You’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice the revitalization that’s taking place in the District — from swanky restaurants and luxury housing to added bike lanes, bicycles for rent, solar-paneled homes and modernized schools.
In fact, per Washingtonians who have been around long enough for the days when D.C. was accurately referred to as “Chocolate City,” the city has taken on an entirely new look. It’s a place that’s far more diverse with newer residents who are solid, middle- or upper-class citizens — anxious to spend their money and enjoy the ever-increasing hot spots and newly-built local attractions geared towards those who have an excess of disposable income.
Like so many other urban settings in the U.S. that have fallen from grace over the past several decades due to a severe decline in jobs, safe neighborhoods, adequate public schools and businesses essential to communities, including banks, grocery stores, hospitals and post offices, many portions of the District have suffered.
The good news is we’re on the way back, rebounding rapidly in ways many could have never imagined. However, a great many longtime residents, most notably Blacks, are finding themselves outpriced, pushed out, ignored and forced to look for affordable places to live outside of the District. For all the good intentions that politicians and business owners may have, gentrification has exerted its onerous reach in almost every ward, resulting in life-altering changes and challenges for the poor and many of the middle class.
During the Great Migrations of the 20th century, Blacks left the South and farm lands for northern cities that offered better jobs, better schools, better homes — a better way of life. Now, the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those former Southern folks find themselves unable to remain in neighborhoods, which for generations, have been home — from the District, Chicago or Detroit, to Cleveland, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
Change is something that cannot be avoided and it can be promising and positive. But here in the District, there’s a growing number of residents who lament the change. What will their future hold? And do those who can make a difference for them truly care?