Before coming to DC, one of my best friends from my grad program had written a well-argued and nuanced blog on the gentrification of DC from a human rights perspective.
Washington DC, she explained as I asked her a million questions after reading her blog, was once affectionately called “Chocolate City” as its population had been largely African Americans. We then discussed the pros and cons of this process and highlighted that while the capital had arguably become more racially and culturally diverse, this had been at some social and economic cost to the previous black tenants. We discussed that long before DC’s property prices were had risen to present day heights and before young millennials ran with their pedigree dogs after work, DC has witnessed, led, paid the price and/or celebrated the struggle for racial justice and identity.
I knew when I visited that I wanted to visit some of the places where I could chart this historical journey.
I started at the White House. Earlier this year, Michelle Obama noted that she wakes up in “a house that was built by slaves, and (she) watch(es) (her) daughters – two beautiful, black young women – head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the President of the United States.”
Secondly, I visited the Capitol. The Capitol, like the White House, had been built with slave labor, according to the documentary shown during the official tour. According to the Visit the Capitol government website, it would be here that the Thirteen, Fourteen, and Sixteen Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act would be passed – legally guaranteeing African Americans their rights.
Thirdly, I grabbed a chili dog at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, which has been around since 1958 and was known to feed police officers, firemen, and the black activists. I headed to Busboy and Poets nearby which used to be considered to be the “Black Broadway” and has a really cool vibe and interesting artwork.
Fourthly, I went to the drum circle in Meridian Hill Park and danced and experience the spiritual and social bonding circle that had provided blacks a way to connect with African culture and identity (without fearing that they would be perceived as “backward”).
Fifthly, I visited the Thurgood Marshall Center which is named after the first African-American justice on the US Supreme Court and which seeks to secure social and economic justice and equality.
Finally, I want to visit Howard University before I leave and learn more about its role in the Civil Rights Movement and providing producing critically thinking and conscious black leaders and professionals.
I have learned so much already on this Chocolate City our. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!