By Rob Wohl
For the past three months, ONE DC has been organizing a series of community learning forums called “From the Streets to the Rooftops” to bring together long-time residents as well as newcomers to DC to develop a shared analysis of the processes of gentrification and displacement that are affecting our neighborhoods.
In the first session, we learned about the structural forces driving displacement, focusing on how systematic disinvestment in low income communities of color intensifies poverty while creating opportunities for developers, banks, and other real estate interests to make big profits by buying up cheap land, building expensive housing, and marketing it to wealthier residents. Next, we studied the mythology that drives and justifies the displacement of long-time residents of DC and other cities. We discussed how politicians and academics have masked the problem of poverty, discrimination, and disinvestment in communities of color by pathologizing “concentrated poverty.” When the public is convinced that the city’s main problems result from too many poor people living together, displacing those people and bringing in new, affluent, whiter residents can be treated as the solution.
In our most recent session, we began to study the ways that communities have come together to resist displacement. We brought together a panel of organizers of six community leaders and organizers from DC and Baltimore to draw lessons from fights to preserve public housing, ensure that long-time residents have the right to return when their homes are redeveloped, hold landlords accountable to their tenants, and ensure that our city’s “redevelopment” and “revitalization” plans remain inclusive.
And we’re not done yet. Join ONE DC, community artists, organizers, new and longtime residents on Saturday, July 26th as we explore the cultural diversity of DC through music, poetry, art, and interactive activities. Join in the group meditation and reflection, and participate in discussions around topics of local concern which include the economic cycle of gentrification, the myths of poverty and entitlement, and the successes and challenges of past movements. As we celebrate our shared human experiences and our cultural diversity simultaneously, we will explore the next steps to fight gentrification and the displacement of communities.
We’ll come together from 1-5 PM at Impact Hub DC, 419 7th St NW, and we hope to see you there.