Go-Go In D.C.’s Neighborhoods: Soon To Be a Thing of the Past?

Flickr: Steven Snodgrass

D.C. street musicians play go-go, but full-fledged city shows are becoming more and more scarce.

This post comes to us courtesy of Anne Hoffman, an intern producer for the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Nnamdi will discuss the past, present and future of go-go at 1 p.m., Thursday.

“If go-go stopped, I don’t even know,” says musician Sweet Cherie, “it would be like Armageddon or something.” But go-go, for some the heartbeat of Washington D.C., the city’s answer to a regional sound, is losing territory. For many years now, go-go venues have been shut down inside D.C. due to club violence and liability issues, pushing the music further out into the Maryland suburbs like Prince George’s  and Charles counties. Meanwhile punk rock, another D.C. musical mainstay, is not experiencing the same bad luck.

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Prince Charles Visits D.C. Urban Farm — Next Time, Also Do ‘The Dougie?’

Just days after the royal wedding, England’s Prince Charles visited D.C.’s largest urban farm.

Prince Charles, a sustainable agriculture advocate, visited Ledroit Park’s Common Good City Farm Tuesday as part of his D.C. trip. WAMU’s Courtney Collins reports that:

Common Good City Farm is a farm and education center that grows food for low-income Washington D.C. residents and encourages members of the community to volunteer.

Amanda Formica works at the farm every Tuesday and thinks Prince Charles is a fitting ambassador for sustainability.

“England is way ahead of the U.S. as far as its commitment to sustainability and global warming and creating green spaces,” says Formica.

Courtesy of: Courtney Collins

Prince Charles took time out of his farm tour to visit with community members standing outside the wooden fence.

Urban farming is cropping up throughout the city; just last month non-profit Bread for the City began work on “the largest” rooftop vegetable garden in the District.

Are these efforts the answer to D.C.’s food deserts? The mission behind most of them is to educate people on sustainable food and healthy eating, quite important points to make, but they can’t literally feed everyone in a food desert. Rather, advocates say such efforts help foster a more accessible conversation around these topics. Bread for the City communications development associate Greg Bloom has said about his group’s garden that:

All too often the question of food sustainability and environmental sustainability, it’s actually a really elitist conversation in that the people who are talking about it are the ones with the resources to experiment and buy high-end produce. We don’t think it has to be that way…. And it’s important for us to create at least one space for that.

Common Good City Farm is another space for that, as well.

As we noted before, there are exercise deserts in D.C., too. So although Prince Charles highlighting sustainable agriculture is important, perhaps next time he can also encourage exercise — may we suggest replicating First Lady Michelle Obama leading middle schoolers in doing “The Dougie?”

Huge Rooftop Vegetable Garden Coming to D.C.

Anna John

Bread for the City expanded its northwest center, reopening in January.

No room to grow a vegetable garden? Just go to your roof.

That’s what nonprofit Bread for the City will begin building this weekend on top of its recently renovated Northwest center, creating one of the largest rooftop produce gardens in D.C.

The idea came out of an initiative by a couple of employees at the organization’s Southeast center, where they had planted some herbs and vegetables on the patio. Development Associate in Communications Greg Bloom says the organization then decided to turn the Northwest center’s new green garden into one that grew more than just plants that absorb rain water.

DC Greenworks will provide assistance and clients will help maintain the garden.

The Bread for the City garden will be 3,500 square ft. large with 30 raised beds, and all the more poignant for Bloom is the fact this garden is going on the roof of a building that houses a medical clinic and food pantry at 7th street NW between P and Q streets.

“D.C. is notorious for really bad food deserts, especially in low income parts of the city,” Bloom says.

Bloom says the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition is “more complicated than where can you find food in your neighborhood, and the solutions to it are also more complicated than, ‘we can’t grow all the food we need.’”

Produce will be planted in raised beds on the roof.

Courtesy of Bread for the City

And indeed, this garden won’t be able to feed all Bread for the City clients (the organization serves 4,500 families a month — that’s a lot of food for a roof to produce). Instead, it will primarily serve as a way to educate clients and the community about food justice and also serve as a green space “to foster reflection” and spur dialogue between and among clients, community organizers and donors about food sustainability.

“All too often the question of food sustainability and environmental sustainability, it’s actually a really elitist conversation in that the people who are talking about it are the ones with the resources to experiment and buy high-end produce,” Bloom says. “We don’t think it has to be that way…. And it’s important for us to create at least one space for that.”

Work on the garden will begin Saturday (weather permitting) and ramp up, continuing April 23. And, yes, you can help.

The Kindness of our Neighbors

Flickr: Rosipaw

Years ago, Mr. Bronson used to surprise Nadine Epstein, who now helps care for him, by pruning and tending to her lilacs; gardening is one of his hobbies.

This may be the best thing I’ve ever read in the Washington Post. I don’t say that without consideration. This is the story of two strangers, one black, one white, one old, one young, who lived across the street from each other but didn’t interact– until the older one lost his home. That’s when John O’Leary did the most selfless, compassionate thing a neighbor could do for another; he invited James Bronson to come live in his six-bedroom home, for free. Over the years, Mr. Bronson became part of O’Leary’s family and he is especially close to O’Leary’s partner, Nadine Epstein. He even became a surrogate grandfather to her son.

Perhaps the one thing that could heal the rifts between different groups in D.C. is being truly neighborly to one another; in this case, doing so created a family, and not just a better neighborhood:

Linda Feldmann, a family friend and reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, recalled being amazed early on at the couple’s willingness to include Mr. Bronson in every facet of their lives.

“If I ever invited them for dinner, the next question was, ‘Can Mr. Bronson come?’ ” Feldmann said. “And then after a while they didn’t need to ask, because, of course, Mr. Bronson can come. He’s part of the family.”

Over the years, Mr. Bronson became a surrogate grandfather to Epstein’s son, Noah (now a college freshman), attending his plays and Grandparents Day at his school. Once, Mr. Bronson recalled, he cheered so loudly at one of Noah’s Little League games that one of the parents asked him – with raised eyebrows – how he knew the little boy he was rooting for.

At family dinners, he would tell stories of growing up in the segregated rural South, opening a window into a way of life his adopted family scarcely knew existed.

A Gandhi Warming on Sunday

Flickr: Steve Fernie

The statue which will be warmed on Sunday, at 21st and Q.

One of you forwarded an interesting event DCentric’s way– on Sunday at 3pm, there will be a Gandhi-warming. Yeah, that was my reaction, too. I thought of the distinctive statue of the Indian leader near Massachusetts Avenue, shivering under all this snow, and pictured people dressing him with a hat or a shawl. Turns out I was right:

k1-d2 and i are knitting a scarf, hat, and a flower garland for gandhi in DC! we are excited to do this again & would love it if you would like to contribute as well!

please bring no-longer-used or newly knitted hats/scarves to give to those in need, flowers for his feet, or just enjoy a bit of camaraderie while listening to some beautiful indian music during gandhi’s warming ceremony, which we are really excited to be doing this again this year!

It’s neat that the organizers are collecting hats and scarves for those who need them. The Facebook event page is here; looks like 29 people are attending.

Luther Place: Sacred Commons, Social Justice


Luther Place's first mural: Saint Francis of Assisi-- and a congregant's Dalmatian!

Earlier today, I published the first part of an interview with Reverend Karen Brau of Thomas Circle’s Luther Place church; they just dedicated a mural on the 14th street side of their building to “Saint Martin of Birmingham”, whom you may know as the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s the remainder of our conversation, as promised:

Where did the idea for this mural come from– what inspired it?

I’ve been at Luther Place for two years; I came from inner-city Baltimore where I worked in neighborhood ministry…we did things with vacant lots, gardening and art. In Baltimore, we had the gift of many vacant lots. Here, that’s not the case, so we thought ‘how do we use what we have?’ Instead of putting up a big fence and having it be just our space…we explored what commonality means by sharing this art outside.

We are always reforming, we have this sense that God is calling us to new things. We looked at the space around Luther Place and we realized that some people will never come inside our church, so how could we honor the outside of it? How could we reach others? By a Sacred Commons. “Sacred” in that it’s holy ground, “Commons” in that it’s held in common by anyone who comes through. It’s also “sacred” in the sense that all people are sacred or children of God, and “common” in that we have the possibility of finding new ways to share and live in common. We need places to practice what that means.
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Tomorrow on DCentric: St. Martin of Birmingham


Today was very gray, I know.

An hour ago, I spoke to The Rev. Karen Brau of Luther Place on 14th Street about a very special piece of public art, which was unveiled this week (how apposite!). “St. Martin of Birmingham” joins a mural of St. Francis at this congregation, which has been concerned with social justice and our community for several decades. More, tomorrow.

Interview: Bread for the City’s George A. Jones


Earlier, I posted a slideshow filled with pictures taken on Friday, when local nonprofit Bread for the City celebrated the grand opening of their new building in Shaw. The expansion doesn’t just mean more room– it means more services for the city’s most vulnerable citizens. Last week, I spoke to Bread for the City’s Executive Director, George A. Jones about the expansion, the work his agency does and more. Part of the interview is below; look for the rest, tomorrow morning.

First, some history for those of you who may not be familiar with this group:

Started in 1974, Bread for the City is a front line agency serving Washington’s poor. The agency began as two organizations; Zacchaeus Free Clinic began in 1974 as a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and Bread for the City was created in 1976 by a coalition of downtown churches to feed and clothe the poor. The two entities merged in 1995. Today, we operate two Centers in the District of Columbia and provide direct services to low-income residents of Washington, DC. All of our services are free. Our mission is to provide comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services to low-income Washington, DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

I asked Jones about the expansion:

We’ve been around for 36 years; this expansion represents our commitment to providing even more services to folks living in poverty in D.C. It’s the culmination of a dream.

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Reading is Fundamental– and Popular in D.C.

Flickr: Chotda

Amazing bookshelves, right?

Something a little lighter, after two Tucson posts– more proof that D.C. is the smart city, via WaPo:

D.C. residents rank as the nation’s most well-read, according to the America’s Most Literate Cities study. But the news is not all good.

The decline in newspaper readership and book purchasing are major cause for concern, said the author of the report, Central Connecticut State University President Jack Miller.

These trends raise real concerns about Americans’ literate behaviors, the report states.

I think one of the reasons D.C. loves reading is because we’re always on our way somewhere, waiting for a bus or train. I also wonder if the internet is responsible for the declines that the report’s author is so concerned about…I read and buy less books and one less newspaper than I did a few years ago, but that’s only because the way that I consume news and reading material has changed– I am able to find both, online.

What do you love about this city?

Flickr: suitablegirl

On my "I love D.C."-list? The National Cathedral. From the Bishop's Garden to the whimsical gargoyles, it's a wonderful place-- and it is free.

Quick reminder– I’m still eager to learn about your favorite DC-centric things!

What do you love about D.C.? Leave your answers in the comments, tweet them at me or (if you must!) email them. I’ll compile them and even though we are off after Wednesday, I will log in and post the best of your submissions here, in one glorious list. Ready? Go!

One of you messaged me about your favorite sandwich place in Adams Morgan. I saw a tweet about the National Arboretum. Other submissions? The Whitehurst freeway, half-smokes and “the old dudes who play chess in Dupont Circle”. Your submissions range from the silly to the sublime and that’s perfect. Seriously, don’t be shy– what are your favorite things?