City Desk

Why the Swagger-Jacking Accuser Won’t Go to Busboys & Poets’ Swagger-Jacking Talk

Update appended

Busboys and Poets' discussion Sunday about whether bars and restaurants like it are co-opting U Street NW's black culture—the "swagger-jacking" coined in a Root DC article earlier this month—won't include the swagger-jacking inquisitor himself, Stephen A. Crockett.

"I have no interest in sitting in an establishment that sits underneath $500,000 loft apartments," says Crockett, who wrote the original article. If the discussion was held in Anacostia, he says he might be interested, but not while it's at the 14th Street NW Busboys and Poets.

Crockett, who left the Post in the latest round of buyouts but still freelances for the paper and its Root DC vertical, says he didn't expect his swagger-jacking article to set off a storm on other blogs and in the Post's comment section. That's a little hard to believe, given how many lightning rods he touched in his article—wondering whether a high D.C. murder rate was worse than hipster bars, complaining white people think they discovered Ben's Chili Bowl.

Crockett was especially surprised by the reaction he got from people he sees as "winning," which he classifies as the people with those $500,000 loft apartments, and Busboys owner Andy Shallal. "I don't own anything, so I really don't want to sit and talk to a bunch of people that do," he says.

Update, 3:55 p.m.: Crockett disputes my characterization of a line in his original Root piece: "You didn’t make Ben’s; we did." Crockett says that the remark was not aimed at white residents, but at gentrifying newcomers.

Photo by Daquella manera

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  • Anony

    I guess Stephen A. Crockett is just a coward.

  • Frank Lee Mahdear

    Does Crockett actually hail from Anacostia, or is he just trying to jack its swagger?

  • Begla

    I sort of wish he had spent more time in the article talking about things like this--the economics of what's going on down on U Street and how it plays into broader patterns of gentrification and displacement and ownership--than pearl clutching about an essentialized black identity vs. the mythical hipster. Because I didn't like the original piece, but damn, I totally respect his reasons for refusing to show up.

  • Wrack

    Weak sauce. I think refusing to talk to people probably is going to undermine any ideas he might have to actually improve anything. Have to conclude that he doesn't want to improve anything -- he just wants to gripe.

  • Begla

    In his defense: Seeing as the guy stands against all of these places, showing up to a debate about his arguments on the turf of those who own these places doesn't make a lot of sense. Also, why would he want to improve something he wants abolished?

    I mean, doing it at Bus Boys, whatever your opinion of the arguments involved, isn't exactly doing it on neutral ground.

  • Jack Twist

    Easy y'all.. I know for a fact there's another forum going on that Crockett will be on...i think mr. reporter forgot to mention that. Seems to me if he's doing one but not the other that's not a problem. How many forums can a writer do?

  • Mario

    If Crockett's comments were frivolous or way off point, Andy Shallal would not be having this "discussion."
    Again, how many full time busboys stop by his place for a meal per week? If it's more than 1, I'd be shocked. Shallal is probably not a bad guy, but operating a place that isn't inclusive--based solely on the prices he charges--but that purports to be inclusive is where he has run afoul of Mr. Crockett and thousands of other District residents who had very high hopes for his concept.
    And that's the real shame of gentrification in DC. New housing developments, restaurants, bars, yoga studios...very little of the poor or near poor have any use for these things unless they're affordable. As they're being constructed or remodeled, they're reminders that as change comes, they're going to have to leave DC.

  • Jane

    While I never like to see a discussion refused, this is understandable. There are very few things in this city that are priced affordably for most people. Safeway's $1.29 Eat Right soups and microwave meals do more for the city than Busboys and Poets.

  • Hillman

    Nixon went to China.

    The self-absorbed and unnecessarily inflammatory gadfly can go to Busboys and Poets.

    Or better yet, he can talk about real issues, like why poverty followed the 'affordable housing' market to PG County.

    But no. That would require tackling real issues with poverty, race, and culture.

    Instead it's far easier to just blame white people.

  • Hillman

    For all you chaps all aghast at Busboys and Poets.... no one is forcing you to eat there.

    But they do hire people. For real local jobs.

    And from what I hear they pay a living wage.

    And the taxes from the joint go to pay for the very affordable housing programs you are all so keen on.

    So how bout a little perspective here?

    Just because they aren't your cup of tea doesn't mean they are The Man personified.

    And even if they were, worth noting that The Man is paying for a ton of affordable housing in DC and PG County.

    Has been for decades.

    In fact, a good 1/3 the city of DC has been nothing but affordable housing for as long as most of us can remember.

  • Drez

    Not just living wages, Hillman, if memory serves they also offer profit sharing.
    But, hey, celebrating the problem is always an option, and it's worked so well for so many years.

  • DCHeretic

    Let's not forget that the newcomers are expanding the tax base and paying for the social services that the poor rely upon.

  • Hillman

    "New housing developments, restaurants, bars, yoga studios...very little of the poor or near poor have any use for these things unless they're affordable. As they're being constructed or remodeled, they're reminders that as change comes, they're going to have to leave DC."

    Mario - Not really.

    First, these developments do have use for the poor.

    They provide jobs.

    And they provide tax money for social services.

    As for having to leave DC, that's simply not true. Vast sections of the city are nothing but affordable housing. Well over half the land mass is that way.

    Suggesting that all of DC is on the edge of gentrification is simply not accurate.

    Yes, certain neighborhoods are. Capitol Hill (parts), Georgetown, Logan, now Shaw (parts).

    But HUGE sections of DC are affordable.

    And there are all kinds of programs to keep the poor in even gentrified areas.

  • Alex

    To add to Hillman's point: Andy and his wife also regularly open their places up to the community for events. In the past he as donated the space for school functions/fundraisers and community events, and he is helping the startup community in DC host an event for women and minority entrepreneurs in September.

    Mario needs to learn a bit about the Shallal's community involvement before he declares them part of the problem.

  • Mike

    its easier to bitch & complain then actually look deeply into something

  • Anon

    Jesu griest. When businesses like Busboys and Poets are absent from a neighborhood, people decry the racism and redlining of the business community for not investing in minority neighborhoods. When businesses owner do open in these areas, they are treated as leeches and interlopers.

    In DC, it's Stephen Crockett with his swagger-jacking BS, and it's Marion Barry criticizing the Korean grocery stores in his ward.

    In NY, it's the African-American community talking about greedy Jewish business owners. It's Al Sharpton inciting the Freddie's Fashion Mart massacre.

    In LA, we're back to attacking Korean and other Asian grocery stores.

  • Typical DC BS

    Oh, so now Crockett wants to pick and choose the place to have the "debate"? Why not a park? Can't get any more pedestrian and "real" than that.

    Sounds like he's just another whiner who has no idea what he wants, but wants to make sure we all do things his way, cause it's more "authentic". Or he wants to make sure that the "right" people are benefiting (i.e. the ole Washington, DC okeydoke way).

  • D20019

    It's such a shame reading all of these angry comments. I wish everyone would use their energy to understand the root of the issue. Do you really think Mr. Crockett just woke up one morning and decided to piss off half of the city? The fact of the matter is that African Americans families and communities are at a significant financial disadvantage than their Caucasian counterparts.

    African Americans would love to own businesses and buy homes but often do not have access to non traditional capital and investment sources (ie- mommy and daddy). And needless to say the traditional big banking institutions deemed their ideas as too great of a risk.

  • Just me

    I will be at the discussion, though I wouldn't call it a debate. This is not an argument to be won or lost, its a discussion to understand the wide variety of ways that people see and reflect upon their surroundings based upon their own experiences, likes and biases.

    As we talk about the evils of gentrification, lets not forget our successes. Capitial Manor, 102 truly affordable units in the middle of all this growth, rebuilt in a way so as not to displace existing residents during construction. The Whitelaw rebuilt, the seniors at Campbell Heights retained ownership, (now the Dunbar), Fairmont One and Two, all of these projects and others faced gentrification pressures threatening displacement, but through unified community efforts were able to remain and enjoy the positive benefits of gentrification, safer streets and more amenities.

    Those $500,000 lofts are on a site that had been vacant for decades prior to development of Langston Lofts, same across the street Union Row, or the Ellington, or Lincoln Condos, or the Floridian, or Harrison Square. Lot's of infill occurred but relatively little actual displacement. Yes, people cashed out, such as my neighbor who raised two generations in her house that she bought for $17,000 and sold for over $600,000. I hope she is now able to fully enjoy her retirement and the great grand kids.

  • Kevin

    If Crockett truly wanted to promote discourse on the issues he wrote about he would come to the discussion hosted by one of the business owners he accused of "swagger-jacking." I defended him when his piece came out, though I did not agree with everything he had to say.

    Now, however, I just think he is a coward who is unable and/or unwilling to defend what he wrote. He won't attend because of the location is under $500K condos? That is pure BS. He has no balls.

    I've lost all respect for Crockett and won't read another thing he writes. 100% coward.