|Reflections on Black Friday By new member Ben Kabuye|
|Wednesday, 14 December 2011 20:22|
I moved to DC from California believing the myth that DC is a "chocolate city." This myth was one of the many reasons I chose to move to DC; in California we do not have any chocolate cities. Friends and family who live in or are from DC had warned me that gentrification was pushing many of the residents out. I thought, therefore, that gentrification was in the beginning stages and that I could be involved in work to resist and struggle with residents who were being pushed out of their neighborhoods.
I had a clear sense of direction for the organizing work I imagined myself doing, which gave me a naïve security. But when I got off the plane and spent my first day in Columbia Heights, it hit me: it seemed like the gentrification of DC neighborhoods had started and finished during my plane ride from California.
This was not a chocolate city, and the city was determined to rebrand itself as a Mecca for more affluent, lighter-skinned residents.
I cannot accurately describe the shock I felt. For a few weeks, I was. I wondered why I was here; my sense of direction was completely lost. But thinking about Frantz Fanon's belief that that resistance can free a black person from their "despair and inaction," I joined up with the group All African People's Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP).
As a group, we participated in the Occupy DC movement at McPherson Square. I showed up with a sign that said "Gentrification = Occupation." While my sign made many Occupy participants angry, it also connected me with N'ya. From that day forward, I began building a relationship with N'ya.
When he invited me to the Black Friday workshop at ONE DC, I had to be there. Knowing N'ya, I knew ONE DC would be an organization that had racial and economic justice in its heart. Even better, I heard the discussion and saw how ONE DC
was aware of the contradictions embedded in their organizing as a nonprofit. From there I knew I wanted to become a member. I am also interested in helping create a broader coalition of black organizations throughout DC that can speak to the lived realities of our people. Thank you for letting me be a part of your work.