DCentric » Adams Morgan http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU On Your Mind: The Search for Emily Hershenson http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/on-your-mind/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/on-your-mind/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 16:55:05 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=4860 Continue reading ]]>


One of the many flyers on Irving Street NW, as of 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Emily Hershenson disappeared on Monday morning; in less than 48 hours, her family mounted a frantic and ultimately successful search for the 33-year old wife and mother, who was last seen in Adams Morgan. Hershenson was found earlier today, and that good news spread as quickly as the initial pleas for help with her search did. Since social media played such a prominent role in this story, I thought it might be interesting to use storify to collect your tweets about it. Read all about it, after the jump.

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Potter’s House: All Races, All Classes, All Good http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/potters-house-all-races-all-classes-all-good/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/potters-house-all-races-all-classes-all-good/#comments Fri, 11 Feb 2011 21:57:38 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=4158 Continue reading ]]>


The Potter's House: food, books, more.

The Potter’s House has been in D.C. for over five decades. Have you heard of it? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. I’ve been here for 12 years and even when I lived on Columbia Road–where it is located– I wasn’t aware of its existence. I finally noticed it two weeks ago, when I was taking a walk. It looked like a small, specialty bookstore and that was intriguing enough. When I tried to check out its hours of operation, I saw something surprising in small letters, on a weathered sign. On Tuesdays, a group meets there to discuss “Racial Reconciliation” at 12:30 pm. What kind of bookstore was this? Well, it turns out– it’s a unique one:

Potter’s House Books offers several thousand titles focusing primarily on spirituality and social justice…In addition to the Bookstore, the Potter’s House also is a restaurant/coffeehouse, art gallery, worship space, and community meeting place. On Friday nights, it also is the venue for a concert series called “Sounds of Hope,” which features mainly local musicians performing for the benefit of community nonprofit groups.

“Worship space”? Was this bookstore/cafe/gallery an overtly Christian spot? Some of the Yelp reviews made it sound like it would be:

To understand The Potter’s House, you have to know that it is first and foremost a church. It is owned by Church of the Savior, the same organization that runs Columbia Road Health Services, Jubilee Jobs, the Festival Center, and Christ House. Suddenly the shabby interior with the random homeless people makes sense – this is a church living its mission to serve the poor and provide universal love to all.

This place sounded radically different from almost everywhere else I had been in the city. I called in advance to ask about the “racial reconciliation” program and I was gently corrected– it’s nothing as structured as a “program”.

There’s no topic or agenda. It’s very informal…sometimes people bring in a news item or a book they’re reading and then they’re off. There’s no way to predict how the conversation goes. The group has been meeting for years; it’s probably the most consistent discussion group we have. The Potter’s House has had a strong focus on racial reconciliation and social justice since the ’68 riots. We made a conscious decision to stay in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, to help work on these vital issues.

I showed up at 12:15pm on Tuesday; if it hadn’t been for a few crosses randomly scattered on the walls, I wouldn’t have guessed that this place had much to do with Christianity. I picked up on the “social justice” vibe within minutes of walking in– between the flyers, the heated debate a duo was having about gentrification and the books on display, that aspect of their mission was impossible to miss. Beyond that, it felt “progressive” and “conscious”, so much so that it reminded me of Northern California. I wasn’t surprised when I later learned that WPFW had recorded shows or hosted events there.

Most people were eating lunch, more than half had laptops open. A kind woman was standing by some chafing dishes which contained meatloaf and a few sides. There was a very simple salad bar and a few carafes of coffee. A menu listed sandwiches. I made myself a hot chocolate via packet and hot water, paid for it and sat down. Yes, it was a mash-up of sorts; the kind of conversations and people I’d run into in Oakland or Davis, being served home-style cooking by African-American grandmothers.

Around 12:30, people started to gather at a middle table. They were greeting each other, laughing, slapping backs. I couldn’t help but notice that the group was almost evenly divided between black and white; many of the attendees seemed to know each other. All of them were tucking into lunch. While they didn’t explicitly address race while I was there, from their rollicking conversation which spanned from Greek philosophers to whether God existed, I got the feeling that they wouldn’t mind.

It was a striking sight to behold, because unintentionally, they had seated themselves white, black, white, black. Meanwhile, a few tables away, two men who appeared to be homeless sat down. A young woman came out, greeted them and asked if they were hungry. I couldn’t hear their responses but when she walked away, one of the men got up and walked in circles around the table, speaking to himself. The other cracked open a newspaper. Next to them, a college student was immersed in her textbooks and computer. An elderly lady with a cane slowly walked up to the counter, smiled and asked what the soup of the day was. That’s when I realized what was so stunning about The Potter’s House; I had never been anywhere in this city where people from all social classes and backgrounds were mingling like this. From homeless people to a girl with a $2,000 computer, anyone could walk in and they would be welcomed.

In a city which often feels segregated, whether by choice or by history, The Potter’s House stands out for its diversity and openness. That lively group in the middle of the room did not explicitly discuss racial reconciliation that day, but the entire establishment feels like a living, thriving example of such a desirable goal. I plan on going back next Tuesday, ostensibly to report on a unique and much-needed discussion group, but I won’t mind spending time in that sweet, humble, welcoming environment, too.

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The Kindness of our Neighbors http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/the-kindness-of-our-neighbors/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/the-kindness-of-our-neighbors/#comments Mon, 31 Jan 2011 15:27:12 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3802 Continue reading ]]>

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.

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Controversial Immigration Views from a bar in Adams Morgan http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/controversial-immigration-views-from-a-bar-in-adams-morgan/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/controversial-immigration-views-from-a-bar-in-adams-morgan/#comments Thu, 13 Jan 2011 21:37:14 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3408 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: Jenn Larsen

Beer at the Black Squirrel, in Adams Morgan.

According to NBC4, The Black Squirrel, a bar on 18th Street NW, is generating some serious buzz– and it’s not always the positive kind, nor what you might expect:

A months-old blog post on the website of an Adams Morgan bar is stirring up new controversy. Twitter is all… atwitter (sorry) about an entry on the website of the Black Squirrel (2427 18th St. N.W.) decrying illegal aliens…

Local Twitter users are promising to boycott the venue. “Moving back to DC in 3 days, love craft beer & the only thing I know about @ThBlackSquirrel is won’t ever go there,” wrote Kevin Thurman (@kmthurman).

The Black Squirrel might want to keep the following in mind: Do NOT anger people on the Internet. Especially about political issues, in D.C., to people who need artisanal craft beers merely to survive.

I’m not surprised that a bar– even one in the Morg, which I associate more with partying than politicking– has a blog which explores hot-button issues now and then. This is D.C., after all. I am surprised when such a blog boldly proclaims sentiments like this about illegal immigration:

The next time Stephen Colbert slips into his alter ego and skewers the illegal-alien issue to laughs, he might want to consider the family of Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old intern who went jogging in Rock Creek Park on May 1, 2001 and was brutally murdered…

The Levys are hardly the only U.S. family to discover that not all illegal aliens come here to work and eventually enter the mainstream. Too many come here to ply their illicit trades, take up with gangs and live in the shadow of polite society.

They are a menace who eat up tax dollars and terrorize neighborhoods. That is a reality different from the one often peddled on Capitol Hill in bi-partisan fashion, which is: They do the menial work that Americans no longer are inclined to do. The latter is an insult to millions of blue-collar Americans…

While I didn’t see any comments under The Black Squirrel’s blog post (I wonder if they’re being held for approval or deleted), the commenters back at NBC4′s site were 100% in support of the bar. Here’s an example of the anonymous approval:

I have a new favorite bar! I will make sure to spend my money in any establishment that respects our laws! There is a legal way to come to this country. The illegal aliens chose to break our laws!

Meanwhile, Wonkette brings the funny:

We never liked black squirrels. You notice how they’ve invaded regions in this country they weren’t previously and have displaced the hardworking Protestant brown squirrels? Wait, what are we saying? STOP THE HATE. GET DRUNK. SHUT UP, BARKEEP.

Are you more or less inclined to patronize this bar, after learning about their views?

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“Speak properly, be attractive, stylish and professional.” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/10/speak-properly-be-attractive-stylish-and-professional/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/10/speak-properly-be-attractive-stylish-and-professional/#comments Mon, 25 Oct 2010 16:58:47 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=1609 Continue reading ]]> If I’m not out trying to track down a story, I spend the majority of my time reading. Everything. That’s why I noticed a comment left at the Washington Post– but first, some context. Last week, in this morning roundup, I mentioned that a developer wanted to bring a luxury hotel to the heart of Adams Morgan (and that he might get quite a tax break for doing so). Today, the Post reported:

For the past six years, developer Brian Friedman has been pushing a complex project that he says would reinvent Adams Morgan as a bustling attraction at all times of day, not just in the evenings. He has proposed transforming a historic church, formerly the First Church of Christ, Scientist, into a 174-room luxury hotel. His plan calls for preserving the church building and constructing a 10-story connecting building behind it, where there is now parking.

And he is asking for the city’s help, suggesting that the new hotel not be required to pay property taxes for 15 years after opening.

This article inspired a commenter named MadasH to write (and I really wish WaPo gave us a way to link to individual comments):

Do not give this development any DC tax incentives unless they promise and keep the promise to hire a high percentage of DC residents.We are sick and tired of subsidizing businesses in DC that in return bring all of their out of town friends here to work in jobs that should go to Washingtonians.

…to which tsqnova replied:

The jobs should go to people who are QUALIFIED. Potential employees should be polite, speak properly, be attractive, stylish and professional. This is no Howard Johnson’s — Ian Schrager’s hotels don’t just hire anybody to work there. He brands an IMAGE, one of luxury.

The interesting thing (to me) is that four people have recommended tsqnova’s comment and zero have endorsed MadasH’s. Yes, comment threads are cesspools and are often overrun by trolls and are therefore usually indicative of nothing…I get it. But I think that ignoring them is wasteful, especially when I have often heard sentiments similar to those expressed by tsqnova. The term “speak properly” feels especially-loaded.

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On my Reading List- Mengestu http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/10/on-my-reading-list-mengestu/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/10/on-my-reading-list-mengestu/#comments Wed, 20 Oct 2010 19:45:16 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=1541 Continue reading ]]>


When I was a child, my favorite way to learn about someone or something else was to devour fiction. Considering how often I am mistaken for Ethiopian (daily, if not hourly), it feels apposite to learn a little about this unique, visible community in D.C. The next time I’m near a bookstore, I’m going to look for Georgetown Alum Dinaw Mengestu‘s work, whose first novel was born “when he spotted a solitary Ethiopian store owner while on a walk one day through the Adams-Morgan neighborhood” (via NYT):

Mr. Mengestu’s first novel, “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,” focuses on an Ethiopian shopkeeper, living in isolation in a gentrifying neighborhood in Washington, who develops a tentative bond with a professor of American history, a white woman, and her precocious biracial daughter. The New York Times Book Review named the novel, whose title derives from Dante’s “Inferno,” as one of the notable books of 2007, and Mr. Mengestu quickly became a literary name to watch.

Here’s more on Mengestu–who made the New Yorker list of “20 under 40″ writers, for 2010– from NPR. I’ll tell you more when I finish one of his books. If any of you have read “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears” or Mengestu’s new novel, “How to Read the Air,”, let me know what you think.

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