summer of 2007 requesting a heritage trail for Georgia Avenue from the Shaw to the Petworth Metro Stations. A Heritage Trail is a self guided walking trail based on a set of signs installed in public spaces forming a walkable route. The signs lead visitors through a neighborhood along a route that can be walked in 90-120 minutes, a distance of typically two miles. A trail comes with two summary booklets, one in English and one in Spanish, intended for free distribution by businesses and institutions along the route. Cultural Tourism DC has initiated a process for the creation of the trails. The first step of this process involves the community in the research and documentation.

ECAC received Neighborhood Investment Funds to purchase equipment and training to conduct video and audiotaped interviews of elder residents and business owners. Using middle school students, high school students, college students and residents, we conducted over a dozen interviews, capturing many fascinating stories about the neighborhood.

Decisions involving all aspects of the Georgia Avenue/Pleasant Plains (GAPP) Trail came from the monthly Community Working Group meetings held at ECAC. We made a significant effort each month to recruit neighbors and business owners to the meetings, and they were well attended. In June 2008 the trail moved into Phase II, where Cultural Tourism hires a historian to continue the research and draft the signs.

The GAPP Trail launched in October of 2011 and highlights the history of Georgia Ave., points on Sherman Ave and 6th St and Howard University. We feel that the history of this area contributed greatly to the development of businesses, education, and activism for African-Americans and other cultures as well. Almost 700 volunteer hours went into the development of the trail which shows a significant commitment from the community. Take time to walk the trail, beginning at Sign 1 at the Shaw/Howard University Metro Station at 7th and S St.

The Summer Heritage Program

Building on the research collected for the GAPP Heritage Trail, ECAC received funding from the Humanities Council of Washington DC to conduct one day workshops for children ages 5-12 to teach them local history and the African Brazilian martial artform of Capoeira Angola. Both of these workshops highlight very important aspects of learning for young children. Recognizing the sites of historical interest gives children more consciousness about their surroundings. Many of the children recognized the places they saw in the history presentation, but did not know that anything significant happened there. As part of the workshop the children did artwork about the history they learned which further reinforced their connections.

The Capoeira Angola sessions held in the afternoon connected the children to traditional African culture through movement, music and singing. Capoeira Angola is a traditional African art brought to Brazil with the slave trade, and practiced in secret until the 1930s. Learning the artform exposes children not only to the acrobatic movement and singing, but also to the aspects of community that are required as part of the artform.

We conducted 10 sessions during the summer of 2009, reaching almost 200 children. The artwork was truly inspiring, and all of the groups shared how much they learned from these workshops.

Howard University/Community Technical Assistance Projects

people washing salad for a community eventWorking in collaboration with Dr. Ernest Quimby, Sociology professor at Howard University, ECAC has participated in his Community Technical Assistance Project (CTAP) for the past three semesters. Recognizing the need for students to experience the community outside of the classroom, Dr. Quimby began CTAP in several years ago as a way to make meaningful connections between Howard University and neighborhoods in the city. In January 2008, he offered ECAC assistance in conducting research on the Georgia Avenue/Pleasant Plains Heritage Trail. His class was assigned to research points on the trail and to make a formal presentation at ECAC at the end of the semester. The presentations were videotaped and audiotaped, and much of their work was adapted for the GAPP Trail website. The students also took the training for the interview team, and helped conduct interviews of the elder residents and business owners.

In the Fall of 2008, our collaboration with Howard University continued with further research into the demographics of the Pleasant Plains neighborhood. Students compiled qualitative and quantitative data in areas such as jobs, education, and crime. Their final presentations have become part of ECAC's initiative to compile a comprehensive neighborhood profile.

In January 2009, Dr Quimby's students, in collaboration with ECAC, compiled profiles of individual Pleasant Plains businesses, non-profits, and schools. Through photos, interviews and research they provided ECAC with comprehensive data that will be used in a future project to create a CD-ROM about Pleasant Plains.

The ECAC/CTAP collaboration represents a significant bridge between Howard University students and the community that will ultimately improve long term relationships. Through CTAP, Howard students learned about the history and significant resources in the neighborhood that they had not been exposed to. Business owners had an opportunity to interact with students in a positive way. Our relationship with Howard University continues as we prepare for Fall 2009. During this semester, we will examine and document the relationship between Howard University and the community.


December 8, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was awarded the Washington Peace Center’s Activist Award for 2011

October 4, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited to speak at the Making Money Make Change conference in Baltimore, MD on her experience with the Diverse City Fund.

August 5, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited to speak at the Woolly Mammoth Theater’s presentation of the play Clybourne Park about gentrification of a Chicago neighborhood.  Ms. Robinson described her experiences with the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force and her efforts to give residents a stronger voice in the development process.

April 27, 2011: Sylvia Robinson presented at Career Day at the Charles Flowers High School in Prince Georges County.  She impressed upon the students the need to feed their spirit in jobs that were not always easy but would in the long run be very rewarding. 

March 22, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited to present to an Architecture class at Howard University on the work of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force and the history of the Georgia Avenue corridor.

March 8, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited as a guest on WPFW’s Voices with Vision

February 18, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited to Catholic University to present to an Architecture class on the history of the Georgia Avenue corridor and current issues affecting the community.

March 3, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited to a Banneker High School ssembly to present the history of the women in the community.

February 19, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was invited to the National Association of Colored Women to discuss the work of the ECAC and the historical connections between the ECAC and the NACW.

February 13, 2011: Sylvia Robinson was awarded the "A. Phillip Randolph Organizing for Empowerment"

January 27, 2011: ECAC honored 11 women in the community for dedicated service at the first annual In Her Honor fundraiser.


March 22, 2010: Sylvia Robinson presented the history of the Pleasant Plains neighborhood to students at Banneker High School.

February 25, 2010: Sylvia Robinson and Jenny Masur from the Underground Railroad Project presented the life of Elizabeth Keckley and the history of the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children to students at Banneker High School.


December 9, 2009: Sylvia Robinson was a speaker for the Neighbor Works Training Institute session on Leading with Spirit: Combining Leadership Development and Spirituality.  In this workshop she shared her experiences creating the ECAC from her inner vision and spiritual guidance.

November 4, 2009: Director Sylvia Robinson participated in Howard University’s Middle States Accreditation process as a community collaborator.

October 21, 2009: Director Sylvia Robinson was invited to give a talk at Howard University’s Freshman Seminar on neighborhood history. 

August 20, 2009: ECAC was the site of the US Department of the Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund's award announcement of over $22 million to 55 depository institutions for serving economically distressed communities across the nation. The awards are being made though the fiscal year 2009 round of the Bank Enterprise Award (BEA) program. ECAC is the recipient of a loan from City First Bank, which qualified City First for the BEA program. ECAC was honored to host CDFI Fund Director Donna Gambrell, City First Bank President Dorothy Bridges, and a number of CDFI Fund and City First executives. During the brief ceremony, City First Bank was awarded a check for $700,000 from the CDFI Fund.

July 31, 2009: ECAC was invited to participate in a focus group for the Baltimore-Washington Regional Nonprofit Racial Diversity Collaborative as part of their efforts to create effective strategies which will attract, develop and retain racially diverse leaders in the region.

June 25, 2009: ECAC served as a model organization for the Fifth Annual Faculty Conference on Entrepreneurship at Howard University. This event is directed primarily to HBCU faculty members across the country and seeks to expose them to the diverse principles, thoughts and experiences of successful entrepreneurs in a variety of disciplines. Over 100 faculty members convened at Howard University to exchange ideas, strategies, and methodologies to promote entrepreneurship education.

March 21, 2009: Director Sylvia Robinson and Dr. Ernest Quimby of Howard University presented a paper at the First Urban Transformation Conference at American University on Preserving a Community in the Context of Gentrification. We presented our ongoing research and strategy for using asset-based community development to reduce the impact of gentrification in the Pleasant Plains neighborhood.

February 23, 2009: Director Sylvia Robinson and Jenny Masur from the Underground Railroad Project presented the history of Elizabeth Keckley and the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children to two history classes at Banneker High School.

October 13, 2008: Director Sylvia Robinson presented the ECAC philosophy at the Soka-Gakkai International Peace Exhibit at the George Washington University Marvin Center. This exhibit, sponsored by the SGI (a Buddhist organization) and GWU, included photographs of children living in war zones, memorable quotations on peace and a list of goals that society needs to meet in order to achieve peace. Ms. Robinson presented to a group of adults and children the work ECAC was doing to promote peace in the world.