About Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA)
Southwest has a rich history of civic engagement. The Assembly's direct predecessor organization, the Southwest Citizens' Association, which was found in 1886 was known to be one of the most active associations of its type in the city. Meanwhile, an all-black Southwest Civic Association emerged and focused on Southwest's substantial black population.
When Southwest's built environment was redeveloped in the mid 20th century, a group of prominent citizens lead by Neal Pierce decided it was important to reshape Southwest's social environment. Resting on the principles of openness and inclusiveness, this group established the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly in 1963. To jump-start their efforts, they started the Southwester newspaper and created task forces that focused on several issues: including, education, health and welfare, recreation and employment. Neal Pierce recounted this formative period in a recent Assemly meeting.
The Assembly eventually determined a Southwest community center would best advance its goals. To facilitate the process, they formed a companion organization, the Southwest Community Council. The Council's board featured many prominent civic leaders including Walter Washington community center, who would later become D.C.'s first African-American mayor, Charles Horsky, a distinguished advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Ravitch, a successful developer who later chaired New York City 's transit agency.
< Although the Council's efforts ultimately were unsuccessful, one outgrowth of the Council's work was the annual 1964 Festival of the Arts, which provided our momentum for the newly reborn community. These founding members also published the "Southwest Guide (24.9 MB)" in 1965 that served as a remarkable introduction to the new Southwest.
As we continue the development of this website, we welcome you to come back and visit this page for updates on the Assembly as they become available.