'East of the River' or 'River East'? Gentrification is heading across the Anacostia.

Photo illustration by Brooke Hatfield from a photo by Darrow Montgomery

Donald Morgan runs Morgan Family Fish Fry, a popular carryout joint on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Anacostia. He has some concerns about the meager four-story building being built nearby, on the corner of Talbert Street and MLK. The new structure will obscure the view out Morgan’s window, and he’s upset that it may dwarf his modest single-story shop.

Yet those concerns are mild compared to what the construction symbolizes.

“Gentrification is coming,” says Morgan, “and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.” The man knows his history.

Gentrification is the oldest, most belabored story in the District—or at least much of the District. Its impact on places like Columbia Heights, Shaw, and Brookland has been documented many times over, often with glee, sometimes with regret, depending on the teller’s perspective and socioeconomic status. It all boils down to one figure: The city’s median home sale price was $167,000 in 1995 and $496,000 in 2007.

The influx of shopping centers, gourmet coffee shops, and young wealthy white folks has sent the cost of living through the roof—scattering residents who couldn’t keep up. Demographics are changing, too. In 2000, 60 percent of the city’s residents were black and 30.8 percent were white. Demographic projections now put D.C. at 52.4 percent black and 37.5 white. The city could lose its black majority as early as 2014.

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Gentrification may be approaching a denouement on the west side of the Anacostia, but across the river it’s only just beginning. Many of the battles that were fought a decade ago in Northwest are now ramping up in Wards 7 and 8.

“East of the river is sort of seen as the next frontier for development,” says Gloria Robinson of ONE DC, a community organizing nonprofit that works for housing rights in the city. “First it was the Eastern Market area, and then Shaw, and then you go up to Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Brightwood.” On the near side of the Anacostia, she says, “Everything that could be developed pretty much has been developed.”

On the east side, new and in-the-works condos pepper the area. St. Elizabeths Hospital will soon be home to the Department of Homeland Security, bringing in 14,000 jobs and a surge of local amenities to cater to them.

Retail is burgeoning, too. The newest arrival is Anacostia’s Big Chair Coffee, a joint whose grand opening was attended by Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr. Less-new arrivals include an IHOP and Giant in Congress Heights. A Yes! Organic Market is coming to Pennsylvania Avenue SE this year, and the massive Skyland Town Center being built at Good Hope Road and Alabama Avenue will feature 325,000 square feet of retail. According to the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, more than $2 billion worth of development has been completed since 2001 in Wards 7 and 8, which share all D.C. land east of the Anacostia. Projects totaling $1.6 billion are currently under construction, and the Economic Partnership estimates that in the coming years, $12 billion is in the pipeline.

The changes loom over Morgan. “This is a situation that’s been in play for a very long time,” he says. “Everywhere where there’s Metro, a few other things, mass transportation, water in Anacostia’s case, and housing that can be exploited pretty easy, then you’re gonna have gentrification.”

Morgan is 52 and African-American. He eyes me—the 20-year-old white college kid. “We’ll see a lot more people that look like you instead of me, very soon.” Though white influx is an inevitable part of gentrification in Chocolate City, the early battles in wards 7 and 8 break down largely along class and generational lines: a set of ambitious and largely black newcomers versus a black working class that abhors high-priced condos and new urbanist branding schemes.

The residents of Wards 7 and 8 have long used a simple term to describe where they live. “East of the river” is the refrain, a way of explaining one’s position vis-à-vis one of the city’s principal fault lines—the Anacostia River.

These neighborhoods have a lot of great architecture, ever-growing commercial amenities, some fab views of the city, and easy access to downtown.

Yet there’s a constituency of folks who don’t like what “east of the river” connotes, and they’ve created an organization in part to address the matter. Members of “River East Emerging Leaders”—note the lower-case, hipoisie-appeasing acronym “r.e.e.l.”—have a new name for the place they call home. For these people, it’s “River East.” The rationale for the appellation comes straight from r.e.e.l.’s Web site: “Many committee members recalled conversations with friends or news stories characterizing ‘East of the River’ as dirty, dangerous, crime-ridden and poor. ‘River East’ was a new way to rebrand the area and inspire a sense of pride.”

In the District at-large, “River East” may be catching on. The Examiner and the blog “Greater Greater Washington” have both already used the term to refer to the region, as has 2010 mayoral candidate Leo Alexander.

But back in Wards 7 and 8, many residents shudder at the notion of “rebranding.”

“I hate it,” says Bessie Brown, who has lived in the Anacostia neighborhood for 35 years. “It’s east of the river. How would you feel if they changed the name of where you live?” Barbara Dewey, who was born and raised in Ward 8’s Barry Farm, says, “By trying to change the name, everything that happened years and years ago will be forgotten, it will start anew. Why? We don’t want to lose the history of Anacostia.”

More: “They should leave it the way it is,” says 31-year-old Damon Gayles, who works at a convenience store on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. “They should make it better down here, though. Better buildings, streets. It’s fucked up down here. It’s the ghetto down here. Ain’t nothing for the young kids to do.”

R.e.e.l. people insist that “it was never a goal of r.e.e.l. to officially rename the area called ‘East of the Anacostia River,’” according to a statement from the group. For r.e.e.l., the idea is to “reintroduce to the world what is great about living in Ward 7 and Ward 8.”

Susan Kennedy, author of the blog Barry Farm (Re)Mixed, is a fan of “River East” but can live without it as well. “I’d hate for it to be something that created a divide between the community,” she says. “If the majority of residents don’t wanna rebrand, so be it.”

But for most of the recent arrivals, “River East” is important. Why? It’s needed to attract more newcomers like themselves. And while the pioneers don’t believe the region’s troubles are caused by its current residents, they do say that more newcomers like them are the solution.

“We need diversity,” says LaShaun Smith, author of the blog Southeast Socialite. She was born in Southeast, grew up in Prince George’s County, and moved back to the District in 2007. “It’s nothing wrong with it being a predominantly black neighborhood, but we need other people to come in.” If those people take root, she says, so will new businesses. “We could keep it the same, but the whole city is going through this change,” she says.

And for Smith, the change would optimally involve some ordnance detonated on iconic Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. “I would love a bomb to come through and just blow the whole street up, because it looks terrible,” she says. “It looks awful. The whole street, and just rebuild anew. The whole street looks terrible.”

The “River East” dispute, of course, serves as an apt stand-in for a broader struggle afoot in Wards 7 and 8. Darrell Gaston cuts the profile of an ideal r.e.e.l. joiner. At 23 years old, he sits on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8B, representing Woodland Terrace, the Langston Apartments, Maplewood and Hanover Courts, and Garfield Hill. After growing up on Sheridan Road in Ward 8, he attended Coppin State University, then returned home with a degree in political science and got himself elected to a vacant seat in 2008.

But Gaston isn’t as enthusiastic about r.e.e.l., though he has gone to a few r.e.e.l. meetings and is friendly with members. “I respect and appreciate the effort r.e.e.l. is putting into the community,” he says, but when they suggested that Gaston join and become a paying member, he deflected the request.

“I’ve hung out with them on a personal basis, attended some of their networking events,” he says, “but as far as being incorporated or being thrown into their whole mix or an actual member paying membership dues, I haven’t done that and most likely I probably won’t.”

Why? He challenges the group’s inclusiveness. “They’ve only had one meeting in Ward 7, and it was in Hillcrest, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Ward 7. They made no effort to reach out to the more serious neighborhoods.”

Gaston, sitting in ANC 8B’s office, pulls up a photo of r.e.e.l.’s steering committee from its Web site. “Many of the members of the steering committee come from well-established neighborhoods like Historic Anacostia, Hillcrest, Bellevue, the condo version of Barry Farms.”

Wards 7 and 8 have long had a sizable and overlooked middle class, but the community’s working-class base isn’t reflected in r.e.e.l.’s membership or activities, according to Gaston. “They’re educated, college graduates, professionals, and most have moved here in the last five years.”

R.e.e.l.’s members counter Gaston’s charges. “We’re not all college graduates,” says Charles Wilson, a r.e.e.l. co-founder and active member. He says that four of the group’s 11 steering committee members were born or raised in the two wards. He won’t specify the number of college graduates or homeowners on the steering committee. In an e-mail, Wilson writes, “we don’t ask our members if they went to college or if they own a home; we simply ask if they want to serve the community.”

He also points out that the group is new; its first event was a networking session in February of last year. Since then, it has organized park cleanups, a green jobs conference, and social events like speed dating and holiday parties.

Inclusiveness is a question that r.e.e.l. leaders are poised to address. “When I was on the steering committee, we were very, extremely sensitive to that, so many meetings have been held to address that,” says Nikki Peele, a supporter of r.e.e.l. and founding member of the group’s steering committee. Look at photos on the group’s Web site, she says. “You see a cross-section of the Ward 8 community,” encompassing young, old, single, married, rich, poor, black, and white.

In its short history, r.e.e.l. has indeed established itself as a presence east of the river. The group has a spiffy Web site for reaching digitally connected citizens, and many of the area’s bloggers count themselves as members or supporters. It boasts attendance in the hundreds for its networking events. At-large D.C. Councilmember Kwame Brown is an ally, and the group has also gotten attention from Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander and Ward 8’s Barry. But r.e.e.l. doesn’t have this kind of name recognition everywhere.

Barry Farm Dwellings is a public housing project in Ward 8. The 432 homes sandwiched between the Suitland Parkway, Interstate 295, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and St. Elizabeths Hospital have gained notoriety as a pocket of poverty, drugs, and violence. In 2006, the neighborhood’s median household income was $28,000, and half of household heads were unemployed.

Here, in one of the roughest corners of Ward 8, r.e.e.l. is absent.

Linda Miller is secretary of the Barry Farm Resident Council, an elected body of the inhabitants of Barry Farm Dwellings. She also sits as acting chair of the New Communities Initiative in Barry Farm—the local arm of a citywide plan to bulldoze troubled public housing projects and replace them with mixed-income housing. The neighborhood is currently slated to be demolished in 2011.

Has she ever encountered r.e.e.l. in her community or civic engagements? “Not that I know of, no,” she says. Queried on the matter by Washington City Paper, she said that she first learned of the group’s existence when contacted for this article.

Miller’s reaction suggests that r.e.e.l. has some more ground to plow, more residents—demographics, even—to win over. And as it makes its way, it’ll keep running into people who view it as an organizational incarnation of gentrification. “I don’t have any comment regarding River East Emerging Leaders,” says Gaston’s fellow commissioner, Tijwanna Phillips. “I don’t have anything nice to say, so I won’t say anything.”

The property at 523-525 Mellon Street SE was the Wilson Courts Apartments until 2004. Now, it’s vacant, dingy, and drab. Last year, the building was bought by So Others Might Eat—a homeless service provider that plans to turn the building into transitional housing.

“I would rather the building be vacant than for So Others Might Eat to come in,” says LaShaun Smith. “We have a very high proportion of group homes, transitional housing. Our neighborhood should not be the dumping ground for all of D.C.”

“They want it to be condos,” says Gaston. “What’s wrong with using your own money to build transitional housing for people who need help? We don’t need more condos for new people to push people out.”

The debate over SOME is about more than just one property.

“You can’t just concentrate low-income people in one area and expect that area to thrive,” says Susan Kennedy. “I think there needs to be more variety. I think I need to see a better mix, whether it’s single-family homes, or apartment rentals, or condos.”

They may be losing the battle on Mellon Street, but the newcomers are winning the war. Housing standards are increasing. The median home sale price in 2000 was $119,000 in Ward 7 and $124,000 in Ward 8. By 2007, the prices had risen to $281,000 and $295,000 before the recession began to stifle growth. (Recent property assessments showed sharp drops for areas in Wards 7 and 8.) New and, by area standards, expensive market-rate homes are popping up everywhere. They range from the $550,000 homes at Asheford Court to Savoy Court’s $159,000 one-bedroom condos.

And the new arrivals are becoming more well-to-do, as well. The median mortgage borrower income in Ward 8 has gone from $37,894 in 2000 to $70,763 in 2006. In 2005, the median household income was $29,655. In 2008 it was $34,651.

On a tour of the area she gave City Paper, Peele pulled her car up to Grandview Estates. “These are beautiful,” she says. “You have a lot of people here that would’ve maybe lived in Dupont Circle” who instead opted for a “townhouse for $300,000 with a private deck. And they have rooftop decks. They’re stunning. I mean, it’s unbelievable.”

Unbelievable indeed, say those who sneer at the development. “They done put up new houses and stuff like that, but the average person can’t afford them,” says Michael Humphrey. He’s 50 and has lived in the area for 30 years. He relies on Section 8 housing vouchers and Supplemental Security Income checks.

In the District, there are about 26,000 qualified families on the D.C. Housing Authority’s Section 8 waiting list. A quarter of them live in Ward 8. “Each time someone talks about development,” says Phillips, “it’s only to let us know that affordable housing is going to continue to diminish in Ward 8 as well.” In a ward with a median household income of $34,651, the sprouting of $550,000 condos doesn’t spark universal excitement.

“A 230-some-thousand-dollar house? That’s too damn much money,” says Humphrey.

Nikki Peele moved to Congress Heights in 2007, and she quickly became interested in neighborhood activism. She attended a community jazz festival in the summer of 2008, where an acquaintance told her: “Oh, we have an ANC commissioner here, why don’t you go talk to her?”

“I was excited about it,” she says. “And so I approached her and introduced myself and then the conversation went horribly wrong.” She’s referring to ANC 8C chair Mary Cuthbert. “She was mean, she was dismissive, and she was quite frankly suspicious of my motives to want to get involved, just come to a meeting. It was kind of like ‘how dare you as a resident want to come and get involved?’”

“I was baffled, and I was discouraged, and then I got really mad,” says Peele. “I didn’t get a free house here to come live here. I chose to live here. And I live here, and the same things that affect you affect me here.”

Her take is that Cuthbert feels intimidated by her zeal to get involved in the community. “My feeling is, it’s been an issue that the same people have been running everything for so long. And I think what has happened is I think she was threatened, I really do. A small group of people have been used to being the gatekeepers for everything that goes on here.”

If there’s another side to the story, Cuthbert won’t give it. When Peele’s name was mentioned, Cuthbert would only say: “I won’t comment on anything she says. I won’t comment on anything she says.” She says that the River East Emerging Leaders crew “doesn’t want old folks involved in the community.”

The two have had a number of run-ins. At a March 2009 ANC meeting Peele accused Cuthbert of misusing ANC money (a subsequent investigation of ANC 8C by D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols found “an uneconomical and wasteful use of public funds.”) According to Peele’s blog, in September Cuthbert told a friend of Peele’s to “Tell your friend that I am going to whoop her ass and tell her that I said it”; Peele responded with a blog post saying she “will NOT back down.” In November, she called for Cuthbert’s resignation as chair, echoing a letter from Commissioner ANC 8C01 William Ellis. She was joined online by Kennedy and Smith.

Getting Cuthbert out of office may be what’s next. On her blog, Smith wrote in November: “All those that have held a seat with ANC 8C for over 5 years, ya’ll gotta go! MOVE ON! Better yet, JUST MOVE OUT OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD into PG County.” And it’s more than just rhetoric. She says, “We have talked about doing a clean sweep of the ANC,” and that the plan is for her to be a candidate, along with “a few others.”

“It’s going to take a lot of time and effort, because a lot of the original, older residents of the neighborhood are very dedicated to their commissioners, even though their commissioners…may not be doing a good job,” she says. Smith is hesitant to give details, but she says “we have definitely talked about it, and it’s definitely something that is in the works.” She declined to specify who exactly is the “we.”

“We didn’t want to put it out there, because we didn’t want them to know, the older people to know what was brewing. But that is a plan.”

“Plan” may be a sloppy choice of words. In many urban areas threatened by gentrification, people speak of “The Plan”—a sinister plot by the powers-that-be to uproot and then colonize the inner city. The city’s history of displacement may have made Donald Morgan a believer. “I lived at 14th and Irving as a kid,” he says. “So this is something that’s just repeating itself in every segment of the city.”

Morgan doesn’t fear displacement by the development—he owns his building, so he’ll adjust. But he laments the cultural transformation coming to his home: “You have to have money to hold on to culture, in this country.” Resigned to the changes, Morgan has a plan of his own for the fish fry: “More baked, less fried, more salads,” he says.

Our Readers Say

I'd like to elebarate since I was first contacted to speak about the Gas stations on MLK ave. This article has turned into and Older vs New resident article. And that is NOT what it is about in Ward 8. There are many people of all ages that want a clean safe neighborhood. Not just younger people. And there is affordable housing projects that are state of the art being developed in Ward 8. Yes, we need a plan for our ANC because like much of DC there is no accountability for where the public funds are going. The media seems to feed off of this tug of war with gentrification. This is why we blog to tell the real story. I will not be talking to the city paper again.
Just reading the first couple of paragraphs -- this young boy is some straight soft ass dog shit. Why does he have a byline? WTF does he know about my city for real? ... yung City Paper a bitch yo
Chris-- When you first reached out to me and asked me to show you around the community you gave me the very clear impression that this was a story to discuss all the GREAT things that are in Ward 8/River East. My impression all along that this was a story to discuss how WE - "new" and "old" residents - were working together to make their communities better - which is why I introduced you to the lovely 80+ year old resident on my street who does a wonderful job keeping our neighborhood clean and how happy he was to see his "new" neighbors move in and fix houses up that were once vacant. My lovely "established" (I hate to use the term 'old') also told you how he and his other established neighbors are sick of seeing the crime in the streets and would like those abusing Section 8 to leave - I suppose there was a reason that didn't make it into the article. I suppose it didn't "fit".

Of everyone who was interviewed for this article - and I know almost all of them personally - one thing they said over and over again was that despite our slight difference of opinions on some issues that far more unites us than seperates us. In fact we work together on most of the same issues - like SOME's plans to turn a 70 unit apartment building into a group home next to a 30 - 40 unit domestic violence shelter. Which BTW as I told you caused and continues to cause a huge outrage among "old" residents who are sick and tired of their homes being crowed out by the entire city crowing their small residential blocks with these group homes they neither maintain or offer additional commuity services for - like trash pick up. Then again I suppose there was a reason you didn't mention those committed, very vocal "old" residents and instead chose to focus on us "river easters".

In terms of r.e.e.l. I suppose I can understand how you may have questions about the demographic of their membership - since you never attended a meeting or function. I just can't for the life of me considering all the great things they do in teh community and how hard all of them work - with no earmarks or goverment money mind you - that you found the need to focus on what could "possibly" set part of their members apart, such as education, homeownership, having working class jobs if you were lucky enough to have a job (lets get "real" here I was on the steering committee a long time and none of us were rich - at one point nearly a third of us were unemployed - including myself). I know for a fact that r.e.e.l. invited you to come meet their members - their diverse group of members and you didn't want to do that. You preferred to direct your focus on Charles Wilson and the economic demographics of the membership - my opinion at the suggestion of a "community crab" (but I will let that go).

Lucky for me (and unfortunate for most) I have made a habit to record all of my interviews so I defeintly had a bit more "control" over what was printed about me but unfortunetly the rest (on both sides of the issue) did not so I take their comments with a grain of salt and with the first hand knowledge that when you look to take a comment out of context you can do just that.

In closing I just have a few quick things:

1) I love living in Congress Heights, Ward 8, East of the River or River East or whatever you call it and with the exception of the "poverty pimps" I really love everyone - we are all in this together.

2) I don't know why after I told you clearly (in writing) there was no such thing as a $550,000 condo in Ward 8 you chose to keep that in the article.

3) There is a reason that there are no pictures of people in this article. Despite all of our "differences" we decided as a group that this "story" was bigger than any one person and any one "group". We either wanted a group picture to show our unity or none at all. As you see there are no pictures (well as of the time this article is posted)

4) I understand that you and the City Paper and any other publication has a job to do - I just wish it didn't have to come at the cost of community good will.

5) There are good, working class and middle class college educated homeowners who are life long and native Ward 8 residents. I think it is so unfair to skim over their accomplishments and insinuiate that only "new" people have achieved success - whatever that is. Not every native Ward 8 resident is ignorant, a high school drop out living on section 8. No more than every "new"person is white and living on a trust fund. The overwelming majority of us "new" residents (black and white) who have achieved homeownership in Ward 8 (almost all for the first tiem) have done so by saving our pennies, working extra shifts (or as in my case a 2nd job), and being the first person in our families to graduate from college (if we were so fortunate enough to go in the first place).

Don't get me wrong - I have met some real *ssholes in Ward 8 but those are only a sliver of the many wonderful, talented, carring and truly committed Ward 8 and River East residents that I have had a pleasure of living with and working with in my 2 1/2 years in the community.

I think articles like this that were written with the intent to only exaggerate the division and keep residents - neighbors - suspicious of each other do far more harm than an "journalistic" good (whatever the hell that means).

City Paper in this I am disappointed but not discouraged.

-Nikki Peele
And one more thing. What is up with this assumption that all black people know all other black people or all black people think the same? I am sure there are people in Ward 8 that don't know Nikki Peele - it doesn't mean that i haven't done "outreach" to them but they just don't know me. One thing that East of the River isn't lacking - community organizations. We are in awash with them so if someone is not aware of an organization - especailly a new one and one operating without the benefit of a large earmark or endowment I don't know why that is seem as a "failing" as what you are trying to insinuate in this article.

Why don't we see these type of articles highlighting this type of us vs.them articles when talking about predominently white, asian or latin communities? Because for some reason the community at large is always trying to find was of classifying one type of black person against another.

As I read this article (again) I can't shake the feeling that the tone was to paint the "River Easters" (what the hell?) as some type of "uppity negreos" if that is the case I am afraid to ask what that makes the "East of the Riverers".

It's one thing not to understand a community (geographically, racially or ecnomically) but don't try and pidgeon hole us into this easy to read and recite type of format.

We are much more complex. Invision that we are you - human.
I got the "uppity negro" vibe too. My family started out in SE with the five of us living in a one bedroom apartment but my parents worked hard without an education to purchase a home and keep moving forward. Like a lot of young families. By no means am I from an affluent back ground and what little I have I worked very hard for. Sometimes two jobs at a time. And for someone that knows nothing about ward 8 to come in and discount how hard many of us have worked pisses me off. Every comment I make about my neighborhood is because I want to see my people succeed with new leadership. I want to see our children actually have a chance at a future and live in a great environment. I am not discouraged either. Maybe fox 5 will come to Ward 8 and do a real story about us. Maybe our next Mayor will stop the foolishness...I know one thing, this two shall pass and Ward 8 will keep moving forward inspite of our haters and nay sayers!
Gotta love DC. Here's an article about black gentrifiers moving into a black neighborhood, and all the respondents can do is turn this into a racial issue. When in doubt blame the white man.
Gentrification is a good thing. Maybe we can get some affordable housing for federal workers finally.

Eliminate the height restrictions in Anacostia and give us another Rosslyn!
"Gentrification is a good thing. Maybe we can get some affordable housing for federal workers finally"

How about affordable housing for the residents of Ward 8? Many who have stayed and endured the many years of neglect.
@ SE

There is a difference between "affordable housing" and "work-force" housing. One thing Ward 8 has plenty of is affordable housing. With all the vacant properties - including these "new" condos everyone seems so interested in there is not an immediate issue of people being pushed out. I dare say the opposite. All the community meetings I attend all the "established" residents are complaining about the huge influx of group homes/section-8/rehabs etc. in the community. These "established" residents are trying to nurture their fledging lower middle class communities.

Per the recent residential sales assessements of River East - our numbers have dropped in the double digits. That means residential land is worth way less than what it was last year - not exactly an argument that there isn't enough "affordable" housing. Ward 8 and Ward 7 is probably one of the few places with an overabundance of affordable housing and working class housing. What we need are some more market rate developments that will bring more folks who can bring more to the community - such as taxes and disposable income - than taking away from it - such as relying on city services which are already too taxed in our community.
Defining Affordable and Workforce Housing

Use of the word "affordable"in reference to housing is imprecise at best. It can be confusing and misleading. It can refer to:

Moderately priced dwelling units that families earning 60 to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI) can purchase
Public housing for low-income people earning below 50 percent of AMI.
Housing that is subsidized through the use of Section 8 vouchers or low-income tax credits, designed for families earning 50 to 60 percent of AMI who cannot afford market rate housing.
Fannie Mae's definition of affordable housing:

At least 20% of all units must have restricted rents affordable to households earning no more than 50% of AMI OR at least 40% of all units have restricted rents affordable to households earning no more than 60% of AMI OR there is a compelling public purpose "namely continued affordability" which if furthered by the property.
Urban Land Institute's definition of workforce housing:

Affordable to households of low, moderate and above moderate income in a range of 60 -120% of AMI
Housing Land Trust Fund of San Francisco Bay definition of workforce housing:

Housing that is affordable to private and public sector workers with incomes at or below that of teachers and public safety workers.
In this report, affordable housing refers to mixed income housing development that includes all income categories: very low, low, moderate, above moderate and market rate housing. Workforce housing refers to mixed income housing that excludes very low income households.


Affordable vs. Workforce Semantics

Objections to affordable housing are not limited to very low income housing. Proposed housing for households at 50 or 60 percent of median income draw critics as well. To counter such objections, the term"work-force housing" is often used to convey that it is working families that are being served, not people on public assistance.

Affordable Housing: Subsidy or Social Equity?

One of the gravest difficulties in producing affordable housing is that the demand for housing assistance in the U.S. outstrips federal and state funding by three to one. One reason for the limited funding is a lack of general public support for low-income housing programs. In comparison, housing subsidies for middle- and upper-income families in the form of deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes and capital gains enjoy broad support. These deductions total about $2.5 billion in reduced tax revenues, or roughly three times the budget for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (HUD).

(Source:Millennial Housing Commission, 2002, Table 8).
"There is a difference between "affordable housing" and "work-force" housing. One thing Ward 8 has plenty of is affordable housing. With all the vacant properties - including these "new" condos everyone seems so interested in there is not an immediate issue of people being pushed out"

Yes there's a difference......but how many Ward 8 residents, or city residents can afford to buy these "new" condos?
I did - and I am not rich. I was unemployed for 16 months and I paid my mortgage every single month.

And in case you care to know I went through a first homebuyer club program funded by MANNA - a non-profit dedicated to helping people achieve their plans of first time homeownership.

I have a question for you. How many times have you heard someone say, "I would move to Ward 8 but their housing is just too expensive? I mean they have all these mansions? I am going to just stay in Northwest where it is affordable - Ward 8 is to high priced"

You haven't. :)

People don't want to move to Ward 8 because of the crime, the lack of jobs, the lack of basic retai and the lack of city services - all of which could be greatly improved by increasing the numbers of people who move into the community who are on a more firm economic standing.

Ward 8 has been at one extreem for to long and it is time to get them in line and on par with the rest of the city by providing US options. Before we start the rallying cry about the lack of "affordable" housing in Ward 8 lets try and get another supermarket first and more than just one sit-down restaurant. :)
BTW almost 95% of the residents in my condominium (including prior tenants who lived there when it was an apartment building) went through some kind of program for first-time homebuyers. None of them are rich - far from it - we are just committed to working hard to better ourselves. Some of us are unemployed (and have been for a whle), several of us work two jobs and yes the majority of the folks do have college degrees - but where is that a bad thing and lets not forget that with a college education comes hefty student loan payments. There are few people more broke than your recent college graduate.

BTW - I want to clarify again there is no such thing a $550,000 condo in Ward 8.

Also with HPAP there are first time homebuyers in my condo who are paying $650 a month for a MORTGAGE. Now if that isn't "affordable" I don't know what is. Section 8 rents in my neighborhood are way more.
I am not making excuses for anyone (as that's what your tone is suggesting, if not, please accept my apology). While I applaud you on your accomplishments, I do not "care to know" what you went through to purchase your home.

While "People don't want to move to Ward 8 because of the crime, the lack of jobs, the lack of basic retail and the lack of city services" let's include that they feel that they won't get a return on their investment.

That condo that you live in may suit someone (like yourself) who can get by living in a 1-2 bedroom unit but there are many residents with larger families who need the additional space that a single family home provides and can't afford to purchase one.

Ward 8, East of the River, River East, whatever you want to call it is the last place in the city where you can get in "on the ground floor" i.e. the least amount of money. This is very attractive to Devlopers, Carpetbaggers, etc. who are looking to make a quick buck and move on, while pricing the average person out of the housing market.

How do you think neighborhoods like Shaw, Capitol Hill, Georgetown got that way? I've lived "East of the River" all of my life....not since 2007 and have seen the transformation of the city.

What Ward 8 needs is residents who will buy homes and stay in them and raise their families to enjoy and reap the benefits of the Ward 8 that you envision.
This is one of the worst articles that the CityPaper has put out in recent memory. Whoever sanctioned this piece of shit needs to be fired. Clearly, the people interviewed for the article aren't pleased with it, and, quite frankly, it appears that it was written for people who are as ignorant as the author. It's awesome that you get this on your resume, dude, but this article sucks.
@ S.E.

For all the $550,000 Asheford Court homes (and lets be honest that is the most pricey in the Ward and I think the development is of about 15 - 20 hours) there are way more single family vacant homes that are priced in the $125 range or less. I know because I post them on my blog with hopes someoene will love them, fix them up and live in them and become part of the community. Yet there they sit vacant - and I think that we can all agree that a block full of vacant houses isn't helping anyone. Vacant property very quicly can slide into nuisance property - as is the case in our community.

What I don't like about this article is that it focuses on all the "new" development when the fact of the matter is that Congress Heights is already full of a lot of realy nice single family homes - homes with character and honestly the whole Congress Heights neighobrhood should be considered an "historic distric" much like Anacostia. There are already a lot of inherently "good" things in Ward 8 - before us "carpetbaggers" (and lets be honest hear with the exception of Native Americans aren't we all "carpetbaggers").

My "carpetbagger" friends aren't sitting behind their wrought iron gates, watching TV on their 42 inch plasma screen TVs counting down the days until "gentrification" comes so we can sell off our properties and move to Georgetown. Puhlease. We are working in the streets every single day, on AND off-line, frankly putting up with a lot of "drama" that we wouldn't have to deal with if we had taken the easy way out and moved to Shaw or Prince George's county or Northern Virginia.

I get annoyed - and frankly pissed off - when someone tries to insinuate that "we" are trying to take over just to push the "poor people" out because that couldn't be any further from the truth and frankly it's like spitting in my face when someone suggests it (directly or indirectly).

I may have only lived in Ward 8 since 2007 but let me tell you I literally bleed for this community. Despite the bad things that I have seen - and let me tell you I have seen some really horrible things here....nothing like watching a murder victim die right before your eyes to sober you up and sober you up quick. If I wasn't here for the "long haul" after that incident I would have taken my carpetbag and gotten the hell out of dodge.

But I didn't. I stay, I work hard, I give it everything I have and then some and some nights I go to sleep literally crying but I wake up the next day ready to do it again.

And that is why I think this "us" vs, "them" is some straight bull-shit.

That's right I said it!
TYPO ALERT:

"For all the $550,000 Asheford Court homes (and lets be honest that is the most pricey in the Ward and I think the development is of about 15 - 20 hours) there are way more single family vacant homes that are priced in the $125 range or less"

Should be 15 -20 homes

that are priced in the 125k range or less (for example a beautiful craftman on Mellon Street available for 70k)
"there are way more single family vacant homes that are priced in the $125 range or less. I know because I post them on my blog with hopes someoene will love them, fix them up and live in them and become part of the community. Yet there they sit vacant"

And what does that say about the economy when people can't afford to purchase a 125K home?

"I get annoyed - and frankly pissed off - when someone tries to insinuate that "we" are trying to take over just to push the "poor people" out because that couldn't be any further from the truth and frankly it's like spitting in my face when someone suggests it (directly or indirectly)."

If that's what you feel I'm saying about you then you're taking it the wrong way, as I don't you or your "carpetbagger" friends.

"Congress Heights is already full of a lot of realy nice single family homes - homes with character"

I agree.......I've lived in one for the past 20 years.
"And what does that say about the economy when people can't afford to purchase a 125K home?"

That's a job issue and that is what the focus should be on. Getting jobs to Ward 8 and that is going to happen by encouraging businesses to come here and let's be honest the more folks who can spend money on small business services and goods the better.

My point is - and frankly what I think has really hurt Ward 8 - is that the majority of the focus is on "bringing things down to the people" when in all actuallity we should be "bringing the people up" with education, training, job opportunities and some plain old fashioned pride in wanting to do better.

That is what I absolutetly hate about "poverty pimps" in our community and I am going to continue to ride them like there is no tomorrow. That is who we should be enraged about - especailly the poverty pimps who have lived in these communities all their lives and have no problem selling their neighbors down the river for some chedder.

Now that is an article I would like to see. Us (both new and old Ward 8 residents) vs. Poverty Pimps.

@Chris
How are you going to have a title "East of the River or River East" and have no quotes from anyone who lives in Ward 7?
River East/East of the River includes Wards 7 and 8. By not including them in this article you overlooked their struggle and opinions.

My two cents.
"That's a job issue and that is what the focus should be on. Getting jobs to Ward 8 and that is going to happen by encouraging businesses to come here and let's be honest the more folks who can spend money on small business services and goods the better".

"My point is - and frankly what I think has really hurt Ward 8 - is that the majority of the focus is on "bringing things down to the people" when in all actuallity we should be "bringing the people up" with education, training, job opportunities and some plain old fashioned pride in wanting to do better."

I look forward to seeing your name on the ballot as a candidate for Council Member of Ward 8, and talking with you as you're out campaining.
You may already have. :)

Seriously though I was out campaigning H-A-R-D for a candidate I believe in greatly. Charles Wilson - you may have seen me waiving his signs at the Anacostia metro.

I talk a lot but I do back it up. :)
No Congress Heights Metro?
I was at the Anacostia metro.
Be it Ward 8 or Capitol Hill, some folks chose to sit by and do nothing while their neighborhood rotted away. Then along comes some brave soul (whom most thought 'fool') that comes in and buys a house and they clean it up, plant a few flowers, survive a few break-ins while their original or long term neighbors still sit out front playing checkers, sipping out the brown bag, shaking dice, husslin, watching that screen porch door flap in the damn breeze til it falls off and do nothing. Then another 'fool' comes in and agai, the originals sell for the short money because they know how much everything cost but don't know the value of anything and before you know it, a whole block is transformed. And it repeats itself over and over.

I saw this firsthand; it happened in my Auntie's neighborhood. But my Auntie, whenever the new person planted some flowers or fixed up the yard, she did. They painted, she painted. And when others came calling to her door asking her to accept the same sucker move short sell, she told them HELL NO. And all the house in her little block looked alike: well kept and valued.

And now, her little 'hood' house is worth the same big bucks as those 'fools' that dared to venture in and take a chance.

Some folks been living in Big Mama and Granny's and Auntie's house for years and don't know if the house is paid for, a long term rental, etc.

Know when they find out? When Big Mama dies and everyone goes scrambling trying to get 'theirs' only to find out there ain't NONE.

Or Big Mama and Pop work hard and leave the house to their grown ass kids and these fools don't pay taxes or upkeep and end up losing it or again falling for the fast money short sell. There were several actual fools that sold those great old homes for as low as 69k and now not even 20 yrs. later those joints are half a mil and up.

Damn this constant color argument, this is a cost vs value argument. The dirt under your feet didn't change but the value of it did. Red clay is red clay and folks got fooled into thinking that their red clay was worthless but 'that red clay over there' was 'the place to be', so you sold out, sold short and missed out. Same folks ain't voting, ain't showing up for PTA, ain't involved in their Ward...and on and on. Same pattern, same old damn result.
The Advoc8te--you are awesome! I agree with pretty much everything that you wrote.

The author obviously went into this article with a list of preconceived notions. Then he simply picked out those interview subjects that fit into those cardboard-cutout ideas.

Mr. Chris Lewis, you need to take a long hard look at yourself and your preformed ideas about DC.
@ FoldingTime

Thank you so much ---I am just trying to do my small part because it is the right thing to do and for no other reason.
Beyond the fact that this article is a real piece of shit! I think all the Ward 8 bloggers, community groups, and whoever else really cares about the neighborhood needs to use their energy to mobilize together and select one credible, intelligent person to run for city council! Because the true problem with Ward 8 is that piece of scum sitting downtown at City Hall embarrassing ALL residents in River East!!!
"People don't want to move to Ward 8 because of the crime, the lack of jobs, the lack of basic retai and the lack of city services - all of which could be greatly improved by increasing the numbers of people who move into the community who are on a more firm economic standing."

Ms. Peele is absolutely spot on there. I am white female, early thirties who rents in NW DC. I would love to buy a place in Ward 8 where I might be able to actually afford something but I won't - because I have no car, need convenient retail and city services. Also, tell me that I would be accepted as a single white woman living in Ward 8. Tell me I wouldn't be targeted for crime.

I don't care what color my neighbors are as long as they are good people. I would love to live in a true community where people are involved and care. But until Ward 8 improves its crime issues and evolves a bit, I will continue to rent.
I can't wait to finish reading this article and commenting.


Darrin Davis, Broker/Owner
Anacostia River Realty & River East Property Management
@Autumn. Thank you and just so that you know as a single white female you can come to Ward 8 and you will be embraced. Not that I speak for "all my white friends" but with the exception of an occassional look or two, you will be accepted with open arms. I wave hello and chat with my white neighbors while walking my dog, we hang out at The Big Chair and drink our mochas and talk about community issues and we BLOG together. The article didn't mention it but the writer of Barry Farm (re)Mixed is a white woman living in Barry Farm - btw while we are on the name of staying true to names it is "Barry Farm" not "Barry Farms"...I suppose we all have a lot to learn.

So Autumn take another look at Ward 8, like where I live and you will have a bunch of friends overnight! It is all about the quality of people. I hope one day to call you my neighbor. :)

:)
Also at Autumn - my condominium is offering a FREE smart car with every condo purchase. You can still live in Ward 8 in a great home in a great community and drive or take the metro to work.

Shameless plug lol.
Stay where you are Autumn! Ward 8 is the future bastion for the black upper and middle classes. We don't want nor do we need white gentrification!!!
I don't think anyone can blame "The Man" for anything except the man (or woman) who edited this article. If Ms. Peele's assessment of the journalistic integrity is correct, the article was probably edited for a specific effect, namely to encourage an us vs. them dynamic...strictly among different socioeconomic classes within Southeast's Black community...to encourage more readership. We're in a recession, people; even WCP has to sell advertising space...and you don't get those sales without readership numbers.

Now, to the point of the article...the community's name [and thereby the connotation] is definitely in the eye of the beholder. I grew up in Ward 7 and went to middle school at Alice Deal Junior High, where every other day I defended my little oasis in Southeast when classmates learned my "East of the River" address. My common retort was, "I don't know what part of Southeast you're talking about, but I don't live in 'that' part." I was scared to death to take the B2 bus all the way to Barry Farms, where the most hood of hoodlums lived during the 1980's. Even in the 90's, I was concerned about raising my children in DC, particularly Southeast (Wards 7 and 8), so much so that I decided to leave with my first child and my fiance (now ex-husband).

In 2007, as part of my job, I had to visit parts of Ward 8 that I had never seen on a voluntary basis. I almost cried one day when I saw public housing projects on one side of Wheeler Road...and a community of brand-new townhomes across the street. What brought tears to my eyes, you may wonder?...I was sad to see a group of families living in abject poverty across the street from families of "apparent" affluence; it seemed like chances, choices, and circumstances kept the project Wheeler Road families from having the same digs as the "prospering" Wheeler Road families. A street separated the probably haves from the definitely have nots. Keeping up with the Joneses didn't even seem like a remote possibility for the families that I worked with...on the unfortunate side of Wheeler Road.

A name change won't improve societal ills in any community. It certainly will not cure all that ails Wards 7 and 8...and gentrification will only serve those who can afford it.

The problem is that not too many longtime Southeast residents [the ones who've suffered through multiple drug wars, robber baron politicians, and "beautification" projects] can afford to reap the benefits of gentrification.
@Grumpy:
What you're saying ain't nice...but it ain't wrong.
@Autumn:
Every part of DC has crime issues. Please don't single out Southeast, because the housing is in your budget. Congresspeople and their staff get robbed near Capitol Hill...in Ward 6. Why don't you visit some affordable properties in Prince William County, VA? Oh that's right...Metrorail stops at Franconia-Springfield and MS-13 has members throughout NOVA. If you visit www.crimereports.com, you might find out [like I did about my old neighborhood] that your neighborhood has a cluster of sex predators, dotting your community. Stop flapping your gums about what you would do, if crime wasn't so bad, and do something to keep some kids off the criminal path--if it's that important to you. Leave DC or fix it! I didn't want to drown with my kid in tow; so, I left. If you want to stay in DC, don't bitch about it. Be about it.
Ward 8 Rez - That's exactly the wrong attitude. No property is reserved for any color creed or race. MLK would be ashamed of you...and I worked for one of our civil rights heros that walked with him and called him Martin. You should be ashamed of yourself.
@Anita

Thank you for your comments. Ward 8 is not the only part of DC where there is crime. There is crime in every part of every city. I grew up in NYC so I am well aware of that. I was simply confirming Ms. Peele's comments about why people are hesitant to move east of the river and comments such from Ward 8 Rez don't help.

I am very involved in my community and volunteer my time to help DC in various ways. I am involved in CitizenCorps and other organizations - so please don't tell me to "stop flapping my gums" when you don't know anything about me! I have been a resident of DC and only DC for more than a decade and have always made an effort to be involved in whatever community I live in. Sorry you felt it was better to leave DC than stay and try - so don't attack people who ARE trying to make DC a better place.
@Anita

Also, I did check that crime reports website you mentioned, thank you its a very interesting resource. In the past 30 days, there have been 11 incidents in my neighborhood, 9 of them were theft from cars, and the other two were non-descriptive thefts. There is one sex offender in the neighborhood. So while yes, every neighborhood has crime -there are certainly degrees of crime.
@Anita

We would would L-O-V-E to have you move to River East. This year, next year, the year after that. Whatever. :) You will be hearing more about our community (whether you call it River East of East of the River) and I hope you find something that makes you "come on over."

:)
change is the only constant and the choices are clear - embrace it by adapting or resist it. Mr. Morgan has the right attitude. "More baked, less fried, more salads" will allow him to retain and pay for his real estate and reap the rewards gentrification brings - diversity and higher real estate values.
You shouldn't worry necessarily about gentrification east of the river. I live around Brightwood which the article also says has gentrified, and if that's the standard there will be little change anytime soon. We haven't had much of anything positive happen, we don't even have a coffee shop yet. So, change may happen over a decade or more, and won't be drastic and quick.

Go get em Peele, and good luck.
The Syndicate is an amalgamation of all affiliated people, places, and things, past, present, and future in and of our city and surrounding suburbs. The Syndicate came up through the city's syndicates and is affiliated with syndicate affiliations.

That being said, The Syndicate cannot condone today’s reckless, sloppy, incomplete, utterly un-researched, and directionless cover story in the Washington City Paper.

First, let me break it down for the City Paper.

The Syndicate is affiliated with John Muller, whose article on Sunday, August 27, 2009 in The Washington Times, “D.C. activists ‘rebrand’ neighborhoods” baptized the mainstream public, despite the Times minimal circulation, to the concept of “re-branding”, if you will, East Washington / East of the River to the emerging term River East.

Let’s be real – this is about much more than simplistic semantics when the community in question has a functional literacy rate lower third world countries.

Darrell Gaston is a wannabe, follower, back-sliding, duplicitous light-weight. After I wrote the first major article about r.e.e.l. in The Washington Times, Mr. Gaston approached me on Facebook trying to convince me to the supreme merits of his stewardship of his local ANC were deserving of his own article. I told him, politely, that I would look into his information, but would be unable to publish anything at the time. I then sent him the link to the Wash Times article to which he replied, “That is propaganda for Charles.”

Mr. Gaston is the embodiment of why the sousthside is what it is. This young man, whose behavior within the community is tolerated out of a commonality of respect, is a legend in his own mind for the simple fact he can remember every morning how to tie his Keds. He is not a legend to The Syndicate, or The Syndicates’ syndicated affiliates, he was a chump when he ran for the Ward 8 City Council seat, he is a chump now, and all betting odds are he will remain a gump for the foreseeable future.
I guess with the 5-cent bag tax...that the River East and eventually River West will soon have beach-front property. In the scheme of things...Anacostia High School is in the next que for schools to be remodeled, which leads me to Ballou the largest and seemingly the last school to be remodeled. Well, one can assume that the River Rats of Anacostia High will attract those of substantial wealth and fortune to attend their newly remodeled high school. I must say as you look at the DCPS remodeling forecast, you have Eastern in 2010 Ward 6, Woodson and Anacostia Wards 7 and 8 respecitively in 2011.

It is not what they call you...it is what you answer tool. We all know that Benning Heights is affectionately still called Simple City!!!! For every black man named Richard he is nicknamed Rick(y) but for every white man named Richard he is nicknamed Dick...so I hope you get my point. Let the whites call it what they want and let the blacks refer to it as they want.

There are enough black people in this city...who still refer to Foggy Bottom as the "Bottom" I don't care how much you build up around the baseball stadium...all you have to say is "Southwest" and those of color know exactly what you are talking about.
This article was really poorly done.

Chris Lewis, as a self-described 20 year old college kid, I recommend you not include this in your clippings, especially if you want to get hired in the journalism field. If you went in with a planned storyline, then shame on your for using residents to get that storyline. If your story was edited that way, then shame on your editor for really screwing your journalistic integrity.

Either way, this article fails.
@Autumn:
If DCPS hasn't improved since I left DC...and it doesn't improve by the time you have children of your own...trust and believe, you will be homeschooling (if you can afford it), founding a charter school (if you can support it), or moving to a commuter enclave outside of DC's city limits...for the same reasons that you are too put off to move to Ward 8 while it's still "affordable" right now. You're right, though. I didn't know that you were white and from NYC, but I did figure out quickly that you're a carpetbagger.

@Advoc8te:
If I come to Ward 8, you will know it. The first time my son comes home, spouting something inappropriate by accident, I will have gentrifiers and longtime residents up in arms.
I got my A's mixed up.My prior comment about come on over should have went to Autumn since she may consider a move to Ward 8
Eat Morgan Family Fish fish!

All I think this article shows that there is diversity in the ward. The model of residency has been historically a family structure EOR (and around the rest of the city). EOR has the highest rates of home ownership. Now homeownership is taking on the profile of single individuals and this changes the needs of residents from more family-oriented services to single-oriented services. So, there are bound to be clashes on needs and wants.

I commend reel for recognizing the need to bring folks together AND i think it is OK to say "we are trying to organize other like-minded residents". It seems to be the case to me. My experience has been that many traditional community organizations are NOT open to changing voices or progressive ideas. So, how do you do it. You start new organizations. To me that does not mean that there is "divisiveness". It recognizes alternatives to how life exists AND it is ok to say so.

I always struggle with the word "gentrification" but if it means that if you bought a home at $20000 and sell it 30 years later for $250000, then gentrification is here. And that is the goal of homeownership. Communities change over time. As soon as one neighbor leaves and or another comes in...BAM!! the community has changed. NO ONE has entitlement to being "THE COMMUNITY". If the history and traditions are strong enough and effective enough, then there is no need to change. However, if something is being done in a non-effective way you CREATE another way. They will judge you by your actions!!

I love our side of town and all that it has to offer me now. AND i look forward to what is to come.
To bring diversity and more business to a poor neighborhood you don't need to kick out its neighbors, and make it impossible for the remaining to stay because of ridiculous living expenses.

Washington, DC, represents today what the U.S. is becoming: you either have a lot of money, or you struggle every day to survive. If this is called progress, then why don't just let the sick die, the poor starve and the weak unprotected.

When humans become second priority to profits, then you are creating a society with guaranteed violence in the future. You might not see it in your fancy street, but is out there somewhere.

Gentrification is inhuman and corrupted, needs to be stopped, instead rebuild neighborhoods with the participation of current neighbors, and welcome those who want to become part of it. It's called equality, and it's in the U.S. Constitution.
Everyone seems to agree on one thing: the article is lightweight. Props to all y'all for showing it up and having a real, mostly respectful debate in these comments. It is inspiring- us against them (whoever the USes and THEMs may be) only happens when people let it happen. Human beings are all to be judged after, not before, the fact, regardless of their color or bank balance.

And now I gotta get down off my soapbox before it breaks...
"I guess with the 5-cent bag tax...that the River East and eventually River West will soon have beach-front property."

While growing up in Anacostia we called the Anacostia River the City Beach.
This conversation has been interesting to say the least and I wanted to wait until later in the day before I responded.

Did the article just make up quotes? Did the interviewee not tell him that "they" decided that East of the River needed a name change because "they" didn't like the original one? Were "they" so impresssed with themselves that "they" thought everyone would just fawn over the real time and effort they a're putting into their community?

Didn't the Post publish an article about another "they" vs. "them" but this time it was whites vs. blacks in support of Fenty? Didn't they more than likely exaggerate the idea that blacks are less supportive of Fenty only because he hasn't given them anything? Of course.

I refuse to believe that this was the first interview you've had. If so, it should be a lesson learned. You don't give a reporter meat that you don't want served on the table. If you are quoted, you said it. This article could have been written about any group irrespective of race. If we know that gentrification (as we commonly know it) causes rifts, why would you even think the same wouldn't happen in reverse order?

You move into a community, fight with the old guard, want to change the name (because you don't like it) and allow yourself to be quoted "out of context." Whatever good you have done usually is second to that. That is the inherent challenge in transplating into a new community, especially a predominately African-American one. You learn to navigate around it - not ram a bulldozer through it. This, is life/politics 101.

Keep the fight!
Honestly, gentrification is what this city needs. There are very few affordable places to live that aren't infested with crime and gangbanger scum. Gentrification will drive those people out and hopefully make DC a better place where people actually want to live. It's about time that DC took a tip from Manhattan and made the streets safe for families, women, and decent law-abiding citizens.
I like the changes. I have a Masters. I am a Director. I live in Ward 8 - Anacostia. I'm happily married and raising a FAMILY in Ward 8. My story is re-branding and I am an Ambassador just by telling folks my area. My story is just as important as the typical poverty stats...we are inundated with.

I lived in NW and PG. I'll take SE anyday.... Traffic is better. Area is close-in. Housing is reasonable (by DC standards). Neighborhoods are neighborly and not as transient. Been 6 years for me... I was raised in Detroit so my transition, maybe not as drastic for me....

WEB Du Bois referred to my type as the "Talented 10th" back before segregation ended and everybody Black was living together. The talented 10% of the Black comunity is what will help turn the conditions of the masses (90%). We've come a long way since then as a country... But the young BLACK kids in the community need to associate success with something other than athletes, drug dealers and entertainers....and only white people.

Black people are just as professional. Right now, it is mostly the Black people who are impacting change in Anacostia...

I make no excuses for being where I am. My father was the first to go to college and GRADUATE and I worked very hard to get here. That is the story that needs to get communicated to those who are struggling.... No need to join an organization or define oneself. Just talk to people and get to know each other. The influence is transformative. I'm sure this is true with all races and ethnicities in DC.

Peace!
@AnacostiiaQue

Well said!
What probably concerned me the most about this article was the insinuation (as I read it anyway) that those of us with degrees, own our own homes, with "professoinal" jobs should be apologetic or would be considered "sell-outs" by our own people. I am probably reading to much into that but that was the feeling - as if you aren't "poor" or living in the "projects" then you aren't giving back - that you consider yourself better than someone else.

I would think by living our lives, accomplishing things, being "ambassadors for change and progress" that we would be showing another side to our brothers and sisters (black and white) that there are other options for success than playing ball or being a rap star.

Who says that the reformed ex-convict is the only person capable to "inspire" our youth of today? I see so many leaders every day - right here in River East and they are giving their blood and sweat to their "new" community right now, every day and they aren't asking for thanks or accolades they just want to be accepted as neighbors and residents and not as part of some sinister plot to push all the poor and old people out.
@Anita

"I didn't know that you were white and from NYC, but I did figure out quickly that you're a carpetbagger."

Labeling and name calling - really is that all you can say about someone who grew up in the North - moved away from her hometown to the nation's capital and is trying to do the best she can to improve her city?

Sure, call me whatever you want. Pretend to know all about me and what I will do one day if I have children. I don't care to judge you or how you live your life, but I will certainly defend myself when attacked.

It makes me sad to see so much anger and resentment on these websites. Most people are just trying to live their lives the best they can. This is what I mean by a sense of community - I try to be involved in mine so I can make it better - it's better to be inclusive than simply label people and dismiss them. I really hope you are not teaching your children that it's okay to dislike those who are different from you!
@Autumn

Well said!
I read this article again today, and I can't tell you how angry it makes me. I really feel as if the author was sitting in his chair, thinking, "Yeah, I've got Black DC figured out, I know how it is." He has words like "gentrification" and "redevelopment" and "socioeconomic change" in his mind, and he thinks, "Yeah, it's pretty simple, really. I've got it all figured out. I read a book about gentrification once. I think that book explains Black DC." Then he goes out and slaps down a few interviews.

What was the book, Mr. Lewis? Was it William Julius Wilson? Elijah Anderson? Well, at least that's a start.

Mr. Chris Lewis, I really hope that someday you look back on this article and get mad at yourself; because then you'll have shown some personal growth. If you are really interested in the topics that you write about, then I suggest you go back to these people that you've interviewed and really get to know them. Don't just talk to these people listening for what you can edit and cut and put into your nice neat article. Really listen to what they have to say. Ask them about their lives, about where they grew up, how they got to where they are now. How do you do that? Don't go asking them questions based on preconceived notions like "gentrification" and "urban development."

If you go up to someone in a poor neighborhood and you say, "What do you think about that new construction over there?" or "What do you think about gentrification?" What do you think they're going to say? They know that you are White, and you're a reporter. They know what you want to hear. You hear, but you don't listen!

You're sitting there talking about names and labels. LABELS. Well, this whole article is just slapping a narrative LABEL on an entire section of the city.
Gentrification happens everywhere, especially in urban cities. I think it's unfortunate. It would be great if the community could ban together to reduce crime and clean up the area themselves and show a united front. You always have developers coming in, who want to build up the area, but it's never for the people who already live there. The city officials are the same way. It's said, but the community already there has to band together, take pride, and build up their neighborhood themselves. I heard there's a pilot project going on in columbia heights through united way that is doing this (they are experiencing gentrification too). Whatever happened too watching out for each other?
Something I want to make clear and which I kept trying to reiterate when I was interviewed for this article is that CURRENT and NEW residents ARE working together to improve OUR community. With the exception of the poverty pimps and the obstructionists most residents are working together. For the purpose of this article the writer chose to focus on the River East Emerging Leaders and make them the focus, and in my opinion the target for all this "new people trying to take over and push old residents out".

I can include a laundry list of "established" residents who work side by side with r.e.e.l. with me, with "new" residents in their community to effect positive change.

When I go to community meetings - and lord knows I go to alot - you know who are most on board for community improvment? The "old" residents and why wouldn't they? They have had to settle for less services and options for years and they are sick of it. They speak of community improvements - including development - in positive tones. To be honest I have never seen with my own two little eyes someone stand up in an ANC or PSA meeting and complain about the big bag gentrifiers coming in the community to push them out. What I do hear is how excited they are that finally, after all these years our community is finally on par to get some of the basic services and retail options that the rest of the city has taken for granted. Perhaps these "old" residents I see at community meetings are unique but I think not. They are committed and frankly excited about progress that is coming to their community and not only are they actively involved in it's creation but you know what I hear at these meetings? They are happy to see folks like me, LaShaun, Charles, Susan etc. come to the meetings and take an active role in our communities and not just live here and wait for things to happen. I can't think of how many times I have heard them say "It is good to see young people get involved and taking an interest" and by "young" I don't think they are focused on the "new" they are just happy to see a new crop of "emerging leaders" willing to step up so join them...and eventually keep on with the struggle after they are gone.

All the accusations that I have seen first hand in the community that "new people are going to come and take over and push poor/exising residents out" have been from one group - poverty pimps and those in Barry's inner circle. The last thing those groups want to see is transparency and participation by a larger base. It is far more beneficial for them if the community remains divided and suspicious of each other and if new residents who won't depend on the "old guard" (and to be clear I am talking about the long term poverty pimps when I say this) for everything.

If anyone is getting out of this article that r.e.e.l. or the Ward 8 bloggers are not committed to and are not working with and engaging with life-long or poor community members than that is very sad and that makes me even more outraged with this article and with anyone who would even remotetly try to assert that by commenting either in or for this article...especailly for the purpose of furthuring their own (politcal or not) career or raising their profile.

And that I find it really hard to forgive.
@Autumn & the Advoc8te:

Hello...I'm a potential carpetbagger, too, but not by choice. I scraped and scrounged to keep my head above water, with help from family, to keep my children in a jurisdiction with a better school system. Different zip code, same quality of life...except for the schools. I cannot afford to live where I KNOW my children will receive a better education; I may have to set up digs back in DC or PG County, because my single income can't cut it in NOVA.

So, Autumn, if I move back to DC, I'll be in SE before you are...and Advoc8te, if I move back to SE, you will need to fight me and Marion Barry for the Ward 8 council seat...since you're all about what's best for the 'hood.
I was going to say more but I am going to try and be a better person and not put someone on blast - at least not in this forum. That person knows who they are and they know the reel/real story. While I can't give them a total pass I am definetly going to try to keep in mind that they are still very young, have much yet to learn about the world (and politics) and I am going to really remain hopefull that in spite of their current shortcomings that their heart is in the right place. There is nothing like life experience to smarten you up quick.

I am going to have to believe that because the alternative is just too damn sad.
I didn't think the author insinuated that those this new group of Ward 8 residents were "better" than anyone else. It gave adequate voice to your concerns; crime, filth, poverty, leadership, community, mobility etc. It talked about the positive support your group is receiving around DC.

Don't sit and complain about an interview you willingly gave. "No Comment" is the oft-used phrase when you don't want to be on record saying something that can be misinterpreted. Seems like the author wrote a story around the comments he was given. People are always lured to a place they may not have intended to go. You literally walked into this one. You gave them, what could have be a much different story.

I didn't like the article's focus on "us" vs. "them" but I didn't see the sell-out angle - not even sure how that can be interpreted that way. But I also would not have said the things which were quoted in it either. It gave the impression that you are the new saviors who are determined to save a community from itself, want to blow up the street and move people out (and others in) and if they don't agree with your view of change, then they are...

The talented tenth, as used here, is a very bad and incorrect comparison.
Can anyone tell me why people still support Marion Barry - he is an utter embarrassment to this city and makes his followers just appear ridiculously ignorant!
There it is again.

"Everyone loves what we are doing. The only people who could possibly complain about our approach are those enablers within Barry's inner sanctum. We have done nothing wrong but try to help. We represent the sole view of those who aren't beholden to Barry. People are against us. We the people of "River East" are being unfairly persecuted."

Cry Me A River.
@ Autumn:

My children learned about diversity at an early age. You see, I had to explain to my children that people kept asking me if I'm their babysitter, because those people couldn't wrap their minds around the fact that someone of my complexion was able to produce 5 different hues of Black people. I had to explain to my children that:
one sibling looks Middle Eastern or North African, two siblings looks Hispanic, one sibling looks Caucasian, but 4 of the 5 have the hair texture normally associated with African/Black Americans. Then, I had to get into the discussion of what that means in the Black community AND the American community.

We have definitely had some interesting, teaching moments because of others' preconceived notions, Autumn.

@Advoc8te:

I used to attend ANC meetings and civic association meetings throughout DC...and I saw the same concerns played out regarding gentrification. It seems like the crime-ridden neighborhoods with lowered property values fall below DC's government's radar until carpetbaggers/gentrifiers, bourgeois longtimers, and developers target these neighborhoods for "improvement". The problem is that decent folks who want to stay in these neighborhoods [folks who spend years begging for better schools, reduced crime, more job opportunities, and economic development] usually get swept out of these neighborhoods, once the dust settles on all of the improvements.

If you need a DC history lesson, keep reading...Georgetown used to be the hood for poor, Black people and Anacostia used to be the spot for middle class, White families. Gentrification is usually about "white flight" in reverse. This time, it's not. It's about economic classes within a community, vying for establishment.

Admittedly, I am one of those "uppity Negroes" that left DC to escape its dysfunction, particularly Southeast, for the sake of my children. So, if I come back, I'll be cleaning whatever needs to be cleaned so that my family and our neighbors can thrive, not just survive, in their community. Not so that property values can improve...but for the improvement of the quality of life for the entire community...would I work with any individuals or organizations that profess an abiding love of all things "East of the River."
advocate- you shouldn't have signed your comment with your real name, you sound like a rambling idiot. any work you do for the community is lost on you only talking about yourself- in the comments section of a blog no less. " I talk a lot but I do back it up. :)" You're commenting on a blog, you moron. no one gives a shit about your condo or how long you were unemployed. isn't this narcissistic crap what facebook is for?
also- the criticisms of this story remain unclear.
Would it be called gentrification if the current people had kept their houses up and streets clean?
Gentrification is not a dirty word. It's a beautiful word.
badvocate, shut the fuck up and mind your own business. let this woman do what she wants to do.
the criticisms of this story are clear. you're just a moron. the idiot who wrote this wants a complex community to be broken down into two simple sides. new vs. old. makes for a nice, clear story. Except the truth is actually more complex. only a dumbass such as yourself would buy into such simplicity.
Jason, you and the other supporters of gentrification clearly don't understand shit. Those negatively impacted by gentrification are the people who have to move elsewhere, often into areas of increasingly concentrated poverty. But for entitled, ignorant people like you, it doesn't matter. Gentrification brings in the bed bath and beyond and everything is great. Whoopeee!!!
@ Anita... "If you need a DC history lesson, keep reading...Georgetown used to be the hood for poor, Black people and Anacostia used to be the spot for middle class, White families. Gentrification is usually about "white flight" in reverse. This time, it's not. It's about economic classes within a community, vying for establishment."

People act like they don't know the Big Chair was erected in 1959 by a white family owned furniture store in Anacostia. Also -- Anacostia used to have german orphanages.

People have short memories or they don't have enough intellect to consider and research history.

When people say that Anacostia will "lose its history", just what history do they mean.

I don't think they even know.

Years ago I took classes at Mont. College, because UDC is a joke. While there, attending a theatre performance, I will never forget talking with a white man who said he lived and grew up in Anacostia. He said when the Feds were responsible for trash pick-up it was no problems but when DC gov't took over the entire area went down and his family then moved out.

I also have a white friend whose father grew up in Anacostia and didn't move out until the early 1970's.

And... I knew a teacher from HS whose father graduated from Anacostia in 1948. Go back and look at the yearbook and see what it looks like.

Check your history City Paper and you weakling soft bodied Chris Lewis.
"River East" or "East of The River"? These terms only describe direction to me...
We wouldn't call Navy Yard "River West" so why label 2 wards "River East"?

Let's get this right, Anacostia is not Barry Farms. Congress Heights is not Hilllcrest. Fairlawn is not Deanwood.... All are "east of the river".

My thoughts...
I'd like to commend City Paper and Chris Lewis for covering the issue of gentrification not just from the perspective of those who benefit from it, but also from the perspective of those who are the victims of it, as well as from the perspective of those caught in between. Clearly, Mr. Lewis has struck a nerve, which is what good journalism should do (and this is, in my opinion, excellent journalism).

The stark reality, as Mr. Lewis notes, is that black people continue to be kicked out of DC out an astounding rate: "In 2000, 60 percent of the city's residents were black and 30.8 percent were white. Demographic projections now put D.C. at 52.4 percent black and 37.5 white. The city could lose its black majority as early as 2014." These are more than numbers; they are evidence of a crime, one that is being perpetrated on the very people who gave this city its soul and made it Chocolate City.

This is not happening by accident. It is the result of a number of things, including developers teaming up with our elected officials to (mis)use billions of precious taxpayer dollars and public property to subsidize the building of luxury condos, fancy hotels, a baseball stadium and a convention center, all in the name of "economic development." Yet rarely have I seen the anger brought to bear against Mr. Lewis in the comments above, directed at those carrying out this brutal gentrification.

Take the latest example of the DC government subsidizing this displacement: a few hours ago, I learned that Monday morning Councilmember Jack Evans will hold a hearing on his proposal to giveaway $25 million of our precious tax dollars to the fortune 100 company Northrup Grumman. Of course, Mr. Evans' "justification" will be that this will bring "economic development" to all. But if $25 million goes to Northrup Grumman, it can't also be used to help small business owners (like Donald Morgan of Morgan Family Fish Fry, who Mr. Lewis begins his piece with). Yet it is small business owners, almost all of whom are struggling and a number of whom have gone under, who provide the real economic development and job growth (which is desperately needed as DC has an unemployment rate of over 12 percent, and 28.5 percent in ward 8).

Gentrification is a huge issue and I don't think Mr. Lewis intended his piece to be the final word on the matter, but merely the beginning of an important conversation. Writing this piece took a lot of guts and hard work and it is an impressive piece of journalism. Kudos to City Paper for publishing it and getting this important conversation started.
Erik Wemple and the City Paper’s ‘hood pass revoked --

http://tinyurl.com/ycy2lo6
@ Washington Syndicate

I guess you want a hood pass becuase your white as well and you wrote about REEL........ u gets not hood pass, so please come to hood, and i can show you why southeast is the way it is because me.

so are u the writer of this artcle, so let me clarify, there are people who lived here its entire year that shine by the work that they do..... no one wonder your dream city is not around anymore it was just a dream..... so your mad becuase people see what REEL is. are you mad cause people all across the city will known know what you all are about... See More. i guess Mrs Simmons who is the editorial director over at where you work, the Washington Times is a chump to when she wrote this article http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/apr/11/model-dc-schooling/ as well whiched featured me.


Lets face to clarify for the dump ones, Commissioner Gaston never tried to convince you nor did beg you for an article, i simply told you there are old residents who are shining and doing work to make ward 8 better each and everyday. show that. and your article simply show why reel is not a representation of east of the river or river east, which every you made call it, cupid shuffles, and relationshiop building, is not creating leaders............. i give it to them they did have a green jobs forum, but since am a back stabber, chump, am ma put it out there...... REEL is Charles Wilson Platform as to how Organizing for America is President Obama Platform. Lets face it..... let them stay in anacostia, where most of them live, keep them there. as for you, J Muller, you do not know me, never known me, and you met me on time for a breif 38 seconds. so again THIS CHUMP INVITE YOU TO MY HOOD, WOODLAND, SO THIS CHUMP CAN SHOW WHY SOUTHEAST IS THE WAY THAT IT IS. So you wanna be a reporter so bad huh, thats a good artcle seeing you report on what my Southeast showed you.

the article is good and well written, its only the newbies or members or former members of Reel that does not like. there are townhomes in the southwest side of ward 8 that cost more then the 550k that asheford courts....... all i ask if that everyone learn the history of this damn ward before your stupid mouth start saying things.......

there are lifelong native ward 8 residents who fight every day to keep the quality of life in this ward good, hold mpd accountable, and fight the goo fight, and becuase they dont have reporters in there organizations, or blogs, people over look.

keep up the good work newbies for instead of you working together you on the low divide us all...... and J. Muller where did you go to college, and what part of DC do you live........ and why do you get a hood pass......?
This is so very tragic...

*puts head in hands and sighs*
oh i know very tragic......................
When black folks moved east of the river in the 1960s, white folks freaked and called it "blight." But now at the mere possibility of white (and middle-class black) folks moving back, black folks shriek "gentrification" and freak out? Give me a break.
Both my parents went to Ballou. My dad is black and grew up in Barry Farms; my mom is white and grew up in Congress Heights. I left DC for grad school, but I'm coming back home to my neighborhood. And when I fix up the house where my family's lived since 1961 and try to open a coffee shop on MLK (across the street from the church where me and my mom were baptized), I'll be damned if somebody is gonna tell me I'm "gentrifying" the neighborhood.
And why? Because I don't like how all that's at the corner of MLK and Malcolm X is a Popeye's, a bus stop, a liquor store (used to be a movie theater) and a pager store? Because I went without a neighborhood grocery store for ten years after they shut the Safeway down? Because I think the average SAT score at Ballou should have four digits, and not three? The same people who call fixing that "gentrification" are the same people who vote for Marion Barry.
@ Nikki Peele

It seems to me that you've created an "us vs. him" mentality, trying to band your hopefully-soon-constituents against the author by putting words like "uppity negroes," and "sell-outs" into his mouth—words that he most certainly didn't use and, as far as I can read into it, words he would condemn.
Also, when you have to preface a comment with "I am probably reading to[o] much into that," it's probably not a worthwhile comment. On the other hand, it seems that the author didn't have to read into any statements—he just had to quote them.


To me, this article poses an interesting divide that isn't along racial or temporal lines:

It seems that everyone can profess love and hope for a street, neighborhood, or ward. But what they mean can be two very different things. There are those that love, hope, and work for the people of a street, neighborhood, or ward; and then there are those who love the area, the land, the investment and profit that they might find there. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive, but one must be wary of those who stand solely in the second group, who prioritize (their) money over other people.
Gentrification might be the embodiment of the purely-second group. Developers, real-estate agents, and some politicians care about an area inasmuch as they can get something out of it. They would probably love to see east of the river become an affluent and safe neighborhood—but they don't give a damn if that happens because the current residents become affluent or if it's because the current residents are forced out of the area and replaced with affluent ones.

@TJ, good luck.
In 2008 my mom and I (Woodland Terrace Residents) supported Darrell Gaston in the Ward 8 City Council Elections. After reading this article we are so sorry that we did! I am not a member of REEL, but I have been to a couple of their functions I can tell you that they do not represent what was written in this article. Shame on you City Paper and DOUBLE Shame on you Darrell Gaston. Darrell you know the struggles that we face East of the River…I don’t understand why you would create further unnecessary division in our own community. Don’t tear down people who are trying to be positive…just play your part.
hey HOOD EAST i am not tearing down any one or orgnaizations in East of the River. Please reread the article, it says loud and clear that i support the intent of the organization but their not in my community trying to create emerging leaders. Have you thought of it, have you heard of any divisions before this river east or bloggers. its not the media fault, if bloggers and groups provided real alternatives and options and sulotions to what they complain about then i dont have aproblem. i thank you and your moms for supporting me in the election and i hope that you can continue to support me. we may disagree over some issues and this may be one..... i know the struggles we face east of the river.... and since we both live n woodland, we see this everyday. so reach out to reel and tell them, woodland terrace needs their help to create emerging leaders, to help foster positive male and remale role models and relationships. we need help keeping our community clean. and when they come around Woodland, i will then become a member and a advat supporter....
REEL, ppl know what your about...... as stated in the article how many ppl of the four continued to live here or were they transplats as well......... we know that the gardens you grow or the talk u talk isnt shining....... if reel co founder charles wanted to do some real action he could have been an ANC Commissioner instead he let MIKE JONES get elected...... thats not real leadership......so all you newbies like nikki peele and smith and bloggers, when all you do is complain and is not stepping up to the plate with solutions and thats becuase u have none........your the reason why media outlooks are stuck on ward 8 becuase u d i v i d e wverytime your hands type a dumb a$$ blog on your stupid a$$ computer. nikke if you spent as much time trying to find a job and stop living off of unemployment you would have a job.. stop milking big chair coffee and get you a real job....... oopps i guess your fitting in rite. so erik.... go head and do a image job because people know now what River East Shitty Leaders are
Darrell I don't really mind if you insult me but can you at least do it under your real name? You aren't fooling anyone by posting 2 minutes later under a false name but with the same distinct writing style...espcailly after you did the same thing this morning on another blog.

I am not going down to this level with you. It has no purpose. Despite what you may think we are all on the same team.

I really do wish the best for you even if you don't do the same for me and I really do mean that. I am sorry that you are so angry.
If you got a problem with Ms. Smith by all means come see me and don’t hide behind fake screen names! All I want is for my neighborhood to be nice, clean and safe. And for my people to be able to get dinner on MLK ave and maybe a cocktail if they like. I do not have time for the childish drama. I'm not trying to see $500,000 condos, or bumper to bumper traffic like U street. I just want what we have to nice, clean and charming. I'm done with this.
Nikki, i dont have an issue you or anything like that............ i just feel as though u should have adequate solutions to problems that you bring up.. thats all............. if there is a issue and you can do better then go for it.... u have one done one thing and that is bring awareness to issues in ward 8 but you dont offer any real solutions
Ms Smith

people like you and love you for standing up and getting involved on both sides of the field...... your thinking about running for anc becuse you know u can do much better then the current anc member..... so you rock in my book
"nikke if you spent as much time trying to find a job and stop living off of unemployment you would have a job.. stop milking big chair coffee and get you a real job....... oopps i guess your fitting in rite. so erik.... go head and do a image job because people know now what River East Shitty Leaders are"

Darrell - I think you just made it clear that you do have an issue with me...with Charles...with reel. I think you made yourself very clear just then,your language was very clear.

You probably didn't notice but the City Paper website defaults to the last username that you used. Darrell = the REEL ward 8

Again, I forgive you.
i know what the city paper does......... i dont have an issue wit charles, even though i disagree with reel......... i have an issue with you jus complaining and not offereing any solutions or issues and all you b*tch and cry and its sad....... get involved on the good thing.......... i know u care and have passion but tone it down because people are doing good here........
Y'all are obviously carpetbaggers if you went into this article expecting to get fair treatment or an accurate story. People who've been in DC for a while know that just ain't the City Paper style.
Rubes.
People who are so fixated only on money and status need to remember what make this country different than others. We are all equal when it comes to housing rights, and you are not better than your blue-collar worker neighbor, just because you have a Master, especially when you only care about money and your prestige. Who can call that education?

Gentrification is inhuman, it's corrupted, it promotes displacement and convert entire neighborhoods into soulless, empty neighborhoods with beautiful flower pots. Improve Anacostia without kicking out its current residents, not all of them are criminals or"gangbanger scum", they are as decent and hard-working people as you. Perhaps even more decent.
I've always been told that a hit dog will bark.

There must be an element of truth on both sides of the argument. What's unfortunate is that neither side wants to concede any errors. Nikki and LaShaun seems to have stepped into a lions den without doing adequate research on the demographics then want to represent. As I mentioned on your blog, it's about your style - not that you lack substance.

You want to play the anti-role, then this is the sort of coverage you will always get. You don't want people to think that you believe parts of Ward 8 should be blown into pieces - don't make the statement in the article.

Your respective "schticks" are part of the problem. You can preach that message to the Amen corner. But it's appeals less to those of us who are tired of tomfoolery. There seems to be a lot of tomfoolery on both sides. I've had the chance to read both of your blogs and this interview is only an extension of the position you have taken already. That's what makes it easier to believe that this article was written as you allowed it to be.

I believe that you have offered solutions. I don't need to read a point-by-point strategic plan on a blog. I honestly believe that you got yourself into an "anti" situation and can't shake it. Now you've been branded. I have no doubt that had you employed strategy different than the combative one - you would have gotten more honey.

Now we have to read about more fighting between you two ladies and Darrell. Let's be adults. I think it should be stressed that this is the first I've heard or seen profiled - a divided Ward 8. That's something new. It doesn't make my heart flutter to know that the people in question are two, intelligent black women. I get the distinct impression that you are (unwillingly or not) being used to fight someone else's longstanding agenda.
When I read this article I didn't think much of it. I too felt it was heavily biased and frankly didn't bring much to the conversation but the typical divisive slant that these type of articles tend to generate; however, one thing I was impressed with is that despite being portrayed in the article "at odds" everyone mentioned in the article who chose to comment on this thread treated each other with respect, stayed with the issues, and expressed themselves pretty clearly. That is what made the dialogue so good.

That was until I jread the last 10 comments in this string. Without knowing Mr. Gaston personally, let me just express my deep disappointment in how he took what was a dialogue and reduced it to a childish, immature brawl. With the exception of one prior commentor no one hurled insults or profanity at anyone else mentioned in the article. For the life of me Mr. Gaston I don't understand how you can hold yourself up to be this great leader and an elected official and then speak so nasty to people from your own community? It doesn't make it any better that you did it under a false screenname, clearly you new it was inappropriate. You came off immature, rude, and frankly unbecoming of an "emerging leader." If this is how you carry yourself in your community perhaps it is best that you not join the River East Emerging Leaders or any other organization for that matter - you are in desperate need for some growing up and a mouth full of soap.

Your boorish behavior makes me question your motives.
The name is not important! The new energy is important. Now, if we could direct the new energy to commercial development and business facade improvements, which are, perhaps, on the rolls but aren't being enforced, then it's not important how lives next door. Excellent city services are more important. Also, if the r.e.e.l folks are really interested in issues, perhaps, they can focus a remedy[ies] on the basis for the major declines in property assessments (2011*) in neighborhoods east of the River (River East wouldn't fit here), including Hillcrest (-15.27%), Anacostia (-9.23), Deanwood (-12.57%), Congress Heights (-13.19), Ft. Dupont Park (-10.97%), Randle Heights (-10.80%) etc... Don't get side-tracked. * Office of Tax and Revenue, Real Property Assessment Division 2011 Base Change Residential
I'm late but I must say. I'm a single 30 something black female with a Masters Degree and a dog. I bought in the final phase of Henson Ridge in 2009 and have NEVER looked back. I LOVE my community, met all of my neighbors and can say, NOTHING brings a community together like 3 feet of snow. We report abandoned cars, we call each other when we see something strange and more importantly we say hi and bye and are neighborly. The most important part of my story is that one day while walking my dog I met a young girl on her way to college (first in her family) and she asked for my help with her housing apps. I helped her, became her mentor, when she ran into a financial aid snag, the non-profit I volunteered with saw a need and met it. NOT just a hand out for her... we created a program where by matriculating students can get emergency quick fast money to stay in school and change their communities. I love my house, my street, my neighbors and enjoy living in Ward 8. If its not for you then don't move here.
Okay, so I accidentally deleted my post. So I will make this short and sweet. Change is hard, so you either get on board or get left behind. Groups like REEL (of which I am a member) who volunteer their time to improve the community should not be chastised for their efforts. If people look at new residents with disdain because they are educated or own their home, then therein lies the issue. Change is not welcomed, especially when it threatens the status quo of said number of drop-outs, drug-dealers, group homes, 'curry' outs, and liquor stores.

Anacostia is ripe for change. Had the current residents who have been here for 35 years plus taken care of their neighborhood, demanded retail outside of the typical, improve education, and instill a sense of pride in youth, then this discussion would be null and void.

Finally, neighborhood names change all the time, even in big PROMINENT cities like NY, therefore, RIVER EAST is the least of our problems.
There is a fine line, a delicate balance to bringing forth the needed change we all desire in East Washington. I think Ward 7 has a model of inclusiveness that can be copied. Yes, there are differences. However, the new and young, in general, are respectful and receptive of those who have come before them and the seasoned, in general, are more open to sharing and incorporating the young’s ideals and approaches. I think this article is a true and reflective piece; of course the spin could have gone another way. However, it highlights, to me, that the group which looks to bridge Wards 7 & 8 for a new inclusive, active and positive image, has failed to build the bridge between those who have been there and those who look to be. There needs to be a resolve to quickly quench the racial class war that could engulf and the destroy the positive intentions of all of our hearts desire.
This article shines light on the longest running fued known to man; (Old vs. New)

I have moved in and out of DC for the last 40 years and I own property in SE.

Everyone knows that the area known as "East of the River" needs change. The discussion should be along the lines of how do we work together inorder to move everyone forward, and keeping everyone involved in the process.

Once we agree on what needs to be done to improve the different areas, then we can move forward. No one person nor small group can bring about positive change for all by themselves. The great struggle is, identifying and aggreeing upon needs to be done and how to remedy the problems.

I encourage the different groups to work together for the good of all the people. This task requires the use of Generals and foot soldiers.

Folks, the winds of change are blowing.
Ward 8 Resident said:

"Groups like REEL (of which I am a member) who volunteer their time to improve the community should not be chastised for their efforts. If people look at new residents with disdain because they are educated or own their home, then therein lies the issue. Change is not welcomed, especially when it threatens the status quo of said number of drop-outs, drug-dealers, group homes, 'curry' outs, and liquor stores.

Had the current residents who have been here for 35 years plus taken care of their neighborhood, demanded retail outside of the typical, improve education, and instill a sense of pride in youth, then this discussion would be null and void."
---

See guys, there is absolutely nothing wrong with REEL nor it's messaging. I mean gee, why should everyone hate on REEL members just because they are more educated and own homes than the other drug-dealing, drop outs who live in their beloved Ward.

Like their member just stated, had the low-life do-nothing residents (who've lived there for 35+) had the education and intelligence like that of REEL members, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

REEL is the real answer to the downtrodden. Prior to REEL, Ward 8 was nothing before their more educated, intelligent members came along.

See, REEL members actually don't think they are better than those of us who were already there. It's just a matter of perception.
Also please know that Ward 8's spelling of the word "carry out" was not meant to be offensive to his/her fellow Ward 8 residents.

Ok, yeah, because of the regional accent, many people originally from this area often pronounce their words differently. It is sometimes associated with class and often frowned upon by others.

So I repeat, Ward 8 wasn't attempting to offend his/her neighbors by making fun of the way we speak.

REEL members really want to bridge the divide not add to it.
@JD:
"...Had the current residents who have been here for 35 years plus taken care of their neighborhood, demanded retail outside of the typical, improve education, and instill a sense of pride in youth, then this discussion would be null and void."

I'm sorry, JD, but are you old enough to appreciate the wrath that a lot of DC residents wrought on THEIR COMMUNITY during the riots after MLK's assassination? Are you old enough to appreciate the fallout of Rayful Edmonds' stint as the "other" Mayor of DC during the 80's and early 90's? Some people in Wards 7 and 8 don't know that we're in a recession; they just know that it's worse for them now than it has been.

Judging by Maslow's hierarchy of needs, property maintenance isn't a top priority...but eating, breathing, and safety are top priorities. So, when people are putting together their pennies from long, underpaid hours to keep food on the table, keep the lights on, the heat working, the water flowing, and the property taxes paid...Maybe, property maintenance isn't the end-all, be-all that it is for someone looking to spruce up and eventually flip their property.

As for demanding retail outside of the norm...Ward 8 just lost a hospital within the last 5 years...a hospital. If the community can't keep a hospital, where's the pull to get decent retail? Let's not even talk about city services, in general.

As for the youth, let's go back to Rayful Edmonds. A lot of the dysfunction evident in DC now is residual from the 80's crack epidemic. When both your parents are in jail, your grandma/aunt/other relative is raising you with what little is available, and there is a dearth of jobs and mentors for youths in the community...do you know what you get? You get a bunch of idle youths with wasted talents, some of them doing dumb things to pass the time...so dumb sometimes they take their first stumbling steps into the correctional system. That's not a Ward 8 issue...that's a DC issue.

Improving education requires a viable solution and unified effort. It doesn't work if everybody isn't on the same page...just like improving the community for ALL residents "East of the River."
@JD again:
"REEL is the real answer to the downtrodden. Prior to REEL, Ward 8 was nothing before their more educated, intelligent members came along."

Talk about your messiah complex. Wow...BTW, more education doesn't equal more intelligence. That should be evident from some of the more nefarious, WCP comments. Some of the most intelligent people I've ever met were grade-school dropouts who educated themselves as they pushed their children to use the educational opportunities that they themselves had missed. Some of these put down their books to work full-time to provide for siblings when they lost a parent; when they got the chance to resume their scholarly pursuits, they did.

What frightens me is that some people with college degrees (who know the work that they put into their degrees is BS...not bachelor's of science) try to position themselves as community leaders...without the smallest grain of field experience...or sincerity. It's just a stepping stone to bigger and better things, a glorified internship, if you will.

So, if you see a property is an eyesore in your community, why not approach the owner and offer to help fix what you can fix together? If the neighbor isn't amenable to a genuine (stress GENUINE) offer of assistance, there might be some underlying issues in play...issues that a piece of paper stamped by a university can't address.
@Anita: The overwhelming bulk of rioting in 1968 happened west of the river. Minus individual acts of vandalism, there was some brief, limited rioting along Wheeler Rd. and Good Hope Rd. but nowhere near enough to cause the community-wide devastation you imply. I don't have another explanation for our regional decline, but I do know that rioting wasn't it.
What I don't get is why oh why oh why, with all these African-American bloggers who actually live in Wards 7 &/or 8, the City Paper can't bring itself to ask them to write about their neighborhoods. Their entire writing staff is white. No doubt they've got some black folks answering their phones, and Latinos cleaning up their office, but actually writing for the paper. Never gonna happen. Oh no, their not racist or anything. They just can't find any talented people of color and they don't want to lower their standards. They gotta turn to really excellent writers like this Chris fella. No offense to Chris. He's just lookin' for work like everybody else. But next time, instead of pitching a story about a neighborhood he knows nothing about, why not pitch a story like... Hell I don't know ... something white people know about. Like what it's like to benefit from living in a classist, racist society without managing to feel guilty or acting to change the status quo. Yeah, that's what I want to hear about
Anita, I'm not originally from this area. I only know of Rayful through the legend. But it doesn't seem to different than what happened in all major cities during the crack era. There were Rayful's all over the country whose presence ultimately did the same thing.

To your quotes, those really can't be attributed to me. If you read my posts, I only repeated what the REEL member stated. In its entirety, my post was dripping with sarcasm. It seems as if you took my paraphrase of the REEL members words in the same way I received the original comments.

It's okay that you attributed things to me I didn't actually say. But I ask you to reread.

Littleblackduck - since you didn't read the story. African-american bloggers who live in Ward 8 ARE the subjects of the article. If there were no one to tell him about the neighborhood, we possibly wouldn't be reading this article. Please, critique WCP as you should, but at least be a bit more informed about the subject matter. That is not evident in your post.
@TJ, basic cause was the flight of upper middle class (mostly white) people from anacosita, systematic neglect of the various public housing complexes in the ward, neglect of ward 7/8 schools, etc. All those things combine to form a perfect storm which basically created the conditions in the area over the past 20, 30 years. You are right to say that rioting did not play a huge role, as it did around U St.
@little black duck
Why do you assume Chris knows nothing about the neighborhood? He started tutoring after-school there twice a week as a volunteer years ago--while carrying full courseloads in college. He has written about the elementary schools in several publications, campaigned on their behalf, and led visits to them. (A student who came up through the under-resourced schools east of the river is a friend and classmate at college.) Chris spent hundreds of hours researching this article, walking the streets, and talking to dozens of sources--including homeless people (as he has done in other American cities for other articles). The 100-plus comments here indicate there are divisions in the neighborhood that Chris clearly captured.
@ mich
Here's my issue. It is very difficult to try to do anything positive without someone having an issue with it. So not everybody's a fan of R.E.E.L. Not everybody's a fan of SOME. Not everybody likes Mary Cuthbert and I apparently have an issue with Chris Lewis and the City Paper. Here's a nice white guy trying to make a living, and no doubt making a positive contribution to the community via his volunteerism and by giving the neighborhoods East of the River, or River East (whatever) some press. So maybe he wanted to just write positive things about R.E.E.L, et al., but the City Paper likes to have an edge doesn't it? Who can blame them, it gets buzz, and they want to make money. So Chris ends up writing an article that points out how black people in DC can't get along, can't come together to get anything done and it's not like it's not true, but what's the point? And what's the end result? Is pointing it out going to bring the factions closer together? Will pointing out their failings--all of whom are trying to do the right thing according to their own backgrounds and abilities--cause them to become self-reflective and amend their ways? Is that the aim of the City Paper's edgy features that so often seem to put a negative spin on low-income communities, when they are so often already on a downward trajectory? I grow weary of it and sometimes it makes me cranky. Frankly, I'd love to hear the reporting from someone who's really in it, not the supposedly objective outsider, well-meaning or not. I wish the City Paper would reach out to the various communities of DC and make that happen. I just don't see it happening. I hope Chris Lewis will continue to volunteer. I've put in my years of volunteer tutoring myself. As much as I enjoyed helping out on that one-on-one basis, I have forever been frustrated with the knowledge that it won't change the status quo. I wonder if Lewis ever has that feeling about his writing? I think an article about what it's like to benefit from living in a classist, racist society without managing to feel guilty or acting to change the status quo would be something to read. And I think it would go farther to change the status quo then another article that points out what's wrong with poor black folk. As one of those poor black folk, sometimes I just feel like its all about selling papers, which some would call exploitation. Oh and by the way, I did read the article. I guess I just got something different from it than you.
Mich, if this article represents several hundred hours of research, Chris wasted a whole lot of time since I have NO idea where 550k condos are in Ward 8. We have some of the largest, new construction, single family homes that are roing for 400k and through his several hundred hours, he found condos that cost more than fully detached single-family homes WITH garages? Now Nikki did somewhat point that out but it now needs repeating.

I do not believe that the comments are representative of any real divisions in my Ward. After reading and commenting, I'm convinced that they don't really exist beyond the minds of a few. But, I find interesting that in your defense, you say that Chris clearly captured the divisions. Was that the whole purpose all along? To capture divisions? If it was, he gets an F because I could have written this story by listening to the Russ Parr Show.

LittleDuck, did the white man force the black man (woman in this case) into interviewing for the article? If your read caused you to conclude that the article was about how black people can't get along, who can we attribute the some of the sexier quotes too? Did he make them up? If you want to read an article about " what it's like to benefit from living in a classist, racist society without managing to feel guilty or acting to change the status quo," shouldn't you write it or start your own blog?

Who are the poor people featured in this article? The business owner, Nikki, LaShuan, Darrell, Susan?
JD -
Thank you for pointing out that I read an entire feature article about the threat of gentrification in Wards 7 & 8 and didn't read almost anything from a low-income person's point of view. Maybe that's what irritated me about the article. What else didn't I read? I think as some of the commenters pointed out, there's not a whole lot of history or context in the article. How did things get so bad that it is now so difficult for groups like R.E.E.L to make progress? It may be that River East is actually growing some actual mixed-income communities (a rare bird in DC). Why is it that people from mixed-incomes have such a hard time building community together? Is it possible that the missing history and context might have helped to answer that question? Of course, I'm going on again about what I'd like to see in a City Paper article, which perhaps is not appropriate in this forum. As, according to you, my wanting to read about what it's like to benefit from living in a classist, racist society without managing to feel guilty or acting to change the status quo, is not a desire I should be expressing here. Why not? I have to point out, as one who was raised in rural white America, suggesting that I write my own blog, presumably so that you don't have to hear my concerns, concerns that maybe make you feel uncomfortable, sounds a lot like a common refrain I heard when I was a kid. If you don't like it here, why don't you go back to Africa. Thanks for the memories, JD.
I'm am going to say what I am sure alot of people are going to wince reading, but I am just going to let it go.
As a life long resident of a middle class area of Ward 7, I am upset that the 'gentrification' isn't happening fast enough. Yep, I said it. I frankly am tired of having to explain why I live over here. I am tired of being the dang Section 8 dumping ground. Why is it that all of the 'affordable' (aka subsidized) housing has to be in River East? Ugh for years, the druggies and uneducated who ALWAYS have an excuse have run rampant in this part of town. You have inundated us with crime, dirt, filthy mouthed un-monitored kids and broken down homes with unkempt yards and cars on blocks. Well guess what....your time is up. There is always an excuse, but if you've been here for 30 years and don't have a pot to pee in, it's your fault. I work, I bought a home and I want it to be surrounded by people who take care of what they have. It doesn't have to cost 400K but take care of what you have and it's a fact that if you don't own, you are less inclined to take care of it. What kind of people drop litter in their own front yards? Have their dirty mouthed kids screaming up and down the street? Well there are enough of us now to say 'enough'. Either get your crap together or get out. And believe me, the "PLAN" is in action and the only thing you can do it shape up or ship out. And good riddence. We no longer have to bend over and take your "woo is me" BS up the wazoo. East of the River is a beautiful place and if you are complaining about the new recognition, you are a part of the problem. Get your voucher and get out. But don't worry, you're already on your way, even if you don't know it. HA.
@ JD and @TJ:

I stand corrected. JD, we should think before we speak...and read completely before we type a response to someone else's comment. My bad.

TJ, you're right. My history lesson was a little tangled, since Black folk didn't really flood Anacostia until after the riots. However, the crack epidemic hit the poorest neighborhoods first and worst across the country...and Wards 7 & 8 were among the stats to show that.
@Cheese:

You sound like my youngest aunt...who bought a condo in a swankier part of town after living off of Texas Ave in Southeast for over 30 years. She's quite, how do you say, "bourgie?" I am very happy for her that she is surrounded daily by her ilk. Of course, the neighborhood scene that you describe sounds like...Ivy City and Trinidad...for now. It is one thing to improve the neighborhood and get rid of "the bad elements," but you don't want to lose the good elements, either.

I would say that gentrification is sort of like lead poisoning. When lead enters your body, it masquerades as calcium--something that's good for you, something that builds you up. Lead isn't good for you and it doesn't build you up, and you don't even know someone is seriously lead poisoned until they manifest severe symptoms right before their deaths. The easiest way to deal with lead poisoning is to prevent it.

Gentrification never bodes well for poor or middle-class residents. It masquerades as "economic and social improvement" for the community, but it hides the deep pockets that will usually get deeper. It pushes poorer residents out of a community, instead of helping them to uplift themselves. It glorifies property values and the prime interest rate, instead of fulfillment, dignity, and decency.

I grew up in Ward 7 and I, too, had to constantly defend my neighborhood from the usual, Southeast stereotypes when I crossed the bridge to go to Alice Deal JHS. Instead of complaining about the quality of life in the hood, I walked proudly as an example to counter the foul-mouthed kids, teenage moms, and wannabe drug dealers, some of whom were my friends before they made different choices.

When gentrification takes hold, you will see shotgun shacks in Ward 8 being sold for upwards of 250K, because they're part of the new hot spot. So, yes...Cheese...it might not take 400K to take care of it, but wait until your little slice of heaven is assessed for taxes at 400K...
I purchased a home I could afford. I grow and so does my income. Taxes on a $400K home don't scare me. If that's what it takes to get rid of the trash so be it. I work everyday so I don't need something to "uplift" me. I do it myself. It's the way of the world. That's the problem mentality right there. How long do we have to provide an opportunity for people to do something for themselves as we watch them continue to make bad decisions? Anyone who's been in subsidized housing for 30 years isn't going to uplift themselves. They are going to continue to bring down the neighborhood by continuing to be triflin', having kids they don't take care of and never keeping a job. Period. They are dead weight and the tree of change is shifting. Looks like these dead leaves should fall soon.
@Cheese, I don't believe people are necessarily going to wince while reading your posts - at least not those of us who recognize it for what it is - Propoganda and illusion at it's finest.

At life's most basic, no one should ever have to "explain" why they "choose" to live where they do other than to defend a class-based argument. Do you think people (whites in this case) have to "explain" why they live in more affluent areas of the city? I have white friends who purchased homes in Ledroit/Shaw years ago when the area was still in transition (gentrification) and even with the lower property values and lawlessness, I never sensed they were ashamed of moving there. They never seemed to care about others opinions on why they chose to live there.

Now here we have you, a lifelong middle class resident of Ward 7 who feels the need to "explain" why you are a lifelong middle class resident of Ward 7. Are you kidding me? Well beyond your Beck/Limbaugh shock jock style of rhetoric, the fact that you are a lifelong, middle class resident who is compelled to "explain" why you live in your ward denotes a challenge more problematic than the antiisms presented in your posts.

A lifelong resident who has hated the neighborhood during the same 30 years and the only thing you got out of was a home and utter unhappiness? Hey, I would be happy to double my salary but not if it meant going to Iraq. There's a disconnect in your argument.
I never said I hated my neighborhood, just the idiots that bring down the value. The rest of your post was illogical to me. I guess we don't see eye to eye. Regardless, the change is on so the rest of the argument was moot. As for your comment on Iraq.....? Well whatever makes sense to you.
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"But for most of the recent arrivals, “River East” is important. Why? It’s needed to attract more newcomers like themselves."

Nothing you wrote in the article supports this. You tried hard to boost those claims by pullingthe most damning quotes you could from a couple newcomers and a couple longtime residents and imputed their quotes for the entire community, after you spun the quotes, of course.

A person living in the neigborhood and deeply involved with its history and development would have a hard time making such a statement, much less some white college kid who has a roommate from the area.

It belies your intent. You had a premise coming in and plugged the holes by cherry picking quotes. The fact you mislead people about your intent was unethical. I found the article sophomoric and befitting a middle schoolers didactic understanding of normative issues. The article was not sophisticated enough to tackle an issue with so much heft. But it was excellent muckraking journalism. Kudos.

Funny to watch what I can only guess to be a WCP staffer defending their choice to bring in a wet behind the ear white kid to characterize this 95% black community when their are so many writers their deeply involved and holding stakes in the community. If it wasn't so I'm not homophobic I have a gay friend-ish I would think the tutoring poor black kids for a semester schtick was internet trolling, but unfortunately I know better.





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