Listen: From Barry's Farm to Barry Farms

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.

Listen: Aunt Helen's Eyes On The Street

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.

via the Kojo Nnamdi Show: The Story of Anacostia In Washington, D.C.

Broadcast on March 24, 2016 on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Anacostia, the neighborhood in the Southeast part of Washington, was originally known as “the remainder of the District.” And in many ways that’s how it’s been treated 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 — to the beloved street corners of Anacostia and the changing ones. Residents have lots to say about what’s going on—about transformation and displacement; about crime and community; about the beauty and burden of history.


  • John Johnson Playwright; Contributor "Anacostia Unmapped"
  • Kymone Freeman Co-Owner, We Act Radio; Contributor "Anacostia Unmapped"
  • Schyla Pondexter-Moore Housing Activist; Contributor "Anacostia Unmapped"

Listen: The Lion and the Map by Kymone Freeman

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, 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.

"The forgotten bottom of D.C."

Katie Davis writes:

“The forgotten bottom of D.C." That’s what poet Fred Joiner calls the Southeast neighborhood of Anacostia.

In Washington, people use Anacostia as a code word for poverty, crime, isolation. And there are problems here. But if you walk Martin Luther King Avenue though, empty storefronts are being painted, the mayor just cut the ribbon on the Turning Natural Juice bar, and in the Arts Center on Good Hope Road, there’s a new café Art-Adrenaline.

When I started to learn about the neighborhood, I went to see writer John A. Johnson at his home in a cul-de-sac up Morris Road. He suggested a walk. We went up a steep hill and then over to an enormous church surrounded by open land.

“Turn around,” John said.

And when I did there was Washington laid out like a post card.  I’d never seen the city from this side of the river; the sandstone Capitol, the granite and marble Washington Monument.  

“This is what we have,” said John. “This is what they want.”

He's talking about the rush of developers. Anacostia still has open tracts of land, for houses, apartment buildings and big developments.

To find out what residents are thinking about this struggle for land and other concerns, we give digital recorders to writer John Johnson and two other producers who live and work in the community . They go into living rooms, to parties and rallies, to interview residents. John Johnson, Kymone Freeman and housing activist Schyla Pondexter-Moore for an insiders look into their neighborhood. They go into living rooms, to parties and to rallies to bring us the voices we don't always hear. Their stories will run on WAMU 88.5 FM and We Act Radio FM in Anacostia.