“A short documentary about loss, displacement and change on U Street” by Kylé Pienaar

“I just finished a short documentary (12min) about displacement, loss and change (good and bad) on U Street. Included are the voices of poet E. Ethelbert Miller, the scholar Maurice Jackson, Ben’s Nizam Ali, Tamrat Medhin who created the Little Ethiopia petition and a few others.”

31 Comment

  • thanks for sharing this.

  • Interesting film.

    Did I misunderstand or did that gentleman near the end say that white people have a sense of entitlement? : ) That made me chuckle out loud.

    I am not sure why there was such an issue with a guy coming down and ripping down a “no dogs” sign and saying “its a new day”. That is pretty straight forward illegal, just call the cops, problem solved.

    • that’s entitlement. “i don’t care about others and why there is a no dog sign…. I want it to be available to MY dog, therefore I’m removing it with no regard for anyone else’s opinion”. ENTITLEMENT. I found that to be the most poignant part of the piece because it’s SOOOO true.

      • What about the people who say they’re ENTITLED to affordable housing in the city core? Or they’re ENTITLED to live in the neighborhood in which they grew up? Or they’re ENTITLED to do whatever they want because they were here “first”? No one talks much about that entitlement problem.

        • Of course they don’t talk about it that type of entitlement. It holds little weight. You can *think* you’re entitled to remain in a neighborhood, til you can’t pay the bills and you’re out on the street.

        • because people who feel they have a right to those entitlements don’t often get their way.

          • Weird, I dont feel like I often get my way. And I’m part of the “privileged/entitled” class.

          • Probably the only thing worse than entitlement, is obliviousness to it.

          • If we’re so concerned about the entitlement that comes with removing a no dog sign, can we be equally concerned about the entitlement that allows people to cross streets at whatever part of the street they please. Can we also talk about how people feel entitled to throw their trash all over the street and sidewalks often directly in front of trash cans (esp chicken wing bones!)…

            Jeez, do we DC residents have nothing more important to complain about than removing no-dog signs!! Seriously!!?!!

            Crime? Public Schools? Corrupt gov? Snazzy new burger joints?

      • Watch the video before posting assumed speculations. The entitlement comment and the no dogs comments were by two different people on two different subject. The OP clearly saw that, he even separated them by a blank line in his post.

  • This was a well done video, and many of the people that spoke made some nice intelegent points. But, I consider myself part of of the white gentrifying crowd that is mentioned at the end. I do not consider myself harmful to the life and culture of DC at all. I respect anybody who shows their fellow neighbor respect weather they have been born and raised in DC or moved here a month ago, as long as they do the same.

    Without an interview with somebody that is considered a “gentrifier” this video is one sided. We all clearly know this “dog sign” fellow is a jerk, not matter where he is, what color he is, or what neighborhood.

    Back in the forties when U street was flourishing with culture and Jazz clubs that was the demand, we must respect the past and cherish that but we also have to understand the needs of today.

    I am not sure what the overall message is of this video. I hope its not that gentrication is bad, because I really heard no positives mentioned in this video. Those parks where people play sports, when I lived on U 8 years ago, were drug dens and dangerous, those boarded up buildings had squatters, and what not.

    I have mentioned this before but I am a respectful person to anybody in this city as they as they are the same, of everybody, not only because of race or time lived in DC. I have no idea, why me someone who exactly fits the bill of a white gentrifier, is always looked down upon.

    You tell me whats wrong, with working hard in high school, to get into college and then work even harder. To be offered a job in DC starting at the lowest of the low and working my way up the ladder. Saving my money to buy a run down home because thats all I can afford, fixing it up by myself. Now I have a nice home, two kids, family and a steady job. I pay my taxes to DC support all its local business’s and my children will go to school here. My 90 year old neighbor born and raised in DC respects the hell out of that, and I respect her.

  • Nicely done. I grew up in Tenleytown and now live in CH. It’s hard to express just how dramatically the city and surrounding area has changed in the past 50 years.

    The beauty of this video is that it focuses on one small slice of the challenge of sharing turf with newcomers and shows that the resentment people experience today is nothing new.

    Think about how the black intelligencia in and around U St. felt about the riots. They got the hell out! Think about how poor blacks living in a post riot, drug-riddled city felt about Ethiopian newcomers finding success where many of them hadn’t. Think about people who have lived in a neighborhood through decades of hardship now seeing people with means look down on them. Think about people with means feeling that they are pouring their sweat and money into a neighborhood only to be ostracized by their neighbors.

    Having a sense of what the city used to be helps us interpret our daily lives in what it is today.

    • This is well said, and I wish I had come it with this than my long worded rant above. Thank you nicely done

  • saf

    Well done video. A couple errors of fact in what the interviewees said, but a good picture of how some people think about the neighborhood.

  • Not surprisingly, the guy from Ben’s railed against the developers who bought property and “do nothing good for the neighborhood.”

    Without private investment by developers, U St would not be as busy/successful as it is.

    • It seems like a lot of people who line up against gentrification development miss this point. Does anyone think that the Howard Theatre project, which celebrates an aspect of the African-American heritage of this area, would have happened without the development and (white) gentrification going on? I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

      • It shouldn’t have to happen that way. For so many years not even 7-11 or SubWay were here, people from the city had to drive to the suburbs to eat at clean restaurants. Now that the racial dynamic has changed companies all of a sudden have interest in the city?! That’s selective discrimination based on demographics. Not fair treatment from companies that are heavily supported by black patrons. If you don’t see how that’s wrong, there ain’t much helping you…

        • Based on racial demographics…or a combination of economic demographics and fear of crime?

          • If you’re a large corporation you shouldn’t have those kinds of fears. There were many stores in DC that filled the void and had no significant problems at the same time as franchises avoided moving into the city…

            Places like Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, KFC, Shell Gas, Popeye’s and a few others braved many years of changes in DC, while equivalent stores opted to move into Georgetown and Tenley Town. Suburban stores get robbed all the time as well, just look at videos on YouTube. There was no justification for avoiding a move into the city based on fears, it was driven by ignorance of executives and false data on financial risks.

            Even the Safeway at Georgia and Randolph should have long been renovated, it still exists to this day as one of the oldest and most disgusting stores in the region. Imagine how black people feel when they see that white people have to move into their neighborhoods before stores conduct normal improvements? These companies should be ashamed.

          • This is in response to Anonymous.

            It’s partly an issue of a race but mostly of class. Businesses avoid areas that are poor and perceived as bad investments. Have you ever been to rural WV or KY where it’s nearly all white? Ain’t many businesses there, either. Imagine how these people feel.

            Middle and upper class blacks get tarred with the same brush as low class blacks, partly because people (like you) imply or believe that all blacks are the same — and the ills of poverty, like drugs and crime, get associated with all black people. Thus and unfortunately, businesses avoid predominantly black areas, even if they have money.

        • Anonymous @1:02,

          I agree with Bloomingdude. I think this is a largely a factor of economics, not overt racial discremination (i.e., now that whites live here businesses are moving in because they only want to serve whites).

          Of course, that in itself is problematic, but for a different reason.

        • So why didn’t local residents open some local “clean” restaurants to serve their own communities?

  • Interesting. Thanks for posting. Agree or disagree with what was said or how it’s presented in the film, it’s refreshing to hear different voices reflecting on real feelings and perspectives.

    I think wreckfish’s comment above nails it.

  • boochow

    I moved to DC in ’97 and used to let my dog run around in the park where U St metro is today. Nice short.

  • A couple weeks ago an black guy yelled “I used to live on this block, bitch” right before he ran over my white neighbor and left him nearly unconscious and bleeding in the middle of the street all while the drivers 4yr old daughter was yelling out the sunroof “stop daddy!”

    This man felt entitled to do so, b/c he used to live on the block till all the white people moved in. That’s all I could think about when I watched this one sided movie.

    Noe he’s entitled to a small cell and I hope all he is “entitled” to, doesn’t run out soon.

    • Wait -“right before he ran over my white neighbor and left him nearly unconscious and bleeding in the middle of the street all while the drivers 4yr old daughter was yelling out the sunroof “stop daddy!”

      I’m calling foul on this.

  • I think some of this is made up. The black guy who said a white woman gave him a “look” like he didn’t belong on the bus is totally exagerrating. Anyone on the bus is savvy enough to know the diversity on the bus, especially a white woman. As for the dog park sign removal? I seriously doubt the guy said “its a new day”–who did he say that too? I have studied enough sociology and psychology to understand failed memories and self victimization. Still an interesting video just sure its all that accurate.

    • I have a different view on this than you do. I take people at their word and assume they’re not lying. besides, their recollection of the event is really all that matters for the point they’re trying to make.

      However, I’m not sure what the point they’re trying to make is… there are some white people out there that are assholes? They’ve developed prejudices based on anecdotes and are implying/flat out saying white people are making an organized attempt to take over because its a “new day”.

      Its tantamount to me saying that a black person broke into my car, so all black people are criminals. Its uninformed prejudice. Ironically, its quite similar to the prejudice that many commenters on this blog have.

      • Yes, like the asshole on his cellphone with orange hoodies, shorts, flip flops, letting his dog poop on the 1300 block of belmont st, but walked away without cleaning. You know who you are. Shame on you..you Gentrifier

  • I generally avoid this whole topic – but truth is, “gentrification” is mostly a bunch of crap. I bought a condo at 14th & Columbia Rd. in 1987 on a bartender’s income. (3 bedrooms – so also had 15 years of roomates) Property was dirt cheap, but everyone knew the Metro was coming and things would improve.

    Any church, civic group, organization etc. could easily have bought up every property in the neighborhood and controlled the neighborhood. Yes, the big projects like DCUSA mall needed lots of deal-making with developers. And of course developers did buy up properties and sit on them. But the properties were so cheap – why didn’t more – now “displaced” people – also get in on it at the time?

    Houses in CH that now sell for $900,000.00 were $60,000. Where were you then??? Lots of disenfranchised people throughout history have figured out a way to band together and use their collective might to determine their future. Of course I recognize that lots of historical/emotional/social reasons were in play and influencing why this didn’t happen. But the fact is – it didn’t happen.

    Why didn’t more young local people learn the skills and take the initiative to re-hab homes like hundreds of immigrants have been doing?

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