Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anacostia on Aljazeera

This summer, Aljazeera English filmed a documentary feature on the changes coming east of the Anacostia River, specifically in the Anacostia and Barry Farm neighborhoods (although there is some footage of Congress Heights as well).

The feature, called "There Goes the Neighborhood", is an interesting look into the current state of Anacostia, and shows it from a few different angles and perspectives (including my own) on different sides of the economic and racial spectrum.

What do you think? Is this an honest portrayal of these communities?


Magdelana said...

Kinda confused about Gloria Robinson's comment about gentrification. Why does it have to be, literally, so black and white? Why the resentment towards people who are trying to make the city better and improve the overall quality of life. Gentrification shouldn't be so much about the money and who can afford what...it's about the preserving the beauty of an area. If all people, regardless of income or race, could take ownership and pride in their properties and communities, then maybe this gentrification thing wouldn't have to be such a controversial debate.

Sariane Leigh said...

Wow, captivating, disturbing and controversial. The race machine at work again to divide and conquer. What colors matter most to the slum lords and development pimps?? Green!

I could argue and support some things said in this doc, but I will just say that it is great Anacosita is being investigated and people are able to voice their opinions on its evolution.

Anonymous said...

Big Up to Ana! Very well put together. Let's not forget about Washington Highlands and the other EoR communities!

hikaya said...

Thanks for posting this. I have lived in a few EoR communities - Congress Heights, Anacostia and now Hillcrest. I also watched gentrification come through the neighborhood (and others) in San Francisco where I grew up. I think about this issue a lot, and have mixed feelings. I think this piece captures some of the complexity and nuance of the racial and economic changes that accompany "gentrification."

All in all a thought-provoking piece.

Anonymous said...

When do people meet at the Big Chair in October? I'm planning on attending if I can make it!

Anonymous said...


If you say you don't hate black people and are not a racist, then you can't say "some gentrification needs to happen." With that statement, you are saying some black people within a predominately black neighborhood need to be displaced, which obviously means you hate black people.

Don't try to save face, just say you hate black people, especially those who are not in the same income bracket as you.

hikaya said...

@ anonymous 1:52 - I think you're making a big (and wrong) leap when you say that about David. I don't know him personally, but I have been following his blog for a long time. While I can't say what's truly in his heart, I really don't think he, or what he said, is racist.

How do you define gentrification? I am a gentrifier - I certainly think so, based on my view that it has more to do with class than race.

I am black, grew up in a poor black neighborhood that was gentrified, but now make well in the six figures. I chose to move East of the River because I wanted to invest in a community like the one I grew up in. I could easily move to the burbs, or someplace posh in NW, and cry foul when "white folk" take over the city. Instead, I decided to move here, invest in my home, my neighborhood and, yes, my people (poor, black) so I can help shape the neighborhood going forward. I spend as much of my income as possible on this side of the river (groceries, dry cleaners). If white (or other) people like David choose to invest here, I'm with that. Like it or not, it does take high income people like me to help expand the tax base. That's a large factor in deciding how resources are apportioned in cities. I saw in happen when I was a kid.

Maybe you should start asking why more blacks don't follow suit. Why they abandon the places they grew up in and get upset when "those people" move in. Blacks in this area flee like roaches to the burbs when they make money. In my humble opinion, we need to stop waiting for someone else to fix it for us, or getting our panties all bunched up when someone of another race does.

And don't get me started on the dearth of wealthy, educated blacks who actually take the time to try to improve poor black neighborhoods, lobby for services, etc., even if they choose not to live here.

Sorry for the long rant, but like I said earlier, I have strong feelings about this issue. David is not the bad guy, nor is he racist. He's important to this community and has invested in ways that most people wouldn't. Can you say the same about yourself?

Anacostiaq said...

I think an infusion of upper income is good for EoR. This be whether black or white. While I feel for displaced hard working residents, I can't say I feel the same for all. The piece was great and the dialogue as well.

The Advoc8te said...

I haven't seen the video yet and I am in it but these are my thoughts on the whole "gentrification" argument.

If I'm considered a "gentrifier" because I bought a home in a poor neighborhood, live in it, work hard to keep it clean, invest money to make it appealing, work hard to make my street ,block and neighborhood better for all my neighbors and encourage more people (black and white) to move to Ward 8 then please call me a gentrifyer. I will proudly wear that badge and I wear it with honor. I am seriously thinking about printing up some t-shirts that say "I'm a gentrifyer - so what?"

We need to get away from this foolishness that to keep the status quo means everybody has to stay down - how about we move up - we all move up? Stop expecting someone to keep themselves back or stop living their life (including buying a home) because other people are uncomfortable with what that may mean for them. Life is an evolution and either you get yourself prepared or find yourself out of the loop. Doing nothing IS doing something.

Growing up my father and mother always told me life isn't fair but so what? I am responsible for my own destiny so if I want to accomplish anything in this world and make an impact (whatever that means to me) then I better be prepared to work hard, study hard, and be at the top of my game because no one wants to hear a sob story about "life isn't fair" or "things are harder for me because I am a black woman". No one gave my mother anything, no one gave my father anything, no one gave me anything - we all worked hard for every single thing we had. I put myself through college by working a full time job and supporting myself so if someone wants to think I have a high opinion of myself because I have a college degree then guess what - I do. I worked hard for that sucker and it wasn't easy. I sacraficed then so I could have a better shot at today and tomorrow. Why in the world should anyone apologize for that? Not everyone has to go to college (heck I make the argument nothing beats a learned skill) but everyone should want to do their best - whatever that is for them.

We need more accountability in our communities (that's right I said it). This isn't a black or white thing or a rich or poor thing (although I have to make the argument were are all these "rich" people everyone keeps talking about, all I see at best are a lot of first time homeowners with jobs and saddled with tons of student loans - ballers they are not).

One of my favorite quotes: "Stop bitching and start a revolution"

Sometimes a revolution begins with a change in thought. It may not be easy but it is totally neccesary.

*steps off soapbox and goes back to work*

Anonymous said...

I am excited to see "gentrification" occuring in SEDC. I am a yuppie and my husband and I just bought a house there. W For all our hard work we want the lifestyle that goes with it. The video reflects exactly what we want but that does not include pushing anyone out. It is not so black and white. We are mixed race couple. Also, fyi 60% of people born in the US are of mixed race and I feel gen x and y do not care as much about color as past generations. Times are changing.

Anonymous said...

Hikaya: I think you touched on a very salient point. I am a Black MBA and make a similar income as you do.

I know many middle class blacks that would view living in places like Anacostia negatively. I remember the looks I would get when I told people I lived in the Bronx.

For many if not most black people the idea of making it is moving out of the hood and overextending themselves on McMansions in the burbs.

I think blaming white people for gentrification is very simplistic and not wholly accurate

iloveanacostia said...

This video was hopeful and sad at the same time. I think its great that Anacostia is going to see some improvements but sad that people will be displaced. This video made me feel bad about being a white person in DC. But white people have history in Anacostia too, my grandma moved there in 1934 and lived there until 1998. I will always have Anacostia in my heart as a place where I too have roots.
I want nothing more than to see it thrive!

JoshPants said...

I thought it was a good, informative documentary. Of course there are some biases evident - but really, find me ANY documentary where there *isn't* some sort of bias.

My biggest beef with the whole thing is simply this: Why is it all right for a specific demographic (in this case, African-Americans) to openly protest people of a different race (in this case, white people) moving into their neighborhood?

If people in a predominately white area were openly protesting incoming African-Americans, they'd be labeled as "racists" in a heartbeat - so why the double standard? Why is it all right for some to protest newcomers, but not others?

Also, if someone buys a vacant property and renovates it - WHO exactly is being displaced? Why are people who choose to buy affordable housing looked down upon because of their skin color?

Many people unfairly and ignorantly assume *all* white people are affluent... Well if that's the case, then I am owed quite the significant chunk of change to catch up. The truth is, I don't have or make much money at all... Hence the reason I'd consider living in an area like Anacostia in the first place.

But anyway, like I said before, I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and certainly wouldn't mind seeing a few more like it. Thanks for sharing!

Oh, and P.S. - How do bike lanes constitute gentry? Last I checked, bicycles are significantly cheaper than cars (and I see people of all races riding them all over the city every day).

Anonymous said...

Everytime a new trend comes into the neighborhood we are forced out in some way. DC Government make it hard for us to get licenses to open food trucks and restaurants while the Koreans come into the neighborhood and open up carryouts, selling so called SOUL FOOD ! All the vendor licenses belong to other cultures. Yes, it is Gentrification and it's about the money. Pretty soon you won't see black people near the Anacostia River Waterfront. They're taking over our park! What does that tell you?