Media & Communications Specialist
March 2017 - Present
The Millennial Hour
Co-Host and Producer
August 2015 - Present
AARP, Media Relations, Washington, D.C.
August 2015 - October 2016
National Public Radio (NPR), Race, Culture & Identity Unit, Washington, D.C.
December 2014 - May 2016
The Philanthropy Roundtable, Washington, D.C.
September 2014 - Dec. 2014
VPS Media Center, Beltsville, MD
Media Communications & Graphics Specialist
August 2013 - December 2013
Comptroller of Maryland Office of Communications, Annapolis, MD
July 2012 - May 2013
Master of Professional Studies, Journalism
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Bachelor of Arts, Media and Communication Studies
Minors: English, American Studies
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Microsoft Office, Adobe CS6 Suite, Windows Moviemaker, Final Cut Express, iMovie, Garageband, Adobe Premier, Adobe Experience Manager, Slack, Asana
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Beat Article Samples
Bike and coffee shop fusion is waking up DC’s bike culture
By: Ashley Edokpayi JULY 14, 2015
Chuck Harney misses competing. He glares out of the glass window in front of him with squinty eyes and a partial grin while reminiscing on the bike marathons he once raced in during the early 1990’s. Nowadays, his biggest competition lies in local java cafés and bustling bike shops rather than super-fit cyclists.
On a Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. when many DC professionals are en route to work on cramped Metro trains or stuck in dreadful I-295 traffic, Harney is making his rounds at his newly opened bike and coffee shop, The Bike Rack, in Brookland. One side of the shop is committed to nifty bikes and the other side to foreign espressos.
Opening this place had been his dream since 2009, and now it has come to life. But he says it wasn’t easy.
“We had to prove that this would work. We had to really brainstorm because this is a new thing in a new area, you know.”
The shop had its grand opening at the Monroe Street Market this past April. It is the first bike shop in the Brookland area of D.C., and the second bike shop/coffee bar hybrid in the city. The store logo, a blue bike plus an orange French coffee press equals a thumbs-up symbol, is plastered all throughout the freshly painted space, reminding customers of this supposedly match made in heaven.
Harney was nervous before opening day. He wasn’t sure what crowd the shop would bring out, or if it would bring any crowd at all. Even though he’s been a business owner for eight years now, trying something new made him apprehensive.
“We took a risk,” says Harney about him and his business partner Rasheed Jabr, the owner of Filter coffee house.
“We had an idea and look what it has become,” he says, gesturing his right hand towards the shop.
This two-in-one bike and coffee combo has been a success in big U.S. cities like Portland, San Francisco and Boston. Now it is becoming the new trend in DC, with a shop in Georgetown and now in Brookland.
Standing behind the counter, Harney is dressed in complete bike gear – riding gloves, a shiny black helmet, spandex shorts and shirt that reads ‘The Bike Rack’ in bolded blue and pink letters. Before walking across the store to get a small cup of black coffee from the morning barista, he chips in one of his employees fixing up a young lady’s bike.
“You should add a pop of color to that, trust me it’d look good.”
He likes being the boss.
Walking into the shops’ doors, customers are greeted by aromas of freshly poured cups of Sumatra and Colombian coffees and the faint sound of electric drills repairing the finest of bikes. Fresh pastries are placed neatly in a row on display, just like the bikes perched on the wall right across the room on metal racks.
Some stop by needing bike repairs, some for a good latte, and some come for both.
“I was craving a good latte this morning, so here I am,” says Brittani Brown, a new resident in the Brookland neighborhood.
Harney says hello to Brittani, then sits down on an orange bar stool with his coffee and begins talking about how the idea for the shop was born. “We were outside of another bike shop and started chatting about the idea of opening a place like this when a friend of mine working for Bozutto Development overheard us.”
After a lengthy battle with builders and city officials, the shop was able to open just in time for summer, and has been a success.
“We’ve seen it work in other cities, and so far so good here,” says Harney.
While The Bike Rack has introduced this hip bike and coffee duo to the northeast cyclist community, the shop also represents the changing Brookland neighborhood that has recently brought in a new crowd.
On opening day, the shop brought out all types of folks. Young couples with babies and small children, bike commuters and local college students, some of which have newly moved to Brookland. Now at two months in, the same traffic of customers has been pretty consistent.
“You’ve seen the demographic in this area change tremendously,” says Harney. Like many neighborhoods across D.C., Brookland is attracting hipsters. And The Bike Rack is fitting right in.
The first wave of Monroe street renovations brought in a Busboy’s and Poets, the Charles Bergen art gallery and an upgraded Dance Place studio. Now, with The Bike Rack settled alongside a sculpture store and across from two restaurant bars, the young, hip crowds will likely keep coming in. This is why Harney and Jabr chose this exact location.
“It’s funny, the developer said they were planning to use this space as a bike shop before we even had the idea and told him,” says Harney. “In a way, its like it was meant to be.”
Harney is simply doing what he loves, just in a different way. He has been a bike rider all his life – competing in races, triathlons and other competitions. Although this is a different side of the bike life, he is happy to offer his expertise on the business side of things.
After moving to D.C. in the early 90’s, he started bike commuting, and says that the number of bike commuters has increased by 500 percent since 1990. “People just don’t want to drive.” Currently in the city, five percent of all commuters ride bikes, which is nearly 15,000 people. With the number of riders on a steady rise, bike shops are needed now more than ever.
“We brought one to an area that literally had nothing,” says Harney.
The Bike Rack’s first location opened up in Logan Circle in 2007as a full-service bike repair shop with bicycles available for purchase. It was voted the best bike shop of 2014 by the Washington Post Express and was featured in the “Best of DC” in Washington City Paper.
The bike culture and community has been well embraced by the District. Capital Bikeshare and bike parking have made riding more convenient, and the creation of bike lanes and bike laws has brought a safer experience for both riders and drivers.
Although D.C. has made a good start at supporting riders, there is more that needs to be done.
Right outside The Bike Rack in Brookland, cars often speed down Monroe Street without knowing there are bike commuters in the area. Harney and Jabr talked with a liaison from the city mayor’s office on opening day about getting some bike signs and stop signs on the street, but no action has been yet made.
“He came back over a week ago asked if I needed anything and that was all I asked for, but no response yet,” he says. “It’s just unfortunate.”
Despite the issue with getting bike signs up, Harney is enthusiastic about what is to come for The Bike Rack in Brookland. This summer, he plans on installing lots of bike parking and café-style tables with seating outside for customers. Other developers have approached him and Jabr about opening up more bike and coffee hybrid shops, but he wants to focus on Brookland for now.
It’s almost time to close up. Two of Harney’s employees finish a few bike repairs while the evening barista rinses out some containers behind the coffee bar across the room and sets up the French presses for the next morning.
There is a rhythm here, albeit a nonconventional one. The sounds of drills and coffee grinders create their own melodic harmony that slowly dwindles down in the evening. Sometimes the smell of rubber or bike paint carries over to the coffee side, but not so much that it bothers anyone, and the strong fragrance of espresso sometimes lingers over to the bike side, keeping the workers alert throughout the
day. It all just works.
Yes, bikes and coffee are a thing, and for now it is here to stay.
Hyattsville law bans discrimination against transgender individuals
By: Ashley Edokpayi MAR. 3, 2014
Judy Moore has a simple morning routine before leaving her Hyattsville apartment each day. She packs her bag of notebooks and does a “wig check” in a gold-framed mirror beside her front door, a small ritual she has done since fully identifying herself as a female over a year ago. As she heads to her job at a clothing store in Montgomery Mall she feels a little better about her day knowing that Hyattsville law protects her gender identity.
“Sometimes I’ll switch up my wig at the last minute before leaving, it just depends on my mood,” said Moore, a 28-year-old transgender Hyattsville resident.
Moore moved to west Hyattsville last November from Olney, MD after searching for a city where she would feel comfortable publicly identifying herself as a transgender woman and avoid the issues she faced in her previous neighborhood.
Her move came a month before Hyattsville became the second Maryland city to ban discrimination on transgender individuals by introducing a new Human Rights Act—a law which declares it illegal for any sort of discriminatory conduct to occur based on factors such as ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and now gender identity.
“Knowing that this can protect me from any banter or discrimination is a reassuring feeling,” said Moore about the act which passed in December 2013.
City residents Shannon Weiss and Thomas Wright also moved to the area last fall after hearing word about the new Human Rights Act. “My girlfriend Katie and me love being a part of a diverse, progressive and accepting community and desire to be here for many years,” said Weiss who identifies as ‘gender queer’—neither male nor female. “This act proves to others that Hyattsville is in fact a welcoming community,” said Wright.
Hyattsville City Council member and civil rights lawyer Patrick Paschall introduced this updated Human Rights Act in a council meeting last fall and explained that ‘gender identity’ would be added to the existing act in order to protect transgender groups.
Two weeks later the council passed the legislation in a unanimous vote and became the second Maryland city and first Prince George’s County city to ban discrimination against transgender individuals. The act protects those who identify as transgender in terms of employment, housing and real estate transactions and public places such as restaurants.
According to a study done in 2011 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Inequality, 63% of 7,000 transgender and gender nonconforming survey respondents had experienced a serious act of discrimination. 19% had been denied housing, 22% who had been denied equal treatment by a government official or agency and 53% had been verbally harassed in a public place. These numbers showed how problematic discrimination can be for those identifying as transgender in the U.S.
“We wanted to send a clear message that transgender people are fully welcome in our community,” said Paschall. He said that Hyattsville had to update the law to ensure protection for transgender groups in a city with a growing population and growing arts district that continues bringing more diverse groups to its neighborhoods. “We hope for other cities to follow our lead,” he said.
It is good news for Paschall and other transgender allies that the state moved forward with a ban on transgender discrimination in February. Even Hyattsville’s neighboring city of College Park may soon be on its way to proposing a human rights ordinance similar to Hyattsville’s as its council discussed the idea at its Feb. 4 meeting.
“I go out to College Park for drinks with friends now and then so I’m excited about that,” said Moore. Local transgender ally Yvette Scorse is also happy about the progress of equality laws. “I'm thrilled to see much-needed steps being taken to allow for more legal protection and legal equality for this community,” said Scorse.
U.S. Congress fears ISIS entry through southwest border
By: Ashley Edokpayi SEPT. 18 2014
House Republicans fear that Islamic State militants could try to infiltrate the southwestern border as the number of foreign fighters joining the terrorist group continues to grow.
Several congressmen expressed strong border security concerns at a House on Homeland Security congressional hearing on Wednesday, but U.S. national security officials said that there is no evidence of ISIS entry into the country.
“There is no credible information that ISIS is planning to attack the homeland at present,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at the hearing.
The emphasis on border security added more to the right-wing political party’s immigration debate than anything else, since their fears were unfounded. In recent years, Republicans in House have pushed for stricter immigration enforcement along the southwest border and have hindered Democrats’ repeated attempts to pass more lenient immigration laws.
The same Republican push back was clear at the hearing, as national security officials had to repeat over and over again that there are no terrorist threats to the border.
Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen testified with Johnson on the hearing panel and fully backed his response that there is no intelligence of border crossings at this time.
Still, Congress was persistent in their questioning on the issue.
“The concern is that we’ve apprehended people from 143 different countries,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
According to internal Department of Homeland Security documents attained by Chaffetz, 23 apprehensions—the number of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally—within the last year came from countries with a now strong ISIS presence. This included 13 individuals from Syria and six from Iraq. However, these numbers, as well as other numbers Republicans reported, showed no real proof of any terrorist or ISIS-related entry.
Although there is no direct ISIS threat to the nation at the moment, the panel did say that the U.S. should not underestimate the terrorist group as it expands.
“ISIS is obviously the most prominent terrorism threat on the world stage right now,” said Johnson.
ISIS has recently shown their ruthlessness and ability to recruit globally with the use of social media and the web. Over the past month, the Sunni Muslim terrorist group released three separate videos that showed its members beheading two American journalists and a British aid worker—all were ISIS hostages.
With clear evidence that ISIS is harming U.S. citizens overseas, national security officials are now working to prevent what they call a “perverted brand of Islam” from entering the country
“I am very concerned about them going, but more concerned about them coming,” said Comey about ISIS militants leaving and entering the U.S. The FBI has been focusing on foreign fighters for several months and has improved communications with DHS and the National Counterterrorism Center to better identify suspicious undocumented persons.
“Our first mission is to identify them and lock them up before they arrive,” said Olsen.
Johnson told Congress that his department currently has about 70 to 90 percent operational control of the border. Chaffetz disputed this number, saying the Government Accountability Office reported only six percent border operational control, but the panel ensured Congress that more action is being taken to secure the U.S.
DHS is currently using millions of taxpayer dollars to improve aviation security with T.S.A. pre-check programs for incoming foreign travelers and is in the stages of upping surveillance technology to better monitor the southwest border.
“The fighters are very experienced and trained,” said Olsen, who reported that ISIS has 2,000 Europeans and 100 American recruits so far. Olsen, Comey and Johnson plan to work more aggressively as a counterterrorism unit to better track to movement of ISIS across global borders.
“It’s got to be a comprehensive effort, we have the team in place and we need more,” said Johnson.
Video & Audio
All videography, audio recording and editing done by me.
An audio story that shares the personal experiences of three local female jazz musicians in Washington, DC, in order to shed light on the discrimination against women as instrument players in the city - focusing on their story of struggle, success, and the shifts for women in jazz. (August 2015)
Man on the Street: Who do you think will win the 2014 NBA Finals? (May 2014)
Interview from the UMBC Mill Stories project -- Donald Kellner, President of the Steel Workers United and Retirees, shares his feelings and attitude towards the 2013 closing of Sparrows Point Mill in Dundalk, MD. (April 2013)
A City Divided: Hyattsville’s older neighborhoods suffer lack in public services
By: Ashley Edokpayi MAY 11, 2014
A walk through Hyattsville’s Arts District strip on a Friday evening allows a voyeur’s glimpse at the new population that has migrated into the city. Boutique retailers close up shop as the Busboys and Poets restaurant begins to fill for poetry night. Gym goers finish up at the Lustine Fitness Center’s juice bar and jog over to the local MOM’s Organic Market before returning to their high-rise modern condos secured by city police.
In a community called the “darling of the area” by Hyattsville residents, the Arts District has rapidly grown over the past four years and attracted a higher income hipster-crowd that has seen little to no crime. The same can’t be said less than a mile across town.
Hyattsville, like many gentrifying cities, is a tale of the haves and have not’s. The priority to keep the Arts District a secure and attractive tourist area has caused a lack in public services and safety in the older, less gentrified western parts of the city.
“We can enact policies that help development, but we can’t fix the problems directly,” said Hyattsville council member Bart Lawrence who represents the Arts District. City council members can be a voice for residents and suggest solutions to electric companies like Pepco, but action stops there.
“I do care what happens in all the other wards but it’s too big a city, there’s too many challenges,” said Lawrence. “I’ve got to keep up with the challenges in my ward,” he said.
The Arts District was completed in 2010 as a $200 million mixed-use revitalization project in downtown historic Hyattsville, and has continued its economic development over the past year with new small-scale businesses. It has become the city’s attraction as it has a vibe similar to downtown Washington D.C. hotspots like U-Street, and has brought the arts to Hyattsville with dance studios, art galleries and events for local artists.
The sporadic growth of the Arts District over the past four years has brought residents making more than $60,000 in annual income to a city that had a median of $57,000 in household income in 2011. With pricey condos and townhomes, the area has drawn higher income individuals from D.C. and northern Virginia.
“Once I saw the city building this place up, I made my move,” said Arts District resident Harley White. In 2012, he moved into a condo in the neighborhood from his home in Cheverly less than ten minutes away.
“I like that it’s convenient and safe around here, I don’t worry about much,” said White.
A short drive west of the district along rickety roads with uneven sidewalks and burgundy brick homes dating back to the 1970’s brings one into older Hyattsville. Instead of a Busboys and organic market, there are restaurants and shops offering Hispanic or west African cuisine—reminiscent of the immigrant and ethnic residents who have lived in the city for decades.
Although these neighborhoods are less than five minutes from the downtown area, their broken street lights and the paranoia of being mugged make them seem like another world.
A combined total of 49 property theft-related crimes were reported from police in west Hyattsville and Arts District for the months of March and April, 38 of which happened in west Hyattsville neighborhoods.
“I check out my surroundings before getting out of my car and going in my house,” said 36-year-old west Hyattsville resident Dameion Russ. A New Orleans native, Russ has lived in the neighborhood with his girlfriend Gloria and her two sons for nearly four years and often works late nights at a restocking company. He said that lights on his street can take up to a month to be replaced.
“Sometimes I don’t get home until four in the morning from work so anything can happen,” said Russ.
Queens Chapel Manor is one of the neighborhoods close to the West Hyattsville Metro Station on Hamilton Street which has had an increasing trend in theft crimes in recent years because of a lack in proper street lighting. This Metro station is walking distance to many homes of daily commuters who’ve been victims of robbery.
Officer Patrick Ojong has worked for Hyattsville City Police for seven years. He said that robberies near the Metro station in West Hyattsville haven’t gone down much.
“It’s dark over there so people can’t really see who is approaching them,” said Ojong.
Poor street lighting has also been a possible reason for car theft and vandalism between the hours of 1am and 9am on residential streets in older city neighborhoods. A total of 11 theft crimes have happened in this area from January to the end of March according to Hyattsville police reports, three of which residents’ cars were broken into. One car was left with punctured tires, a shattered windshield and stolen license plates the week of March 9.
Jefferson Street resident Shirley Fisher has also observed situations that have resulted from broken streetlights in west Hyattsville. “There’s an older lady who walks home from the Metro on my street and I feel bad when I can’t pick her up on some days,” said Fisher. She expressed her concern at a council meeting last December where council members stated that the issue would be addressed as soon as possible. While some lights have been fixed since then, more are now out.
With brightly-lit parking lots and streets, the Arts District hasn’t had theft issues recently, but car break-ins were an issue for a short period in late 2013.
There was a spike in auto break-ins in a city owned parking lot and a private lot behind Busboys and Poets in the district, but council reacted quickly and implemented new strategies that ensure lots are patrolled by at least four city police on weekday evenings and weekends. No break in’s have happened in the lots since February.
Security cameras and talking security boxes are also in busy Arts District lots. Car owners are reminded through loudspeakers to lock their doors and keep their belongings in a safe place. While the same boxes were placed in West Hyattsville lots in 2010, several of them no longer work. Ojong said they should be fixed soon.
The city announced in early March that $200,000 of its 2015 budget would go towards fixing street lights on several West Hyattsville roads that have been left dark.
“That’s just not soon enough, between now and then who knows how many more thefts will happen,” said Russ.
While the Hyattsville city police chief has not commented on reasons for disparities in the Arts District compared to that of west Hyattsville neighborhoods, police records have shown that theft and property crime have stayed primarily in west Hyattsville and aren’t going away.
“Growing up in New Orleans and later living in Holyoke, Massachusetts I saw these same things like I do here,” said Russ. “It’s just what happens.”
Hyattsville City Public Works has not commented on street light repairs.