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Vincent Gray

Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh released a set of joke budget items in a memo Monday. Hatchet File Photo

Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh has a few ideas for the city’s budget before it sees a vote Tuesday.

Among Cheh’s proposals, released in a spoof memo Monday, is a $12 million rat sanctuary, named after herself, that would allow rodents to “live together in peace and without fear of being exterminated.”

She also called for a tracking system that would force individuals to wear “District-loyalty” ankle bracelets and a resident relocation fund that would subsidize disgruntled residents’ moves outside the city.

The council member floated ideas like adding Starbucks to government buildings in a similar spoof memo in 2010.

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The National Cherry Blossom Festival, typically a two-week celebration, will last one month this year to honor the 100-year anniversary of Japan's gift to the District. Hatchet File Photo

National Park Service horticulturalists predicted that the city’s cherry blossom trees will hit peak bloom a week after students return from spring break.

This year’s bloom schedule outlines March 24 to 31 as the peak period – when 70 percent or more of the flowers are open – for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrating its centennial with a five-week lineup of events.

Japan gifted the blooming trees, planted along the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial, to the District in 1912. The festival has in other years been a two-week affair.

Mayor Vincent Gray expects the month-long festival to draw in $200 million for the District next year, according to the Washington Business Journal. This is higher than the average $126 million the activities usually garner.

An opening ceremony to kick off the festival’s centennial is scheduled for March 25. The second annual Blossom Kite Festival will take place March 31 and the annual parade of floats, balloons and marching bands will progress April 14 down Constitution Avenue.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Meagan Murphy.

GW’s African Student Association brought African culture to life Saturday at the annual “Taste of Africa” event, hosted in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom.

With the help of guest speakers and colorful performances, the event showcased the evolution of African culture through this year’s theme, “Bridging the Gap: Connecting the Past to the Present.”

The night opened with a skit, which was followed by a traditional African drum performance by local musician Jali-D. A fashion show featured student models wearing vibrant African dresses and the musical talents of guitarist Seph Ade and rappers Jay Cube and Psean animated the crowd.

“[Tonight’s meant] to show a mix in the culture, listen to some substantive lyrics and hopefully enjoy the beats and the rhythms,” Jali-D said.

Ngozi Nmezi, executive director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs, spoke about the challenges faced by African immigrants in the D.C. area as well as the many resources Mayor Vincent Gray’s office seeks to provide for them.

Chantelle Abdul, managing partner at TEG Media Group, spoke about the abundant resource potential and entrepreneurial spirit that is waiting to be harnessed in Africa.

African Student Association President Oluwasikemi Epemolu looked to the future of Africa, calling attention to the strength, unity and pride that characterize its people.

“This is a celebration of African culture and the beauty of our culture,” said Epemolu.

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Greg Upwall, Hua “Lily” Qin, Yavar Moghimi, Erika Rydberg, Jatryce Jackson and Jason Wilder Evans stand on stage in Jack Morton Auditorium to accept the "Washington's Best Film Award" for their documentary film "Released to Life." Becky Crowder | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Correction appended

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rachel Milkovich

Eights alumni were awarded praise from the District’s mayor today for their work on a documentary on ex-convicts’ search for employment.

Presenters awarded the Washington’s Best Film Award to the alumni of the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking, a program within the School of Media and Public Affairs, for their film “Released to Life.”

The documentary follows the struggle of ex-offenders in D.C. as they find work and define themselves in society.

The event was presided over by Mayor Vincent Gray and founder and chairman of SnagFilms Ted Leonsis.

“This contest is the first of many that will highlight the incredible talent that exists here in our nation’s capital,” Gray said. “I congratulate these extraordinary young filmmakers on successfully tackling such an important topic and being a shining example for budding filmmakers all over the District.”

The filmmakers are Jason Wilder Evans, Jatryce Jackson, Kripa Koshy, Yavar Moghimi, Hua “Lily” Qin, Erika Rydberg, Rebecca Taylor and Greg Upwall.

Leonsis said he encourages the idea of “filmanthropy” – social responsibility of film and “films that pursue the double bottom line.”

Following the screening of the film was a question and answer panel with experts in the area of offender rehabilitation, including one of the film’s subjects, Eric Weaver, who served 22 years in prison. Weaver was able to find a job by receiving a degree from the University of the District of Columbia, through a program for incarcerated felons which no longer exists.

“Released to Life” can be viewed on, a database created with over 3,000 free, award-winning documentaries and independent films.

This post was updated on February 2, 2012 to reflect the following:
Based on inaccurate information from the University’s media relations department, The Hatchet incorrectly referred to the award-winners as students. In fact, they are alumni of GW.

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Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 11:00 a.m.

D.C. celebrates the Chinese New Year

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Roxanne Goldberg.

D.C. residents and visitors alike lined H Street Sunday to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

The crowded stretch of Chinatown came alive with dancers, kung fu demonstrations, floats and traditional Chinese food at the Chinese New Year Parade.

Hosted by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, an organization comprising 30 Chinese-American organizations across the metropolitan area, the parade was expected to attract 40,000 attendees and reach another 40 million through a nationwide televised broadcast.

Marking the lunar year 4710, the annual parade welcomed the Year of the Black Water Dragon. According to Chinese astrology, the Year of the Dragon is a time for grand change and prosperity.

“When you talk about prosperity, when you talk about leadership, when you talk about the Year of the Dragon, you are talking about an opportunity to continue to shine and to make 2012 a year never to be forgotten,” D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown said.

The parade allowed Chinese attendees to honor their heritage with friends and family on the sacred day.

Celebrated around the world, the Chinese New Year commemorates the story of Nian, a monster whose terrorizing of an ancient Chinese village came to an end after the townspeople realized Nian’s fear of the color scarlet and loud noises.

“When the people painted red on their doors and made loud noises with firecrackers, Nian ran from the village and never came back. So, every year they do the parade to make sure that Nian would never come back,” said 10-year-old Jacob Graham, who learned about the Chinese New Year at the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School.

D.C.’s Chinese New Year parade is significant not only for the people of China, but also for the city of D.C.

“We know there have been a lot of changes in our city in recent years, especially in this area with the building of the Verizon Center and all the changes along 7th Street and Gallery Place, but what has not changed, and what hopefully will not change, is the presence of Chinatown as an awarding cultural center here in the District of Columbia,” Mayor Vincent Gray said during the festivities.

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This report was written by Hatchet staff writer Jeff Richards

The University again honored newly inaugurated Mayor Vincent Gray at an on-campus breakfast Thursday morning, where the mayor lauded the changes GW has undergone since his years on campus.

Gray described for GW administrators, students and local community members his time at the University in the early 1960s and how it shaped his life during the small breakfast.

He talked about being the first African-American student to rush GW’s fraternities when most of the Greek life organizations on campus were still segregated.

“This is not the George Washington University that I came to as a freshman,” Gray said. “This was a very different place at the time.”

Gray’s parents did not graduate from high school or attend a university, and his father worked two jobs.

“They wanted their kids to do better,” Gray said. “They saw me coming to George Washington University and getting a degree from this university as doing better.”

Gray’s view of GW wasn’t always positive, as he noted the difficult social experiences he had his freshman year.

“I realized as I thought about it,” he said, “if I walk away from this experience, I will probably walk away from every difficult experience in my life thereafter, and I decided to stay.”

Gray talked about his fraternity of Tau Epsilon Phi as being a “great group of people,” and he acknowledged the brothers that were in the audience. By his junior year, Gray had become the chancellor of TEP.

“Life-long relationships evolved from that experience,” Gray said.

Before Gray spoke, D.C. Council Member Jack Evans of Ward 2 talked about the projects that he and Gray worked on together throughout their 20-year friendship.

Evans and Gray worked together to find acceptable housing for the homeless of D.C. in the early 1990s.

“I think that first interaction I had with Vince really said to me what a decent and humane person he was, and someone who could really get things done,” Evans said.

Both President Steven Knapp and President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg were in attendance.

“Mayor Gray, it was very much our honor to have that opportunity to honor you, both your extraordinary public achievements and belatedly for your role as civil rights pioneer within the University,” Knapp said during the ceremony

Gray also praised Trachtenberg – who served on Gray’s transition team – and GW for reaching out to local high schools and providing them with resources. GW has made scholarships available to students throughout the D.C. area and allows students at a high school on G Street, the School Without Walls, to take classes at GW.

“It certainly is heartwarming to me to see this being done by the University, which I graduated from,” Gray said.

Gray was also recognized earlier this month by the University  when GW brought members of his undergraduate intramural basketball team in the Smith Center during a men’s basketball game Jan. 5.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010 10:24 p.m.

District Roundup-Week of April 5

Obama pitches for the Nationals

On Monday President Barack Obama not only participated in the White House Easter Egg Roll, but he threw the first pitch at Nationals Park for Opening Day. DCist has the details on the event, and for those who didn’t get to miss class or work for the game, check out video of the President’s pitch. Unfortunately for the home team, the Phillies beat the Nationals 11-1. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first presidential Opening Day pitch, which was thrown by President William Howard Taft in 1910.

Vincent Gray allegations cleared up

On Wednesday, complaints concerning GW alumnus and current D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray were dimissed by the Office of Campaign Finance, Washington City Paper reported. Gray recently announced he’s running for mayor, but questions were raised previously over his use of a major city developer for repairs on his home and a letter Gray sent to Comcast in 2008 using D.C. Council stationery. The inquiry found that Gray paid fair market value for the repairs and that his requesting Comcast’s support of D.C. voting rights was within his duties as chairman.

Supreme Court justice announces retirement

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire this summer. The search is now on for the next judge to sit on the country’s highest court. Stevens is the longest-serving member of the court and a liberal. This will be the second nomination to the Supreme Court for President Obama, after selecting Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter last year. The New York Times has profiles of possible candidates to replace Stevens.

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