I came to D.C. earlier in the spring and fell in love with it. As a Writer, I live with the greatest excitement in being able to share my experiences. So for the three months total that I have spent here, I have been taking pictures and notes in order to paint D.C. as I see it when I see it. I invite you along as I grow to know and learn the bigger picture, with more entries as I continue to do so.
So. DC is confusing at first. You can’t be sure what direction is due north because all of the street signs have 2 components ie NE/NW vs SE/SW. Your google maps might tell you it will take 45 mins to drive 3 miles. (Believe it.) However, once you get past the fact that none of the roads are straight and neither are the metro lines, there lies a beautiful city. Almost surrounded by water (which’ll make you wonder ‘how is this not considered an island?’), D.C. is a wondrous mixture of soil and concrete. With such a unique balance of business and nature, people that live here seem to indulge in both. From the Marines casually walking in a cluster down a block in capitol hill to a group of street dancers occupying a corner late night on U street, everything goes. DC is the city that everyone needs to be talking about.
D.C. has a big city feel and appeal while remaining so walk-able. One neighborhood rolls right into the next and at any point you can stop for any thing your heart may desire, including some soul food and a good conversation or two. It honestly feels as though everyone in D.C. is there by choice and is happy to share it. Houses made of rainbow mounted on brick red streets are in as full of a character as a made-up face. Entire streets seem to be competing for a spot on second line. Those who’s paint has been allowed to fade, seemingly for the sake of authenticity, bleed for times once known. Alley ways are a way of life in D.C. and I’m all for it. Being from NYC, I’m used to alleys being the stuff of nightmares and where the wild things hide. In D.C., alley ways belong to more art work, stores, galleries, restaurant entries, driveways, kids with footballs and plenty foot traffic. Don’t get me wrong, there are dumpsters and a few off smells as well, just not accompanied by the sheer terror of most big city dark corners. Not to mention the nature and greenery that abounds and surrounds D.C. The parks here take up so much space that it’s a wonder how there’s room for everything else. Rock Creek Park and Malcolm X Park sprawl in different parts in the North of the city. Rock Creek Park boasts rolling hills and Malcolm X is home to on of the grandest overlooks of the city. Along with Anacostia Park and National Mall in SE, as well as innumerable local parks and trails, there is so much green space in D.C. that there is no excuse for you not to cultivate an outdoor habit.
Most obviously: HU. Howard University campus sprawls and takes up a glorious chunk of the landmark Shaw neighborhood. The Historically Black University’s campus holds onto a significant piece of D.C. soul, making for a nice mix of scholastic aptitude, African oils and independently owned tea shops (Calabash though? Review to come). You are sure to run into Howard Professors and Students throughout the city. Although there are other big name universities in the district, I haven’t seen them get anywhere close to the amount of Washingtonian love that Howard gets. That’s Chocolate City for you. HU!
Giving you even more of a reason to love being out and about, the Street Art is stuff of legend. Murals span entire sides of schools and businesses. Vivid colors, geometric abstraction and fantasy flash flood your eyes without warning as you drive through the streets. Their aftertaste is more than enough to pull you back onto the street on foot and you’re in for a real treat. Follow the crumbs to find morsels of remnants of a once Chocolate City. The Musicians that play on the corners serenade, not for the money, but for the nostalgia ultra that floats through the air searching for a vessel and an open ear. Searching for someone who remembers. Whether you consider its history or not, your soul is subject to the depth of this time-capsule of a place. Music is just one part of its heart.
Even as the historic holy ground that D.C. is, much change is underfoot and not necessarily for its overall good. Urban renewal projects and rezoning construction runs rampant in the district, displacing families and, quite frankly, destroying neighborhoods and legacy. Entire skylines are crowded with cranes. With the 5th largest metro economy and placing 3rd as top tech city in the U.S. according to Forbes, economic development is showing no signs of slowing. In capitalism, someone is winning while someone is losing and Native Washingtonians, especially low-income households, are losing. Much of the latest developments that draw migrants like myself come at the expense of those who are from here. I’d be remiss like most other transplants if I did not take the time to learn and appreciate the town’s rich history. I look forward to sharing with you the fine story of D.C. as Chocolate city, along with sharing different aspects of the current maladies many native Washingtonians are facing. I intend to do my part as an Artist by reflecting the times here in D.C. to the best of my ability. Stay tuned.
P.S. Images were to follow. Except, I deleted/misplaced 3 months worth of files. Technology doesn’t seem to want to be my friend.