Ward 8


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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Righteous Real Estate

Flickr: ONE DC

Lydia DePillis of the City Paper writes about a new source for affordable housing in the District– churches. DePillis visited one house of worship, the Temple of Praise, an interdenominational megachurch that Mayor-for-life Marion Barry attends; the Temple has big plans for Ward 8. The church is so popular, it has outgrown the huge building it built just eight years ago; now it wants to construct something larger and transform the current Temple into a charter school. Beyond that, the ambitious church wants to develop affordable housing on its property.

And Bishop Glen Staples isn’t stopping there. He’s working on building a medical clinic, and wants to construct senior housing and a new community center, as well as a credit union, local retail, and restaurants—which neither the market nor the government have brought to that part of Ward 8 (even the local McDonald’s is vacant).

“There’s nothing here,” says Staples, taking a break in his dark wood and leather-trimmed inner sanctum, while the noon service thunders outside. “I don’t know if politicians are able to do anything, if they want to do anything, I don’t know, but I do know nothing’s been done. So it’s incumbent on us to try to do something.”

“Re-knitting an urban fabric” might be just what this city needs:

The particularly important thing here: These are the kinds of building projects many neighborhoods either grumble about or reject altogether. A church’s willingness to put them in its own neighborhood demonstrates a confidence in its ability to be a positive and stabilizing influence, re-knitting an urban fabric shredded by drugs and crime, in places where private capital would never voluntarily go.

Barry: “right now, 55 percent of the new hires are not D.C. residents.”

Over at the Afro, Dorothy Rowley writes “District’s Black Residents Remain Hard Pressed to Find Jobs“:

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute reported in October that while joblessness surged in part last year for the District’s African-American residents, employment remained relatively steady for its White residents and those with a college degree

“The city’s high unemployment rate is obviously not going to turn around simply because the overall economy recovers, DCFPI Executive Director Ed Lazere, told the AFRO. “Our leaders have to make this a priority and have to make concerted efforts to address it,” he continued, “and given that the unemployment rates are highest for residents in isolated wards who often have limited jobs skills, it seems pretty logical that concerted efforts would help residents get access to skills – whether it’s through high school, a community college or other means.”

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, agreed. But he said the key to fighting joblessness – particularly in his district – is contingent upon attracting the ears of the private sector and federal government. “The city’s initiative has to be to become more involved with the private sector and the federal government,” Barry said. “There are 700,000 jobs in the District of Columbia and 340,000 of them are with the federal government. The rest are in the private sector, so we have to get the District government to start hiring more city residents because right now, 55 percent of the new hires are not D.C. residents.”

Mary Cuthbert really, really likes Vincent Gray

Over in Ward 8, when the The Advoc8te, who blogs at Congress Heights on the Rise tried to vote today, she encountered this drama, involving an ANC Commissioner, two police cars and allegations of electioneering:

On my way into the elementary school I did see Commissioner Mary Cuthbert (8C03) (she of the n-word infamy) sitting alongside the fence directly in front of her the school in support of her candidate (Gray) and clutching some “Gray for Mayor” t-shirts… It seems Mary was clearly (and I mean clearly) within the “campaigning free zone” which had been indicated by very direct signage advising there would be no campaigning beyond that point.

…The polling station manager asked Ms. Cuthbert to please move farther down the fence beyond the posted signs – she refused. He asked again and she refused again stating that the law is she can’t be within 50 feet of the door so she didn’t care where he put the signs she wasn’t moving (please note: all the other campaigners stayed outside of the campaign free zone).  At some point William Lockridge got involved and he started yelling at the polling manager and getting up in his face and someone called the police.

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