A People’s History of Washington, D.C.

Amphis d'@illeurs

Danny Harris

Last night, I finally met and had a fantastic conversation with Danny Harris, the man behind the popular local website,”People’s District“. Danny is a photographer, DJ and oral historian who collects the stories of D.C. residents. Here’s why:

People’s District was my way of meeting the people I saw every day, but never stopped to introduce myself to: Carolyn, the crossing guard on my street; Cedric, who ran by my office most days, spinning in circles while yelling ‘HOOT, HOOT’; Dave, who rides his bike up and down my street in a finely tailored suit and fedora; and Josh, who checks my ID at the 9:30 Club. I saw these people more often than I saw my own family, yet I had never exchanged more than a ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ with them.

During one of those proverbial wake-up moments in July 2009, I stopped my first person to ask, ‘So, what’s your story?’ Joe, my first interviewee, spoke passionately about growing up on U Street and his first experience of going downtown after the end of segregation. After Joe came Andrew, talking about overcoming homelessness, then Eric and Maddie, discussing the D.C. hardcore music scene. Each story shed light on a new slice of D.C. life and brought me into the world of a complete stranger who was kind enough to share his or her story with me.

Each of those tales is compelling and while this is the part of my post where I’d normally exhort you to visit Danny’s online collection of D.C. stories, I probably don’t have to– the number one question I get from DCentric readers is, “Have you seen this site called ‘People’s District’?”. I’m not surprised (both of our sites explore race, class and the city), but I am grateful for the recommendation (seriously– feel free to tell me what you are reading). If I did introduce you to a new addition for your reader, then I’m glad I was able to shine some light on a worthy endeavor.