Separate and Unequal in D.C. / Dax-Devlon Ross
n a late December night in the Anacostia section o Washington, D.C.,more than 100 residents, rom inants to octogenarians and everythingin between, gathered in the basement o Union emple Baptist Church.Tey were there to observe the second day o Kwanzaa, the now 4.5-decade-oldArican-American holiday tradition. Each day o the seven-day estival is dedicatedto one principle. Day two’s is
, the Swahili term or sel-determination,and in a ew moments the crowd would be watching
, a 2003 documentary about a black community’s resistance to and reconciliation with gentrication in aColumbus, Ohio neighborhood. I had been sent to the gathering by a woman namedLuci Murphy, whom I had only spoken to via e-mail about the story I was writing onthe old and new D.C. Although Murphy couldn’t make it out hersel, she thought itwould be a good opportunity or me to hear how longtime residents were thinkingand talking about the city’s makeover.I had a look around the basement as I was waiting or the main event to begin.Most o the people had already taken their seats. A ew were in line to buy dinner or arereshment at the concessions window. Vendors dressed in Arican wraps and dashikispeddled tchotchke in the back o the room. A picture o President Obama, ornateArican tapestries and several photo albums containing snapshots o the prominentArican-American athletes, entertainers and ministers who’ve graced the church’spulpit through the years adorned the walls. Nation o Islam leader Louis Farrakhan,ormer D.C. mayor and current City Councilmember Marion Barry, singer ErykahBadu and ormer heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe were among the acesI recognized. But judging by their weathered condition and the pre-millennium dateson the
stories eaturing the church’s controversial pastor, Willie E.Wilson, Union’s heyday — like the District’s “Chocolate City” moniker — appeared tohave come and gone.
Separate and Unequal in D.C.
A Story o Race, Class and Washington Politics