Friday, April 02, 2010
Diamond Teague Park & Marina
"We thought that Diamond was never going to like the work," firmly stated Florence Teague. "He even wrote in his journal that when he joined the ECC--that was going to be one of the worst days of his life. But as we all found out--that was one of the best days of his life."
The next time you visit Nationals Park, you might want to ponder the Old Pump House located at the corner of 1st Street & Potomac Avenue SE. Many fans of Our Washington Nationals are aware of the new boat dock built in 2009 that will allow for water taxi service to baseball games across the street. What most people may not know is that the facility is run by The Earth Conservation Corps. The non-profit organization dedicated to cleaning up the Anacostia River. And the nearby park & marina is today named for Diamond Teague.
On October 9, 2003, the then 19-year old young man was gunned down right outside his house in SE Washington. Senseless like so many other killings, this murder hurt even more because Diamond had touched so many people in his short life through his work with The Earth Conservation Corps. In fact, shortly before his death, Diamond had just earned a scholarship to attend college at The University Of The District Of Columbia.
"He was always encouraging the other kids to do something positive with their lives instead of being out here on the streets" continued Mrs. Teague (Diamond's Mother). "There is a better way of life than selling drugs and being out on the streets getting in trouble and the ECC made a big difference in that respect. Diamond was all about sharing what he had learned with the ECC and how to make a difference in young peoples lives. That was what he was all about--wherever he went."
Diamond's story is well documented. Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams considered young Teague a friend. Ethel Kennedy visited his parents, Florence and Ivory, after Diamond's unfortunate death. Even the television show, America's Most Wanted, dedicated one of their programs to the still unsolved murder. Since 2008, aware of the story and as part of its Neighborhood Initiatives Projects, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation partnered with the ECC by funding programs, including last spring's NatsTown Green Up Day on the Anacostia River. Additionally, at most every Washington home baseball game, the ECC sets up a booth inside the South Capitol Street Ballpark to promote their programs and activities.
"I really don’t think Nationals Park would have been placed here or the river would have come along so well if not for Diamond Teague and how he inspired other youngsters," believes Bob Nixon, the Founder and CEO of The Earth Conservation Corps. "Diamond was an amazing young man who had done his service to the community. Mayor Williams recognized that fact and had the idea to honor Diamond by wanting to name this park after him. And Mayor (Adrian) Fenty carried through on that commitment. Really, it's pretty significant that the city has allowed the Earth Conservation Corps to remain in this pump house--prime real estate now--when we used to be the last frontier. But it's all because--we've made a difference."
As part of the ECC's programs, Diamond Teague would bring youngsters down to the Anacostia River and tell them how important the clean up was for their surrounding environment. In doing so, he engaged hundreds of youths with no direction in life and gave them purpose. Some D.C. teens were buying into the ECC's volunteer programs--giving up the selling of drugs and the street life for waders, gloves and the chance to be out on the water--doing something more significant with their lives.
"I joined just for a job, but it turned out to be more than that," said ECC Volunteer Nduma. "I have no doubt I am a better person because of the ECC. I didn't know Diamond personally, but he affected who I am today. I’ve found out I can truly make a difference. At first, I thought I was just another kid. Now, I know I can make a difference. One small bottle I pick up can make a difference. Two small bottles I can pick up and then get someone else to do the same--that can make a bigger difference. This has kept me off the streets. It has kept me out of trouble. I am keeping a good head on my shoulders and I can touch others by passing my experiences on."
Soon, a memorial honoring Diamond Teague will be dedicated at Diamond Teague Park & Marina just across from The Grand Staircase of Nationals Park. A tribute to remind everyone how one young man--cut down before the prime of his life--still inspired countless others to follow in his path.
"Back in 1989 when I started this, I really thought this was going to be a one-year project," stated Bob Nixon. "I never thought we would have such an effect on people. I thought we would be lucky to recruit 10 kids. We've now had a thousand. But what’s really been special is watching these corp members come in, grab a hold of what’s offered, and go off to the races. That’s what is really inspiring. And Diamond helped lead the way."
With their partnership with The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, Mr. Nixon hopes the ECC can reach out to a broader group of like minded volunteers--not just those living in SE & SW Washington, D.C.--but throughout the greater National Capital area. The Anacostia River is definitely making a comeback and The Diamond Teague Park & Marina is quickly becoming the focal point for the redevelopment of The Anacostia Waterfront. So the next time you ponder the dock and marina across from Nationals Park, just remember, there is much more to the story.
"He was our Diamond," concluded Ivory Teague (Diamond's Father). "And as they say--Diamonds Are Forever. Of course, we will never forget him, but thanks to this park, this city and the people who live here, Diamond will not be forgotten by Washington, D.C. either."
PS--The next time you visit Nationals Park, The Earth Conservation Corps usually sets up their table next to Ben's Chili Bowl on the main concourse--right after the left field escalator to the upper deck.
Interesting side story: In 1995, when Bob Nixon first spotted the Pump House while crossing the Frederick Douglas Bridge in his car, the building was barely noticable because of all the trash that surrounded it. Even the city didn’t know it was there when Mr. Nixon first inquired. And the lot where Nationals Park now sits was known to the ECC as "Mt. Trashmore".
ECC & Diamond Teague Photo--courtesy ECC. All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved