Why so many black residents left D.C. and Marion Barry on diversity

D.C. Councilman Marion Barry (Ward 8 ) spoke with Michel Martin on NPR’s Tell Me More program today about D.C.’s dropping black population. Martin tried to get Barry to explain his call to stop gentrification as quoted in a Washington Post article from last week.

Flickr: Tom Bridge

The exchange itself is worth a listen, but here are some choice moments:

“What gentrification does is that it displaces longtime residents, longtime people who have been here 10, 20, 25 years and have been renters,” Barry said.

Barry also mentioned that “the Hispanic population grew by 9 percent and we welcome that kind of growth, but this city and other cities have to deal with gentrification.” He goes on to say that “white people… are displacing African American renters, gentrifying the city. I’m not afraid to speak up and say that’s something we have got to deal with.”

Later, Martin tells Barry “what’s interesting about your perspective here is that you were elected initially as part of a multicultural campaign. With your initial campaign you had strong support from a number of multiracial communities, including the gay community which often has been on the leading edge of revitalizing neighborhoods that have previously been in disrepair. So for some people, it’s why all of a sudden now you’re critical of the very people who supported you initially.”

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Funding Diversity Through NPR

Flickr: NC in DC

The mothership, on Mass Ave. WAMU is up in Tenleytown, if you were wondering.

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 1076, which would take federal funding away from NPR and prohibit local stations from using such money to acquire ANY programming. While reading this message on WAMU’s website, something else struck me about this issue– how it will impact diversity:

This issue affects a much larger population than only WAMU 88.5 and our Washington community. If H.R. 1076 becomes law, many local public radio stations, particularly those in rural areas, would have difficulty continuing to provide the news and public affairs programs that millions of Americans rely on every day.

Diverse voices are also at stake. This bill would affect the ability of stations to access Native Voice 1, the Native American Radio Service. It would impact the work of the Latino Public Radio Consortium and the African American Public Radio Consortium, which create and distribute programs that showcase those diverse perspectives that mainstream public radio wants and needs to hear.

When I was at Public Media Camp last year, I heard a speaker mention that in some rural areas, public radio is the only source of culturally-diverse or international news and programming. At a time when newspapers around the country are shrinking, if not closing, that’s a sobering thought. If H.R. 1076 passes, who will be silenced? And how would that impact all of us?

Local Tweets About NPR and Anacostia

I used Storify, a neat tool which aggregates tweets (or other snippets of social media) and presents them in one tidy package to pull together local reactions to yesterday’s Morning Edition segment on Anacostia. What you see above is a screen shot of the collection. The full, interactive “story” is below the jump:

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And Now, Another View of Anacostia, from David Garber

The Morning Edition story about Anacostia which riled some locals.

Yesterday, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a piece about how Washington, D.C. is changing: “D.C., Long ‘Chocolate City,’ Becoming More Vanilla“. The segment was taped in Anacostia, and if social media is an accurate way to gauge local reactions, this highly-anticipated story dismayed and disappointed some listeners who live in Chocolate City.

While the racial makeup of D.C. is changing (everywhere– not just east of the river), some D.C. residents worried that the story showed an incomplete picture of a community which already struggles with how it is stereotyped and viewed. Did journalist Alex Kellogg go to Anacostia with a predetermined narrative in mind, which he padded with formulaic soundbites? A black resident is forced out. A young white gentrifier takes his place. People are robbed and pistol-whipped in an “edgy”, poor, black part of town.

Or is Kellogg guilty of dwelling on a community’s challenges instead of its immense potential? Is it even possible to tell a Ward 8 community’s story in under eight minutes? After speaking with David Garber, one of the people who was interviewed by Kellogg, I wonder if the answer to that last question is…”Maybe not.”

I emailed Garber as soon as I saw his tweets, which denounced the piece. Here’s what I knew about him from reading his blog, “And Now, Anacostia“, before Morning Edition taught me what he actually sounded like; Garber had lived in Anacostia, he was a booster for that community and he ceaselessly tried to counter the negative reactions it inspires. When I type “ceaseless”, I mean it– in 2009, when four men broke into his home during a holiday party and robbed his guests, Garber wrote:

As the night unfolded I was most frustrated that this happened in the presence of my guests, and that they would no doubt think differently about a neighborhood that they had grown comfortable with.

That’s right. Garber wasn’t worried about his safety or that he was a target– he was concerned that people who were already hesitant to visit him in Anacostia had just had their worst assumptions validated. And that’s the biggest complaint I saw yesterday– that Kellogg’s story conveniently confirmed the worst stereotypes about Anacostia. The fact that the story aired on Morning Edition, a respected program which thoughtful people trust for a nuanced take on the news only made it that much more powerful– and painful.

I called Garber yesterday, and spoke with him about Morning Edition, how he was portrayed and what he thinks about gentrification. He had quite a bit to say.
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Morning Edition Chokes on Chocolate City

During today’s Morning Edition, NPR played a story called “D.C., Long ‘Chocolate City,’ Becoming More Vanilla” by Alex Kellogg. The piece covered the demographic changes that everyone loves to discuss– namely how Chocolate City is going from Dark to Milk– and it did it in Anacostia! So not only did it hit DCentric’s sweet spot, it hit a few local bloggers’ sore spots. One of them was profiled in the story:

David Garber, 27, owns one home in Anacostia and is about to buy two more that are now boarded up. Garber, who is white, says people were happy when he moved to the neighborhood several years ago, because he rehabbed a home that was a haven for drug dealers and addicts.

He left the neighborhood after a 2009 incident where 15 friends were robbed at gunpoint at a Christmas party at his home. He insists that wasn’t the primary reason he moved, and he refuses to say the area is less safe than other parts of town — even though its violent crime rate is the highest in the city. He also insists the neighborhood is still affordable to anyone and everyone who wants to live there.

After the piece aired, Garber tweeted this:

NPR segment this morning about changes in Anacostia, in which they skew facts to tell a worn-out, sensationalist story:
David Garber

…which inspired me to reach out to him, to learn more about what was skewed and sensational. I love learning about the stories behind stories, don’t you? I’ll keep you posted, trust.

Update: I spoke to David Garber yesterday. Find that interview, here.

Matt! Be our Guest (Blogger), Be our Guest!

A quick administrative note: please welcome Matt Thompson of Project Argo/npr to DCentric!

Matt Thompson is an Editorial Product Manager at National Public Radio, where he’s helping to coordinate the development of 12 topic-focused local news sites in conjunction with NPR member stations. Before moving to DC, Matt served as the interim Online Community Manager for the Knight Foundation. In May 2009, he completed a Donald W. Reynolds Fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute; his explorations into creating context-centric news websites have been widely cited in discussions about online journalism’s future. He came to RJI from his position as deputy Web editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he led the creation of the Edgie-award-winning, socially networked arts-and-entertainment website While managing the development, community and production of, he also managed technology and interactivity-related projects for, from creating an internal taxonomy to transforming the online opinion section into a blog…

Matt graduated with honors in English from Harvard College in 2002, after writing his senior thesis on the television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Outside of work, he blogs at, has completed one Twin Cities Marathon, and is itching to get ready for another.

I stole that bio from here, where you can also find a picture of the man who encouraged me to apply for my dream job at WAMU: writing for DCentric. Matt kindly offered to pitch in and contribute to the blog for a week. Consider it an early holiday gift, because even though you might not realize it yet, that’s what it is.

“I think the bike lobby liked Fenty.”


Random cab in D.C. I was too busy typing to photograph mine!

I opened the door and threw my laptop bag and purse down the expansive backseat of a weathered American sedan. “NPR, please”, I said. The driver looked at me in his rear view mirror, eyes crinkling.

“They are building a new building.” His voice was low and lovely. I instantly relaxed, as I often do, when I hear the lilt of an accent.

“NPR? Yes, they are.”

“I hope they tear all the walls. It’s just a warehouse, that thing was old.” He pronounces thing like “ting”. I love it.

“You’re awfully opinionated about a company you don’t even listen to,” I teased. “Isn’t this WTOP I’m hearing?” He decisively punches one button on his radio, and the car is filled with the Diane Rehm Show. “I work for WAMU,” I tell him.

“I switch from time to time. Whole thing is great. Rehm is doing well, Kojo is doing fine. You work with Kojo from time to time?”

I mention that I work on the same floor but that no, I don’t work with him. He changes the subject.

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Liveblogging Juan Williams on WAMU

Today, erstwhile-NPR Analyst Juan Williams was on the second hour of the Diane Rehm Show, here at WAMU. I listened in…

Interesting: Juan and Diane are good friends, have been for many years; he has been on DR show several times. He thanks her for speaking to him during this “turmoil”. It’s a nice reminder that he’s an actual person, with a long history beyond this and not just a political football or insensitive panderer.

The NPR ombudsman has received 22,000 messages about this? Wow.

“Diane I’m the same person in both venues (NPR and Fox), but I’m aware of the differences in both venues.

“When I was fired, last Wednesday, the woman who called me said, “would you have said the same thing on NPR?” and I said, “of course”…(she tried to say I had violated journalistic ethics)…it would violate my journalistic ethics if I didn’t tell the truth!”

Diane is playing the actual exchange between Williams and O’Reilly for us.

DR: Do you have any regrets…
JW: None!

Williams says that his comment about Muslims is not analogous to the comparisons his critics are making to negative speech about African Americans (i.e. “How would he feel if people said something similar about Black people?”): “There’s no history of black people getting in airplanes and…”. He goes on to describe how fear can be appropriate, even in “small town America”, because “it’s a matter of being aware of your environment”. He clarifies that he wasn’t advocating profiling or extra scrutiny, saying “I simply admitted to my feelings.”
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