Pages tagged "streets to the rooftops"
By Brenda Hayes, This Light: Sounds for Social Change
In a town rife with Non-Profits that seemingly have all the answers for what ails longtime D.C. residents as they face gentrification-fueled displacement, ONE DC’s July 26th meeting was a much needed breath of fresh air for me. I asked permission to record the meeting for my radio show This Light: Sounds For Social Change, thankfully permission was granted to me to do so.
The meeting opened with a visual recap of June’s meeting. A 1950 to present timeline of redlining and economic cycles that lead to displacement hung on one of the walls. An adjacent wall held a visual that had the word “Concentrated Poverty” written in the center, surrounding those words were some of the commonly held beliefs about people who live in poverty; rampant drug abuse, crime, apathy.
We all sat in a familiar “meeting circle,” introduced ourselves and said how long each of us has lived in D.C.; there was one man who has lived in D.C. since birth, 60+ years.
Next we were led to do an exercise in which attendees were asked to present a physical movement that represents their perspective of gentrification and displacement. Some of the poses and movements included a young white woman who stood with her back to the rest of the group as she covered her eyes, blind to what was going on just behind her. A few people held stances of defiance, arrogance, indifference and helplessness.
For the second part of the exercise, we were asked to physically represent empowerment, action and change. I was most struck by what one Shaw resident, who happens to be a black woman, did; she held an invisible protest sign high above her head, two young white participants quickly stood in support behind her holding their invisible placards up. What these three participants represented to me is the need for community lead, driven, and sustained movement for equity in housing, work, and education.
Before the meeting, I interviewed longtime community activist Linda Leaks who handed out Terms of Empowerment, a seven page glossary of housing-related terms in which residents should become familiar when trying to remain in neighborhoods besieged by gentrification.
I also interviewed Patricia Trim, a 40+ year Shaw resident. During our conversation Ms. Trim told me how her mother would come to D.C. during the week for her job with the Federal Government and leave her with relatives in Virginia. Ms. Trim’s mother couldn’t afford to have her stay here in D.C. until she was sixteen years old. Ms. Trim and her mother moved several times, Champlain Street in Adams Morgan, 18th and Wyoming, 17th and T Sts., each time staying in apartments until the rent was raised to a prohibitively high amount.
Ms. Trim recently drove to Columbia Heights to see a dentist on 14th Street. As she drove to her appointment she realized she was in the neighborhood where she grew up. After her appointment, she
decided to drive around a bit and was astonished at and dismayed by all the changes that have taken place in recent years. She couldn’t bring herself to drive down Champlain Street the street where she first lived when she and her mother moved to D.C.
When she arrived back home that day, she went to her bedroom to pray. She tearfully asked “What I have done to fall so far from grace to be treated less than a human being.” I fear too many D.C. residents people are asking that same question.
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.