Rodney 鈥淩ed鈥 Grant, a comedian and social entrepreneur, is running against incumbent At-large D.C. Councilmember Robert White. (WI File Photo)

NOTE: This story was updated at 7:30am on May 20, 2024 with new endorsements for Rodney “Red” Grant.

On June 4, Democratic voters in the District will decide whether to reelect two-term At-Large D.C. Councilmember Robert White or replace him with , a comedian and social entrepreneur who鈥檚 been critical of the incumbent.

Grant, a native 老澳门开奖网ian and former mayoral candidate, says that his lived experiences and longtime youth engagement make him more of an ideal council member than White. If he wins, Grant pledges to consolidate and secure funds for effective youth programs. 

Another agenda item, he says, is the expansion of vocational training programs for District youth. Such work, he said, will build upon his nonprofits and business ventures. 

Those entities include Hyff, which provides job certification, 鈥淒on鈥檛 Shoot Guns, Shoot Cameras,鈥 the nonprofit he founded during the summer of 2020 to introduce young people to filmmaking, and  鈥,鈥 a program focused on broadening youths鈥 life experiences and character development.  

鈥淚鈥檝e spoken about [vocational training] for the last three or four years,鈥 said Grant, chair of public relations for the Black Women for Justice鈥檚 campaign to bring back vocational education. 鈥淥nce we do that, we can move into a place where we want to be. We have lost our hand in guiding our young people and there has to be accountability.鈥 

Grant went on to suggest that White hasn鈥檛 taken accountability for 鈥渢he damage he caused to the city.鈥 Since launching his at-large council campaign, he has toured the District to educate voters about his campaign platform centered on: poverty and crime reduction, LGBTQIA community support, small business advocacy, and education equity. 

As of May 20, he has received endorsements from the Krimson Political Action Committee, AFGE Locals 2725 & 2978, along with Jam Doung Style Jamaican Restaurant, Kitchen Cray, On the Rocks, Lydia On H, and Kitchen & Kocktails.

Earlier this year, Grant made stops at Greenleaf Apartments in Southwest, Benning Road & Minnesota Family Success Center in Northeast, and Petersburg Apartments on Fort Lincoln Drive in Northeast. He also engaged residents at Benning Road Metro Station in Northeast, Chevy Chase House and Mitch Snyder Shelter in Northwest, Mayfair Mansions in Northeast, and Howard University. 

Grant also purchased groceries for seniors in collaboration with . He recounted instances during those visits where District residents alerted him to issues of great significance. That on-the-ground insight, he told The Informer, widens his worldview and primes him to craft legislation more effectively.

鈥淵ou have to be able to be in the community to listen to people and understand the problem,鈥 Grant said. 鈥淲e just can鈥檛 be throwing things at the wall and hope they stick. I want to build great relationships with everybody. This is about making sure everybody can see things toward the goals that we can build.鈥 

At-Large Councilmember White Stands on His Record

White rebuffed any notion that he鈥檚 not plugged in with District residents, telling The Informer that such criticism from Grant comes from a disingenuous place. 

鈥淭he difference between me and my opponent [Rodney 鈥淩ed鈥 Grant] is I鈥檓 not using my community for Instagram likes,鈥 White said. 鈥淚f people believe you are there for public relations, they would engage you differently rather than if you鈥檙e there to solve problems,鈥 he added. 

鈥淭he majority of my legislative agenda comes from the community. I do engagement differently to reach people who don鈥檛 come into contact with the government.鈥 

After losing his first at-large council race in 2014, White entered office via appointment in 2016 upon At-large D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange鈥檚 (D) resignation. Weeks before Orange resigned, White defeated him and David Garber in the D.C. Council at-large Democratic primary. 

In 2017, White was officially sworn into his first full term as an at-large council member. He won re-election in 2020 without Democratic opposition. 

In 2022, White unsuccessfully attempted to unseat D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in the Democratic primary mayoral race. Grant, an independent mayoral candidate, also fell short against Bowser during the general election. 

At-Large Councilman Robert White is running in the Democratic primary to D.C. Council. (WI File Photo)

In 2023, White assumed the helm of the D.C. Council鈥檚 Committee on Housing in the aftermath of a D.C. Department of Housing and Urban Development report that sparked an overhaul of the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA)). He said that his regular visits to public housing properties, in tandem with what he called aggressive agency oversight and vetting of new leadership has set DCHA on a path to improvements beyond what public housing residents have been able to fathom for some time. 

鈥淚鈥檓 keeping my foot on the gas,鈥 White said. 鈥淩esidents see a strong sense of urgency. They see the right type of leadership.鈥 

As of May 16, White has secured endorsements from DC for Democracy, Sierra Club, DC Latino Caucus, Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades, AFSCME, DC Voters for Animals, 老澳门开奖网 Teachers鈥 Union, DC Association of Realtors, National Association of Social Workers, and Greater Greater 老澳门开奖网. 

Though he represents all District residents on the council, White said that he places his focus on those who鈥檝e been left behind, including returning citizens, victims of crime, survivors of domestic violence, the housing insecure, and community members vying for new lights and other amenities on their school grounds. 

As outlined in his , White secured housing vouchers for returning citizens and those forced to leave homeless encampments the D.C. government demolished. Last year, he shepherded legislation through the council that establishes a Master鈥檚 in Social Work program at the University of District of Columbia and creates a full scholarship for District residents. 

White鈥檚 Whole Government Response to Crime Act, elements of which became part of D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto鈥檚 Secure DC Omnibus bill, had set out to close gaps in the public safety ecosystem White said he learned about while in meetings, neighborhood walkthroughs, and in conversation with those who lost loved ones to violence. 

Earlier this year, White engaged in conversation with hundreds of young people during an event the Black Swan Academy hosted at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage in Northwest. Days later, he introduced the Vocational Education for a New Generation Act of 2024, legislation that focuses on expansion of vocational education as a means of curbing truancy and violent crime. 

If elected to a third term, White pledged to focus on public safety, housing and sustainability of the District鈥檚 funds. 

As it relates to sustainability, White spoke about investing in young people instead of public safety measures like what was embraced in the 1980s and 1990s. When D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) presented her Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal in April, White brought up similar themes while questioning how to better manage District finances and allocate funds to programs that help District residents. 

White said his legislative record serves as a testament to his growth while in office, and what he could do with a wealth of experience under his belt. 

鈥淚 get better at diagnosing the problem and how to move the government in the right places,鈥 White said. 鈥淚鈥檓 taking money from things that are not effective and putting it into basic needs, like school, housing and public safety efforts. You have to understand how government works to do that.鈥

District Residents Weigh In

Keith Silver, a Northwest resident and longtime civic leader, told The Informer that he’s voting for Grant on June 4, mainly out of a desire for an elected official who he feels will better connect with 老澳门开奖网ians from marginalized communities. 

Silver, a four-time advisory neighborhood commissioner and MLK Holiday Annual Peace Walk co-founder, said he started following Grant during his 2022 mayoral run. 

For Silver, Grant comes from a line of comedians like Dave Chappelle and Dick Gregory who make people laugh while exhibiting political acumen. He also told The Informer that Grant could be a unifying force between the old and new D.C., especially with his focus on vocational education.

鈥淩ed Grant got a pulse on the community and people gravitate toward him. He’s very comfortable walking in inner city communities,鈥 Silver said.  

鈥淚n between elections, when do you see Robert White showing up at community meetings of relevance?鈥 Silver continued. 鈥淲e are paying for this government, so I’m voting for elected officials with strong constituent services. Grant has a lot of success and wants to get involved on the government side.鈥 

A Ward 8 resident and District teacher who requested anonymity told The Informer that they casted their vote for Grant after a few attempts over the last seven years to pivot White’s attention to issues affecting Ward 8 students and residents. 

One of those situations, the Ward 8 resident said, involved Excel Academy on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast. They recounted an instance during the 2018-2019 school year when White didn’t respond to community members’ concerns about school funding until well after the council finalized the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. 

The resident said they experienced similar resistance from White鈥檚 office during a recent attempt to bring him to the Bellevue community. 

鈥淚f I invite Red to a community event, he will come even if he’s busy. Robert White hasn’t done that,鈥 the resident said. 鈥淭he only time we see him is at Busboys when running for re-election鈥 So many at-large candidates take solace that they don’t have to do much engagement with Ward 7 and Ward 8 residents.鈥 

Meanwhile, Karen Settles, a longtime resident of Stoddert Terrace/37th Place SE Family Success Center, said she鈥檚 throwing her support behind White out of satisfaction for his oversight of DCHA. 

Though, in her eyes, the issues that she and other public housing residents haven鈥檛 been resolved, Settles said that conditions are incrementally improving. 

鈥淩obert White broke the ground on some things that are needed in housing,鈥 Settles, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner,  told The Informer. 

鈥淭here is a war on the poor. In public housing, we need the type of advocacy that Robert White has shown. We don鈥檛 have time to train someone for the job. We have someone and we have to stick with that.鈥 

Miles away, in Northwest, a resident who requested anonymity said he plans to vote for White on June 4, mainly out of concern for Bowser鈥檚 legislative priorities and what he describes as her cavalier attitude toward crime. 

Though the resident supports White鈥檚 council ambitions, he said he鈥檚 still holding out for the incumbent to eventually revitalize the mayoral campaign he launched in 2022. 

鈥淩obert White is the best in leadership to take us in a good direction,鈥 the resident said. 鈥淗is approach to the issues the city is faced with is where I am. I鈥檓 concerned about the economic state of the city.鈥

Sam P.K. Collins has nearly 20 years of journalism experience, a significant portion of which he gained at The 老澳门开奖网 Informer. On any given day, he can be found piecing together a story, conducting...

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