District officials and Langston Terrace community members recently celebrated the life’s work of Janice Wade McCree.
District of Columbia Housing Authority Executive Director Adrianne Todman was joined by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Council members Phil Mendelson and Kenyan McDuffie, and McCree’s friends, family and colleagues on Friday, December 6 to unveil the newly named Janice Wade McCree Community Center at Langston.
“We lost our biggest advocate and player for our community,” said Marilyn Wheaton, reading from a statement by fellow resident, Shirley Richardson.
Todman said one of the last times she and McCree worked together was on the 75th anniversary of Langston Terrace, the second public housing project built in the United States and the first in D.C.
“We shared not just the beauty of the buildings, but the spirit of this community,” Todman said.
“Public housing across the country is under attack. The federal government is stepping back from its priorities…and it is a tragedy,” she said. “This is about Ms. McCree, but it is also about all of us. We need to keep her mission, her agenda alive.”
McCree, who died December 2012 at 67 years old, was a community activist in the historic Northeast community where she lived and raised her family for 55 years. A proponent of education, McCree regularly spoke out for new opportunities and testified on behalf of her neighbors and their children.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray said McCree was not only an advocate for education, but an advocate for “decent housing for all.”
If more affordable housing opportunities are not put in place in the District, “this will become a city that is impossible to many,” Gray said. The mayor asked residents to honor McCree’s value within the community and “stand up for those same principles.”
McCree was often recognized for her advocacy for both Ward 5 and the Langston Terrace community, where she served as resident council president for 20 years. Most recently, the D.C. Council posthumously honored her “exceptional service and commitment to the District of Columbia” in February.
“You didn’t have to wonder what was on her mind,” said Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie. “She made it real clear what she was thinking.”
Council President Phil Mendelson said McCree was not afraid to call him for help with any kind of project at Langston.
“It was not just the property, it was the people. It was not just the people, it was the safety. It was not just the safety, it was the kids,” Mendelson said. “It is rare for people to really care and she was out there advocating.”
She organized dinners and errand runs for senior citizens. McCree could be seen all over the Langston Dwellings with her cane, supplying hugs for the children. She coordinated church services and Bible study for her neighbors who couldn’t make it to church. She worked to get a playground and other after school programs for the young people.
McCree’s niece, Tiara Routh, said her aunt was a great example for young women and was an inspiration to her. Thanks to McCree’s work, Routh finished high school and is seeking to further her education.
Joe Harris, Anacostia Community Outreach Center director, who often works in the community center at 701 24th St. N.E., called McCree a champion in making sure public housing residents got the best services.
“We are family and that is what Ms. McCree worked for,” Harris said. “Her legacy will be a part of the rich fabric of Langston.”