DCentric Picks: ‘The Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket’

What: “(Un)Lock It: The Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket” photo exhibition.

When: Opening is from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday. The show runs until Oct. 7.

Where: The Gallery at Vivid Solutions, 2208 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE.

Cost: Free.

Why you should go: Photographer and drummer Thomas Sayers Ellis has been documenting the lives of local go-go stars and shows since the 1980s. His images capture D.C.’s homegrown musical culture even as it appears to be vanishing from the District’s borders.

Other events to consider: If you’re between 13 and 17 years of age (or know someone who is) consider attending Portraits After 5, which will feature a youth fashion show, portrait booths and the chance to view art at the National Portrait Gallery. The teen event takes place 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday.

Teen Curfews and Racial Undertones

William Warby / Flickr

A proposed curfew in Montgomery County would prevent teens under 18 from being out past midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays.

On Wednesday’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, guests spoke about the merits of instituting a teen curfew in Montgomery County. And parts of the discussion centered around young people in nearby D.C. and Prince George’s County, the majority of whom are black.

Montgomery County’s curfew is intended to curtail crime, particularly gang violence. But guest Daniel Okonkwo, executive director of DC Lawyers for Youth, said after the broadcast that much of the debate is loaded with “coded language.” Some proponents want to keep D.C. and Prince George’s County youth from coming to Montgomery County because they believe they cause trouble.

“We want to keep our kids safe from those kids” is an underlying theme, says Okonkwo, an opponent of the curfew.

D.C.’s curfew, on the books since 1995, prohibits teens under 17 from being out past 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends. There have been other efforts to crack down on teens congregating in neighborhoods like Chinatown — including blasting classical music in favorite hang-out spots and installing other noise repellents.

Business owners say rowdy teens hurt them by driving customers away, particularly when violence erupts. But as Washington Post‘s Courtland Milloy writes, many young black people feel they “are being treated like suspects because of a misbehaving few:”

“My friends and I got locked up two months ago for walking across the sidewalk,” Ke’Shayla Thorne, 17, a student at Spingarn High School in Northeast, told me. “The police said, ‘Come here, you’re under arrest.’ But other people walk like that all the time and they expect black kids to move off the sidewalk and let them pass. Nobody locks them up.”

You can listen to the entire Kojo Nnamdi segment here.

Seniors in Need Get Free Lawn Service

miggslives / Flickr

These humid summer months make mowing a lawn an arduous task, and District residents with grass more than 10 inches high could be slapped with a $500 fine. But not everyone is physically capable of mowing a lawn or can afford to pay someone else to do it.

Thankfully, there is some help out there. Starting Saturday, senior citizens in all D.C. wards are eligible to have youth mow their lawns for free. The D.C. Department of Employment Services’ youth division is expanding its free lawn cutting service, which started in Ward 5 last year. Supervised youth working D.C. summer jobs will mow lawns of any size.

If you have an elderly neighbor or relative who could use the help, act quickly — the deadline to ask for this service is 5 p.m., Monday. Priority will be given to disabled seniors who live alone. Contact the Office of Aging at 202-724-5622 or DOES at 202-724-7000.

Black and Jewish Youth Embark On Civil Rights Pilgrimage

Courtesy of Operation Understanding DC

Black and Jewish D.C. youth have gone on summer civil rights pilgrimages for years. Here, Susan Barnett and Elia Emerson, pose on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1997.

The relationship between the African American and Jewish communities is long and complicated, with periods of collaboration and discord. But one group of black and Jewish D.C. youth is looking to bridge the gap that has grown in recent years.

The teenagers, members of non-profit Operation Understanding DC, boarded a bus Wednesday morning and will spend 23 days retracing the path of the Freedom Riders as part of a civil rights pilgrimage.

Highlights include crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala., meeting community organizers and visiting various churches, synagogues and mosques.

There is a history of black and Jewish Americans working together, particularly during the civil rights movement. For instance, Jews were involved in the establishment of the NAACP and participated in non-violent protests. Locally, Jews joined Howard University students in 1960 to push Glen Echo Park, then an amusement park, to desegregate. But the positive relationship between the two communities has declined in recent decades as legal civil rights victories were won but class and racial disparities grew.

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D.C. to Hire 4,000 More Youth for Summer Jobs

Courtesy of D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities

Youth work on a mural project in Anacostia during last year's D.C. Summer Employment Program.

Here’s some good news for District youth: nearly half of the jobs cut from the city’s summer employment program have now been restored.

City agencies, youth advocates and parents had been bracing for a summer with fewer structured activities for teens — budget cuts meant that the summer jobs program had to be scaled back by 8,000 jobs. But Mayor Vincent Gray announced Monday the city has found additional money and that 4,000 more teens can now get summer jobs, the Washington Post reports.  The extra money comes from revised revenue estimates, thanks to an improving economy. The program began Monday:

For the first time, applicants were asked to indicate their interests and employers were allowed to interview and screen applicants.

The first day of work on Monday appeared to run more smoothly than in recent years. Officials said only a few mix-ups were reported — such as participants arriving before their supervisors or requesting to be reassigned — but nothing unexpected.

The Department of Employment Services has a hotline to field calls, but the agency was mostly occupied with finding new placements for all the youths coming off the wait list. A department spokesman said the jobs would be found this week and participants would start July 5.

Last year, 20,000 youth had summer jobs. The program employs District residents ages 14 through 21 to earn minimum wage while working for local government and businesses.

More Resources for Finding Free and Cheap Summer Activities

Last week, I wrote about the lack of structured activities for D.C.’s youth this summer and provided some alternatives. A few additional suggestions have come in since, including three free soccer and arts camps in Wards 1 and 7 [PDF] and a long list of art-related activities.

I also reported that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation was about to relaunch its D.C. Summer Fun website. The revamped site is up now, and it includes updated information on camps, library programs and job opportunities for youth. It even has this D.C. Summer Fun commercial that makes anyone sweltering in today’s heat long for the city’s swimming pools:

Lawsuit Alleges Councilman Bought Audi with Money Meant for Youth Baseball

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

For those disheartened by the cuts in funding for youth programming this summer may want to pay close attention to a lawsuit brought against Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5).

The D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation, which doles out money to youth-oriented programming, has less money to give out this summer, meaning more District youth will be without structured activities. Three years ago, the group gave out $4 million to summer programs; given recent budget cuts, this year they only be able to give $1 million.

An earmark from the group is now tied up in a lawsuit brought by D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, reports WAMU’s Patrick Madden. Nathan “says he is seeking to recover more than $300,000 that was supposed to help youth baseball which Nathan alleges ended up being used for Thomas’ own personal and political uses.”

The Washington City Paper reports that according to the lawsuit, back in 2008, Thomas steered “$316,000 of a $400,000 earmark from the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation to the non-profit Langston 21st Century Foundation, which, at Thomas’ direction, gave the money to Thomas’ non-profit and the for-profit version of Team Thomas.”

So how was that money, intended for youth baseball, then used? The lawsuit alleges that Thomas directed $75,000 in checks be given to him, which were he then put into his bank account. Shortly thereafter Thomas bought himself a $59,000 Audi.

During a press conference today, Thomas denied allegations of wrong-doing and vowed to clear his name.

Cheap and Free Summer Activities for D.C. Youth

Nearly $17 million cut from summer youth programs in D.C. and 8,000 less D.C. summer teen jobs means thousands more youth will have no structured activities this summer, reports WAMU‘s Kavitha Cardoza. Summer break is just weeks away, and D.C.’s parks and library systems are preparing for a potential flood of kids to their free and reduced programming.

“There’s a huge awareness in the youth-serving community that we’re going to be called on to do more with less,” said Rebecca Renard, the D.C. Public Library’s summer program coordinator.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Swimming is a cool, cheap summer activity.

Department of Parks and Recreation spokesman John Stokes said that “the budget is not what it used to be, so you have to make lemonade with lemons.” DPR is teaming up with other agencies, businesses and community organizations to provide programs, and DPR is also organizing a comprehensive online guide to city activities.

“I’ve been here for eight years, and it’s never been this intense, where every week about 20 agency heads get together in a room and ask, ‘Who’s going to offer what in the summer? How are we going to make sure these areas are covered nonstop?’” Stokes said.

So what is available this summer to D.C. youth who can’t afford expensive alternatives? Here are a few low-cost activities:

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D.C. Youth On Mixed-Race Ancestry: It’s Complicated

Students of School Without Walls in D.C. speak about their personal and cultural identities in “Finding Self: Asian America’s Youth.” The short film, produced by  Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co.’s Asian American Youth Program, profiles multiracial and mixed-Asian ancestry students. We’ve written before about how multiracial residents fit into D.C.’s landscape, but as these youth point out, mixed identities often go unacknowledged by others. One student states:

“There’s genetic identity, there’s cultural identity, there’s who you are compared to everyone around you. People expect everyone to be a single thing, like you can only be Asian, or someone can only be white, or only black or whatever. And I think everyone in that sense is a hybrid. No one is like a pure Asian, or a pure American.”

And sometimes other people’s perceptions trump your own reality. One student talks about her Chinese ancestry, but then mentions:

“People who are full Chinese never think I’m Chinese. Like they just straight up don’t believe me when I say I’m a quarter Chinese. They just say, ‘No, you’re white.’ It doesn’t really bother me because I know I’m Chinese and I have a relationship with my Chinese relatives.”