Beneath the buttoned-down surface of the city, DC is full of history, diversity, joy and life.


DCentric Picks: ‘Communities in Translation,’ Gold Leaf Closing Party

Seth Anderson / Flickr

What: “Communities in Translation” movie screening.

Where: Gala Theatre at Tivoli Square, 3333 14th St., NW.

When: 6 p.m., Thursday.

Cost: Free.

Why you should go: The film screening is part of a larger event, “Many Stories, One Night,” which will focus on immigrants’ experiences accessing public services in the District. The documentary by Robert Winn depicts how language barriers have impacted D.C.’s immigrants during emergencies, such as the 2008 Mount Pleasant fire.

Other events to consider: D.C. will lose 11 artist studios by the end of the year to make room for a $57 million mixed-use development. But before Gold Leaf Studios shuts down, band Ra Ra Rasputin is hosting a closing party. The show kicks off at 8 p.m., Saturday at 443 I St., NW.

Cupcakes and Bulletproof Glass

lamantin / Flickr

Nothing says neighborhood change and gentrification like a cupcake shop. But what if such a shop has bulletproof glass inside? The Washington City Paper reports that the first cupcake shop east of the Anacostia River, Olivia’s Cupcakes, has a “thick sheet” of bullet-resistant glass behind the counter:

“It broke my heart to do that, but it’s a deterrent,” says proprietor Cindy Bullock, who runs the cupcake shop alongside her husband, Bob Bullock, and their daughters, Kristina, 20, and Alexis, 18.

“Several people asked (about the glass) and said, ‘It’s a beautiful shop, its unfortunate that you have it up,’ but we had to have it,” Bullock says.

“I have owned several business in this area and we have been robbed several times,” she explains. “We wanted to make [the shop] elegant and beautiful, but because of the teenagers and having my children here we wanted to protect them.”

D.C.’s bullet resistant glass initially appeared in stores in the wake of the 1968 riots, and became much more widespread at the height of the crack epidemic. Like the Bullocks, many store owners have installed glass after bad experiences.

In gentrifying neighborhoods, the glass barricade coming down is a turning point. It’s also sometimes necessary to appeal to a wealthier clientele. Take Logan Circle, where most liquor and convenience stores had the glass for decades. Then Whole Foods opened on P Street, NW in 2000. Property values rose, and Amare Lucas, owner of Best-In Liquors on P and 15th streets NW decided to take down his glass. The more inviting atmosphere, along with new stock he brought in, attracted more customers, new and longtime residents alike. “Some [customers] told me they had been in the neighborhood for 15 years, kind of passing the store by because of the glass,” Lucas told Washington City Paper‘s Dave Jamieson in 2005. “They’re in my store now. It really gives you a satisfaction.”

DCentric Picks: ‘Trouble in Mind’ and Food Day

Richard Anderson / Courtesy of Arena Stage

Brandon J. Dirden as John Nevins, Thomas Jefferson Byrd as Sheldon Forrester, E. Faye Butler as Wiletta Mayer and Marty Lodge as Al Manners in "Trouble in Mind."

What: Trouble in Mind,” a play about a 1955 racially integrated theater company that wants to present a race play.

Where: Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW.

When: The play runs through Sunday.

Cost: Prices vary depending on seats and showtimes. You can find ticket prices here.

Why you should go: The play-within-a-play, set more than 50 years ago, still has relevance today. The black characters are seen confronting racial stereotypes as they work to make it to Broadway. A black and white cast is shown producing a play about a young, southern black man who becomes the target of a lynch mob.

Other events to consider: Monday is Food Day, which seeks to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food. D.C. is home to a number of events, including the Food Day Extravaganza on Woodrow Wilson Plaza. There will be chef demonstrations, entertainment, educational activities and, yes, free food. The event starts at 11 a.m.

DCentric Picks: MLK Memorial Dedication, ‘Dream City’ Discussion

Mladen Antonov / AFP/Getty Images

What: The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial dedication ceremony.

Where: West Potomac Park.

When: 9 a.m., Sunday.

Cost: Free.

Why you should go: The dedication of the memorial, the first on the National Mall to honor an African American, was initially scheduled for Aug. 28. But it was canceled due to Hurricane Irene. Although the memorial has been open to the public for more than a month now, the ceremony will feature remarks by members of King’s family and President Barack Obama.

Other events to consider: Greater Greater Washington is hosting a discussion between the authors of “Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.” In the 1990s, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood wrote about the rise and fall of former Mayor Marion Barry in the context of D.C.’s political and racial struggles. D.C. is now going through a new round of changes. Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis will moderate the talk, which takes place at 7 p.m., Monday, at the Shaw Library. (Disclosure: Sherwood is a resident analyst on WAMU 88.5′s Kojo Nnamdi show).

DCentric Picks: ‘The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975′

Flickr: Runs With Scissors

Mural of Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. During the 1968 riots, Carmichael, who was a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) obtained special police permission to allow Ben’s Chili Bowl to stay open after curfew to provide food and shelter for activists and public servants who were working to restore order in D.C.

What: Film: “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (2010)

When: Weekend screenings include: 10:30 a.m.,‎ ‎12:45 p.m., ‎ ‎3:00 p.m.,‎ ‎5:15‎ p.m., ‎7:30‎ p.m., ‎9:45 p.m‎. Check here for updates.

Where: Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW.

Cost: $11 for general admission. More details here.

Why you should go: As the New York Times put it,

The film begins at a moment when the concept of black power was promoted by Stokely Carmichael, a veteran of the freedom rides early in the decade, who, like many young black activists, had grown frustrated with the Gandhian, nonviolent philosophy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Carmichael, who later moved to Guinea and took the name Kwame Ture, is remembered for the militancy of his views and his confrontational, often slashingly witty speeches, but the Swedish cameras captured another side of him. In the most touching and arresting scene in “Mixtape,” he interviews his mother, Mable, gently prodding her to talk about the effects of poverty and discrimination on her family.

Other events to consider: Fans of conscious hip-hop and global music can combine their passions with one FREE show at the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage, where Jewish Israeli recording artist and producer SHI 360 performs on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.

‘30 Americans:’ Creating a Show of Heralded Contemporary Black Art

Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Kehinde Wiley, Sleep, 2008. Oil on canvas, 132 x 300 inches.

The ongoing “30 Americans” exhibit that recently opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art showcases work by some of most important African American artists of the past 30 years.

The 76 pieces of art are owned by Donald and Mera Rubell, who hold one of the world’s largest, private art collections. Mera Rubell tells WAMU’s Metro Connection that they noticed a trend in their collection about five years ago:

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D.C. May Lose One of the Last Remnants of Black Broadway

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Cynthia Robbins, Lincoln Theatre board member, makes an appeal for funding to save the theater.

When the Lincoln Theatre opened in 1922 on U Street, it was one of the jewels of “Black Broadway.” But with money running out, the historical landmark is at risk of closing.

“They say, ‘Before Harlem, there was U Street,’” said Rahim Muhammad, who grew up in the area. “So to me, the Lincoln is more important than the Apollo.”

During a Thursday afternoon press conference in front of Lincoln Theatre, board members blasted Mayor Vincent Gray for not answering their calls to hold a meeting to discuss saving the theater. Gray has said the theater’s business model is “not sustainable” and that the city couldn’t “pour money” in it.

Without a $500,000 boost, board members said the theater could close by the end of the year.

The possible closure of the Lincoln Theatre may be a sign of bad economic times. But some say the theater, on a now totally-gentrified corridor, holds a special place in D.C.’s black history and it should be preserved.

Rick Lee, a Lincoln Theatre Board member, criticized the city for giving money to other theaters such as Ford and Arena Stage, and yet failing to allocate anything to the Lincoln Theatre in Fiscal 2012, which begins Oct. 1. They have received $250,000 in past years.

“Even though the mayor is black, I almost feel like it’s a racial thing because I don’t see why you would have this theater, as beautiful as it is with all of this potential, and nickel and dime it,” Lee said. “I’m offended.”

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DCentric Picks: 30 Americans

Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bird On Money, 1981. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 66 x 90 inches.

What: 30 Americans exhibit.

When: Opens Saturday and runs through Feb. 12.

Where: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW.

Cost: Free for children under 12, $8 for seniors and students and $10 for adults.

Why you should go: Although the exhibition isn’t free, it’s definitely worth the cost. The 30 Americans exhibit showcases art from the most important African American artists of the past 30 years. Works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hammons and Kehinde Wiley will be on display, and much of the art focuses on racial, historical and sexual identity.

Other events to consider: Learn more about Turkish culture at the Turkish Festival. The free event features food, dance performances and crafts. It takes place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Freedom Plaza.


Lincoln Theatre, Fixture of Black Broadway, To Close

Wally Gobetz / Flickr

We have an update on this story here.

Lincoln Theatre, which was a U Street landmark since the corridor was known as “Black Broadway,” may close next week because it’s run out of money, DCist is reporting:

Earlier this year, Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) and [Councilmember Jim] Graham, who sits on the theater’s Board of Directors, were able to secure $500,000 in funding for the Lincoln during budget negotiations. However, that money will not be allocated until the next fiscal year. [Mayor] Gray responded to Graham’s news by stating that the city couldn’t “pour money in” to the theater, which he described as having a business model that was “not sustainable.”

In its heyday, Lincoln Theatre regularly featured Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. It eventually added movie screens, offering entertainment options to African Americans at a time of segregation. The theater fell into disrepair after the 1968 riots, but reopened in the 1990s with federal, local and private financial support. Since then, the theater has hosted a diversity of performances while U Street experienced gentrification and rapidly increasing property values. But in recent years, the Lincoln Theatre has struggled to keep its doors open as money dwindled.

Finding Space to Create in Pricey D.C.

Courtesy of Bora Chung

Aaron Martin (left), Brandon Moses (middle) and Michael Andrew Harris (right) practice in Gold Leaf Studios.

Brandon Moses and Michael Andrew Harris, members of the band Laughing Man, met up at their studio space in a worn warehouse on a recent Thursday evening. Moses strummed his guitar and sang into the mic. Aaron Martin, who shares the studio with the band, joined in on his saxophone for an impromptu jam session.

Seemingly neglected, the vacant warehouse has been repurposed for just this sort of activity — for artists to create without concern of disturbing neighbors. Harris rapidly hit his snare drum without constraint. The music went through open window and spilled onto the Mt. Vernon street below.

But through that window, you could see the new high rises across the street, a sign of D.C.’s healthy real estate market. And soon, the warehouse — home to Gold Leaf Studios — will be replaced with a $57 million, 11-story mixed-used complex. About 30 artists who work out of 11 Gold Leaf studios will have to vacate by January 2012.

“Obviously they’re going to make a lot more money,” Harris, 31, said. “We’re just artists paying a couple of hundred dollars for the space.”

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