‘Alex on Her Old House’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.

Today, People’s District tells the story of a house in Mt. Pleasant through two woman. Alex’s story below talks about growing up on 19th and Kenyon in the 80′s and 90′s. You can read about Tamara, the woman raising her family there now on People’s District. The two families have an amazing set of things in common, and talk about a changing neighborhood through the lens of a beautiful old house.

“I always regret that we sold the house in Mt. Pleasant where I was born and raised. You know, the place was falling apart and the foundation was going, but it was our home. After my parents got married in Afghanistan and then tried living in San Francisco, they decided to come to D.C. in the 1970’s. They were do gooders who traveled the world and helped women in third world countries open their own businesses. So, D.C. was a nice fit for them and they found a place on 19th and Kenyon St. and raised me and my sister there.

“The neighborhood was incredible and had such a rich culture, but if people think that Washington is bad now, you should have been in Mt. Pleasant back then. My Dad, sister and I got held up at gun point when I was eight years old. Our car got stolen four times and who knows how many times our house got broken into. A woman was shot in the back of the head on our street. Then, the riots of the 90’s happened in Mt. Pleasant, and things started to get even worse. I remember being at home, watching the riots on TV with my Dad. I couldn’t believe it was real until I saw on TV that they burned the KFC that used to be on the corner of Kenyon and Mt. Pleasant St.

“While it was rough, my parents still wanted me and my sister to live our lives and have fun. They knew that the more restrictions you put on a child, the more they are going to rebel. Instead, they put trust in us, and taught us how to take care of ourselves in the neighborhood. My parents never condoned carrying any kind of weapon, but they always taught us to always look behind you and be aware of your surroundings.

Continues after the jump.

“After all of the violence and crime we witnessed, my parents stayed in the neighborhood because they loved the rich culture and the wonderful neighbors. We had a really close community and we were really good friends with everyone around us. Also, where else will you hear the sounds of lions and monkeys from the zoo in the city? When things got bad, they didn’t want to give that up. Now, as a soon to be Mom, I wouldn’t want to give that up either if I had that. You will find violence wherever you go. You just have to teach your kids how to handle it.

“We left Mt. Pleasant when I went to college in California. My sister and Mom eventually joined me out there. My Mom decided to sell the house and the family who now lives there that has so many incredible similarities to our family. The couple spent time in Afghanistan and San Francisco before moving to D.C. I guess it was meant to be that they live there now with their two children.

“Like my parents, I realized that California wasn’t for me, and I came back to D.C. a few years ago. Coming back, I was shocked by how much this city, especially Mt. Pleasant, had changed. When we were growing up, there were almost no white families or families with kids on our block, now there must be at least 15. I am grateful for some of the changes, but I hope that people who come in there now know and care about the people who were there before them. Just like you need to know that you walk on the left and stand on the right of our escalators, people should take the time to learn about where they live.

“Now, I live in Brookland and really love it. We have awesome neighbors and it reminds me of being back in Mt. Pleasant where people want to be a part of your life and build a sense of community where they live.”

Read Tamara’s story.

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