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.
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 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
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
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.