The neighborhoods that sit east of the Anacostia River will forever be known as “The East End,” if Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray has the last word.
While pointing out that various neighborhoods have been rebranded in recent years, Gray was blunt about why Wards 7 and 8 could also use a rebranding.
“When you say, ‘East of the River,’ unfortunately people think of the other side of the tracks, which connotes something negative like crime and poverty,” Gray said. “I’m not from the other side of the tracks, I live on the East End.”
It’s a tactic that the councilman has been using for about one year.
“Right now, its word of mouth and if people say it enough, they’ll use it more and if [the media] begins using ‘east end,’ then that will be a big help,” Gray said.
The councilman has worked tireless to improve not just the neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8, but also the perception.
Recently, Gray called out Safeway and others for the quality — or lack thereof — meat and other foods in the supermarket chain’s southeast D.C. locations, sparking ownership to take action.
Gray joined a recent “Grocery Walk” that highlighted the inaccessibility of food options in Wards 7 and 8, calling it a health crisis.
“It shows that people care about these issues, and people want to have the same conveniences that other people in the District of Columbia have — they want to be able to shop in their own communities rather than having to go elsewhere, in some cases outside of the District of Columbia, in order to shop,” Gray said.
He also introduced a bill to require a new hospital at St. Elizabeths East Campus to, among other things, spur future redevelopment of the United Medical Center.
Rebranding neighborhoods in the District is nothing new, particularly in this fast-paced era of urban growth.
Gray said that he does not know if “East End” will catch on and that he has no plans to propose legislation that would put city funds toward an official branding effort.
“We’ll just see how people go on with using it at this point,” he said.
In his mission to rebrand the areas east of the Anacostia River, Gray said he’ll remain relentless.
“Why can’t the East End become the name of Ward 7 and 8 and have a clean slate?” he said. “We’re trying to do something we know that is good. A lot of people hear ‘East of the River’ and it just connotes something negative. The rebranding is something very positive.”
More than 150,000 individuals — one-quarter of the city’s population — live in Wards 7 and 8. That’s more than enough reason to rebrand and rebuild the image of the neighborhoods there, Gray said.
“I’m excited to be able to rebrand the area,” he said. “I plan to continue to use it and I’ve said to people that I will not use ‘East of the River’ anymore.”