Shaw, Gentrification and Youth Violence, via People’s District

Flickr: Justin DC

Rainbow over Shaw.

I’ve mentioned People’s District on DCentric before, but I want to point you towards that excellent project again, because of their Friday post, from a D.C. citizen named Willette, who lives in Shaw:

“My eyes have seen so many changes in the neighborhood. All of the buildings and people done changed. Now, they make us think that Shaw is going to be the next Georgetown. I guess that means that a lot of us will be pushed out. That may help the neighborhood, but it won’t really help all of kids on the corners who don’t have nothing. Don’t matter it they are in Shaw or you move ‘em somewhere else, they are still going to be hanging out on the corner with no opportunities.

“Because I work, live, and raise my kids in this community, I see this stuff everyday. Kids should feel like they can do anything in the world, but many of these kids can’t read or write. Some kids will only get one meal a day at school. Some kids get caught up and become offenders. Then, they find themselves on the street as teenagers and no one wants to give them a chance. All the time, kids be coming to me saying, ‘Ms. Willette, I just want a chance.’ Many of them won’t get it because of a mistake.

“When we talk about violence in our communities, a lot of it comes from these kids with no hope or opportunities…Some people here want to just give up and let that stuff take over. Seniors will stay in the house and parents won’t let their kids out to play. That is not a way to live. We can’t let violence destroy our communities. I decided to give back in my own way by organizing a project called Safe Streets. I took some of the kids in the community and gave them a back pack, notebook, school uniform, and a pair of shoes. Many of these kids had nothing and no one to take care of them. Giving them these little things gave them some hope. I did it three times, and got people like the mayor and police chief involved. It was really successful and I want to keep doing it because people in the community keep asking me to.

“I realize that some people are lazy and feel like this cycle of poverty and violence is never going to end. But, there are so many people who have hope and just need a chance. Obama is down the street, but he can’t do everything. A lot of these kids are ex-offenders and they don’t get no chance. That means that we need to take care of ourselves and make our own situation better.

“I pray for a day when me and my kids won’t have to be around violence all the time. My goal is to one day open up a center of my own to help teens. We have kids with no food, no place to go, and no opportunities. I would hope that someone would do that for my kids if I needed it, so I want to do it to help theirs.

If you aren’t reading People’s District already, I hope you consider adding it to your bookmarks or reader. What Danny Harris is trying to do is very powerful. If we hear these stories, then our neighbors become real; if our neighbors become real people instead of abstract annoyances, then we are more likely to respond to them with compassion than frustration.