Hot Take- Redlining not as bad as urban renewal

So as I write one boring Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle post after another, I noticed that these residents were borrowing money from individuals and institutions. These weren’t government sponsored loans, to my knowledge. Redlining, in the original sense (as I acknowledge the word has been expanded to other injustices), was the New Deal agency Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) discriminatory attitude towards minority areas regarding loans. But loans to African Americans in Truxton Circle were being made. Not a lot, but money was borrowed.

Because I am looking at people from the 1920 census and the online land records start around 1921/1922 I am not seeing a lot of people borrowing money to obtain their homes. They already own it by the time I’m looking at them. I might see it, or hints of people taking out a mortgage to purchase a home when the 1920s home owners sell and there is documentation regarding the next owner borrowing money. Or I see releases when owners settle their debts with one or more lenders. Or they take out mortgages or loans on their property or their children do. I might see people taking out mortgages to purchase when I eventually get to the 1930s home owners.

The rate of home ownership is low. But that tends to be the case of urban areas compared to suburban ones. I have to go past a lot of renters in the main TC census spreadsheet I use, before I find my home owners.

These owners aren’t necessarily upper class or white collar. There were several waiters as home owners. Another occupation was messengers or express men. There was one laborer, but he was being far too modest as he owned a coal yard and several properties. Another was a policeman.

Dr. Euphemia Lofton Haynes, the first Black American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics, owned several properties in Truxton Circle and other parts of the District. I’ve been through her papers at Catholic University and she was able to borrow money for her properties. The federally backed loans were not the only game in town.

Why Urban Renewal is Worse

I would describe redlining as getting bullied and urban renewal as getting bad plastic surgery. Getting bullied is bad and can lead to long term problems. The problem with bad plastic surgery, is you asked for it, paid for it, and it turns out making things worse. I used a proposed map as the featured image because it showed the plan to put a highway through most of Truxton Circle. It would have wiped out hundreds of buildings.

Once you tear down a 100 year old building there is no rebuilding it. All the homes that used to house the home owners on Square 551, are gone. They aren’t coming back. There’s a park and the Northwest Co op there. Those houses are gone. Forever.

You can see the marks left by urban renewal. They show up in modern architecture and in wide neighborhood splitting highways that did not exist as such 50-100 years ago.

In 1930 most of the Truxton Circle neighborhood was Black. It would be a reasonable assumption that the neighborhood was redlined. Fast forward 90 years and the neighborhood is fairly integrated. It has half the population, but it’s integrated. The legacy of redlining is in the hearts of some but the neighborhood itself appears to have moved on. Only three of about 18 blocks have been permanently changed by urban renewal or development.

An Observation – Drug deal

It has been a while since I have observed a drug deal on my street. This is mainly because I have been worn ragged by a pre-schooler with limitless energy and given a chance, I will take a nap. Sleep is awesome, but I digress.

I was going to take a nap, but I still had to deal with laundry so I opened up the blinds. I observed a young man moving by my spouse’s car, so I watched him. He was going over to a maroon hoopdie with a sun worn hood. He entered the car. Sat down and after a few seconds, maybe one minute, the hoopdie’s driver handed him a plain paper bag.

Remember, I’m high up enough to see down into the car. This makes me think that security cameras high up have a certain advantage…. depending on what you’re looking for.

I should also mention, I was once on a federal grand jury. I learned a lot about drugs and drug dealing. Cars are one place of exchange.

After the young man got the bag, he exited the car and crossed the street to another car. I was able to look straight down into the car. I decided if it was a weapon, I would call 9-1-1. Too many children have been shot by idiots with guns who shouldn’t have guns. But the way he handled the bag made it appear that the contents were too light to be a gun. It was a package of something. If my binoculars weren’t in storage, I would be more sure. But if I had to take a guess, it was fake weed, like Scooby-snax.

Then someone covered up with a hat and a blue mask came up to chat with the driver. Hat and mask guy could have been a local, but I could not tell as he was well covered. He left and then the young man walked off somewhere.

The  the driver sat there in their normal blue car for a while and I got bored looking at him and laid down for a nap. Later, I got up and he was gone.

Something made me look out the window again, and I noticed the blue car with the young man and the driver. The car could not find a parking space, so it was double parked. Then the driver decided to park illegally. The young man who had been in the car before got out and went to his own blue car. When they both drove off, I noticed their Maryland tags.

Rando thoughts ending in a music video

So I decided to look to see if there were land records involving George Glorius or any members of the Glorius family for Sq. 520 in the Recorder of Deeds records.

Glorius brought up bupkis.  Mainly because he was on Sq. 519 and proof that I should look at a map and not go by memory. So I decided to just look for anyone between 1920-1921. And I got Catharina Appollonia Miller later Catharina A. Ruppert (1871-1944).

“Ruppert” that is a name that shows up a lot. A. Lot. in Shaw records about property.  I’ve met the current set of Rupperts who run in the art/history circles in the Shaw area. Lovely people. The Rupperts I encounter in the historical records, not so lovely.  This is because I am encountering a landlord in a slum area.

But then I kept going back to her middle name and then had to find the video of the singer with that name. Enjoy Apollonia (if you like Prince adjacent artists) or get traumatized by the 80s.

An observation about Property Owners of the TC

This is just an observation from doing this series on property owners, ladies buy land. In the 1920s and 1930s, ladies, are buying land, selling land and inheriting land. Single ladies, married ladies, gals. This is only notable because on occasion I will run across some bit of history about how unmarried women couldn’t get loans or married women needed their husbands permission or something else that equates to women couldn’t really own land.

Women were landholders. They may have inherited it or were the sole survivor in the marriage in a joint tenancy. They may have bought it using a savings and loan or funding from private backers. The private backers are interesting.   I will see something in the land records about Ms. So N. Soh borrowing money from two trustees but she’s supposed to pay another party. It happens. Today there are hard money lenders.

Looking back about 100 years ago, banks weren’t the only places to get money to purchase a property. It is completely plausible that a single woman with community connections and social capital could hit up those networks to find some widow with money to lend to her so she can set up her real estate empire renting to African Americans coming into DC as part of the Great Migration.

What do I want out of the property owner series? Well I want to get off of Square 551. The series has gotten me back into looking at people connected to Truxton Circle and I can see a way back to Black Homeowners of the TC.  With the skills I’ve picked up I might revisit those earlier posts and update them with more information. I might even pick up on some subtleties that are lost in grand narratives. Who knows? But what I do know is that I will learn more about the people who were a part of the Triangle known as Truxton Circle.

Shopping with Bank Robbers

Because Destructo-kid goes through 3 gallons of milk a week and because I was running out of greek yogurt, I went shopping at the Giant this morning. A day or so ago the CDC said that we should be wearing non-medical (save the medical grade ones for the medical people) facial masks. So every other person in the store was wearing some sort of thing over their face. There were bandanas, blue surgical masks, dust masks, plastic face shields, wrap around scarves, and homemade contraptions like the one I was wearing. It was like shopping with bank robbers.
Sign At Giant
Despite the mask, I was able to identify a neighbor in the bread aisle. He has very distinctive hair. I saw another neighbor who works at the Giant, he didn’t see me, and we’re more wave ‘hi’ from a distance neighbors, not chatty neighbors.
Single rolls of toilet paper
So there is some toilet paper at the Giant, limit 2 per customer. I bought two rolls.
Some paper towels
There were a decent amount of paper towels. Since we had a lot of microfiber cloths, we started using more of those to clean up non-gross stuff. If it is gross, like Destructo deciding to spit food back out, it gets a paper towel. So our usage is low enough, and our current stock of paper towels is enough for me to pass on that purchase.
Were is the brocoli
Seriously, what is it with the broccoli? Once again no fresh broccoli. There was frozen broccoli. Also in the freezer aisle more frozen strawberries and pineapple than you can shake a stick at. No frozen blueberries. No frozen cherries. Back in produce, there were limes, tomatoes, some onions, a few shallots, salad greens, bok choy, and if you want fresh garlic you have to buy them in packs.

Thankfully, there was 2% milk. Once they turn two, little ones need to get off the full fat milk and on to lower fat milk. For the past week or so, the 2% has been hard to find. And speaking of dairy, there was Greek yogurt, better yet, lowfat Greek yogurt, for now. I bought 2.

I’m going to end with a check on my COVID-19 privilege. I’m not going to shame people on-line for not wearing a mask. They are hard to find in stores and on-line. I have the privilege of still having a paying job and having had been paid on Friday. So I could afford to go on Etsy and purchase masks. I had the good fortune of having fabric scraps, a sewing kit, plenty of thread and ribbon to make a mask last night. We have a few used N95 (used and filled w/ our germs) laying about in the basement. Not everyone is as fortunate.

There are other privileges beyond masks. My spouse and I still are employed, and can maintain benefits. We can work from home (not as productive) and posses the tools and the internet access that allows for that. That work provides the finances that allows us to stock up so we don’t need to go shopping as much or lets us buy on-line. Despite some stresses of being stuck together, I have people I can hug and touch to get that human contact I crave.

So after counting my blessings or checking my privilege (yeah I know that means something different, just go with it), I’m not going to get on my high horse and write contemptuously of people without masks, riding on the bus, shopping, or the like. It’s not like the District of Columbia government distributed masks, gloves, and a weeks worth of rice and lentils to everyone and they’re just refusing to wear them. It’s not as if there are free food distribution centers or grocery stores in walking distance of everyone. I can be classist, and try to keep that -ism to myself, but the classism I’m observing from others during this time is getting a little over the top.

ANXO’s Base Layer Cocktail

It has come to my attention that the world does not know the goodness that is ANXO’s Base Layer cocktail.
Old fashioned with 2" ice cubeMy friends if you thought ANXO was just ciders and small plates, you are sadly mistaken. There are other non-apple based drinks like vermouth, beers (meh- I don’t like beer), wines, and lovely cocktails like the Base Layer.

In the past decade I’ve come to love a drink called the Old Fashioned which is bourbon or rye whiskey, a sugar cube or simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and maybe soda water, maybe an orange peel, and maybe a cherry, over ice. ANXO has something close, their Base Layer, which is El Dorado 8-year Rum, Laphroaig a scotch, Pemartín Amontillado a sherry, spiced simple syrup, Angostura & orange bitters, and an orange peel. Tastewise, it seems like a very smokey Old Fashioned, even though the ingredients aren’t the same.

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.

The End Is Near

Coming SoonCan I blame the kid on this one?

Indirectly yes, but I saw a sign that our moving would be inevitable. And that sign was our neighbor’s “For Sale” sign. Our beloved neighbors of over a decade are moving a few blocks over for more square footage. It wasn’t a nail in the coffin, but it is one of many things, many signs that point to our eventual move.

When? I’m guessing 2 to 6 years. It really depends on who replaces our neighbors and if my work relocates to the suburban campus.

That last part really annoys me. I remember Eleanor Holmes Norton saying she helped author some rule saying a percentage of federal jobs were supposed to stay in the District. For as long as I’ve been with my agency, most of the opportunities were out in the burbs.  Since having a kid, I’m making more of an effort to go up one more GS level, and that means going out to the burbs.

Another thing, and I may explore this a bit more, I’d like to live a more Black middle class life. It was at my cousin’s wedding reception in upper PG maybe Howard Co., MD, with two beautiful words, “open bar.” Anyway, surrounded by other Black mostly educated professionals and retired professionals, I thought, this is nice. Problem, I really don’t get that living in Shaw. I do like living and being in integrated spaces. But now with my son, I’ve become extra sensitive to what impression the people in the neighborhood present. He sees the old guys on the corner, the homeless guys shuffling through and horseplaying juveniles more often than he sees the black church elders & deacons, and his retired (but very busy/active) relatives.

Shaw is diverse but the diversity is uneven. There just aren’t enough Black middle class families here. So when we talk about black white differences, it’s white rich/ black poor. It might be a different story in other neighborhoods with thicker pockets of the AfAm middle class.

In the meantime, I’m just loving the city. I’m loving the occasional peeks of the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument on my daily commute. I’m loving the fact that there is an awesome restaurant 2 blocks from my house and that most of what I need is within a 15 minute walk. Despite my complaints about 311 and various city services, I’m loving that there are apps and websites and a whole community of people here working towards making city government less sucky. Most of all, I’m loving the universal Pre-K, the one thing keeping me from going, “Let me put in a transfer to Burbsville and put the house on the market this Spring.”

Halloween reminders

Kid in babyshark costumeOkay some quick reminders about Halloween tonight:

  1. If you don’t want people coming to your door, turn off your porch light, draw your curtains/drapes, and lower the lights on the first floor.
  2. Yes, people trick or treat. Ask your neighbors what it was like last year.
  3. Yes, adults and teenagers not in costume will come to your door. That is why I get crappy candy, just for them. The good stuff, the Reese’s, the Snickers, and the like go to the people in costume.
  4. Trick or treating starts around 6:30-7PM and I stop giving out candy around 8:30-9 when the uncostumed to costumed ratio gets to be a bit much.

UPS My Choice Hell

If you are stuck in UPS’ My Choice where they will not deliver your packages to your home because it is set to reroute your packages to an alternative location, just cancel your enrollment.
Here’s my story.UPS Cancel Membership
So many years ago I suspect someone, probably my mother in law (who is currently sitting on my bookshelf), sent a Christmas gift which was stolen by porch thieves. I also had an eBay purchase that I didn’t notice that I didn’t get until weeks later (I was ordering a lot of things, don’t judge me). So I contacted UPS, signed up for their My Choice program to make sure packages were sent to a nearby liquor store. I didn’t have things sent to the house, they usually went to the Help’s work. Fast forward and because of some changes at the Help’s job, he couldn’t accept packages for a period of time.
Fine. So I ordered something off Amazon that I figured would fit in our mailbox. A few days later I get this email from UPS saying there is a problem and the alternative location I picked many eons ago is no longer available. Okay. I contact UPS and after a while on the phone manage to get them to send the package to my house. I go on-line to their My Choice website and try to change things there, but encounter a technical problem. I figured I could fix it later. I was wrong.
I had seen a few package delivery boxes outside of residences and thought I could make or buy one and have inconsequential stuff, like diaper pail inserts, parts, Keto candy, etc delivered to the house, and limit expensive stuff to the Help’s workplace. So I order a box off Amazon. UPS was to deliver it. A few days after ordering, I get an email from UPS saying they can’t deliver it. After over an hour on the phone, I get UPS to agree to send it to my house. Day of the delivery, no package. I look on line, it says it was delivered to my house 15-30 minutes before I arrived home. It was a large unwieldy package and I was doubtful someone swiped it. So I ask my neighbors with cameras if they have a UPS driver on the street at the time. Then a day later I notice on my answering machine a message I was ignoring. I ignored it because people want to buy my house. I don’t want to waste time on their messages. But it wasn’t some buyer. It was a guy one street over with the same house number who had my package. Thank goodness that my land line was listed on the label with my address. So we go over in the car to get the large, unwieldy package.
Then I test it out by ordering cheap things, like paper towels and shower caps. When delivered by USPS, no problem. But an item that was to be delivered by UPS, that stayed in limbo.

UPS Technical Service is a lie

So I kept going back to the website to fix the package redirect. But every time I tried it wouldn’t let me or said there was a technical problem. So I tried the website chat bot, and got a chat human. Who after telling me to go through the same steps I’d been going through with no success said I needed to call their technical service number, but at the time it was after hours, so I waited until the next day. So I call the technical service number, and I get a lovely young lady who tells me to go through the same steps I’d gone through before with the chat human. She tells me I need to call the technical service number and I inform her that I called that number and got her.
At the same time I had emailed UPS and tweeted my frustration. As it would be no surprise, they tell me to go through the same steps as everyone else.
On the phone the young lady pushes me over to “technical service.” Guess what? It’s a guy who tells me to do the same steps but assures me that if there is no alternative location then my package should arrive at my house. Yeah….. I decide not to argue with him, because, what would be the point? So I wait. And the package does not come to me, it is in limbo.
A fellow from UPS reaches out to me and tells me he can provide technical service. Great. Guess what? He tells me to go through the same damned steps I’d gone through with the other customer service people.
At this point I don’t believe UPS has a technical service department. The problem I was having with the UPS site was a technical problem. After about 3 hours combined dealing with UPS, I am convinced they were all reading from the same incorrect script.

So then Amazon notices the package did not arrive. This forces me to contact them. They are also limited. I can’t redirect it and I can’t get another service (USPS) to deliver it. So a refund it was.

In Conclusion

I decided to just cancel my membership and see what happened. Once I cancelled, packages, UPS packages arrived in my package delivery box.