History, Change, Stuff

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I guess eveyone by now interested in the topic has read Garance Franke-Ruta's Atlantic article "The Politics of the Urban Comeback: Gentrification and Culture in D.C." which mentions Stephen Crockett's accusations of "swagger jacking". Franke-Ruta points out that the building that houses the Brixton, one of the businesses of Crockett's ire, was an eyesore for a long time. She also mentions that the cries of 'gentrification' in DC may be "past its prime." 

Until we get shiny new hot spots, sit down restaurants, and modern furniture showrooms to complain about, we have to live with years of boarded up shells, carry outs with scratched up plexiglass and junky thrift shops, and complain about those. I don't miss hearing gun fire most every night. I don't miss trying to convince DPW to ticket a car that had been sitting in the same spot for weeks that I believe was stolen. I don't miss Dan's, the smelly fried fish carry out that Beau Thai replaced.

In urban settings, like Shaw, people move. They aren't like the trees. There may be a few households that are immobile, but most people move around. I hope once the TruxtonCircle.org project is all done, I can see if our perceptions about the neighborhood matches the facts. I suspect, but we'll see if it is true, that this small section of Shaw got at least half of its African American population from the Carolinas and other Southern states. I belive those folks who would have in the past settled in DC, replenshing the numbers, bypassed the city all together and headed directly for the burbs. Franke-Ruta highlighted more recent census data to show that the percentage of African Americans had been dropping long before the Brixton, Marvin, and the other swanky cool places showed up.

In the comments to the Crockett article, Crockett wrote that it, "isn't just about gentrification or the building of well run businesses, but more a look at how the businesses are using an African American ethos in a city that is now losing a huge part of its uniqueness as being an African American city." Brixton is not African American. Afro-Brit? I have no idea what people of West Indian and African descent call themselves over there. There was no large black British population here. The other places reference a period in certain notables' lives. Busboys and Poets is named for Langston Hughes, specifically his time as a waiter in DC. Marvin, I recently found out is apparently for Marvin Gaye's period in Belgium. Must the memory individuals of a particular group be kept in segregation?

 A couple of miles south in "Chinatown" (really China Block, but that's another story) there are all sorts of references to a people who have now settled in Fairfax County and shop at the H-mart. If non-Chinese opened up a Panda Express, staffed by Latinos along H or 7th Streets, I don't think anyone would bat an eye. I'm guessing the point of making Hooters, Legal Seafoods and Bed, Bath and Beyond have chinese characters on their signs is to preserve the Chinese character of Chinatown. Well we see how well that worked. You need people. Not a fancy gate. People. For Chinatown, Chinese people. To get back to the uniquiness of being an African American city, ya' gonna need more African Americans. And for some reason, like the Chinese, they keep moving to the burbs.

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