Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.
“My adopted parents brought me to D.C. when I was two years old from Baltimore. My adopted father was a cement finisher and my adopted mother cleaned houses for a living. We lived a nice life up in NE until I realized that I was adopted when I was about 12. When I learned that, I dropped out of school and ran away from home to find my birth parents. I needed to know who they were and understand why they abandoned me. I took off to Baltimore knowing only my grandfather’s name.
“In Baltimore, I was alone and hungry and stole some food from a store. When the cops caught me and asked me where I lived, I gave them my grandfather’s name. They took me to his house and that was the first time I met him. I didn’t know what I was going to find when I met him. I had all of these grand ideas that my parents were rich and would take me back into their loving family.
“My family was not rich, but my grandfather was very warm towards me and he introduced me to my aunt and eventually to my Mom. Turns out that my Mom had seven kids after me and kept them all. I was so angry that of all of the kids, she decided to give me away. My real mother was happy to see me, but never offered to take me back and never did anything for me, so I was back on my own at 12. I have no hard feelings towards her. She is who she is and I need to accept that. As for my father, I didn’t meet him until I was 47. He found me.
Continues after the jump.
“As I was abandoned by one family and ran away from another, I was pretty much by myself since the age of 12. After running around Baltimore for a bit, I came to D.C. and joined a motorcycle gang and lived in a runaway house. I then ended up leaving D.C. and drifting around for a long time. I spent a good part of that time drinking and drugging and dealing with my own issues. That was the size of it for a long time. The thing is that everywhere I went, I took me with me. I could never escape who I was and the things that I had been through. Eventually, I understood that living like that was not normal and I needed to change. I finished school and went to college to be a social worker. I wanted to help people who were down and out, especially those struggling with addiction. I went into alcohol counseling and worked in the same recovery house that I went through when I had my problem with alcohol.
“While there were dark periods, one of the things that always helped me in my life was music. Ever since I was very small, I knew that I wanted to play music. My foster parents did not allow me to play. When I was nine, I entered into a song writing contest in Nashville and won. When I approached my parents with that, they did not let me accept the prize and told me to stay away from the music business. I ended up giving the song away and it went on to make a lot of money for someone else. That’s why when I was 12 and living alone, I taught myself how to play guitar on 18th and Riggs. I taught myself right handed and then I turned my guitar over and played left handed. After that, I had the same dream every day for about 15 years that I was on the stage playing music. The stages and lighting would change, but I was always performing. I thought that was a sign that music and I were made for each other.
“Since I have been back in D.C., I have been playing music all over. I have played in clubs and on the street and have even had a recording contract. There are ups and down, but I know that I am meant to play music here. I’ll be 60 in November, but I feel like I am getting younger as time moves forward. The music keeps me young.”