Intersection of Interests or Diversity is Hard part #354

Sunday, an obit in the paper edition of the Washington Post caught my eye because of the circumstances of the persons death. Courtney Mykytyn was standing on a curb, chatting with a neighbor, when another neighbor in a car accelerated in reverse, hitting and killing Mykytyn. I’m sensitive to drivers killing pedestrians and cyclists and even stupid people on scooters. [insert 1000 word rant about American car culture and climate change genuflecters who make no real change in their energy consumption habits. Did you know your drivers license is a license to kill?] It wasn’t until the near end of the obituary when I realized I had listened to her podcast.


Integrated Schools is a well produced podcast, but I found it super cringey. I know. I know. I am not the target audience. I’m a black mom and this is a podcast for lefty white parents talking to other lefty white parents about their whiteness and education. Knowing I’d probably write on this, I listened to some more podcasts to be fair. What I got out of that was an exposure to only what I can call a perverse white superiority that feeds on black and brown dysfunction. And it isn’t just for white people, Asians and bi-racial people can join in on struggling over their privilege too. Opposite of the Asian Parenting for College Success podcast.  I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Listening to these podcasts I grew concerned about my own neighborhood and the in-boundary school of Seaton. The message I was hearing in these podcast to white parents was ‘don’t bring your A game.’ To which I am going to scream BRING YOUR A GAME! I wanted you to fight and try to #SaveShawMS (RIP Shaw Middle School). Was that effort lost because some parents were holding back? Why did I just sit in the background and not bring my A game? I’ve got a great excuse, because my kid is 2 and not enrolled in Seaton and thus not in a feeder for what would have been Shaw Middle School.

I also grew concerned about childless white neighbors and they deciding to hold back too as a way to confront their own whiteness. Nah, I need you to keep on the SaveMcMillian Park effort. This effort began before most of you got here. Former ANC and BACA president Jim Berry put me on some committee or panel a decade and a half ago to slow it down. Mayor Bowser is hellbent on getting the greenspace paved over and developed, historic districting/landmarking or whatever bedamned.

I listened to Integrated Schools podcast episode regarding gentrification and school segregation. There was one thing Ms. Mykytyn said regarding getting mugged that ticked me off. Listen friends, your whiteness is not a bulletproof shield. It does not protect you from stray bullets. It does not protect you from the mentally ill beating you, or raping and killing you. I want you to be safe. Get those damned headphones out of your ears. Be aware of your surroundings. Say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ to people you pass on the street.

Folks diversity is hard. There are no easy answers and there are many moving parts. Resist the urge to turn people into magic minorities. Resist the idea of not being and giving your best in service to your neighbors. There are so many stories I could tell about how the neighborhood was saved (or delayed an unwanted inevitable until the nab could handle it) by having a lawyer or journalist or some A type personality in the group. It wasn’t their whiteness but the skills they developed in their profession. Bradley Thomas & Teri Quinn brought their lawyer skills, not black lawyer skills but competent lawyer skills to the betterment of Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle. So not about color. Diversity is our strength when we are united in a goal, be it holding people (developers, city govt agencies, etc) accountable or reducing crime after a fatal shooting.

Lastly, on parenting, diversity, and gentrification let me share with you an observation. When I first moved into Shaw in the 00s it was not uncommon to see a Black mother yelling at her kids using profanity and verbally abusing her children. Humans are very social animals. We observe and watch each other. Sometime in the last 10 years I began noticing young and not so young black fathers in the neighborhood interacting with their kids in similar ways as hipster white dads. Several months ago I observed another black mother, walking down the sidewalk,  fussing at her elementary aged son. She was mad. She was livid. But not a single curse word passed her lips. That’s improvement.

Shaw School Review: Cleveland Elementary School

Schools

1825 8th St. NW

Type of school: Public
Grades: Pre-K 3 to 5

PreK3: 29;  PreK4: 44; K: 42; 1st: 37; 2nd: 35; 3rd: 40; 4th: 39; 5th: 38

Before School care: No
After School care: Yes, Fee
Enrollment: 304 (2018-19)
Permanent DCPS Programmatic Capacity, 346; Unfilled Seats, 42 (2018-19)
Cost Per Pupil- $11,029 (300 students 2019-2020 General Education)

Boundaries

Percent of in-boundary participation: 29.1% (2017-18)

Schools attended by in-boundary students (2017-18)

Name of School # of Students
Seaton Elementary School 25
KIPP DC – Lead Academy PCS 22
Thomson Elementary School 17
Friendship PCS – Armstrong 13
KIPP DC – Grow Academy PCS 10

Physical Activity Time: Grades K-5: 75 Minutes/week

PARCC Scores 2018-19, % meeting & exceeding expectations
Black White Hispanic Asian
ELA 2018-19 20.3% N/A 29.7% n<10
Math 2018-19 20.3% N/A 40.5% n<10
Males ELA 10.8% N/A 21.1% N/A
Males Math 24.3% N/A 42.1% N/A

Mari’s 2cents: I’m taking the participation rate with a grain of salt because I’m not sure if they are counting Pre-K kids who have to lottery into the boundary and space is limited. I have another table for other institutions that take OSSE money for Pre-K so there is that. Also notice which schools students are going to instead of Cleveland, Seaton (DCPS), KIPP Lead and Grow, Friendship-Armstrong, and Thompson (DCPS), these are schools in Shaw or close to it. Two of them are other DCPS schools, so it isn’t that DCPS schools aren’t fitting a need, just that particular one. I’m including unfilled seats because someone tweeted about a horrible number of unfilled seats in Ward 5. Forty-two seats seem small and I suspect those are spread out to the higher grades as the peak number of kids is below 1st grade. Cleveland has a dual language program for Spanish and English which looks very interesting and appealing. But you want to know what’s even more appealing? It’s like almost across the street from the Shaw metro.

Sources:

2018-19 School Year Annual Enrollment Audit Report Supplemental Tables
EdScape_Chapter 3 Facilities_Facility Enrollment and Utilization_6
http://dcpsbudget.ourdcschools.org/
https://www.dcschoolreportcard.org/schools/1-0224
https://www.myschooldc.org/schools/profile/23/
Detailed 2018-19, 2017-18, 2016-17 PARCC And MSAA Performance
FY1718_Public School Enrollments per DCPS Boundary

Buy This House: 1616 4th St NW

So our longtime neighbors have moved and are selling their house. Since they bought the house they moved into (for more space w/ legit parking), they need to get their old one sold, pronto! So if you’re thinking about buying a house in the TC let me tell you about 1616 4th St NW by pointing out a few things. Also, there will be an artshow/ open house on Friday 12/6 at 5:30pm , where the current owner will be showcasing some of his art work.

Greenery in the city– The owners love growing things. They had plants inside and out. In the rear are several pine trees, that was so the owner could wake up and see green. In the front they grew tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, and other edibles. They also have planted a Japanese maple, right now it isn’t looking too hot, but in the spring and fall it is lovely. Their small porch they had several small potted plants. There are exterior spigots in the front and back for easy watering.

Kids on the Block– There are kids on the block including my own. A lot of the daycare and pre-school set, mainly boys. When they are seen (they aren’t out hanging about) they are with their mommies and daddies in a stroller. We are in the boundary of Seaton Elementary School (Pre-K 3- 5th grade) which scores highly on Great Schools. There are several Seaton families on 4th St.  The Google group for parents is Bloomingdale Kids.

Awesome Commute?– Yes, depending on where you are going. On the other side of the block you can catch the G2 (LeDroit to Georgetown), and the 96 (Tenleytown).  A block or two away are the 90, G8 and G9 bus stops. A 10 minute walk for me is the Shaw-Howard metro station. It is between the Q and R street bike lanes and there are two Capital Bikeshare stations within a block (or two). I haven’t had to wait more than 6-8 minutes for an Uber. If you must drive, the entrance to I-395 is a few blocks down New Jersey Avenue. So plenty of options.

Walkable neighborhood– The Walkscore is 95. We walk almost everywhere. The Giant is about a 10-15 minute walk if you don’t want to catch the G2. ANXO, is so close you could walk home drunk, but please drink responsibly. Truxton Inn is close too but that requires crossing Florida Ave, so you still need your wits about you.

Great block– The 1600 block of 4th St is the best. Our unofficial block captain Brian keeps the sidewalks clean, along with help from other neighbors. If you move here introduce yourself to the blond giant from Chicago and get on the no drama block email list. It is a quiet street, except when a firetruck is roaring down New Jersey, but eventually you kind of ignore that.

1616 4th Street NW– Built circa 1872-1875 housing black laborers, it is modern and renovated. It has a few flourishes from the previous occupants, notably the interior windows in the front bedroom that allow for light to go down into stairwell. It is listed by Keller Williams Capital.

Who can buy this– Okay, let’s just address an elephant in the room. Yes, $750K is a lot of money. But a shell, a cursed shell mind you, several doors down sold for $625K in November. Most likely buyers would be a DINK, double income, no kids (yet) with professional jobs who sold their condo. Other possible buyers could be single adults who are getting assistance from family (grandma’s will, parent’s co-buying, divorce settlement, etc). A developer could buy it since we aren’t in a historic district and try something, but FAR and a near neighbor’s solar panels might limit that. Families on public assistance aren’t potential buyers. Even with a 20% down payment a 30 year mortgage with great credit is over $3,000 a month (including taxes & insurance). That is above what the voucher program allows in this neighborhood even if it were to be rented.

If you think you are going to be around DC for a while, I would encourage you to buy a condo (although I, myself, despise condos) because maybe you can upgrade later in life when you’ve become more established in your career. You can use the sale of that condo, plus savings, and you have to have savings, to buy something like 1616 4th St NW in the future.

Thought Exercise: Moving out of Shaw

B/W px of a early 20th century moving vanI had a job interview a few weeks ago, it went well, so well I seriously gave thought to what we would do if I was chosen for the position. You see, it is in the same suburban area of Maryland where my spouse, the Help works, and I said if I were to get a job there, we’d move. So for several days I was looking at moving to Maryland and all that would entail.

We already know what neighborhoods we want to live in on the other side of the border. Yes, this is something we think and talk about on a regular basis. But I hadn’t thought about the consequences of leaving Shaw and the city.

What we’d lose
Walkability
Our part of Shaw is a wonderfully compact. Within a 1/3 mile I can walk to the grocery store, a couple of bakeries, a bunch of restaurants and bars, the metro, and Destructo’s daycare. I haven’t owned a car for over twenty years and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve driven. I like being able to walk with Destructo or plop him in a stroller and walk to a park. When I looked at a few houses on-line that I thought was close enough to a metro station, PG Plaza was over a mile away, and a park well over 1/3 mile. Whereas our block has a WalkScore in the 90s the areas I was looking at had scores in the 30s… and no sidewalks.

Lower Property Taxes
When looking at possible homes in our price range, looking at the property taxes made some places just, unaffordable. A lovely little 3 bedroom in the $300-400K range had taxes above $5,000 a year. Our taxes in DC are somewhere just below $3K a year. A couple hundred dollars of our monthly mortgage goes to taxes and insurance, but I was seeing sizable $400-$700 a month going to taxes for PG Co. properties.

Free Pre-K
Dangit, I been paying into this system, I’m going to get my 2 free years. Destructo won’t enter the school system until 2020-21. If we were to move, we’d be paying for  2 more years of daycare since PG County doesn’t have free Pre-3-4K. That’s when I decided I’d rather have a bad commute (I’d worked at this location before) than pay $30,000+ for 2 years of daycare.

Loss of connections
Living here for nearly 20 years, despite people constantly moving, we’ve got some deep strong connections here. After observing others move to other nearby neighborhoods or over into suburbs, I know after a while you stop seeing those people. I wouldn’t expect us to be any different. We have friends and family in PG County and those connections would get stronger, but I would miss what I have built here in Shaw.

Other things I had to consider
Sell/Rent house?
Then there is the question of selling or renting. I’m emotionally attached to this house I live in. It was my first property. I’m not sure I can just hand it over to some renter to make their mark on. However, renting would allow me to return to the TC if I manage to return to my current duty station if an opportunity arose. Also the rules about renting in this city seem to get more complicated, which would mean hiring a property manager. Some of my former neighbors self manage, other use a property manager. Question would be would I want to self manage my baby?

Then we’d have to make the house suitable for renters. When you own your own home, there are things you let slide. Our AC died 3 years ago. We’ve got portable and window units that work well. The bathrooms aren’t painted that well, because I painted the whole house myself and never ever got back to them. There is a whole long list of little repairs that should be done, but since the health of the house does not depend on those repairs getting done anytime this century, they don’t.

If I were to sell, the property tax issue I have such a problem with would be less of an issue, because the equity we have in our home would make some places mortgage free. I wouldn’t have to think about managing a DC property.

Mari InShaw to Mari N. Peagee?
A lot of my on-line identity is based on being in Shaw/Truxton Circle. Would I change it if I moved? I’m still pondering that one.

Recently, I found out I wasn’t chosen. I called one of the interviewers, who I knew professionally, regarding why I wasn’t and now I know what areas I need to improve. So when the next opportunity pops up I know what I will do, and if chosen, I have a plan.

Edited 12/11/19 to add Walkscore URL.

Momblogging in over at DC Area Mom’s Blog

I’m going to try to limit the posts relating to parenting at InShaw and decided to join a local mom’s blog. So a month or so ago I joined DC Area Mom’s Blog and I am one of 12 new contributors.

I already have a post up, “3 Upsides of Being an Older Mom/Dad“.

However there are parent related issues that will remain here. Such as my support for the concept of charter schools in DC. I’ve seen too many neighbors vote with their feet soon after the postive pregnancy test. DCPS should not take the children (and their parents/guardians) for granted. And I remember the bad old days. Also there are things that are just too hyperlocal like the Florida Avenue park, the Kennedy Playground and the like that wouldn’t be a good fit. Which reminds me, there is a certain style that I’m learning for the other blog, so thing with a harsher tone would probably stay here.

I Suck as a Hausfrau

View down Florida Avenue
Random picture of Florida Avenue NW

Well. If this furlough as proven anything, I suck as a housewife. I do not have what it takes to be a stay at home mom. I need to get back to work. This shutdown has lasted way too long.

The house is not cleaner than normal. I’ve scrubbed the kitchen floor several times, but somebody who will go unnamed, keeps throwing banana slices on the floor. Then somebody else who isn’t paying attention, steps on the slice or the sticky left over from the banana and tracks it all over the 1st floor.

The handywoman list of things to do, still undone. I haven’t fixed the sink. I have an excuse, I’m sick, with a cold. And I don’t wanna. The light needs me to have the ladder brought up and someone to spot me. That’s the negative to high ceilings, looks great but a pain to replace the lights.

The SAHM thing is not a thing for me, right now. When he’s not sick or school isn’t closed, Destruct-o-Baby still goes to daycare. He’s not waiting till 2 yo to be terrible. The holidays and other days when he’s stayed home with me, have not made me yearn to be with him all day. The laid back chill baby we brought home is gone, replaced by a loud, moody, whirlwind of energy (thus the name Desctruct-o-Baby) who throws food. Maybe if this had happened when he was still immobile, I might have fallen in love with the idea of hanging out with him all day, everyday. So yeah, he’s still going to daycare. I’m afraid if I pull him out we will lose our spot. We lucked out and weren’t on a waiting list to begin with, so not gonna screw with a good thing. If this lasts longer than 2 months, we might see if he can go part-time. Please Lord, don’t let this thing go longer than 2 months.

I am cooking more. I guess this is where I shine in one of the housewifery skills. Normally, one of us does 3 nights, and the other 3 nights and Wednesday is for sandwiches. Sandwiches are perfectly fine for dinner in this house. I’m doing all nights. Nothing fancy, but I did make some paneer cheese for palak paneer. No sandwiches, unless I plan for some fancy schmancy sandwiches like monte cristos or BLTs.

Thankfully, the Help has not complained about my hausfrau skills. Destruct-o has been complaining non-stop, but he started that before the shutdown.

 

Glass half full Shaw Story

shawbordersLooking at the title of Living in Shaw- As a Senior Citizen, which I discovered via DCist’s more click-baity title of What’s it like to live in Shaw as a senior citizen on a fixed income? I geared up for another paint by the numbers article on gentrification in Shaw. But as I read the piece by Susannah Herrada, I was most pleasantly surprised. The gentleman at the focus of it, Hodge resident, Bernard Johnson, reminded me of my late Uncle Jimmy.

My Uncle Jimmy was a retiree who lived in Queens. He had a saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” He said it like a motivational speaker, and talked about how he would try to get other retirees to make use of all the great senior citizen and NYC city programs available to them.  Men like Mr. Johnson and my late Uncle Jimmy have a certain love of life that we should only be so lucky to have a smidge of.

Mr. Johnson is going to the free wine tastings and is knowledgeable of the happy hours around the neighborhood. Sounds a heck of a lot better than my parent’s regular treks to the Golden Corral. And he’s aware of the free activities available to him in walking distance. He makes use of the wonderful Shaw Library and I suspect he’s going to openings at the Longview Gallery.

Last year the Help and I got a crash course in eldercare with moving his mom to the DC area. I had looked into the Hodge. My pot-headed Korean sister-in-law had a better chance of getting into Harvard than my mother in law into the Hodge. The Hodge is one of several senior citizen residences around. Not as modern is Asbury Dwellings in the old Shaw Junior High School. They never got back to me when I asked about a unit for her. I did not consider House of Lebanon in Truxton Circle because there are ‘issues’ (*cough *S.O.M.E.* cough) in that area. Maybe Chapman Stables might help. Have a senior special at Republic Cantina?

In writing this I was looking for a picture of my Uncle Jimmy and well I don’t have one. But I did manage to find on-line pix of his son, my 2nd cousin Jarvis. Cousin Jarvis is a working actor in New York. If you are looking for a 40-ish bald brown man of medium build with a beautiful smile, hire him. He’s a member of whatever stage and screen guild-union-whatever in NYC, Jarvis Smith (IMDb) (Stage32). Speaking roles, non-speaking roles in the the New York area.

When your own ethnic group can be oppressive

On this miserable morning I found myself on an unfamiliar bus, standing near the front overhearing a conversation between another rider and the metrobus driver. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about when they were talking about seeing “them” out in this weather with the cold wet slushy snow. The first snow of the season.

When they mentioned running I figured out the ‘them’ were joggers, white joggers. If people like the driver and rider did such a thing, they agreed, they’d catch pneumonia. Supposedly, we, African-Americans don’t jog, which is a lie. I don’t jog but I have witnessed black men and women jogging around Shaw and Bloomingdale.

This reminded me of the negative talk that floats around in my ethnic group that, I believe, keeps us down and back. Growing up I heard Black people don’t swim, play tennis, play golf, or any of those things, which is fairly harmless. Unless you’re a Tiger Woods or Williams sister. I also heard that excelling in high school was ‘acting white.’ That phrase. That mindset. How many young Black men and women have been kept back because of the fear of ‘acting white?’ So many minds, gone to waste.

In DC, in the arguments about bike lanes and gentrification, I’ve heard black people don’t ride bikes. This came from a blind fool who apparently ignored all the drug boys rolling around the neighborhood on bikes. I’ve also heard hints that we, as a people, only go to certain types of eateries that serve unhealthy Southern fare. My parents and older relatives like to prove this point often in their love for places like Cracker Barrel.

So I’m happy to be one of 2 or 3 black customers, the only customers sometimes, of the Protein Bar waiting for breakfast. We can eat healthy. We can live healthy. We can have strong minds, and good educations. Provided we push against, or ignore, those negative voices within the community.

Transracial adoption

November is National Adoption Month. So I’m posting about our experience.

So I tend not to think of ourselves as transracial parents, as the term applies to parents whose adopted children are of a different race or ethnic group than they. I’m African American, the Help is white. Destruct-O-baby is half white, half, maybe black. During the time of Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry, and how she identified herself, made me realize my son and I were different. He’s bi-racial, I am not.

The typical transracial families I’ve seen and know are white parents, with black (domestic), Asian (international), and Hispanic (both) kids. Each comes with its own challenges, but I’m more familiar with the white/black combo as we know a couple of those families. Hair is a problem for white mothers of little black girls. Then there are the identity ‘hey you guys don’t match’ issues. We’re lucky in that when we’re together it looks like Destruct-O-baby is related to us, but sometimes we’re mistaken for grandparents. I have no idea of how things are when the Help and Destructo are out together.

I have found the work of Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee and filmmaker, informative. She did a couple of videos talking to transracial adoptees. Below is a video of Ms. Tucker chatting with DC area transracial adoptees. I found her videos and her film Closure, because I was looking for perspectives of adult adoptees. That was before we adopted Destructo. Post-adoption, people we know have let us know they too were adopted, so the adult adoptee narrative is diverse. That may be another post for another time.

Slugg: Fathers are important

So a little bit more from Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The single most impactful issue plaguing black communities across the country was, relatively speaking, hushed.
Families aren’t supposed to function with one parent. Children need a pair of loving parents…. Given prison, death, and abandonment, in my neighborhood the number of homes without a father was extremely close to a hundred percent.

My parents were in a high conflict marriage. My father was an angry alcoholic, my mom struggled with mental health challenges, and the marriage suffered infidelity from both parties. Taking a selfish look back, my parents staying together while we were minors was the best thing they did for my sister and myself. After becoming a parent, I see what a luxury item my father was, despite himself.

@MrTonyLewisJr tells of what his life was life before with his father and after when his father was shipped off to prison. Before, he lived in a nice house in the suburbs with his mother. His father would drive him to private school. He had new clothes on his back. Hanover Street was a place to visit family. There was stability. Then his father’s life and the Feds caught up with him. They lost the house and his mother slowly lost her mind. Hanover St NW became home. He also lost his 2nd parent to mass incarceration and the safety net his father provided. Thankfully due to kin and family friends he remained in Catholic school, but they could not make up for the fact that he was like so many of his neighborhood friends, fatherless.

In our effort to be merciful towards and supportive of single parents, we dismiss the importance and of the 2nd parent. Since Destruct-O-Baby I’m freaking tired and considering my own and my mother’s mental health history* I NEED the Help, and there is no way in Hell I could do this alone and stay sane. The other parent, the father, can bring a lot of valuable things to the table. Unfortunately too many AfAm children are lacking fathers in their lives, and are poorer for it.

A neighborhood with a high number of female headed households are poorer. The matriarchy has failed to control her sons. Her sons sling dope and shoot at everything with bad aim. Young men surrounded by struggling women become predators as the potential to become hard working respectable men is squandered on the corners. Little boys yearn so much for male attention, any male attention, even from drug dealers, it is so heart breaking. There are hardly any men who look like them in the schools and in their lives that they absorb whatever masculinity they can like a bone dry sponge does any liquid, be it life giving water or deadly antifreeze.

For girls it’s different. Not to dig up more family dirt, I am very thankful that my sister in law’s ex has custody of their beautiful daughter considering my SIL’s poor romantic choices (who she decided to bring into the home), the fact that both her sons are away at college, and her mental health (and housing) challenges. The ex has provided a better safety net than nothing.

*My mom suffered from post-postpartum depression, had several ‘nervous breakdowns’ and was at a low point suicidal. I don’t think I want to detail or summarize my own challenges here.