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.
Ed. Note: The following may be B.J.’s personal experiences but I’d like to remind all that this is not necessarily the case for everyone. Just the other day I was hanging out on the stoop with some neighbors. On the stoop were – my neighbors, 25 year residents of the neighborhood (black), me (white) and two other neighbors (Latino). And we were one happy family drinking and laughing and having a good time. But I recognize that we all have our own experiences and it is important that we each listen to what the other is saying.
“Man, I can talk about Washington all day. I have lived in this city my whole life. I have seen this place change in a way that I don’t like. Let me talk at you for a minute about it. My neighborhood used to be all black. A white person would never, and I mean never, come passing through.
“For 30 years or better, we lived how we lived. We hung out on the stoop because we couldn’t afford air conditioning. We had cookouts in the backyard with music. We dealt with problems our own way and didn’t need no police. We lived in neighborhoods where you knew everyone on the block, and could rely on them. Then, the white people started moving in.
“I am not trying to sound racist, but everything changed after that. When the neighborhood started to become more white, things became less neighborly. White people mostly stayed in their houses and didn’t do much to meet the neighbors. That doesn’t create a neighborhood, it creates nothing but a series of houses next to each other. Maybe they stay in because they are scared. Thing is, if they are so scared, why’d they buy the damn house to begin with?
“Now, when we hang out on the stoop, the cops roll up on us and give us a hard time. Come on man, the police didn’t even show up when I got shot four times around the block from my house when I was 17. I learned not to need them then, and I sure as hell don’t need them now. Now, they roll up in two cars over a noise complaint. Are you kidding me? That ain’t right.
Continues after the jump.
“You can think what you want about what I am saying, but I see everyday how my neighborhood has changed, and how blacks and whites are treated differently. My neighbors, these white kids, threw a party with music until four in the morning with a hundred bikes locked up on the street that blocked people’s driveways and made a big mess. Didn’t no cops show up. I had a cook out with my friends in our backyard and the cops stormed through the alleyway and broke it up because we were being loud. How am I supposed to understand that? Tell me that I shouldn’t be angry about what I see. I’ve been living in this place my whole live and now some new comers tell me how to do what I do.
“When you step into a neighborhood, you need to step correct. If not, you can’t expect no one to respect you. A lot of these white people need to learn a thing or two about respect and how our neighborhoods work before they come in and try to change things. I ain’t being racist, I am just being real. You know what I am saying.”