DCentric » American University 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 Expand American University to Ward 8? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/expand-american-university-to-ward-8/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/expand-american-university-to-ward-8/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2011 15:42:12 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=6161 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: Matthew Hurst

What could an AU expansion do for Ward 8?

Lydia DePillis over at Housing Complex puts forth an interesting proposition: if neighbors around the proposed American University East Campus expansion project find it so objectionable, put it in Ward 8:

… American University would be perfectly suited to Anacostia and Congress Heights: MLK [Avenue] would fill up with coffeeshops and bars, students would have all the low-cost housing they could ask for, and local residents could benefit from jobs that don’t require a high-level security clearance–not to mention the opportunities of a credible institution of higher learning in their backyard.

In exchange, the proposed Department of Homeland Security at St. Elizabeths could instead go to Ward 3.

Given the high unemployment rate in Ward 8 — 18.6 percent — compared to 3.6 percent in Ward 3, maybe the switch isn’t such a bad idea.

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“There is this hope that Vincent Gray will do a good job” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/12/there-is-this-hope-that-vincent-gray-will-do-a-good-job/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/12/there-is-this-hope-that-vincent-gray-will-do-a-good-job/#comments Thu, 09 Dec 2010 19:45:57 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=2576 Continue reading ]]>


A City Divided looks at D.C's issues with class, gentrification and more.

Yesterday, I posted an in-depth discussion with Jeremy Borden, Managing Editor of “A City Divided“, a special edition of the American Observer. Today, I’m serving up an interview with Dan Merica, who wrote “Different worlds reflected in the barber’s mirror” for the project.

Why barbershops?

Ever since I was young, I have found Barbershops interesting. People who come in don’t know each other, but they are still comfortable enough to talk. I was always fascinated by the range of conversations that happened. When I thought of this piece, I wanted to pick something that the two wards had in common. I considered ice cream parlors, bars, hardware stores…something that both wards have, but barbershops were the perfect place.

Which patrons were most interesting to talk to?

There was a guy named Tucker, he was the focus of the piece, he had just got out of jail– his perspective really struck me.

He grew up in Ward 8, he comes back, and he sees the same problems. In 14 years, you’d think a lot had changed, but not much had changed between then and now. The barbers were very interesting, too. Prince Rasheed is a really nice guy. He was a good facilitator– great at starting a conversation and then letting whoever is in his chair continue that. That’s very helpful to a reporter.

Which patrons were more interested in talking to you?

In Ward 8, they wanted to talk more. There are a lot of different factors why…unemployment is high in ward 8, so they have time to hang out in barbershops. It’s almost like a community center.

What was the most surprising thing you discovered?

There are similarities between these two vastly different Wards; I think there is this hope that Vincent Gray will do a good job, for the good of the whole city. People would say, “He may not have been my choice, but he’s our mayor”. Hopefully he can live up to his rhetoric.

What’s next for you?

I have a semester left of school. I’m starting to apply for internships, job opportunities. I hope to stay in D.C. I’m originally from Las Vegas, NV, went to college in Boston, but I’d like to work here. I’d like to do political reporting.

Anything else?

I’m proud to have my name on “A City Divided”. Everyone involved deserves a lot of credit. We hope to continue this, and I think you can count on AU to continue doing things like this. I’ll give you a shameless plug– you can see more at americanobserver.net.

Thanks. I appreciate the shameless and will definitely include that.

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Advancing the Conversation with “A City Divided” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/12/advancing-the-conversation-with-a-city-divided/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/12/advancing-the-conversation-with-a-city-divided/#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 21:30:03 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=2539 Continue reading ]]>


As promised, here is my interview with Jeremy Borden of “A City Divided“. Jeremy was the Managing Editor of this special edition of the American Observer, which examined many of the same issues DCentric does.


I asked him about the reaction ACD has received:

It’s been great as a whole. Even though people have their specific critiques, that shows they’re looking at the stories and reflecting on them. That is advancing the conversation in a way that is very positive.

What was the impetus behind the project?

What we tried to do was hone in on the broader trends that came out of the September primaries. We knew there was all this divisiveness that had been written about in a broad way; we wanted to focus on specific narratives that exposed divisions in the city and also illuminated the big issues of that election. That’s a difficult thing to do, but I think one of the things that has been most pleasing to me is that we did hone in on narratives that matter to people. Look at the conversations people are having, they are good conversations about the issues affecting this city.

What about the smattering of negative reactions you’ve received online?
As journalists we do the best that we can within the constructs set out for us. What I think is extremely unfair– and there was only one comment like this, that felt we were being racist in our coverage…I felt the need to respond to that. Not everyone will have the same point of view, but all in all it’s been a really positive thing.

How do you respond to criticism that the multimedia map you offer is inaccurate? DCist said:

“There were some places that I do feel the writers missed the mark: for starters their front image, a map of D.C. with the ward lines has markers where their stories take place, and they are just inaccurate geographically. Columbia Heights is in Ward 1, yet a lot of the Columbia Heights stories are situated in Ward 2, according to their map. And then there’s the fact that, according to their map U Street lies north of Columbia Heights.”

The problem we were facing was we didn’t want to place all the dots (representing “flashpoints”) together, we wanted people to be able to differentiate between what they were clicking. We should’ve been more clear that it was representative of a general area and not precise. If you have a bunch of dots stacked on top of each other, would people be able to access the stories there? In hindsight, we should’ve been more transparent about that and we might have formatted the map differently, so the wards weren’t as defined because people do have the right to make that point, they are correct, the lines are not exactly where they should be if the map was 100 percent geographically accurate. I think that’s fair criticism.

What about the fact that the story, “Priced out in Columbia Heights” features interviews…with people from Mt. Pleasant. I live in Columbia Heights and the two neighborhoods are distinct.

We were trying to write for a city-wide audience and people who have an interest in these issues who are not from here. The interviews reveal experiences with that area in general. We went back and forth about this, but most people who don’t live there…when they refer to that area of the city, the call it Columbia Heights. I can understand some of the confusion, especially because that story got the most reactions. This is something that is happening not only in Columbia Heights, but other areas too, so that really hit a nerve.

And the stories that haven’t received as many reactions? Tell me about some of those.

We had a story about barbershops in ward 3 and ward 8 which is really interesting. It’s interactive, has great photos and is a strong story. That was our “above the fold” story. We also did a series of stories on ward 8. They didn’t get as much attention in the blogoshpere, but from what we can tell from the stats, people did click around and read us, which is great. There’s also an interesting story talking about the changing U street community.

What would you do differently?

When I originally conceived this, I wanted to make sure we had one story from each ward because these issues do exist in one way or another in each ward. That was one of the goals, but we didn’t necessarily get to do that. This was created by volunteers. Only people who were interested in this type of reporting did it. We did want to spread ourselves as wide as we geographically could, because there were other stories in other parts of the city, but we didn’t have the resources to cover them.

Who else was part of it?

A good team of us pulled together to get this done, from people who wrote to Jeremiah Patterson who did a lot of multimedia and Matt Boyle, who did design work. Dan Merica helped too, beyond his role as a reporter. Kate Musselwhite did social media and outreach as well as stories about Anacostia. I’m probably forgetting someone…

Hey, it happens.

We were a small team but we were able to pull this together, which wasn’t easy.

And going forward?

There has been some interest in trying to continue it, but we’re unsure of whether we’ll do that. We can’t do it on a daily basis, but we’d like to continue to report on these issues. The narrative will continue for as far as we can see. It would be interested to see how our coverage would morph as these issues change.


Be sure to tune in tomorrow, when I speak to Dan Merica about his piece (which Jeremy referred to, above), “Different worlds reflected in the barber’s mirror“.

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Tomorrow on DCentric: Jeremy Borden from “A City Divided” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/12/tomorrow-on-dcentric-jeremy-borden-from-a-city-divided/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/12/tomorrow-on-dcentric-jeremy-borden-from-a-city-divided/#comments Tue, 07 Dec 2010 20:28:02 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=2511 Continue reading ]]>


An hour ago, I spoke to Jeremy Borden; he’s the Managing Editor of “A City Divided”, the multi-media-enhanced special edition of American University’s graduate online publication, the American Observer.

“A City Divided” has (rightly) received coverage from the City Paper, DCist, NBC and other sites that focus on D.C. and its neighborhoods– but all of those posts were intended to alert readers about the project’s existence. I wanted to know more, so I reached out to Borden and interviewed him about ACD, the reactions it has received and…why the buzzed-about story “Priced out in Columbia Heights” featured three compelling interviews with residents of Mt. Pleasant.

I’m due to speak to him again, in a few minutes– he generously agreed to be interviewed while he tries to finish up projects/classes at AU– so look for that post, tomorrow. In the meantime, if you haven’t already seen it, check out “A City Divided“. Any regular reader of this blog will recognize the themes of gentrification, racial lines and community tensions; you might enjoy the spirited conversation the project has inspired, too.

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Now Reading About: Dr. Sabiyah Prince of AU http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/11/now-reading-about-dr-sabiyah-prince-of-au/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/11/now-reading-about-dr-sabiyah-prince-of-au/#comments Tue, 09 Nov 2010 22:06:57 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=1948 Continue reading ]]> One of you kindly sent me a link to “Behind The Research”, a series from The Atlanta Post that “explores the dynamic work of African-American professors around the country”. The first profile for Behind The Research is of Dr. Sabiyah Prince; coincidentally, she’s part of the Anthropology department here at American University. I thought her name sounded familiar and then I realized that she had been on my favorite NPR program ever, Morning Edition, to discuss the Real Housewives of D.C. with Neda Ulaby, back in August.

Back to The Atlanta Post. Reading this piece made me want to talk to Dr. Prince, myself:

What are you working on now?

I’ve done research over the last five years and right now I’m writing for my book which is about how Washington DC is changing demographically and how African-Americans are affected by the changes, how they are interpreting the changes and how they are responding to the changes. The African-American population in DC has been gradually decreasing since the 1970s.

What an amazing potential resource for DCentric (seriously, thank you to NG for this link).


How do you integrate your personal insight into your research?

When I first started doing my research, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at. I knew I want to address how DC was changing in some way, but I wasn’t sure specifically how I was going to go about addressing it. You probably know that you can’t just have some broad sprawling idea; you have to have some parameters around it in order to get people to think it’s worthwhile.

So I go out there and I started talking to people and I started to get my ideas from them because I started hearing how people were complaining that ‘DC isn’t black anymore, DC is changing.’ I realized that, “Wow! This is important.” I mean, I could see it myself. I’m native Washingtonian.

I’m sure my perspective is involved but I always work hard to be mindful of that and one of my approaches to prevent my own ideas from overshadowing what other folks have to say is that I’ve been very careful about introducing the subject of race. I’ve realized that if I said to people, “I want to talk to you about…” and then kind of lay it out with a very specific [question], that would somehow influence what they say, so I thought I would be more general in asking “What do you think about DC and how it is changing?” as opposed to, “You know, Black people are decreasing precipitously. Are you angry about this?”

I know exactly what she means about “introducing the subject of race”; I attempt to walk that tightrope whenever I’m talking to someone for DCentric. It’s difficult to bring up issues like race or gentrification in a neutral way, that won’t affect how an interviewee responds.

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Race and Class, everywhere. http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/10/race-and-class-everywhere/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2010/10/race-and-class-everywhere/#comments Tue, 26 Oct 2010 17:40:07 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=1657 Continue reading ]]> At some point between Sunday evening and Monday morning, the body of American University Professor Sue Marcum was discovered by a friend who had been concerned about her. Professor Marcum had taught at the business school since 1999. This morning, police got a major break in her case when Marcum’s stolen jeep was noticed by a “a license plate recognition sensor” (more on those, here):

Police went to Benning Road and attempted to stop the Jeep, Bonilla said, then gave chase when Hamlin allegedly tried to drive away. The Jeep crashed into a crosswalk signpost at the intersection of New York Avenue and M Street NW. Hamlin, who police said lives in Northwest Washington, was taken into custody and charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle and felony fleeing.

I learned everything I know about Professor Marcum’s death through the Washington Post; after feeling shock and sadness over this violent, awful crime, what struck me about this story yesterday was how quickly readers turned to race, when discussing the murder. Seven of the first eight comments are solely about race, class and the Post’s coverage of homicide. Here are the first two:

The ninth comment, left by “icarus0720au” is the first to address the loss of this beloved member of the AU community:

Further down, readers who knew may or may not have known Professor Marcum were upset that the comments were about race vs. loss:


I spent six years helping to build an online community for the South Asian diaspora where I was particularly vocal about the need for courtesy, compassion and respect. I used to remind our readers that whenever we blogged about someone who had died, friends and family of the deceased would inevitably find that post whether soon after their loss or years later. I’d remind people to remember that fact when choosing their words. But that was a unique, niche space and not the Washington Post. Our audience was tiny, and more targeted in comparison.

I understand the desire to express pain and sadness at a terrible loss; I also understand that others who are not connected to the tragedy may choose to focus on larger problems which plague society, whether such commentary is welcome or not. The question is, where is it appropriate to hash out such issues? Who has the right to comment threads? Or perhaps, who has *more* of a right to them, if such a thing could be determined? If you can’t talk about perceived inequality in the Post’s news coverage at the Washington Post, where can you discuss it?

I hope that DCentric is able to become that rare space where informed conversation about difficult topics occurs. We’re just starting out, so at this point, just a conversation or, you know, a comment or two would be great…but down the line, as more people feel comfortable talking to each other here, I hope that we can be a safe space for making sense of it all, a place which is defined by thoughtful exchanges and mutual respect.

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