The Gentrification Project by Hipchickindc

Photo by Noah Devereaux, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Photojournalist Noah Devereaux actually contacted me. He was looking for renovations in progress to take pictures of. When he explained that he’s doing a photo project currently titled, “Gentrification”, I turned the tables on him and asked him to meet me so I could share about it here at PoP. So, over a weekday lunch in an otherwise empty Domku, I found out a little more about DC through the eyes of Noah Devereaux.

Whereas everybody has something to say when the topic of “gentrification” comes up, Noah’s observation is refreshing. Ed. Note perfect example from yesterday. It’s not an argument or a point of view, but a reflection of a moment in time for each viewer to experience subjectively. There is both a sense of narrative, as well as a documentary quality to the series.  Continues after the jump.

Noah moved to DC about a year ago, and found a place to live, “that I could afford and that was close to Metro.” He hadn’t deliberately set out to take pictures with a theme in mind. Not unlike the Prince of Petworth, he spends a lot of time walking and always carries his camera. As he traversed the city, he began to notice that the images he was shooting were telling the story of transition. “It seemed like I could go short distances and end up in a different world.” He feels like the project has been stewing for about six to eight months.

Noah’s role as a photojournalist is to stay as inconspicuous as possible to capture what he describes as real moments, although he admits to sometimes being conflicted. “I can’t say whether it’s all good or all bad, but it is what I’m living”.

Many of the people, places, and events that end up in Noah’s photos are simply happened into during his frequent walks. One of his most memorable experiences was coming upon a mass baptism by fire hose on an urban street. He also seeks out neighborhood gatherings such as the recent topping off ceremony attended by Mayor Fenty at the Georgia Avenue condos.

More photos can be found at Noah’s portfolio and blog, which is here. Noah is still interested in meeting people currently involved with renovations.

96 Comment

  • this baptism photo instantly made me think of the civil rights movement of the not so distant past…

    a compare/contrast essay is now running through my head!!

  • That mass baptism says alot about the people that go to that church. How can anyone worship at a church where the preacher goes by the name ‘Sweet Daddy’? What a waste of water for a mass baptismal. That church talks about saving souls then feeds them poison from the church cafeteria. Everything fried. Cornbread. Sweet tea. I once took my mom there. She has health problems, not unlike many of the members that attend this church. Swollen ankles. Women needing assistance walking. And to think that this church makes a mint selling them the food they need the least. To add insult to injury, they pay no taxes on this commercial use.

    To top that off, this church along with Shiloh and Scripture Cathedral fight every inch of progress in that community. They are as racist and as closed minded as the KKK. Maybe even worse. They are doing it to their own people. They have stood by for years and watched drug dealing and murders being committed without saying a word. Google about all the killings right near this church over the last 30 years. You will find it ironic that the only fight this church has in them is against white people moving in improving the community.

  • Speaking of narrow-minded bigotry — nice post, Nate.

    To be sure, there have been a number of clashes between established churches and immigrating yuppies over the years, and I might be willing to swallow some of your arguments if you hadn’t pissed in your own soup with the cheap intolerance of your opening paragraph.

    Who the hell cares if a congregation calls their preacher “Sweet Daddy” or if they engage in the tried and true tradition of mass baptism, but adapt it to a city neighborhood by substituting a fire hose for nearby river? And you have a problem cornbread and sweet tea?

    What do you want in a city — people who look and act and think exactly like you?

    Your post says quite as much about you as Sweet Daddy’s congregation’s baptism says about them, and it’s considerable less flattering.

    [Aside: Is it ironic that the real estate agent is introducing a photo essay on gentrification? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. ];-)

  • Hey if diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease is ravaging your community, the last thing you should do is profit off of food that furthers their condition. That’s just my opinion. It’s fine for McD’s to do so. They serve a wide population of people. It is a business. But for a church that operates to do so rubs me the wrong way. Especially considering they pay no taxes on what is clearly a BUSINESS being operated on tax exempt property. That’s not fair to Be Bar or Vegetate that have to compete on an uneven playing field.

    If you are any way familiar with how black churches are run, you will know that many of these preachers take advantage of their poor congregation. The preacher at Scripture Cathedral drives a Rolls Royce. He lives in Upper NW. Yet his congregation is made of predominately poor people.

    Is it not discomforting that there are at least 4 churches in and around that area, yet there have been hundreds of murders, unchecked poverty and violence in that area for the last 30 years. What have the churches been doing other than collecting money, running restaurants (Tuning Fork, Saint’s Paradise) and impeding positive change.

    As it pertains to the water, what a waste of resources. Who is paying for all that water? I bet it isn’t the church…

  • as usual, nate, i see the validity in your arguement… i think that you usually make good points at the base, but it gets lost with the rest of your post.

    i agree with you on the bad food… shouldnt churches be spearheading the campaign for healthiness (as your body is a temple for god)? also, shouldnt churches be leading the green movement (as the world was so intricately and beautifully made by god)?

  • I really enjoy Noah’s pics. The gentrification project sounds incredibly interesting. Looking forward to the Woodley Park pics (tongue firmly implanted in cheek, folks).

  • i posted that before your second post showed up… you always make more sense after you take a step back and restate your opinions! i agree 100%

  • “one side of the street is the church
    across is a liquor store
    both of them keeping us poor”

    -Public Enemy ’91

  • Yes, those poor ignorant Negroes don’t know enough to keep their preacher in a Toyota, eat steamed vegetables and conserve our precious natural resources. If only they would turn to Nate for enlightenment, they could end crime, live longer and reach the promised land.

    My experience with black churches is that — whatever you, as an outsider might see — they tend to provide a number of formal and informal services to their members and their communities, in addition to the spiritual support which is, of course, their main purpose. Given the failure of the city government, the federal government, multiple community groups and any society in the history of the earth to end poverty and violence, I am at a loss to understand how its persistence in Washington is the fault of these churches.

    And the water thing is so petty as to defy belief. Get a grip.

    It occurs to me that if you wish to run the church, you (and Christopher) should begin by joining the congregation rather than spouting condescending platitudes on a web site. Until then, I suspect they can set their own priorities without your help.

  • “To top that off, this church along with Shiloh and Scripture Cathedral fight every inch of progress in that community. They are as racist and as closed minded as the KKK.”

    Sorry Irving Street, I have to say I agree with Nate here. This is definitely not the case with all churches, and I’d so most are very welcoming, but there are a few churches in DC that are blatantly racist.

  • Thanks for the compliment Nita.

    This is an interesting discussion on UHOP and highlights some of the culture clash that comes from gentrification. As I saw it, the fire hose baptism was both a beautiful spectacle but it also felt a little cultish. Few things in this world are entirely bad or entirely good and I hope that I can capture that ambiguity wiht my camera.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on other pictures or with the project as a whole? It’s very much still a work in progress and I appreciate any input I can get.

  • Thanks for the compliment Nita.

    This is an interesting discussion on UHOP and highlights some of the culture clash that comes from gentrification. As I saw it, the fire hose baptism was both a beautiful spectacle but it also felt a little cultish. Few things in this world are entirely bad or entirely good and I hope that I can capture that ambiguity with my camera.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on other pictures or with the project as a whole? It’s very much still a work in progress and I appreciate any input I can get.

  • 2 Reasons why Nate is correct:

    The term “Sweet Daddy” is creepy. Given the abuse allegations throughout all religions that have come to stark publicity over the last 10 years, it’s DOUBLY creepy. People who step back and say that everything is relative and we shouldn’t judge allow abuses to occur. The community NEEDS to judge. Sweet Daddy is a pimp’s nickname.

    Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temples. Martin Luther rebuked the selling of indulgences and the monetization of the church. There are money-grubbing churches, particularly the mega-churches that have invited the love of money into their theology and warped Christianity to fit their sick needs. I worked with a holy roller who abandoned her church of 13 years after they created a Credit Union to be run by the church elders!!!??? That’s NOT throwing money-changers out of the temples! The idea of selling crappy food to people who believe it has a connection to the church is very troubling.

    I am involved, though definitely not a member, of a church where one of the officers in the church is a mentally-retarded woman. She is religious, she is, to her extent, organized and comes to work dressed professionally, but she still has an IQ under 100. But time and time again she makes unbelievably stupid decisions with the church money and does things for the kids (like promise them Santa will come visit and then forgetting she did that) which are just horrible. She behaves completely unethically and gets confused when people talk about abstract ideas like ethics. To say that a church automatically must be supported or is above criticism is a joke. This woman almost literally cannot do anything right. For instance, she has believed and attempted to send church money to Nigerian scammers easily once a year for the last 4 or 5 years, continually bringing it up to the rest of the officers as a Christian investment opportunity she has been blessed by god to operate.

    My old friend, the Holy Roller, decried what she called Black Church Entrepreneurs who demanded money to set up their own new church rather than help churches in their community.

    One thing both Nate and Christopher miss is that African-American churches do not believe in the Catholic Parish system and they, in general, see no religious need to “do good works.” While I don’t know this particular church, if you asked Sweet Daddy if he felt a religious requirement to do good works would get him into heaven, I am guessing he’d respond that no, all anyone needs to get into heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior- the purpose of the church is to praise god and save souls- diabetes and hypertension and other “earthly” concepts of the physical body are not the domain or concern of the church.

    Such divisions between protestant branches can be REALLY strong, much like snake handling and belief in witchcraft and I believe, controversially, that these differences are strongest in entrepreneurial cult churches outside of mainstream branches of religion.

  • The caption commentaries are so original. I’m not a “newcomer,” I’m a homeowner. Just because someone’s family has lived here for 50 years doesn’t make it noble when they have zero respect for themselves or anyone else. Just as the white working people who built this part of the city were wrong when they spurned the movement of working class and middle class blacks to the neighborhood in the ’50’s, the same is true today of those blacks who complain about whites moving back. Who would defend the Jim Crow white residents of NW circa 1955? Nobody. Yet some suggest we need to “understand” this current blatant racism and make accommodations for people who suggest this neighborhood is “theirs.” The only color that matters here is the color green. When the city and federal government ponies up billions for Section 8, HUD block grants, minority businesses, and other programs that typically benefit blacks that’s a noble use of government power, but when the city works with developers to turn an abandoned lot into a taxable asset that benefits everyone who owns property that’s “racism.” It’s laughable. Whoever can afford a house here should be allowed to buy it regardless of where they were born, what shade they are, and whether they are appropriately grateful to the current residents for “allowing” them to live here.

  • Like POP suggested, I don’t believe that the concept of gentrification can be brought up without controversy.

    Gentrification itself is a loaded term. The definition I have for it is that upper middle class people move to an urban area, fix up their house, increasing property taxes and rents, pushing out lower-income residents.

    But when you look at the specifics, it’s all a positive thing:
    1. It encourages integration and understanding
    2. It reverses post-riot White Flight
    3. It renovates and improves the infrastructure of the United States
    4. Urban living is more environmentally friendly

    So of course, like many of my friends, I moved into DC when I had a chance because I wasn’t a racist who would only live in a white’s only community. Now… is that how I was viewed when I moved in?

  • saf

    “While I don’t know this particular church”
    “I am guessing”

    That’s never a good idea. Look, Neener, you’re speaking from a REAL position of ignorance here.

    For information on the church:

    You can also get the Shaw Heritage Trail guide and look at sign 13:

  • Thank you Neener for your positive words. I hope that as I continue to work on this project I can show some of the positive things going on as well. For instance I put the photo from election day on U Street to illustrate how at this moment in history many of our racial prejudices are disappearing. It was very poignant to me that a place like 14th and U which for so long was a symbol of racial division is now a symbol of integration and the reverse of white flight.

    By most accounts I fit the profile of a gentrifier and I appreciate the benefits of gentrification but I also don’t want to ignore the its downsides as well. We are living in a very wealthy city but there’s still a level of deeply entrenched poverty that we can’t just sweep under the rug or over the border into PG county. It’s something I haven’t really addressed with this project but that I’d like to understand more.

    Additionally, I wish I could come up with a more poetic title for this project than ‘gentrification’. It’s a bit blunt but poetic titles are not my strong suit.

  • Apparently Sweet Daddy has been dead for 48 years or so, though the 80-odd year-old tradition of nicknaming” the heads of church “Daddy” — not so different from “Father” — apparently lives on.

    And, food has won praise from no less an eminence than Tom Sietsema — “the portions are big, and the price is right, at this rare Washington find: a soul food buffet. Launched as a service to members of the United House of Prayer for All People in the 1940s, but expanded to include the general public in the 1980s, the basement cafeteria, using recipes from its congregation, dispenses comfort for both the stomach and the spirit. “Welcome to Saints Paradise Cafeteria,” a sign near the long steam table reads, “Where love is our main ingredient.”

    The ladies (they’re almost all women) behind the counter make a point to say something nice to each visitor, and the kitchen plays along, dispensing tender biscuits that require no butter at breakfast, and soft, soothing slabs of meatloaf, specked with bits of sweet bell pepper and onion, at lunch….A few dishes prove less than heavenly. …that still leaves plenty to praise, like homey fried potatoes, crisp whiting and desserts that sing the song of the South (sweet potato pie) or hark back to another era (orange cake with white frosting).”

    Sounds good to me.

  • BTW, Noah —

    Great pix.

  • It sounds like ‘Anonymous Homeowner’ is projecting his or her own anger and prejudice onto my words. I never intended to make a value judgment with the word ‘newcomer’. I’m a newcomer myself and I’m in no position to cast stones. In my experience I haven’t encountered any obvious racism living in Park View but I’d be curious to hear more from ‘Anonymous Homeowner’ about what he/she has experienced that makes him/her so defensive about the word newcomer.

  • Am I the only person creeped out by the term “reversing white flight”? Poorer long-time residents are having to leave because of increasing rents & creating a “black flight” to places like PG county. I’d really like to know how this encourages “integration and understanding”.

  • Ontario Roader- do you really know the meaning of the term “white flight?” How is eliminating the fear of living near people of different cultures by mainstream white America bad?

    My father told me a story about a somewhat infamous African-American state department employee in DC in the early 60s who would buy a house, then hire these big guys to move his furniture in while he stood around outside of the new house until the racist neighbors would make him an offer to buy his house for $5000 more than he paid for it, netting him a profit and moving him onto the next suburban neighborhood. Chances are it’s a phony story to help relieve (some) white people of the guilt associated with their suburban neighborhoods while mocking their racist neighbors, but to me, when that concept ended, when red-lining ended, we actually accomplished something in this society.

  • I think I would be pissed if I was baptized by a firehose-just throwing that out there. I mean if you are ok with it that is fine, I’m not making judgements on people who were, I’m just saying I don’t think I would care for that.

    Anyways onto the heavier stuff, I agree with christopher, nate and Neener today.

    Noah, I like what you are doing. I think that it is important to show both sides of gentrification. Clearly the word has such an ugly conotation when for the area and the people it can also have extremely positive results – and not just the new people coming in, but for the long time residents. I think a lot of the residents who are upset with gentrification either don’t understand it because they only hear the ignorant statements others tell them or they are the problem that keeps the area in the state it is-and I’m not talking about the poor, we all know who we would like to see gone, drug dealers and thugs. They don’t bring anything to the community but fear and violence and come in all races and financial backgrounds. I wish gentrification could be seen as it is and not what people make it out to be. Yes, in DC it seems to be black white thing, but white people are not the only ones moving in and black people aren’t all against new businesses and new residents. It just feels like propogating ideas that gentrification has to do with race is just as ignorant as propogating stereo types…

  • “Whoever can afford a house here should be allowed to buy it regardless of where they were born, what shade they are, and whether they are appropriately grateful to the current residents for “allowing” them to live here.”

    So here’s my devil’s advocate (or maybe not) question here: What’s the matter with the sentiment I just quoted? There are lots of places I can’t afford to live — Manhattan, for one. Or San Francisco. One upon a time people of my income level probably could afford to live in those places, now we can’t. If neighborhoods change and people of lower income levels have to move to places that are more affordable, isn’t that a cycle that’s been going on for some time? Are people being “pushed out” because of their race, or “pushed out” because the ‘hood just isn’t as affordable for them any more?

    The term gentrification has a lot of baggage, I know. I think there are culture clashes that go one when new residents join a neighborhood with different expectations. But neighborhoods aren’t static…should they be?

  • Oh, and I like what Kalia has to say, too. I’ve said before that I have all kinds of different feelings about this, as a black “gentrifier.” I gotta figure out a way to express that all coherently.

  • Vonstallin

    Another long one from me…


    I’m not going to touch the religious part of this.
    To each it’s own.
    But Rolls Royce…that’s like a slap in the face….IMHO

    I would agree on the food part since Diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure among blacks is the number one killer. I have to constantly fight with my parents to eat right and if I knew they were going to a church aimed at age groups from their generation and indulged in bad practices I too would condemn that establishment.


    This section of NW was over 90% Caucasian until the riots of 1968. Pre 1954 the schools and playgrounds were segregated and only very influent Blacks were allowed to live in PW/CH. The history of this area is very interesting.

    After the Riots of 1968 there was a mass exiting of whites and a mass gentrification of blacks into these areas. 40 years almost exactly to the year.

    I never understand the complaint of groups moving into certain areas. 14th street use to be predominately black after the riots, now its predominately El Salvadorian, as is Mount Pleasant now.

    Mount Pleasant use to be more diversified with a mixture of every one. Black, White, Ethiopian, Spanish…one of DC true melting pots. Now it’s predominately Spanish also.

    My point is that as the economy, skills, and jobs changes so do the clientele that moves into those/these areas. A lot of jobs whites use to do Blacks ended up doing, and now a lot of jobs Blacks use to do Hispanics are doing and so on and so on

    Blue collar and white collar.

    In the end I think it boils down to scared of change.

    pre 68 riot era whites were scared of the progress of Blacks and with that them moving in and now you have the same situation of some blacks being scared of whites moving in.

    For the church you mentioned if all his clients are pushed out of the area because they can’t afford to live here then he is out of what he do…if you call that a job that is.

    Change is a way of life. Why stay stagnant?

  • Christina,

    I know it’s creepy as all hell when I point out Mount Pleasant and other local communities were documented whites-only segregated up until the late 1940s. I do so because I was told, to my face on multiple occasions, that neighborhoods I was walking in or lived in for years were “Black Neighborhoods.”

    My elderly neighbors know the score, their baby boomer children do not know the score.

  • I think gentrification in DC gets perceived as a black/white thing because there isn’t much of a white working class population here anymore. For instance the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore is gentrifying but it’s upper class white people displacing working class white people. Ultimately it is a class thing but it can’t help but get caught up in race.

    I also have a funny story. While waiting around for Fenty and Graham to show up for the groundbreaking at the 14th and Girard park a white guy on a fixed gear bike rolls by and shots “F__k gentrification”. Most of the people standing around at the park were older black residents who have been in the neighborhood for a long time.

  • That is sooo true about Hampden. And it’s such a cute neighborhood.

  • I agree with you, Noah. Gentrification is a class issue.

    To make it a racial issue denies the real causes and makes it impossible to work together to find solutions to mediate its impact. Subjecting racial overtones into a discussion of gentrification poisons the discussion because it scares many people away. Clearly, as a community, we are not ready to get together to talk about race because of the unbelievable emotions, including anger and fear, that discussions about racism evoke. (I think Obama made that point earlier this year). So why can’t we just have a discussion about class and gentrification.

    Japan has been experience unbelievably rapid gentrification in many of its cities for years. It’s not a racial issue there, that’s for sure.

  • Hey Kalia, I was joking about that post from the other day. I did not get a chance to put a 🙂 before I hit submit.


    Irving Street Says:

    December 17th, 2008 at 10:35 am
    Yes, those poor ignorant Negroes don’t know enough to keep their preacher in a Toyota, eat steamed vegetables and conserve our precious natural resources. If only they would turn to Nate for enlightenment, they could end crime, live longer and reach the promised land.
    They don’t have to turn to me. But they should turn to someone that would have their best interests at heart. I see churches like Metropolitan moving to PG building 50MM shrines. And I just think that if they have the wherewithal to do this, why couldn’t they have put more resources into saving some of the black youth that were dying all around them? DC for years had 300-400 murders a year all over DC. Hundreds of black churches stood by and did nothing. For 50MM they could have hired BlackHawk Security. If gentrification is such a big issue to them, why didn’t they help their members who were “run” out of the city?

    I have heard more uproar from these black churches regarding PARKING or the median on NH Ave. than the murders of young black men in and around these churches. You can’t tell me something isn’t wrong with this.

  • I agree to stop gentrifying your neighborhoods if you agree to stop stabbing me or smashing my head with bricks whenever I come to “your” neighborhood.

  • Hampden is a close by example of white/white gentrification, but I swear this is MUCH weirder in downtown Philadelphia neighborhoods like South Philly, Fishtown, Queens’ Village, etc.

    In Bethesda in the 60s/70s it was not uncommon to see white working class pushed out (by working class I mean shopkeepers, single moms, and Naval employees) and East Asian, South Asian and Middle Eastern scientists from NIH move in and spend $$$ on their houses. There are areas of Poolesville and Derwood, MD that went from whites-only to virtually 75% Asian in 20 years. Ditto with Anandale, VA.

  • Tell the residents of Petworth and Columbia Heights this isn’t “a race issue” when people spit on the sidewalk as you pass and say “get out of my neighborhood.” Why is it that some believe that people who have paid their dues and purchased property in Petworth or Columbia Heights have a special obligation to do something about the “entrenched poverty”? My parents had to leave PA in the 1970’s (along with millions of other blue collar Americans) because there was no work and they couldn’t afford rent or food anymore. They didn’t hang around and demand that the next tenants or buyers “owed” them something. It wouldn’t have occurred to them. I guess I don’t understand why homeowners in Petworth and Columbia Heights must bear this special amorphous burden, or ask special questions that nobody else, including those in the surrounding black suburban enclaves, do. There isn’t any Section 8 in upper NW and there damn sure isn’t any public housing like Columbia Heights has on 14th Street along Connecticut Ave. It doesn’t seem like our neighborhoods are the ones inhospitable to the poor in this town or the adjoining suburbs. When is the last time a public housing complex went up on the west side of the park or Bethesda? Give me a break. If a homeowner in Petworth wants to sell his or her house to someone who wants to live there rather than rent it to subsidized tenants, c’est la vie. Time to move on down the road Section 8’ers. Neighborhoods change, that’s just the way things work. Often people say gentrification “forces people out.” Okay. Who gets “forced out”? Renters. Renting is a transient status. I rented a place years ago for about 6 years that cost me $300 a month. They raised the rent and I couldn’t afford it so I moved on. Big deal. Who else get’s “forced out”? The long time resident that sells for a profit isn’t “forced out” because they “cash out” and are plenty happy to do so. The elderly resident that has to go to assisted living isn’t “forced out” by gentrification, they’re forced out by father time, and they (or their kids) have a payday. So, we’re really talking about renters. The average renter who can’t afford higher rents moves on to the next place, just like everyone else in the world. Manhattan too expensive? Hello Brooklyn.

  • nate is right about the churches and his kkk comparison. for years, organizations like shiloh
    have been known to burn crosses on folks’ lawns, and lynch a gentrifier or two….
    goodness-my friend, you sound like juan williams on (some bad) acid.

  • I see churches like Metropolitan moving to PG building 50MM shrines. And I just think that if they have the wherewithal to do this, why couldn’t they have put more resources into saving some of the black youth that were dying all around them?

    I’m going to write something that will shock some of you, but not Nate.

    There are aspects of this street culture that actively promote a culture of death and a rejection of life. The idea that saving someone’s soul is more important that assisting them today, right now, is part of this culture of death.

    I could talk about this at length, but amongst a wide variety of people with a street background, there is a complete and total focus on dying and death.

    From memorial t-shirts, to pouring one on the curb, to the concept of the soul, to eating poorly as a civil rights issue (I once overheard a quote at a block party where a morbidly obese man made fun of the white doctor who “tried to tell him how to eat like he wasn’t a MAN!” and went on to discuss fried food as a civil right), to the weird habit some kids used to talk about on the subway- “what music they want played at their funeral.” Think back to Black History Month in the 1970s where every story ended up with someone getting shot or getting their invention ripped off and they died penniless or a musician OD’ing. Where was the story of just plain old success that ended with the protagonist’s children going off to found their own companies?

    Now, is this obsession with death and a rejection of life a creation of years of trying hard to do better and getting nowhere? Yes, as a white person, I have to admit that 75 years of college graduates not getting good jobs and accountants stuck in bad neighborhoods and smart women pushed into only teaching and nursing or the church can have a real negative effect on a culture. It’s my hope that this ends with this generation and the election of Obama.

  • ah, well now I feel a little bad for being so mean to you nate. but I would not be surprised if you were a bit of a love hater, hater of love 😉 ….ooo thats from a song isn’t it?

  • I think its easy for Anonymous Homeowner (or any of us, for that matter) to decry the absence of public housing West of the Park, since you and I know dang well it won’t happen.But you are right about one thing-Gentrification isn’t about race. How could it be? Racism is as dead as
    badda boom-affordable housing. We have (or so some say) a black president. The “dream” is as alive as Starbucks coffee is singed.

  • Vonstallin

    thats not true….
    Everytime a church speaks its not braodcast via the net, or news. Its told to the members who attend and the kids they are parents to. No way you can think that a community living with a death toll so high 9back then) wouldn’t talk about it. no way…

    Sometimes if you don’t goto said churches in the community, the only other way you will hear about what is talk about is thru association of the effected individuals.

    To tell the truth violence is talk about alot (at least back in the bad days)

    It is working because im sure 65% of you guys wouldn’t dream of moving to the now Hip Hoods 15 years ago when the Muder rate was in the 500 range vs todays +100 range, where Rape was averaging 1 to 5 a month compaired to 0 to 1 a month now. Robberies are down but I dont have the numbers because its the least to change compaired to the other more sever crimes.

    Who made this change?
    Police, the community and the churches…
    it’s a combined and hard hard hard effort put in by all to change this area.

    So now its way safer…not the safest..but it was the wild west not too long ago.
    And for every 1 crazy named crazy sounding church, thier are sound and solid ones who’s reverend drives a donated POS and make ends meet by food donations from memebers.

    I’m just saying, don’t take one church and condem all…
    Don’t look at todays crime rate without looking back and seeing how drastic it has changed.

    These changes were made within the black community for our community and some might feel feel as though they have lost so much and work so hard to make the place tolerable, just to be pushed out now that its better.

    These are not my opinions, but facts of the area and veiws of others.

    I’m non religous, but embrace all religons that do good.

  • “I have heard more uproar from these black churches regarding PARKING or the median on NH Ave. than the murders of young black men in and around these churches. You can’t tell me something isn’t wrong with this.”

    Excellent comment Nate, the “right” to park illegally is much more important than actually be concerned about the community. This summer I was outside my house one Sunday morning and overheard the “preacher” say to some guys in the park at 11th & Monroe St. “these white people move in and want to stop us from helping the homeless” because some people complained about their “amplified” service in the park. That made me feel real good about the “black church” (and the ole fat “preacher”). That was his message from God?

    My favorite “gentrification” comment was a few months ago when someone said “the cops never cared about the crime before the white people moved into CH” and a great response was from someone who said something like “I guess you should appreciate the white folks moving in…”

  • Churches have had little to no effect on the improvements seen in DC. If anything, they have been packing up their bags and moving to PG. Just count all the mega black churches in PG.

    DC changed because the demographics changed. From the down low AIDS crisis in the black community to the affordable housing that leads to gentrification, DC churches have done very little.

    It is one thing to burn crosses and intimidate people. It is quite another to poison a person’s mind while taking advantage of him. I think the latter is worse. Churches have the loudest voice in DC. Yet, the only time you hear from them is to fight a bar establishment (Be Bar), or rail against bars staying open for inauguration.

    As for the reverend who drives a POS car, he just has not gotten to the point to buy the Rolls Royce yet. Church is a business. Preacher pay is as grossly obscene as CEO pay.

  • HA! racism is dead….. wow do you need to take off your foggy goggles

  • affordable housing does NOT lead to gentrification!

  • vonstallin: “Who made this change?
    Police, the community and the churches…”

    Hm. The thing is, between the era of 500 murders/year and now the only thing that hasn’t stayed the same is the fact that the city government got their shit together. The churches didn’t change. The community only changed insofar as the environment changed. Changed because of competent government: a city government that finally discovered its role and took action is the one thing that separates D.C. of 2008 and D.C. of 1988. Competency, which made the city’s finances solvent, budgeted to agencies that needed monies, created a fiscal environment for business to open, grow and succeed, and recruited less-corrupt and, as well, competent, police chiefs (and policemen and -women) that took charge of battling crime.

    “My favorite “gentrification” comment was a few months ago when someone said “the cops never cared about the crime before the white people moved into CH” and a great response was from someone who said something like “I guess you should appreciate the white folks moving in…””

    Post hoc, ergo proctor hock. The two happened simultaneously.

  • “More affordable housing” huh? There are over ten thousand families on vouchers ( in a city with approximately one hundred thousand families (,_D.C.), or about ten percent of DC families pay nothing or next to nothing for rent. Some might say that a sensible question would be “what are we doing to get people to support themselves and their families?” not “how can we add more people into this misery?”

  • Vonstallin

    I want to saw WOW…but I will not…
    thanks for telling me about my peps and my city!!!!!

    I never would have figured the cause out !!

    ps: out of curiosity why isn’t South East being converted as fast? Home prices are asshole cheap and they have metro stations? Bigger house, more land more than half the price here.

    Here is a side story:
    One year i saw a sign that said DC as the highest aids rate in the united states…
    The same year while in NY I saw the same sign saying NY had the highest AIDs rate in the US

    I think every city must have the highest AIDs rate…

  • Off track, but, about 1 in 50 people in D.C. have HIV/AIDS. The number is 1/70 in New York City.

  • Wow, what an active and vibrant conversation.

    I don’t understand how one side forces another side out of their homes, can someone please explain? My wife and I (white, middle class) recently purchased a home in North Country on a block where the majority of the residents are black. We purchased the home from a development company who had purchased it from the daughter of the owners. The house had long ago been paid in full and this woman’s parents had died 5 or 6 years ago. She held onto the house for 6 years, although did not live in or maintain the home at all, and then sold it when a development company made an offer. She walked away with 100% profit and yes, some white folk moved into the neighborhood. Last I checked, my wife and I didn’t “force” anyone out, did we?

    Now, another example on our block, related to the home foreclosure crisis. We have neighbors, African American, whose family has owned the home for at least a generation or two. The house had been paid in full. Back in 2006 the owners re mortgaged the home for $460k, taking out all the equity of the home and then some. They took out an adjustable rate mortgage. Now the bank is threatening to foreclose. They haven’t paid their now absurdly high mortgage payment in months. How did they spend $460k? not sure, it definitely wasn’t invested in the home which is in dismal condition. They do drive a beautiful Lincoln Navigator, but last I checked those weren’t selling for quite that much. So, let’s just say a nice white couple buys this house on the auction block. Is that gentrification? Did they “force” this black family from their home?

    But there are other great examples on our block, wonderful black families who have lived on the block for generations, many of which couldn’t possibly afford to buy their homes today, but remain grateful for good decisions made many years ago. They are wonderful neighbors, great friends and we hope and trust they’ll be around for a long time to come. Most of them were pretty happy to see my wife and I move in, mow the lawn, keep the house clean, etc. That being said, the 8 year old I ran into at the Fort Totten metro a couple of months ago who called me a cracker and whitey, asked what the f**k I was doing in his neighborhood and was pretty clear, while thumping his chest, that I had better “watch my back.”

    So, let me ask, where’s the racism? Am I racist for buying in a predominantly African American neighborhood? Is the bank racist for foreclosing on a home because they’re not being paid back? Was the woman who sold my house to the development company an “unlce tom” and a traitor? Or what about this 8 year old? His parents?

  • SE is terribly cheap. And it is equally violent. No stores. The mentality of the people is mind blowing. Y’day I was over near Malcolm X painting a house. A young drug dealer just walked up on the front porch and just hung out. It was like he lived there. I asked him what he was doing on the porch. His response, “Waiting on my ride.” Unbelievable!

    I’ll be honest and say that I have never had a problem in SE. Nor have any of my tenants. Other than petty theft.

    But by and large it is the drugs that rule the day. People are equally scared of the drug dealers and apathetic.

    I have stories for days to tell about how welfare is so screwed up. I have had tenants have their whole lives uprooted because of arcane Section 8 regulations.

    Example: I have a tenant that has to move because her oldest daughter is old enough to move out and get her own section 8 apartment. The cycle continues. Anyway, the g’mother has custody of two other kids. Due to the daughter moving, the lady’s voucher is being downgraded from a 4BR to a 2BR. She has to uproot the kids out of the neighborhood and the school they attend. These are the untold stories when gov’t becomes your nanny.

    I have had hard working tenants that have lost jobs due to having to continue taking off work for asinine inspections of their unit. DCHA gives these tenants all day windows for the inspector to show up. Sometimes they never show causing the tenant to have to schedule another inspection. DCHA will fail a unit for something as simple as a tub needing caulking. or a small chip of paint on the ceiling.

    As for the AIDS crisis. Just recently, I had two young black women apply for the last 1BR apartment I had available. Both had HIV. It is dangerous out here for a young black man or woman…

  • White people were racists for abandoning the cities in the 1960s and ’70s.

    They were racist for moving back decades later.

    Guess what they’ll be when urban crime skyrockets?

    You can’t win.

  • Finally, this is the real DC.

    I knew you guys were out there, but only through the anonymity of online discourse does it come out.

    Give yourselves a hand for finally coming clean.

  • HIV rate in DC is 1 in 20.

  • Noah, I had seen your work before this post and generally like it. I guess the Gentrifaction series is the most provacative, even if just because of the subject matter and not the photos themselves. The quality of your photos is very high regardless of series.

    Suppose the caption on the lead photo was “Wedding Party Runs to Escape Sudden Rainstorm.” What a different reaction and discussion would ensue, but the photo would be the same. My point is that art provokes, but usually within the context provided by the artist or the observer, e.g. commeneters on this thread.

    I hardly think the conversation here is productive or even rational, but as a fellow artist I appreciate the power of an image, your image.

  • Tim, I appreciate your thoughtful contribution to the dialog. I think some of the conversation here may not be productive or rational but it is somewhat informative of the fears and prejudices that people carry around with them. I wish that the discussion was a little more on topic but I’ve still learned a thing or two wading through the comments here.

    Context is certainly important. I’m still figuring this out. For what it’s worth I didn’t chose to lead with the fire hose baptism picture. It’s pretty clear that it’s not the best choice to lead because it steers the context away from what I’m trying to say. It has an important place in the story but not as a lead. I’m continually trying to refine this project to make all the photos work together to address the complexity of gentrification in DC.

    Nate, I’m interested in hearing some more stories about how welfare is screwed up. That’s a whole side of this city that I know exists but I feel woefully uninformed about what’s going on. I’d rather learn more about the subject than make a rush to judgment. You can reach me at info (at)

    My two cents about gentrification: The thing about gentrification is that it’s not so much about the indavidual here. Most people who could be considered ‘gentrifiers’ are smart, well meaning, generally socially liberal people. We all just want nice places to live that are convenient to the places we shop and work. Gentrification happens because of many forces coming together to be greater than the sum of their parts. Poor people don’t get displaced because the people moving into their neighborhoods are racists with a sense of manifest destiny. Poor people get displaced because society dealt them a bad hand. They have less social capital and less means to control of their lives. For what it’s worth, poverty will exist regardless of gentrification. What gentrification does is forces the well meaning social liberal upwardly mobile gentrifiers to confront the effects of poverty on a daily basis. Clearly it’s not always pretty. I’m not sure what’s right or what’s the solution but I find it fascinating and will continue to aim to tell this ongoing story.

  • I was stuck in a committee meeting today, so pondered this discussion from afar (only during the boring moments, of course) via crackberry.

    I’m most pleased to see that some people recognize the significance of Noah’s work. For all the talking we all can do, from every different angle, the images can also speak for themselves in relation to this moment in time.

  • Noah wrote, “….a white guy on a fixed gear bike rolls by and shots “F__k gentrification”. ”


    I really liked the photos. The lead-in made skeptical and I thought, here we go, some hipster is going to tell us about their “urban experience” and document all the traditionally Black things that they just love about their adopted neighborhood, but which are disappearing because posers from the suburbs (not them, of course) are moving in. Not at all like that (except maybe for the first photo).

    What I’d be interested in seeing is how PG County is changing, if this is where all the people being priced out of DC are going.

  • The thing about sociey dealing poor people a bad hand is that… I’ve seen in many examples a sort of 80% rule. 80% of people will go along without thinking and end up like they started. 10% will screw their lives up royally due to their own making (think alcoholism or drugs) and 10% will exceed all expectations.

    On my block there’s a family, an old-time street family with several drug arrests on the books. One son joined the Army, did his tour, and now has a government job. One daughter went to UDC and has a government job. One cousin I know is a bus driver. One kid who I think is a cousin wears a suit every day (I think he has a good job) and the last kid is 25, and sells cocaine and gets shot at.

    Growing up poor may have dealt them a bad hand, but 3 out of the 5 kids have real jobs and one seems to be doing well. One has a lame job. The last one is a criminal. That’s a reasonable distribution.

    In my neighborhood growing up in a neighborhood that turned wealthy I am in the middle of everyone. my salary starts with a 1, but I have friends who sold their internet companies in 1999 for 7 and 8 figures. I also have friends who work in Montgomery County construction companies, doing almost nothing with their educations. It’s a distribution.

    But within that distribution are people who work themselves out of it, where the hand they were dealt becomes meaningless, and others who were dealt great hands, but ended up homeless.

  • When I rented an apartment in the Logan Circle area, one day I saw my neighbor, an 85 year old black woman and widow, crying outside her house. She had lived there since the early 60s, and remembers running a hose to the roof with her husband so they could keep it from being burned as men destroyed the block during the 68 riots. She lost one son in Vietnam and grandsons to the gang wars in DC and was one of the most fascinating and wonderful ladies I ever knew. I saw her crying and asked what was wrong and she told me she had just sold her old house for “millions” and that all her grandbabies were going to college, the lord had blessed them and it was jubilee. She was overjoyed and felt blessed, and I saw at that moment that that really was the American dream. So to me, an underbelly of gentrification has been low ownership. When you rent you are powerless, you have no claim to the property you live in. Many people don’t seem to understand that, and that ownership is one (not guaranteed) way to move up. Rather, folks rent and think it entitles them to something. Absolutely untrue, naive, etc, though totally predictable given how attached (enslaved) people become when welfare funds their lives.

    Also, I bought my current house from a black couple, and they walked off with $185K in profit. Who was victimized there?????

  • What I’d be interested in seeing is how PG County is changing, if this is where all the people being priced out of DC are going.

    This is a HUUUUGE deal in PG County. HUUUUUGE. I have many friends who lived for 40 years in Bowie and this is a hidden racially-tinged monster topic for them.

    My favorite quote was from someone in Charles County talking about smart development on TV and literally SPITTING out the quote with utter disgust, “We are NOT going to let Charles County end up like GREENBELT!”


  • Neener, you said a mouthful. This whole “gentrification” thing is so much more complicated than just blacks vs. whites. Though I certainly understand that if some bad-ass 8 year old is calling you a cracker (someone needs to whup his little tail) it can feel like a purely racial thing.

  • Greenbelt is a goddamn nightmare IMHO. I can’t speak for crime or quality of life, but having worked and schooled in the area its one of those places where feel like you need a car to cross the street, and most things of interest are 1-2 exits away on the beltway. Absolutely reprehensible in lots of ways.

  • I’d love to do a project on how suburbs are changing as well but I don’t like having to drive anywhere. It’s an interesting counterpoint how the suburbs that white people fled to in the 60s, like Wheaton, Annadale and Springfield, are now immigrant enclaves. It’s an interesting spin on the American dream.

  • “I’d love to do a project on how suburbs are changing as well but I don’t like having to drive anywhere.”

    C’mon Noah, do you think that would stop a young Robert Capa or Annie Leibowitz? (kidding)

  • Noah, consider taking advantage of the salient fact of DC, the burbs come here from 9 – 5 everyday. Maybe you could line up some federal employees from PG (or wherever) for a lunch chat downtown? Just a thought…

  • We lived on the U Street corridor, close to the 9:30 Club and I will ditto Pennywise’s story. When Martin’s Auto sold (now the Visio Condos), we stood on the sidewalk with Martin and he was overjoyed. He’d made millions. And what’s more, he moved his auto repair business just a few feet north and was still working. Though now he commuted on a huge gorgeous Silver Wing. We all looked at the ramshackle warren of apartments that still stood beside his garage and there was no one there (not even the residents) who believed the building would or should stay. We’d been there through the removal of a meth lab, through bodies found in the local daycare playground, through screaming and cops in the middle of the night.

    It was not about race… it was about class, but in DC the two are too often the same. I did not grow up here, but in NC and I’m used to there being poor white people. One of my husband’s students (mostly from far SE) once asked him in a discussion, “just where ARE the poor white people?!” Sincerely, there are generations of DC blacks who have never seen or lived beside the white poor. And I want to tell them that the rich whites are just as foreign to me as they are to them. I don’t know who buys the $2+ million houses in Cleveland Park and if i had the money, I still wouldn’t be one of them. They’d know I was not their class as easily as if I were not their race.

    We were gentrifiers on U Street, but no one gave us any problems. We knew the old timers better than the other newcomers, who reinforced every stereotype by barricading themselves in their townhomes and not mingling. Eventually we moved out to NE DC because there was no community and we’d have been silly not to take the money we could make and move on.

    Which is what Martin did and what others will do in the future. We just always wondered why so few middle class and upper middle class blacks seemed as keen to invest in these neighborhoods. It was the question that blended the class and race issues… if it is truly class-based, then we should be seeing areas where wealthy blacks are changing the demographic landscape. Perhaps it’s a cultural double whammy to be a gentrifier of the same race and that’s why we are not seeing the influx of blacks? I don’t know, but it would reflect the greater complexity if poor whites and rich blacks were more visible in the city.

  • Whoa! I see the ignorance of the reader comment section is on full display today:

    “They (black churches) are as racist and as closed minded as the KKK. Maybe even worse. They are doing it to their own people. They have stood by for years and watched drug dealing and murders being committed without saying a word.”

    “African-American churches do not believe in the Catholic Parish system and they, in general, see no religious need to “do good works.”

    “Time to move on down the road Section 8′ers. Neighborhoods change, that’s just the way things work.”

    “Racism is as dead as badda boom-affordable housing. We have (or so some say) a black president.”

    “the “right” to park illegally is much more important than actually be concerned about the community.”

    “Churches have had little to no effect on the improvements seen in DC.”

    “The thing is, between the era of 500 murders/year and now the only thing that hasn’t stayed the same is the fact that the city government got their shit together. The churches didn’t change. The community only changed insofar as the environment changed. Changed because of competent government…”


    For the record, I have absolutely no problem with white folks moving to my ‘hood, aside from the fact that many of you seem to assume that I’m going to rob/rape/kill you. Sometimes, if I see a white guy/girl walking my way on the street, I’ll actually cross the road first, just to keeping them from shitting their pants in fear. How’s that for pathetic.

  • Vonstallin

    You couldn’t pay me to live/move to PG county, lol……
    I have a ton of friends that live out that way.

  • Vonstallin

    Darkside wrote:

    LOL, i do the same thing

    sophiagrrl wrote:

    poor whites are not to far away…
    You have some good points. When i hang out with some of my white friends from said poorer hoods, everyone seems relaxed. Totaly different feel.

    espeicaly at the wal mart, lol

  • I would suggest we do a road trip and take some of our fine African American neighbors to the trailer parks of the midwest, where you could see endless poor honkeys to your hearts content. However, that might get…. ugly…. Said trailer parks are an epicenter of modern klan-ism, born of ignorance, bigotry, and frustration transformed to racism for the sake of collecting membership dues. Much like the local Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ / Black Hebrew Israelites (or whatever those guys are called).

    I remember in South Africa years ago, a local ‘slum’ would offer tours for all the rich foreigners in town for a big UN conference. Very well intentioned and the money went to the community, but still strikes me as very odd. “Look! Poor people!! Snap a photo!!”

  • Darkside, THere’s no “ignorance on display” when you cross the street having not the slightest clue who the other person is or where they came from, huh?


  • Pennywise – I’d like to point you towards photos by some of the colleagues I went to college with. First my friend Matt ( has some of the best photos of poor white people anywhere. Check out his ongoing essay Carry Me Ohio as well as the story A Silent Bond about a pair of deaf twins growing up in Chauncey, Ohio.

    Then there’s Sam Reinders’ ( project on Township Tourism which is exactly what you mention about wealthy foreigners paying money to tour slums in South Africa.

  • The intriguing thing about a lot of these posts is the ease with which so many return perceived hostility from their black neighbors with arrogance, stereotyping and what comes damn close to racism of their own. Pennywise with her trailer park comments obliquely makes a point that should be brought out more fully: that poverty transcends race and breeds intolerance. Layered on top of class differences and the universal distrust of “newcomers,” you’re surely going to stumble across a few assholes if you move into a poorer neighborhood. What did you expect?

    On the other hand, after almost 30 years of serial gentrification, my experiences with neighbors of every race has been — despite a few ugly incidents — overwhelmingly positive. We even got along with the corner boys. Maybe because I’m happy to live and let live (not with crime, but with mass baptisms and such) rather than try to bend existing institutions and communities to my perception of how things ought to be.

    Hell, I resent a lot of the candy-ass yuppies who live in my old ‘hood north of Logan, the kind of people who wouldn’t have dared drive through when I moved in and who seem determined to turn Logan into a sterile urban theme park. Sure, it’s not rational and I head down to Cork and Home Rule and I don’t really mind the newcomers when I think about it. All in good fun.

    But if I spent 30 years trying to build a community despite the full menu of social ills ordered up by many neighborhoods in DC, and just when the going got a little easier a bunch of the same kind of arrogant clowns that couldn’t be bothered to give a good goddam about inner city life for so many years moved in and started trashing my church, my political leaders, and my neighborhood traditions, and telling me everything I was doing wrong, I might be a little pissed for real.

    Gentrification is, on the whole, a good thing. But gentrification which sees an existing community to be embraced rather than something to be scraped off and discarded, is a better thing.

  • Re: Matt’s site: Sniff, those are my peeps! Shoutout!!

    Another good place for seeing that sort of stuff is Berkeley, California. White people behaving badly, on heroin, etc.

  • Irving Street: Pennywise is a he! Actually Pennywise is an IT, who crashed on earth eons ago and lives in tunnels under Derry, Maine, and awakens and hunts children every few years (rich and deep Stephen King discussion possible here).

    She. Sheesh.

  • There’s also an interesting psychological dynamic at work in these things. Specifically, YOU are an individual and cannot be lumped with any group, YOUR ideas are unique and only YOU really understand the world. People you meet are THEY, and THEY are part of some larger group who is out to get YOU. This a complex psycho-thingamajig with many big words and leather bound books associated with it, though I forget specifics.

    Re: crime, how many white folks look at a picture of Charles Manson and say “wow, he and I are much alike”? Versus how many white folks look at some black man on the news who’s a killer and say “black people are all killers”?

    I’m mangling the concept I am sure but perhaps you get the point.

    Okay, caffeine buzz done, time to go!

  • Apologies, Pennywise. The right and left halves of my brain separated your nom de blog into a normal civilian name, Christian name of Penny, family name of Wise.

    Caffeine can be dangerous stuff.

  • (1) I think the race issue comes up in our neighborhoods especially because of the sense of cultural ownership of space, whether folks actually own any property in the area or not. When the number of white faces increases in a neighborhood that has most recently been a “black” neighborhood, as it inevitably does with gentrification in DC, there is inevitably a sense of encroachment and loss to the gentrifiers and, unfortunately, resistance to that cultural encroachment that manifests itself in potty-mouthed 8 year-olds thumping their chests and the like. When a kid that young is saying the same thing, you can bet it’s not being picked up and reinforced only on the playground. I’ve experienced the same things as anon. homeowner a number of times, and I’ve never been anything other than a white guy minding his own business and just trying to get by — the attitude is definitely there, and it definitely is race driven.

    (2) What has happened here is not in line with the old-school notion of gentrification that so many people have in mind, where new development comes in and pushes old residents and old problems out, because much of the development has been other than purely private. A lot of the development here has been a government-regulated and -planned development on originally government-owned parcels, working from an inclusionary ethos. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but provisions have been made to keep people in place (the 30% affordable housing requirements in the new condos on 14th Street, for instance), and you still have people showing up expecting that, eventually, the demographic of the neighborhood is going to change in total and take all the old problems with it. Just not going to happen here, despite what some people may have expected.

  • Irving St:

    I moved to DC about 15 years ago, but spent a lot of time in the city for 10 years before that. I worked in DC and hung out in DC more than half the days of the week since 1984.

    There were times, and I mean like 5 year stretches, where I didn’t care what anyone else did. I rented an apartment here and really, I didn’t care what anyone else believed. When teenagers got in my face, I didn’t care. When the police fell asleep in their squad cars, I didn’t care. If schools went to hell, I didn’t care.

    But. then my apartment was burglarized for the third time. Then I saw neighborhood kids beat up a bicyclist for the second time. Then an old woman yelled at me in Spanish about invading her neighborhood. Hablo Espanol, pero soy Americano. She was not, as far as I know, born here, but she was calling me an invader. I lived on a block for 5-8 years where there were drug dealers. But everyone left and suddenly instead of living on a crappy block, we lived on a nice block. And the new residents didn’t throw trash on the sidewalk like the old residents did, they actually picked trash UP. So I started picking all the trash up. And I fixed up my front yard to the tune of several thousand $$.

    The summer nights were warm and pleasant and some college kid played spanish guitar and we heard wine glasses tinkling and my kids slept on our laps on the porch and we hear a bottle smash and these assholes from down the street start yelling the N-Word and the C-word and the B-word and they tear off in a gold mercedes with MD tags with rap music blaring.

    and the whole neighborhood just STOPS. We all stop and we all feel sick inside. Vomit in our mouths.

    And then the drive-bys start happening at their house, bullets flying, hitting houses, cars, windows. and they happen at least 5 different times.

    Then my wife gets mugged.

    Then my real estate taxes get mammothly screwed up and no one I talk to at the DC Tax office appears to have gone to college and no one can speak properly to communicate with me and later I learn that some of the people who were demanding that I owed OVER $100,000 in unpaid taxes and fines going back to almost 25 years BEFORE I BOUGHT MY HOUSE are involved in a criminal enterprise that stole millions and millions of dollars of our tax money. They weren’t merely unqualified for their jobs, they were criminals.

    Then I investigate the local school system and the teachers are horrible. Not just someone with an advanced degree looking down at an education degree, but I mean teachers who are doing those mentally-challenged “Word find” puzzles from the 7-11 IN CLASS. Teachers who REFUSED TO STOP WATCHING CHANNEL 26 IN CLASS. Teachers who told me they were too busy to subscribe to a newspaper. Teachers who talked about college degrees from Clark Atlanta, Southeastern, UDC, and Bible college. Teachers who told me, directly and to my face that it was OK FOR DRUG DEALERS TO SELL DRUGS ON AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PLAYGROUND BECAUSE THEY WERE PART OF THE CITY TOO! And when I pulled my kid and put him in another school the teachers all told me that he was a year behind as if he learned absolutely NOTHING for an entire year so I had to pay for a tutor to make up for one year with a group of four teachers all of whom lionized Mayor Barry for getting them jobs.

    And over and over again when I commented on the ridiculousness of all of this, time and time again, these same people commented that I had to accept THEM! That I had to accept the gunshots, the drug dealing, the acceptance of drug dealing, the personal history of using cocaine, the watching TV instead of teaching, the littering and the broken glass, the mugging, the rejection of American ideals as phony in favor of something that was far less successful- obesity, diabetes, lack of intellectual curiosity, lack of entrepreneurial spirit, dirty flaking lead paint, ugly unkempt yards. I was told over and over that I was the newcomer who had to adjust even though by all earthly calculations, I was winning the game of life.

    And I finished shoveling my elderly neighbor’s steps in 2004 (she was the 3rd widow whose steps I shoveled) and she invited me inside to a perfectly spotless and tidy old lady’s house with a picture of MLK on the wall and neat stacks of Ebony and Jet and she told me how happy she was to have us in the neighborhood because we were educated and we were clean and we shoveled her steps without looking for a handout and we raised our children to be respectful and call her Mrs. and her neighbors Mrses and how sad she was about the way the baby boomers turned out and how they destroyed the neighborhood that her husband, the World War II vet worked so hard to make a community after the government tore down their house to make way for 295 in Southwest. The neighborhood had become pleasant for her to enjoy, she wasn’t telling me that I was trying to sterilize her neighborhood by driving out the crime, she was happy that guys weren’t demanding money from her to shovel her steps. She was happy that the gentrifiers brought back civility to HER neighborhood that had been wrecked from 1970-1990. It wasn’t just the neighborhood of someone who first tried coke at a disco, it was the neighborhood of a sister of Zeta Phi Beta who attended Howard in the 1930s but dropped out during the War to be a wife to a man shipped overseas. It was her neighborhood too and while its obvious that the elderly have no tolerance for bad behavior in kids, her tolerance level was no stricter than mine.

    So sure. I snapped. I flipped out. I freaked out. I couldn’t control myself. I stopped being able to handle being told that I live in someone else’s neighborhood. And a teenager told me that, point blank, in August, that I needed to get out of his neighborhood and he did so on an end of the block where every resident is white. I stopped being able to accept anything negative about gentrification. Because the rotten corruption that exists in DCPS, the tax office, between the police and the drug dealers, the bureaucracy and the churches (which control a hell of a lot more in DC government besides parking enforcement), the guys who play craps in the alleys, the prostitutes and the johns, can and will be changed.

    And my live and let live attitude got run through the wringer. and I’m old, cranky and pissed off.

    So. With the drop in crime after gentrification, the flowers on the lawns, the open sidewalks for the kids to play (rather than for drugs to be dealt), the Christmas lights and the trick or treaters, I know that I am right. I know that by all measures that I define success, from elimination of lead paint and environmental hazards to crime statistics, from WaPo restaurant reviews to the Target, gentrification is making life better for the communities. And that’s what I truly believe. I really don’t think I’m ever going to see it any other way.

  • I couldnt find the exact definition of the word “gentrification” I was looking for, so this one will have to suffice. While the word does mean folks with money coming and fixing up neighborhoods and pushing out folks without money, it also means the imposition of the values of the “gentrifiers” upon the people already living in the neighborhood. See definition below:

    “Historically, the term “gentry” referred to landed people; in the twenty-first century, it usually refers to the upper middle class. As young, single professionals returned to the city to live, the English dubbed the process, “gentrification.” Gentrifiers can be single or couples without children, heterosexual or homosexual; their occupations are generally professional, technical, or managerial. In the United States nearly all gentrifiers have at least some college education; in many cities, 70 to 90 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree. In a few cities, such as sections of Boston or New York, gentrifiers also include college students.”

    I think thats what I find so disturbing about some of the comments above; the fact that they are coming from people with different backgrounds and experiences from those in the neighborhoods they are moving into, and they seem to be judging the previous inhabitants so harshly. It IS about socio-economic class; it IS about race and ethnicity; it IS about gender and sexual orientation – the tension in these gentrified communities is about all of the above!

    I especially love this comment: “But gentrification which sees an existing community to be embraced rather than something to be scraped off and discarded, is a better thing.”

    There are things to be learned from both sides people. Its time to stop being so close-minded.


  • by the way, those comments about racism being dead were meant to be facetious-friends..

  • Anonymous Says:

    December 17th, 2008 at 5:55 pm
    Darkside, THere’s no “ignorance on display” when you cross the street having not the slightest clue who the other person is or where they came from, huh?



    Actually, I agree with you. It is a bit ignorant for me to do that. However, If I had a nickel for every time I felt that sense of fear from a white person, I’d be a rich, rich man.

  • darkside, i get the same thing from women, and im a gay male. im not trying to make any assumptions about the way you look, but as for me, i can definitely see why a girl would be wary of me walking behind her…im a big mean looking guy. i wouldnt call a woman ignorant for being aware of her surroundings per se, but i do see where youre coming from. i hope you give the white people the benefit of the doubt, especially in a city where a lot of us have had racial slurs and condescending remarks tossed at us (not to mention some of us have been attacked with seemingly racial motives)

  • My experience is that white people are much more willing to give these young black males the benefit of the doubt than I am. Maybe it is guilt. Naivete. Ignorance. If I am in Chinatown or Adams Morgan on the weekend and I see a couple of young black males milling around me, my guard goes up because I know what they are capable of around here. That’s not racism. That is just being aware of your surroundings…

  • Believe me Christopher, I do give white folks the benefit of the doubt, even though I’ve felt that sense of fear from white people thousands of times during my life.

  • Frankly I watch my back everywhere, call me paranoid. But with no street level law enforcement in much of the city, and I not armed, anytime I am outnumbered I am careful. I was jumped and beaten long ago in a city far far away, and I will never let it happen again. Black, white, whatever, better safe than sorry, ounce of prevention and pound of cure, etc etc etc. Look at Durval Martins, shot and killed just the other night, a white man on 11th and Q. WTF do you think happened to him, and don’t you think HE should have crossed to the other side, or not been out at all at 3am, or taken a cab due to safety concerns??? He didn’t, now he’s dead, he bled out all alone in a crosswalk late at night as mindless killers raced off, probably laughing at the fun of it all. End of story. Your equality thoughts are great, and kumbaya is a wonderful song and all, but neither stops bullets and dead is dead.

  • Pennywise,

    Fuck it then. Beginning today, I’m going to start throwing chicken bones, watermelon rinds, and bottles of malt liquor at every white person that I see…while yelling “Fight the power!”

  • Kinda sad about Durval. Assuming he wasn’t involved in some drug buy gone bad, the take from that is that the criminals have somewhat determined a curfew for the rest of us.

    Without knowing much of the circumstances, most people will flippantly say that this guy should not have been out this late on a Wed. night. Essentially, that is conceding the night to the criminals. Yet, sadly those comments are likely correct. He would probably still be alive had he not a) been out that late and b) not been in that area that late at night.

  • Expecting people to automatically have good values is unrealistic.

    The values have to be taught.

    If parents aren’t doing it, the community has to step up and do it.

    If parents aren’t doing it, teachers aren’t doing it, police aren’t doing it, elected officials aren’t doing it, and the rest of us decide to just complain about it rather than step up and teach the values, they will never get through.

    How often, after a violent crime by a teenager, does a large number of neighbors find out who was the criminal, find out where they live, and go talk to the parent(s) that live in that house? Or if it’s crew related, go talk to the adult living in the victim’s house too? It’s not hard to find out who these folks are, even when they’re minors and the cops withhold the names. The community knows.

    How often do neighbors put together cooperatives to watch eachother’s school age kids after school? Or put together parenting groups/informal classes?

    Do most of the gentrifiers even know their neighbors by name, other than the ones directly next to them? How about one street over, know anyone over there?

    Communities have to act like communities to expect to live like one. And if a lot of people on the block aren’t doing so, the rest of the block has to step up.

    I know I don’t do this stuff-I’m busy and wrapped up in my own life just like the rest of you. But I do know that personal responsibility and asking people to just automatically be different than they are only goes so far.

  • I make sure to get involved in the PTA and other parents groups.

    But I would not and should not let my kids play with kids that live in a house that’s been shot up. Anyone who’s a parent knows what I’m talking about. When you see the drug dealers outside, you keep your kids inside, even if Jimmy and Janey are riding their scooters under the bleary-eyes of their cousin, the dealer, and your kid wants to go say “Hi” you pull them away from the really high drug dealer.

    and one time, not only did I pull them away, say goodbye and walk away, I called child protective services- because their guardian that day was drunk off his ass. and that, I am well aware, was vicious of me.

    But the issue with the PTA was, of course, that everyone involved was at least middle class. There were representatives of the by three ethnicities, but there was no one who represented the “old DC.” They just never showed up for meetings and they never brought their kids to the fun fairs, literacy days, auctions, or bike-a-thons. By the very act of being active we self-selected out of communication with the truly ungentrified. What I consider to be a community group like the PTA was not part of the world of families who didn’t have gumption, spirit, or drive. In the end, the lowest income single mothers were completing Strayer degrees, getting new jobs, and saving up money to buy houses in PG County. The kids who I knew whose parents I never saw? I never saw them after school either. We’re nowhere near on the same page or speaking the same language.

    Who is cleaning the alley on earth day? Who is painting the school on School Beautification day? The people who own computers and are subscribed to the listserv.

  • For instance, I once talked to a woman about a charity drive that the PTA was putting together to help kids displaced in an apartment fire and she yelled at me to my face that we needed to give her the money instead and then bumped into me to push me over or to try to get me to react. This was a real, true story and one of the tipping points that changed me from “live and let live” to “I have no tolerance for this.” I was trying to help working class neighborhood children by looking for book or used computer donations and she tried to start a fight with me. I didn’t want anyone’s money, just old desktops that kids could still use for school. In the end we got them from other families, but I’m never going to forget her anger at my attempts to contribute positively to the youth in our community.

  • Neener,

    Just because a parent can’t attend “fun fairs, literacy days, auctions, or bike-a-thons” or PTA meetings doesn’t mean that they don’t care about their child’s education or that they don’t contribute to the betterment of their neighborhood. For instance, my mother didn’t have the time to attend many of the functions you mentioned because she had to work all the damn day to support me and my two sisters (and yes, my father was also around, so kiss my ass stereotypers). When she got home, she’d help me with my homework, and on the weekends I’d go to my Boy Scout sessions and we’d attend various church functions. She was also very active as far as organizing activities for the neighborhood kids. As a matter of fact, most of the people in that neighborhood looked out for one another.

    When I read some of the stories that you share, I know that you’re describing a small number of the people in this city, and not the majority.

  • I’m not trying to suggest that I’m describing everyone in the city- far from it- but I’m trying to explain that there are real divisions and it’s not as easy as suggesting that the gentrifiers join community organizations and help the community.

    The reality is that once a group of gentrifiers join a community group, the group and the goals of the group become gentrified. This was true of our PTA which was quickly viewed as hostile to ideas like buying liquor for the teacher’s Christmas party (true) or paying teachers extra bonuses (true) and instead wanted to funnel money into art supplies and music equipment that the city refused to replace.

    For years my block had an old-fashioned DC block party which illustrated the gentrification saga to us. I loved to attend it and gave the organizer $20 each year, but one year he invited all his cousins over and in a blink the bucket of sodas was empty and people were “making plates to take home” with our food, my kid was crying on the sidewalk because an older kid stole his bike and tried to ride it off our block (!) and there was a fist fight on the moonbounce where a 7 year old decked a 5 year old. This is all true and happened within an hour. So, we went back inside the house, angry, put our stuff away and the organizer, whose cousins wrecked the joint, never held another block party out of embarassment. I mean, he was old school, but even he knew his cousins were much too trashy.

    I’m surprised that people didn’t criticize me for the obvious class issue described above, we all decided to give away old computers to help these kids. To people who never bought computers for their kids at all, this was a luxury that I had no way of understanding. Right now I’ve got two unused computers in my house. We collected 6 old computers in a week because everyone has an old computer lying around, right?

    Definitely keep in mind that I’m not exclusively talking about ethnic divides. On my block there are a dozen mixed-race couples, 2-3 Asians, Africans/Ethiopians, at least a dozen Latin people, and a dozen African-American professionals- many of whom you would know by name from the Post, etc. There really is, in 2008, one street family left from “old DC” on our block, but many such families in the neighborhood. There are now only about 10 “original” families left- and I mean residents from before 1975. And three of those were white families that moved into DC during the civil rights era to make a point. The fact that there are so few from the Crack War Era makes those who get in my face about things so much more surprising. I’m not willing to back down, though, that what I find problematic about “old dc”- the acceptance of corruption, drug use and dealing, violence, lead paint, lack of college degrees, and similar is open to cultural relativism. I’m not complaining about block parties, hanging out on the porch, working in a government job, or all the middle class things that make DC what it is. I’m complaining about a woman who, when confronted with a questionshe found difficult to answer, pushed me and demanded money.

  • I feel like I’m losing a handle on what gentification is in this discussion (and maybe I never really did fully understand what we are supposedly talking about.) Because, are we suggesting that being involved in your community and schools, fighting crime to the best of your ability, trying to improve your neighborhood, and raising your children the best way you can, are traits solely shared by newcomers to a neighborhood? Is getting a new grocery store or a sit-down restaurant something only gentrifiers would want?

    I’m not trying to disagree with anyone anyone has said here. I’m just trying to figure out what we’re talking about.

  • Darkside, please do so. If I thought the violence and anger of the city was actually politically related, and its perpetrators were on the verge of a Black Panther-esque uprising against the Man, I’d feel vastly better. The fact is the perpetrators of this violence are thugs, killing for a few dollars and for fun, and the community assigns them a role of some sort of revolutionary because that’s a convenient label that justifies no further action to be taken. Criminals take advantage of your sentimentality to kill and take more. The facts alone should speak for this, ie how many whites versus blacks are killed in DC? I’d say 1 white for every 10 blacks, at “best”. Ie, if I remember correctly that you’re black, you are vastly more in danger than me (in case you hadn’t noticed!).

    So please, fight the power, ignite racial holy war here in DC, start a revolution, do anything other than what we see daily: mindless thuggishness that’s labeled as some sort of black power movement by people too ignorant to know the difference.

  • Because, are we suggesting that being involved in your community and schools, fighting crime to the best of your ability, trying to improve your neighborhood, and raising your children the best way you can, are traits solely shared by newcomers to a neighborhood?

    Well Christina… let me answer this in a different way. When a local drug dealer was getting shot at and cars and homes were damaged, a bunch of us were on the street, really angry talking to the police lieutenant. We identified the guy by name. Two long-time residents butted in to the conversation, told the lieutenant that we were new to the neighborhood, didn’t understand and didn’t know the kid we were unfairly calling a drug dealer.

    I saw this kid exchange cocaine for money with my own eyes and close enough to me that I knew it was cocaine.

    So yes, I think that only newcomers to my block want my block free of drug dealing, yes. That’s been what I’ve seen. Some of my neighbors have said things like, “I don’t want to see another one of our children in jail, No More!” (I’m paraphrasing) So from my experience there are more attempts made to stop the jailing of people they know than to stop crime.

    When it comes to quality schools, there are two families on our block who both told me that I’m being unreasonable, that our school is a good school despite failing NCLB for 3 years in a row and they will not, under any circumstances, try to send their child to one of the schools the Post labeled as DC’s Top Ten Elementary schools. the basic comments I’ve heard were that we were too impatient, expected too much, tried to interfere in the school. This was told to me over several different discussions last year. The rest of us w/ kids have already removed our kids from this horrible school into Ward 3 DCPS and Charters.

    So, yes, it’s been my experience that the old DC residents suggested that “newcomers” stir up trouble over school quality where no issue exists.

    I firmly believe that there is an acceptance of what I consider mediocrity, an acceptance of corruption, violence and the existence of drug dealing that the newcomers find is unacceptable but is accepted by those who lived through the crack wars.

    I know this experience is true because I’ve met people who just moved in who complain at length about the lack of shopping at DCUSA where I’ve sputtered, “But you should have seen it before, DCUSA is GREAT!” This might be as simple as my zero tolerance for open-air drug markets vs their tolerance for same.

  • Gentrification has and will need to have checks and balances, the buildings are brighter andd better maintenence, unfortunately as in other parts of town, poorer people have been pushed out, hopefully that is an anomaly as we have people in the projects, Park Morton, Garfield Terrace and elsewhere who are our neighbors.

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