It's time to say good-bye, for now

Saying good-bye is never easy, but faced with an unfortunate funding reality, and out of respect for our readers and the complex issues DCentric tackles, we have come to a decision: We are shutting down this blog.

Since August 2010, DCentric has been a place to read and participate in a nuanced discussion about the intersection of race and class in Washington, D.C. We have written about unemployment, the digital divide, food deserts, the black middle class, gentrification, These and other timely topics, often pushed far from the front page, have lived above the fold on DCentric.

On a personal note, I moved to Washington D.C. in early 2011 and this blog was a terrific resource for me, teaching me about the unique history and complex issues that make the district such an interesting place to live. I’m thrilled to have been part of a blog that contributed to an important conversation on the city’s changing demographics and how they affect many aspects of residents’ lives.

DCentric was a grant-funded endeavor, existing initially through funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Knight Foundation, and most recently through generous support from Ginny McArthur. With the exit of blogger Elahe Izadi this week, we believe the time has come to end DCentric, at least for now.

Should we locate funding for the blog that would enable us to staff it appropriately and maintain the quality our online users deserve, we will re-launch DCentric. Until then, we extend our sincere gratitude to all the regular and occasional DCentric readers.

Farewell, DCentric

Today is my last day as the senior reporter for DCentric. It’s been a little over a year since I started writing for this blog, and I’m blown away at just thinking about all of the interesting topics I’ve had the opportunity to explore.

I have my own highlights, among them: producing a series on D.C.’s unemployment divide; asking why the local crime and punishment museum hires black men to wear prison jumpsuits; exploring what’s behind rock bands playing D.C.’s Ethiopian restaurants; and writing about gentrification — a lot. I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to share some personal stories about identity. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts at least half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

This beat has been challenging, too. Race and class can be loaded, emotionally-charged topics, and they typically come with broad declarations of what’s right and wrong. I’ve learned a lot in my time here, but above all, it’s that things aren’t usually cut and dry. I hope meaningful conversations about these issues continue to happen in D.C., and that they grow in number. Such discussions will be important as we figure out how to navigate all of the changes our city is going through.

So, many thanks to my colleagues, both here at WAMU 88.5 and elsewhere. You’ve provided me with support and feedback, and for that, I am grateful.

And finally, of course, I’d like to thank to you, the readers. I strongly believe in DCentric’s mission: to explore race and class and open up a space for elevated discourse. If I’ve had any success here, it’s in large part to the readers. Thank you for following my work, questioning it, offering insightful comments and contributing to this ongoing conversation, whether in person or over Twitter. I’m moving on, but stay in touch. Seriously!


Resentment And Race In Reducing Government

Zervas / Flickr

The U.S. Postal Service is planning a downsizing, which could disproportionately hurt African Americans,

The black middle class has been hit particularly hard by the recession; many of the economic gains earned over 50 years disappeared between 2007 and 2009.

The foreclosure crisis, lack of accumulated  wealth and the role of a college education in boosting job prospects have all contributed to the decline of the black middle class. Another big factor: cuts to government jobs. Much of the black middle class was built upon public sector jobs, which for decades allowed African Americans to circumvent discrimination in the private sector.

African Americans are over-represented in government jobs [PDF]. So even as the economy slowly adds jobs, government job losses continue to rack up, disproportionately affecting African Americans. Reducing government has been a hot political topic since 2010, particularly with the surge of the tea party movement, which has been accused of having racist undertones. But NPR points out that 70 percent of government job cuts happened in 12 states, all with Republican-controlled legislative bodies, and suggests that such job cuts have fostered resentment among African Americans. From NPR:

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Homelessness Rises In D.C.

D.C. may be considered the best place in the U.S. to find a job, but not everyone is faring well in the current economy. Homelessness is on the rise in the District, according to the results of an annual survey released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Since 2011, the overall homeless rate grew by 6 percent, while the number of homeless families swelled by 15 percent. According to the survey, D.C. is home to 6,954 homeless people. About one in 100 District residents is homeless.

Homelessness has been on the rise since the start of the recession. Large swaths of the city have chronic, high unemployment rates. Affordable housing is disappearing in D.C., with the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment having increased from $735 to $1,100 over the past decade.

The situation is dire, advocates tell the Washington Post, particularly since the District is expected to lose $7 million in federal money that pays for homelessness programs. 

Walton, 32, suffers from multiple sclerosis. She lost her job as a medical technician and her apartment last year. On Monday, she moved into a subsidized apartment and says she will not miss having to take six buses every morning and evening just to get her daughter to and from school.

Still, it’s tough.

“You know, I catch myself crying. I get really depressed . . . it’s been heartbreaking,” Walton said.

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Can Wireless Tablets Bridge The Digital and Education Divide?

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Teacher Bernadette DeSario works with students conducting historical research on wireless tablets.

Coolidge High School students sit in small groups as they prep for their Advanced Placement U.S. history exam. They’ll be expected to write essays on the materials they’ve learned.

“How or why did the anti-slavery movement become more radical during the period between 1815 and 1816?” teacher Bernadette DeSario asks the students during a class last week. ”We’re going to look at a couple of websites that will provide us with primary source documents.”

The students hunch over small, wireless tablets, swiping the screens as they read letters and other 19th century documents, looking for information to support their answers.

Coolidge doesn’t have many computers, principal Thelma Jarrett said. These students get to use tablets provided by Verizon Wireless, through a program running at four D.C. high schools. It’s intended to level the playing field for high school students in low-income schools, particularly as they get ready for college. The program includes tablets that students can use during class, and also a bus converted into a “learning lab,” stocked with tablets, printers and other devices. The bus, which visits the school once a week, is where students go to get help from Howard University tutors in writing college essays and applying to schools.

Coolidge is a Title 1 school, meaning a high percentage of its students come from low-income homes; 64 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunches. DeSario said many of her students don’t have access to technology, and that the using the tablets helps them develop good, online research skills.

“It’s putting them so far ahead,” she said. “When they get to college, they’re going to be expected to know how to use this technology.”

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D.C.-Area Named Best Place To Find A Job

Looking for work? It shouldn’t be too difficult in the D.C.-metro area, at least according to a new list of best places to find a job. The rankings, published by Forbes and based on data from human resources firm Adecco USA, took into account employment levels, job growth and job demand.

The D.C. region ranks first. But while people from around the country flock to the District for jobs, many residents are out of work, with large sections of the city facing chronic, high unemployment. The reasons behind such a disparity are complex and interwoven, ranging from many lacking the education credentials needed for jobs in D.C., to others having criminal records.

The human resources firm Adecco Staffing U.S. looked at the U.S. cities with the fullest employment, according to the Department of Labor, as well as internal data around job growth and demand, and then determined which areas are the best for finding a job. Here are the top 10 cities for jobs right now.

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D.C. Gentrification Story Goes Global

The overarching story of gentrification in D.C. has been told time and again by local and national news outlets. But international media are increasingly picking up on the story. Last month, official Iranian international news agency PressTV covered demographic changes in D.C. And today, French news agency and wire service Agence France Presse has its own D.C. gentrification story, with much of the narrative focusing on H Street NE.

What do you think of how the media depict gentrification in D.C.?

H Street, a long avenue that heads into the heart of the city, has been cast as the next Georgetown, an affluent neighborhood filled with world-renowned shops and home to many of Washington’s richest people.

Such comparisons may be premature but traditionally African-American areas in Washington such as Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, and U Street, have fallen like dominoes in recent decades, with whites and Hispanics moving in.

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The Role Of Race In Ward 5′s Special Election

D.C. will hold a Ward 5 special election on May 15 to replace the seat left vacant by former Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty to embezzling public money earlier this year.

The demographics of the ward have undergone changes over the past decade, notes the Washington Examiner. The white population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010.

Bob King, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner who is working on Delano Hunter’s campaign, said the election’s outcome could be determined along racial lines.

“I am very concerned that rigor mortis will set in and white folks will get mad and vote, and black folks will get mad and stay home,” he said.

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Minority Students More Likely To Get Praise From White Teachers

The achievement gap between white and minority students is due to all sorts of factors, including income disparities. But the way teachers treat students of different races could play a role. Consider this: white teachers give more positive feedback to black and Latino students than they give to white students for the same work, according to a study led by Rutgers University and published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Over-praising students of color could leave them under-challenged since they don’t feel pressure to achieve beyond low expectations.

Here’s how the experiment worked: researchers gave a poorly-written essay to a group of 113 white teachers. Teachers who thought a black or Latino student wrote the essay gave more praise and less criticism when grading it than when teachers thought a white student wrote the essay.

Kent Harber, the lead psychologist behind the study, talks about the “positive feedback bias” from white teachers and the implications of his findings.

“The social implications of these results are important; many minority students might not be getting input from instructors that stimulates intellectual growth and fosters achievement,” notes Harber. “Some education scholars believe that minorities under-perform because they are insufficiently challenged—the ‘bigotry of lowered expectations,’ in popular parlance,” he explains. “The JEP study indicates one important way that this insufficient challenge might occur: in positively biased feedback,” according to Harber.

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D.C. Caribbean Carnival No Longer In D.C.

tunnelarmr / Flickr

Dancers representing the Virgin Islands participate in 2008's D.C. Caribbean Festival.

After weeks of speculation as to whether D.C. Caribbean Carnival will take place because of financial woes, the show will go on. Well, sort of.

The parade that typically marches down Georgia Avenue won’t be in D.C. this year. Organizers announced that the D.C. event will join with Baltimore’s annual Caribbean Carnival/Festival for a parade taking place July 14 at Baltimore’s Lake Clifton Park.

D.C. Caribbean Carnival usually holds a Pan Jam, with steel bands and costume judging. That will take place in Bladensburg, Md. during June 23 and 24, the original date of the festival.

The annual parade has been cited as a boost for businesses up and down Georgia Avenue, many of whom protested last year when the route was cut short (again, due to financial troubles).