The death of Christopher Barry came unexpectedly. He was the only child of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Effi Barry and had eulogized both of his parents. A group of friends gathered at We Act Radio in Anacostia to share memories; many that did not make it into many media stories of his death. Thanks to Kymone Freeman for sharing these powerful words.
Troy Donte Prestwood (pictured) has lived in all corners of the District, but for the last nine years he’s called Anacostia home. Today he represents the neighborhood in local government as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. And he says Anacostia is definitely unlike other parts of the city: The river has a different rhythm, and the neighborhood marches to a different beat. He speaks with Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson about the changes he is seeing. Photo by Brandon Gatling.
Most Anacostia residents know the power and fame associated with the home of Frederick Douglass. A few even remember the period between the famous abolitionist's death and the property's designation as a national historic site — the years when the community, including a Cub Scout troop, took care of things.
Jason Fuller talks with two longtime residents, Sandy Allen and Arrington Dixon, about their memories.
Spend time in Anacostia, and the G-word often comes up: gentrification. It's the "most loaded word in the English language," says Adele Robey, founder of Anacostia Playhouse on Shannon Place SE. She talks with Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson about being "the resident white woman" in neighborhood conversations about arts and development, and what it's like to run a theater in a community that scrutinizes every development project for its potential to displace people. (Robey herself is performing in a show, Riches, at the theater through early August.)
A night at the legendary basketball court in Barry Farms, Washington D.C.
As the country tries to make sense of this weeks violence, we are reminded that a mother who loses her son must take on a long fight to find out what happened to him. The story of Beverly Smith and her son Alonzo Smith, who was killed by special police in Anacostia. Interview by Kymone Freeman. Photo by Brandon Gatling
Neighborhoods in Washington are constantly shifting, and Anacostia finds itself in the midst of one such change. So let’s start today with the Great Migration, when tens of thousands of African Americans left the South and many stopped right here in Washington D.C.
Charlene Butler Rutger’s family was one of many shaped by that migration. Her grandfather came and then almost all of his brothers and sisters followed him to Anacostia. Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson talks with her about how social networks — and family dinner in particular — grounds them in tradition.
Original photograph by Brandon Gatling.
This map was never drawn. It had to be memorized. It led the way through early Washington City, where buildings we all know — like the Capitol and the Smithsonian "castle" — were only halfway built. The map led to freedom, to a schooner called The Pearl. It was the escape plan of slaves. Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson has the story.
Photo: "Male adult slave escaping by way of a river" via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Anacostia is the inner city in a lot of outsiders' minds, but not all of the Southeast D.C. neighborhood is densely populated. Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson — who often takes his young daughter along on interviews — talks with mother and songwriter about how her perception of the neighborhood has changed over the years. For Jones, "infamous Anacostia" offers a lot to anybody who wants to share a leafy park or a good view with their family.
A young woman boards a bus in Richmond and heads for 17th and L streets in the District. Her first job out of high school: Taking dictation from government lawyers and then burning the typewriter ribbon. After her plan for housing falls through, she finds an apartment in Anacostia. For an out-of-towner, "it was the big city," says Caroline G. Pleasant, who talks with Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson about her experience settling in Southeast D.C. nearly five decades ago.
Photo: National Youth Administration youth assis in the South Parkway Branch of the YWCA in Chicago in an undated photo. More information: nypl.org
In this edition of Anacostia Unmapped, we visit D.C.'s Takoma neighborhood to hear from a woman who was inspired by our story about Aunt Helen, a legendary neighborhood-watcher in Anacostia. We'd love to hear from you. Write us in your favorite way.
Original photograph by Brandon Gatling.
When Alicia Bennett and her husband moved to Anacostia three years ago, some friends said, “That’s not safe for your family, for your kids.” But the couple wanted to buy a house in the city, and it was the only place they could afford. As a white family in a thoroughly African-American neighborhood, they've given a lot of thought to how they present themselves. She talks with Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson about living in a community where the racial and economic divides are obvious.
Musician, actor and longtime Southeast D.C. resident Jason Anderson has been playing go-go since he was young. He talks with Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson about his love for neighborhood heroes the Junkyard Band, and what it's like when a go-go band finds the "pocket" — the part of a song when percussion reigns supreme and the crowd is fully absorbed in Washington's home-grown offshoot of funk music. Photo by Othello Banaci
Growing up with three brothers can make a girl want her own home. So imagine one who starts babysitting at 14, saves her money and hides it from her brothers. She picks out the house she wants to buy, goes to college and starts a daycare. Renita "Mommy Gayle" Simril talks with Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson about her childhood in Anacostia, a spooky experience in the famous Frederick Douglass Home nearby, and how she acquired the house of her dreams in the neighborhood.
History of the first inhabitants of Anacostia
Developers are all over Anacostia and things are moving fast. So when contributor Schyla Pondexter-Moore heard about a bus tour of developers driving through the streets, she gathered about a half dozen activists and they stopped the bus. Here she explains to John Johnson why she spearheaded the action.
Photo credit: Heather Khalifa/Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
In most D.C. neighborhoods, there’s a person you have to go see to get anything done, and to get in to see them, you usually need an introduction. In Anacostia that person is Teresa Howe-Jones. The 83-year-old troubleshoots overdue bills, tenant issues and other problems. She has a 2,000-person phone list, and she knows how to use it. Anacostia Unmapped contributor Kymone Freeman invites her to his station, We Act Radio. Plus we hear poet Fred Joinerperform "Song for Anacostia."
There are bridges that connect Anacostia to the rest of D.C., but another way to cross the water is poetry. In this installment of Anacostia Unmapped, we go there in verse.
"DC" by John Johnson
My man DC would say stuff like
"Life is like a university with no walls"
"Now let's go get these drawers"
My man DC
My man DC just turned 21
Nic name was black jack
Finally got his GED
In High School
Wasn't fond of class or back pack
Skin was darker than burnt toast
IQ sharper than mos
He lived East of the River
Hangs out with his friends
VA and PG
They met over the internet
Playing "Call of Duty"
On plazma screen T.V
When DC was younger
He knew "What was going On"
He listen to Marvin Gaye
2015 legalized weed
And it perfectly fine now that Marvin's gay
DC use to sit and listen
Belly full of chocolate
Running down Good Hope
Hanging round Ainger
2015 finally got a sit down restaurant
Where I can eat breakfast
DC is serving more Vanna Whites and Less
DC fell in love with her Diamond like features
And the curves on her 8 wards
But like every relationship things get bumpy
Like roads before street cars
DC's girl would start beefing
DC would go vegan
He never called her female dog
Although deep down inside
He was redder than a Nats cap
His heart was broken like IPhone screens
But he played it like it was cool
Cooler than January and February
My man DC
Do you have a favorite poem about D.C. or a favorite poet who has written about the city? Email the producers of Anacostia Unmapped.
Original photograph by Brandon Gatling.
Elizabeth Berkeley and Sadie Thompson at a convention of former slaves in 1916 in D.C.
The whispers started and grew until the word "freedom" was loud in thousands of slaves' mouths. It was April 16, 1862. The president signed a paper, and 3,100 D.C. slaves were freed — Emancipation Day. Many African-Americans in this city see it as the start of a new life for their ancestors. But emancipation didn't immediately end the role of slave traders in the city. Anacostia Unmapped contributor John Johnson explains how a historic day also came with a "punch in the gut."
And also in this edition of Anacostia Unmapped, we hear the voice of Fountain Hughes — a slave in nearby Virginia who recorded an interview with the Library of Congress in 1949. It's of the few surviving audio interviews of ex-slaves.
Over the last five months, as part of the Anacostia Unmapped project, three people in the Southeast D.C. neighborhood have been recording interviews with their neighbors. It’s a place where families can often trace their roots back several generations to a single block or house. In this installment, poet and playwright John Johnson visits LaTeashea Lofties, a friend whose family has a long history in Anacostia. We find out about her Aunt Helen, who sat in the window all day "watching everything and everybody. And I when I say everybody, I mean you could not hook school. You couldn’t have boys over. Because she would tell. She had everybody’s numbers on a pad and she’d use that rotary phone.”
We want to hear from you. What has changed and what has stayed the same in your neighborhood? Do you have an Anacostia story you’d like to share? Go here to ask a question or share a story.