Washington, D.C., once known as “Chocolate City,” it has turned more into a Chai Latte City. Small pockets of D.C. that were once locally-owned and cherished have been monopolized by the “yuppies” and privileged alike. I moved to the newly-dubbed Bloomingdale area, previously known as a LeDroit Park, in July of 2014. Nestled in a quaint, English finished basement apartment with my Sierra Leonean-American born roomie and my Haitian and Chinese landlords, I was surrounded by older black families and interracial couples on my block. Our house was owned by one of the “Little Rock Nine,” and we were in walking distance to Howard University and Howard Theatre.
As the seasons started to changed from summer to fall, my roommate and I started to notice a change as well. All the houses around our neighborhood filled with immigrant families and others of color started to go up for sale. The color was starting to drain from the neighborhood we so loved. As we walked in our own neighborhood, we were given side-eyes by white couples and those lacking in melanin gaggles of friends. They would go so far as to distance themselves from us when walking down our own blocks. How did it happen that we were feeling uncomfortable in our own neighborhoods?
Even our favorite restaurants in the neighborhood started to lose their color and charm. Is respecting the locals still a thing in D.C. or is it best to run out all the people of color to make the new D.C. implants comfortable?
The incident with young Jason Goolsby, the student racially profiled at Howard University, made me think even more on this issue. If Jason, who goes to an HBCU where a student of color should feel the safest, where is it safe to be in D.C.?
Southeast D.C. is even becoming gentrified. Described as one of the poorest and blackest wards in the district, it’s now getting a Busboys and Poets. Now, I love Busboys, but anytime there is one placed, housing prices skyrocket and the locals are moved out. Take notice in Hyattsville, MD; Brookland, D.C.; U Street in D.C., and the list goes on.
There has to be more of a discussion and a movement for us to regenerate these poorer communities. A lot of those in privileged positions move into these “up and coming” areas because they are trending right now, but don’t respect the local culture or people of the area. It’s imperative we have these discussions because if we don’t, Jason Goolsby won’t be the only Howard student racially profiled in D.C.