Delightful City


Scurlock and Sons: Beautiful Black D.C.

Flickr: Libenne

Young ladies watching a football game at Griffith stadium, from the 2009 Scurlock exhibit at the Smithsonian. The Scurlock family operated a famed U Street studio, which was known for its elegant work.

It feels appropriate to look at black and white pictures of Washington’s past, when it is so gray outside. Luckily, the Left for LeDroit blog is offering up a series of fascinating images, taken by esteemed African American photographer Addison Scurlock, who, with his sons Robert and George, ran a successful studio on U Street NW, which was “one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington”.

The National Museum of American History is working hard to protect the vast Scurlock collection of pictures, many of which captured important parts of D.C.’s black history. Left for LeDroit deserves much credit for inspiring a delightful online journey which taught me a lot about this family and their beautiful work.
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Potter’s House: All Races, All Classes, All Good


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.

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Saint Martin of Luther Place: a Historic Congregation’s New Mural

Luther Place: Amanda Weber

Luther Place's second mural, featuring "Saint Martin of Birmingham", watches over 14th street.

Before this week, if you had asked me where “Luther Place” was, I would’ve looked at you blankly, despite the fact that I’ve lived here since 1999. Shame on me, for that. Luther Place Memorial Church sits on Thomas Circle; it’s a brick building you’ve probably passed dozens of times if you walk, bike or drive on 14th street NW. This week, the congregation dedicated a special mural featuring “Saint Martin of Birmingham”, or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I spoke to Reverend Karen Brau yesterday about this new piece of public art, her congregation and its history in this city.

Tell me about Luther Place.

It’s a congregation that has been part of this city since the 1870s. In the 1960s, when riots happened on 14th street, we were called to open our doors and be a refuge for people at that time. Now we have a ministry for homeless women that serves over 800 women a year with shelter, job placement and help with recovery from addiction.

I’d love to know more about what Luther Place did during the riots–

The congregation made the decision to open the doors of our church, and it became a point of sanctuary for people who needed a place to stay. Luther Place also became a distribution point…other congregations from different parts of the city brought food to us that could be shared with people being affected by what was going on at that time. I think that act was a turning point; in the words of the gospel, you should love your neighbor, care for a stranger. Those words came to life in a very palpable way. And not everyone could deal with that, so that defined the congregation too.
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Remembering the “Moral Leader of our Nation”

Flickr: Marlon E

"I have a dream..."

As someone who did Speech and Debate for all four years of high school, I have a special appreciation for first drafts, unexpected riffs and the power to be inspired by the moment, the divine…or Mahalia Jackson. Check out “On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of ‘I Have a Dream‘”, by Clarence B. Jones, via WaPo:

The weather and the massive crowd were in sync – both calm and warm for the March on Washington. Even the D.C. Metropolitan Police, which had been bracing for a race riot, had nothing to complain about.

I remember when it was all over but the final act. As I stood some 50 feet behind the lectern, march Chairman A. Philip Randolph introduced Martin, to wild applause, as “the moral leader of our nation.” And I still didn’t know how Martin had pulled the speech together after our meeting.

After Martin greeted the people assembled, he began his speech, and I was shocked when these words quickly rolled out:

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check.

Martin was essentially reciting the opening suggestions I’d handed in the night before. This was strange, given the way he usually worked over the material Stanley and I provided. When he finished the promissory note analogy, he paused. And in that breach, something unexpected, historic and largely unheralded happened. Martin’s favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who had performed earlier in the day, called to him from nearby: “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin, tell ‘em about the dream!”

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Five More Questions for Bread for the City’s George Jones


Yesterday, I published a slideshow from Bread for the City’s January 7 grand opening. I also posted the first part of an interview with the non-profit’s Executive Director, George A. Jones. More of my conversation with Jones is below; in it, he discusses how the expansion of the group’s Shaw location will facilitate an expansion in their services–as well as how you can help.

What if people want to get involved?

There are two major ways: volunteer or give. We accept cash contributions and in-kind contributions of donated food and clothing. When it comes to people’s cash donations 90% of every dollar goes to our five core services.

A lot of people like to have tangible connections to our programs so we encourage them to do food drives. We have 5-10 volunteers on a given day; there are scores of people looking to do community service, including kids or teens for school. They can develop food drives right at their schools or boys club, girl scouts…I encourage parents to have their children do these food drives remotely and bring the food to us. We give kids a menu to try and generate certain foods, including items that are low in sodium, vegetables or non-perishable stuff, because we provide supplemental groceries designed to last three days to families whose incomes are very low–less than $7,000. They may not be on food stamps, even if they run a great risk of running out of food.

These are families who are food insecure, who are at the risk of running out before the end of the month. Our food pantry was designed to support such people.

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What’s so great about D.C.? Everything!

Flickr: jGregor

Photographer j Gregory Barton saw this young woman on the Metro, and asked if he could capture the love.

I love twitter. It’s the one element of social media I use most; from story ideas to learning about breaking news, I tweet, retweet and read tweets, constantly. For those whose grasp of it is hazy, Twitter is a site where you can post updates, thoughts, links or absolute drivel– all in 140 characters or less. When someone starts following your drivel tweets, you get an alert telling you about this happy development. While it isn’t always possible to do so, I love examining these emails and learning more about the people who were kind enough to start reading me, by checking out whom we have in common, perusing their brief bios and clicking on their links.

One such Twitter user, Jacob Patterson-Stein, gave me three Christmas presents on December 25; he started following DCentric’s twitter account (@DCntrc), he started following my personal account (@suitablegirl) and when I looked at his bio and found his blog, “Tumbling Through the City“, he made me smile with a recent post of his, “50 Great Things About D.C.“. Here are his picks for numbers 14 through 26:

Part of Jacob Patterson-Stein's list of 50 things he loves about D.C.

Jacob has inspired me to start curating my own list, but I’d love your help, too. 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!

A People’s History of Washington, D.C.

Amphis d'@illeurs

Danny Harris

Last night, I finally met and had a fantastic conversation with Danny Harris, the man behind the popular local website,”People’s District“. Danny is a photographer, DJ and oral historian who collects the stories of D.C. residents. Here’s why:

People’s District was my way of meeting the people I saw every day, but never stopped to introduce myself to: Carolyn, the crossing guard on my street; Cedric, who ran by my office most days, spinning in circles while yelling ‘HOOT, HOOT’; Dave, who rides his bike up and down my street in a finely tailored suit and fedora; and Josh, who checks my ID at the 9:30 Club. I saw these people more often than I saw my own family, yet I had never exchanged more than a ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ with them.

During one of those proverbial wake-up moments in July 2009, I stopped my first person to ask, ‘So, what’s your story?’ Joe, my first interviewee, spoke passionately about growing up on U Street and his first experience of going downtown after the end of segregation. After Joe came Andrew, talking about overcoming homelessness, then Eric and Maddie, discussing the D.C. hardcore music scene. Each story shed light on a new slice of D.C. life and brought me into the world of a complete stranger who was kind enough to share his or her story with me.

Each of those tales is compelling and while this is the part of my post where I’d normally exhort you to visit Danny’s online collection of D.C. stories, I probably don’t have to– the number one question I get from DCentric readers is, “Have you seen this site called ‘People’s District’?”. I’m not surprised (both of our sites explore race, class and the city), but I am grateful for the recommendation (seriously– feel free to tell me what you are reading). If I did introduce you to a new addition for your reader, then I’m glad I was able to shine some light on a worthy endeavor.

And what a tux it will be!


Chuck Brown, shooting his "Block Party" video.

Congratulations to Chuck Brown, who was nominated for an Emmy! TBD has some words from the Go-go legend, himself:

“It’s the most wonderful thing ever,” Brown says. “I never dreamed of this, I didn’t even dream of this. This has been a great, great year—the greatest year of my career.

“After some 40 years in the business, running around and singing in different parts of the world, I never thought it would be like this,” he continues. “I give all credit to God, my manager, and my family. My wife and children have been such an inspiration, so encouraging.”

Although the Grammy ceremony isn’t until February, Brown, known for his amazing sartorial choices, already has an idea of what he’ll wear on the big night.

“I’m going to wear a tux,” he says. “I have a bunch of suits, but I know I can’t go wrong with a tux.”