My reaction to NPR's Morning Edition story yesterday. The segment, titled "D.C., Long 'Chocolate City,' Becoming More Vanilla", was written by Alex Kellogg, and is available in audio and article version by clicking the linked text.
Mr. Kellogg’s story was a dishonest portrayal of the changes that are happening in Anacostia. First, his evidence that black people are being forced out is based entirely on the story of one man who chose to buy a larger and more expensive house in PG County than one he was considering near Anacostia. Second, he attempts to prove that Anacostia is becoming “more vanilla” by talking about one white person, me – and I don’t even live there anymore. On a personal note, I was disappointed that he chose to sensationalize my move out of Anacostia, which had absolutely nothing to do with the much-reported-on break-in that occurred at my 2009 holiday party – in fact, I moved eight months later, was very transparent about my reasons for doing so, and am still working (and hosting parties) in the Anacostia neighborhood.
If Mr. Kellogg were interested in writing honestly about what’s going on in Anacostia, I’d suggest he step back from the canned story that’s been told before about every other neighborhood, look around, and realize a few key points he missed the first time: Anacostia, and the River East community in general, is becoming more and more economically diverse, but mostly at the hands and monthly mortgage payments of black professionals, not white ones. Check out the Historic Anacostia Block Association or River East Emerging Leaders, and you will see a very impressive mix of people, the majority of whom are black. Patronize Anacostia’s newest businesses, Big Chair Coffee and Uniontown Bar & Grill and you will meet the friendly (and black) owners. Take in a meeting of the Friends of Logan Park/Old Market House Square, a group run out of St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church that is working to rebuild the park at the heart of Historic Anacostia – something that will surely add to the look and feel of the neighborhood and make it more attractive – and you’ll find that most of the members involved in this effort, although quite age diverse, are black. But hold on. Pause. Are we really still getting worked up about skin color?
White people are moving into Anacostia. So are black people. So are Asian people, Middle Eastern people, gay people, straight people, and every other mix. And good for them for believing in a neighborhood in spite of its challenges, and for meeting its hurdles head on and its new amenities with a sense of excitement. And good for the countless residents who have stayed in the neighborhood through its worst times, many of whom are glad to see signs of progress. A few months after I moved into Anacostia, my next-door neighbor – an amazing woman who raised her family in the house adjoining mine, and for years dealt with heavy drug activity and physical neglect next door – told me “you know, this is the first summer in a long time that I’ve felt comfortable sitting on my front porch.” If that’s the kind of change that’s coming to Anacostia, then amen and hallelujah.
for more, read WAMU 88.5's blog DCentric: And Now, Another View of Anacostia, from David Garber, Greater Greater Washington's GGW discusses: Gentrification in Anacostia, part 1, and We Love DC's NPR’s take on Anacostia: Whitey Is Coming