Political, educational and business leaders throughout the District have recently taken it upon themselves to laud the city’s bulging coffers, graduation rates that have reached new heights and the cavalcade of talented entrepreneurs who have brought high tech industries and multiple construction projects to D.C. For some, the doorway to greater wealth and the promise of an improved quality of life has swung wide open.
But not everyone in the District has reason to celebrate. Some Washingtonians who tend to be ignored fear that as the cost of living escalates and as gentrification pushes many longtime citizens out of their homes and neighborhoods, the city once known as “Chocolate City” has taken on a new visage — one where Black faces are becoming the exception rather than the rule.
Of course, we understand, as the song goes, “everything must change.” However, even within these days of economic growth, we’re concerned about what the future holds for Black boys and girls, particularly those who reside in communities like Wards 7 and 8 that have routinely been the last to reap any benefits.
Just last Thursday, as we were preparing to shut things down for the night at the offices of The Washington Informer, a teenage boy was targeted and shot by unknown assailants — barely a stone’s throw away from our building on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE. The adjoining streets became a fury of police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances and television cameras. Even Mayor Bowser and Ward 8 Council member Trayon White came to the scene as the youth was sped off to a local hospital for treatment.
Yet, with all of the hoopla, some area residents barely batted an eye, perhaps because they’ve grown accustomed to such drama and potentially life-ending situations. And that’s the greatest tragedy of all. Have we become desensitized and apathetic to the frequency of chaos that surrounds us? And what about our youth? Do they feel they have any reason to work and study hard anymore when it seems as if they have a better chance of being murdered or imprisoned than achieving academic success, college degrees and gainful employment?
If youth “East of the River” have become so convinced that life has little to offer them that’s positive and encouraging, then we have failed them. In the “good old days,” Black youth, despite facing the snares and arrows of racism and prejudice, persevered even given overwhelming odds because their parents had instilled in them that essential belief in hope for a better tomorrow.
It’s sad but true that without hope, the only thing that really matters is living for the moment with reckless abandon. And that’s we see day after day in our communities. It’s nice to hear that Southeast finally has its first Starbucks, it’s wonderful to see more Black-owned businesses opening their doors and we celebrate the news that a few grocery stores will finally be built that will put a dent in what has long been a food desert of epic proportions.
But more than anything, we must bring hope back into the lives of our children before they give up on life itself.