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
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.
After the Civil War, the US government sent a white man east of the river to buy land from plantation owners, Juliana and David Barry. They didn’t reveal their plans for the 375 acres but then told former slaves they could buy an acre to build a house.
So Barry Farms is this. A place where men and women, just emancipated could be full people. And begin, again.
Today’s story takes us to that same land, now home to a large public housing project, Barry Farms that is slated for demolition. More than 250 families live there now and the city says if they leave for the construction period they’ll be able to live in the new homes but some residents are suspicious.
Anacostia Unmapped producer Schyla Pondexter-Moore is housing organizer and introduces us to a resident of Barry Farms she works with. Photo by Andy DelGiudice.
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.
Anacostia. The Southeast D.C. neighborhood was originally known as "the remainder of the District." And in many ways, that’s how it’s been treated and thought of for years. This spring, WAMU 88.5 presents Anacostia Unmapped, a project that invites people who live and work in the community to take us inside. First up, we introduce one of the project's producers, Kymone Freeman, whose day job is running We Act Radio. He's been thinking about where Anacostia fits on a city map:
So I’m sitting at my desk, having a quiet moment, some tea, at my computer, starting my day. I look into the Great Ward 8 Facebook page and notice a post by DCist about rental rates for one-bedroom apartments in D.C.
There’s a map.
The thread is talking about the prices — $2,000 for that apartment, $3,000 for this. Who can afford that? Not me.
But I look closer at this map; I notice there is no Ward 7 or Ward 8. Anacostia has fallen off the map. East of the River too. But somehow Arlington and Alexandria have found their way into D.C.
And the more I look at that map, the more I think about my favorite teacher — my 9th grade history teacher, Miss Hunter. She introduced me to the racist history of cartography: Traditional maps show Africa smaller and Europe bigger than they actually are.
In fact, Miss Hunter even let us in on a dirty secret. Europe ain't even a continent.
Now, somebody is saying, "'ain't' ain't a word." It is now; it’s in the dictionary. That goes to show you. If you keep telling the same story over and over, somebody will believe you.
So, check the map. Europe is not one massive body of land unto itself. That gave me a different outlook on the world. Changed my perspective. Miss Hunter would always say that most people look at the world like a ship in the ocean; they only see the surface of things. They admire the sunset in the horizon, they weather the brutal winds of the storm, and they rarely if ever venture out into the water, out of fear of what might lurk below.
So having this iconoclastic teacher at such an early age, I developed a highly sophisticated BS detector. I can detect one drop of BS in a million gallons of murky water. So I decided to do something.
I wrote a letter to the editor, associate editor, contributing editor, the Twelve Apostles and three more white people and waited for a response.
Oh, there was a disclaimer on the page. The map came from a blog post by Zumper.com, a real estate company. The omission of Anacostia "was 'nothing deliberate,' but was the first time one of Zumper's designers put together a D.C. map, 'so they drew the boundary at the river.'"
They also said the rental rates for East of the River could be found in the back on the website — in other words, in the colored section.
When I finally did get a response from DCist, it went something like this: “Thanks for the note, everything you outlined is 100 percent correct. I was in a rush and I missed that the map omitted all neighborhoods east of the river. It was a huge mistake on my part. Had I taken the time I wouldn’t have published it. To that end, I messed up here.”
I took his apology. You know, I run an independent radio station, and you can make mistakes. He tried to correct himself. But as for Devin O'Brien — who drew the map — he has not responded. (I still am looking for you, dude.)
Winston Churchill says history is written by the victors. So if you lose, baby you lose. That’s the thinking of the big game hunter. What if that lion on the wall could tell his story? The lion speaks:
"So, I was walking one day in the savanna, and I was about to jump on this sweet gazelle. This fool hunter lets off a shot and scares the gazelle away. I chase the dude and his Masai warrior tour guide hits me with his spear and the hunter took the credit."
That just goes to show you, until the lions have their own historians, only the tales of the hunter will be told. And until we in Anacostia tell our own stories, until we draw our own maps, make displacement-free zones, we’ll be silenced.
This essay was produced by Katie Davis and brought to you by WAMU 88.5 as a part of Finding America, a national initiative produced by AIR, with financial support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Original photograph by Brandon Gatling.