My fam came down for a visit to view the amazing Martin Luther King Memorial. I also gave them a tour of "Historic U Street" thinking this would be an awesome way to witness MLK's dream in action. America elected a Black President, erected a Black memorial to a Black hero and somehow evicted Black folks for a new U Street!
While we shouldered our way through Busboys'n'Poets, Eatonville and what was once Cafe Nema, Mocha Hut and State of the Union, we also stumbled over black grandmas, white teens, gay deadlocked couples and a few Lil Wayne wanna-be skateboarders. One family member was appalled! How could this become a place that lost all the history and ownership of what "we" owned on U Street. Another family member was impressed and remarked, "Wow, great catfish and I love the service and safety." Great food, great service and safety, the three tenets of a nice neighborhood for any red-blooded American.
I stand somewhere in the middle. I love that U Street's clever storefronts pay homage to our African-American ancestors, yet still manage to make everyone feel welcomed. I applaud U Street businesses for their industrious spirit and tapping into un-chartered territory by monetizing DC's cultural black history.On the other side of the fence (or river), I am little dismayed that an inner city improvement model depends so heavily upon disposable income. Must revitalization automatically translate into beer houses, bars, lounges, restaurants, jewelry or clothing stores?
We later drive back to my home in Anacostia, where suburban whites used to live on green hills in large Victorian homes. Anacostia, home of the great orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Anacostia, nestled on the banks the river where the Nanotoch Indians would fish and greeted Captain John Smith. And now, Anacostia a largely African-American, low income community holding on to the last vestiges of "Chocolate City", but with little access to resources to satiate the ever-hungry disposable American dollar.
For more on the past, present and future of Anacostia:
Kojo Namdi Show on Preserving Anacostia's History on September 15, 2011
Does Gentrification mean Eradication? Ward 8 Round-table
Wed, Sept 28, 7pm UPO Petey Greene Community Center
2907 MLK Jr. Avenue SE Washington, D.C. 20020
The Village That Shaped Us: A Look at Washington DC's Anacostia Community
By Dianne Dale Dale Publishing $29.95