In July, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser assembled a new committee tasked with reviewing the names of government-owned properties for ties to oppression of Black people. Yesterday, the committee released its report, which includes recommendations to rename or contextualize over fifty properties throughout the city.
The committee, the District of Columbia Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES), focused its recommendations on three categories of government-owed assets: living, learning, and leisure environments, public spaces, and commemorative works. The working group assessed whether the namesakes of these spaces participated in the oppression of Black people, participated in slavery, were involved in systemic racism, or violated the DC Human Rights Act. The group selected sixty-five total sites to be either renamed, removed, or contextualized.
DCFACES also released recommendations for dedicating new public works to better reflect the values of the city. The report indicates that new names should prioritize women, people of color, and LGBTQ people from Washington DC. The committee revealed that seventy percent of the city’s properties are named for white men. Further, many of these namesakes never lived within the district.
Richard Reyes-Gavilan, chairperson of the committee, said that much of the committee’s work was done in collaboration with the community. “We started this process by listening to residents. A vast majority of the people we heard from agreed that the District should take action on public namesakes that are inconsistent with our DC values. But we didn’t just hear from residents about what they don’t like; we also heard from residents about people they would like to see honored in our city,” Reyes-Gavilan said in a statement.
Right-wing commentators and politicians, including President Donald Trump, responded negatively to the committee’s report. Many misrepresented the recommendations and spread alarmist reports that the mayor was attempting to remove federal properties like the Washington Monument. In response, Mayor Bowser clarified the recommendations to reflect the committee’s focus on local DC properties.