I started this blog in the summer of 2007, about a month before buying a house in the neighborhood. Inspired by other neighborhood blogs across the city, I wanted to provide a casual and visual place for others to see Anacostia the way I was starting to see it, and hoped it would help push forth a counterpoint to the generally-accepted belief that Anacostia was a scary place with nothing to offer, that you only found yourself in if you slept through your Metro stop or got lost on 295.
During my three years living in Anacostia, the change often seemed so incremental that sometimes I'd have to look up before and after pictures to remind myself that it was even happening. But it was. Houses on every block were restored. Trees were planted. Friday night art openings at Honfleur and Vivid hosted more and more newbies and outsiders checking out the neighborhood. Seeing it as something other than the stereotypes. A coffee shop opened, then a neighborhood bar opened. For the first time in a long time, neighbors, visitors, and workers had places to grab a bite or a drink in this part of town. Without buying it through bullet-proof glass. Sounds so simple, but it was a seachange.
For a neighborhood with a gorgeous housing stock, Metro, Circulator, and Bikeshare access, two main streets, beautiful spring blossoms, river frontage, and that je ne sais quoi embodied in things like block association Christmas caroling, the front porch neighbor-waving culture, and the beacon of historic leadership and values that is the Frederick Douglass Estate, what Anacostia has always needed is just people and institutions to help boost it that next step up from where it already is. And the momentum for that, it seems, is finally building.
Is Anacostia there? Nope. Abandoned houses pockmark its streets. Barbed-wired-in parking lots mar the downtown areas that will, hopefully, one day be the neighborhood's center. People, places, and plans have and will disappoint. The overall vision isn't where it needs to be, and ward leadership still brings down the broader area that could otherwise be a lighthouse of positive and progressive change.
My friend and Anacostia cheerleader Nikki Peele said once that Anacostia isn't the next U Street, or the next Adams Morgan, or the next H Street. Whatever happens in Anacostia will turn it into the next Anacostia. It's unique. It has its own architecture, its own history, and an awesomely passionate class of eager residents that just want it to develop into an inclusive, amenity-filled, and good-looking neighborhood.
For the people living in Anacostia who are packing out Uniontown Bar & Grill every night, filling up Historic Anacostia Block Association meetings, and hoping a few more decent places open up shop in the neighborhood, Barracks Row is close, but MLK Ave? That's closer. More general and lifestyle amenities are needed, and as more businesses take a chance and succeed, more will come. More art shows will happen. More houses will get their grooves back. More infrastructural, architectural, heck -- maybe even political -- changes will take place.
Which is why in a lot of ways it kills me, as someone who has really loved this role, to admit/realize/say outloud/think about the fact that it's time to turn the page on Ye Olde Anacostia Blog. But truthfully, this "turning of the page" for me has been a while coming.
"At crucial moments of choice, most of the business of choosing is already over." It's an Iris Murdoch quotation that my dad has, ever since I was a kid, reminded me of. We can hem, haw, and deliberate all we want, but usually we've already -- whether in plan or action -- made up our minds. When I moved out of Anacostia and into the Near Southeast/Navy Yard neighborhood in summer 2010, I knew things would change for me and the blog. And then, almost as soon as I moved, I ran for and was elected ANC Commissioner -- not something I had planned to do before moving, but government-level change-making was always something that interested me and so I dove in head first. As a result, my first neighborhood advocacy priority has shifted across the river.
Until now, I've kept up the blog because I know it's still a resource. Some of my favorite emails are the ones from people saying they've read the blog and are interested in moving to or buying in the neighborhood. Or from people finally feeling like their home turf is being celebrated. But I'm no longer a first responder in Anacostia. At this point, I don't "happen upon" those incremental changes, or attend the neighborhood and Ward 8 meetings like I used to. Without being there day in and day out, I've lost a large part of the voice that made this blog the resource it once was.
Anacostia hasn't stopped moving forward. People keep on moving in, fixing up houses and filling condos, thinking up creative ideas, and communicating with each other on new channels. New construction is finally coming to the neighborhood. I'm even hearing talk of ethnic restaurants and community food co-ops. What, in Anacostia? Yuupp.
This isn't my goodbye to Anacostia. It's my recognition that at this stage, in order to be an effective advocate for anywhere, I can't be the voice for everywhere. I'm in love with DC -- with neighborhoods east and west of the Anacostia River -- and I promise to keep doing everything in my power to knit these incredible places together even more.
Thank you so much to all of you who have engaged with the blog and the neighborhood, and for giving me the opportunity to talk about a place I like a whole heck of a lot. Anacostia, you'll always make me weak at the knees.
How to stay connected:
Blogs: East Shop Live Anacostia, The Art of Ward 8, Anacostia Yogi, DC Minnie (Minnesota Ave), Congress Heights on the Rise.
Historic Anacostia Google Group: Click Here
People to follow on Twitter: ESLAnacostia, AnacostiaYogi, TheAdvoc8te, UniontownBar, HonfleurGallery, FirstHomeDC, TheDCHive.
Realtor who knows the neighborhood: Darrin Davis.