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Separate and Unequal in D.C: A Story of Race, Class & Washington Politics

Separate and Unequal in D.C: A Story of Race, Class & Washington Politics

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Published by WestleyBayas
Reprinted from Next City

That Washington, D.C. no longer has a black majority is practically a forgone conclusion. The place hitherto known as Chocolate City has seen its African-American population dwindle every decade since the 1970s, even as it has, over the last 15 years, gained white residents big-time. Like most U.S. cities experiencing such demographic shifts, the people moving in generally have more money than those who were there before. What this means is that today, the nation’s capital is a staggeringly divided city, with the highest income inequality of any city in the country. The obvious catalyst is an ambitious economic development policy, reinforced by an expanding federal government, that has aggressively pursued newcomers while encouraging some of the fastest gentrification experienced in any U.S. city — and has in turn fostered a tense and sometimes hostile dynamic between “old” and “new” Washington. And yet, like any gentrification narrative that reduces the issue to a simple black-and-white equation, the reality is far more complex. Writer and District native Dax-Devlon Ross returns to his hometown to dive below the surface-level conflict and find out what’s really in store for the future of D.C. (or C.C.)
Reprinted from Next City

That Washington, D.C. no longer has a black majority is practically a forgone conclusion. The place hitherto known as Chocolate City has seen its African-American population dwindle every decade since the 1970s, even as it has, over the last 15 years, gained white residents big-time. Like most U.S. cities experiencing such demographic shifts, the people moving in generally have more money than those who were there before. What this means is that today, the nation’s capital is a staggeringly divided city, with the highest income inequality of any city in the country. The obvious catalyst is an ambitious economic development policy, reinforced by an expanding federal government, that has aggressively pursued newcomers while encouraging some of the fastest gentrification experienced in any U.S. city — and has in turn fostered a tense and sometimes hostile dynamic between “old” and “new” Washington. And yet, like any gentrification narrative that reduces the issue to a simple black-and-white equation, the reality is far more complex. Writer and District native Dax-Devlon Ross returns to his hometown to dive below the surface-level conflict and find out what’s really in store for the future of D.C. (or C.C.)

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Published by: WestleyBayas on Apr 08, 2013
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04/09/2013

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Story by DAX-DEVLON ROSSPhotography by JATI LINDSAY
ISSUE
052
A Story o Race, Classand Washington Politics
Separate andUnequal in D.C.
 
VOLUME 1, ISSUE 52.© 2013 NEXT CITYForefront
is published weekly by Next City, a 501c3 nonprotthat connects cities and the peopleworking to improve them.Next City.2711 West Girard Ave.Philadelphia, PA 19130For subscriptions, please visitwww.nextcity.org/subscribe.While Next City welcomes the submission o unsolicited work, we unortunately may not be ableto respond to each submission individually.Please send work toariella@nextcity.org.For additional inormation, please visitwww.nextcity.org.
 
Separate and Unequal in D.C. / Dax-Devlon Ross
1
O
n a late December night in the Anacostia section o Washington, D.C.,more than 100 residents, rom inants 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-oldArican-American holiday tradition. Each day o the seven-day estival is dedicatedto one principle. Day two’s is
Kujichagulia 
, the Swahili term or sel-determination,and in a ew moments the crowd would be watching
Flag Wars 
, a 2003 documentary about a black community’s resistance to and reconciliation with gentrication 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 arereshment at the concessions window. Vendors dressed in Arican wraps and dashikispeddled tchotchke in the back o the room. A picture o President Obama, ornateArican tapestries and several photo albums containing snapshots o the prominentArican-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
Washington Post 
stories eaturing the church’s controversial pastor, Willie E.Wilson, Unions 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

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