I've been super busy otherwise I would have already jumped all over this Washington Post article, Citing attacks directed at buses, Metro weighs service cuts in Anacostia by Luz Lazo. Just when I think it is safe to read an article written by a DC newspaper about a DC neighborhood someone goes all off the map.
I just had time to read this article (which I had heard references of the past few days) and the first thing that struck me was that THE REPORTED ROCK THROWING INCIDENTS DIDN'T EVEN OCCUR IN ANACOSTIA!
Just to be sure I pulled up a map and several of these alleged hot spots are closer to Congress Heights (or Hillsdale according tone of my Twitter followers) than the Anacostia neighborhood.
As a resident of Ward 8 I feel like my neighbors and I spent half of our time correcting foolishness like this. We can't even move forward without constantly picking up after someone's sloppy reporting. You can't focus on revitalizing when you are constantly rehabilitating.
This inaccurate reporting has to stop. It's costing people their lives, their livelihood and their sense of community pride.
As you may be aware I have been busy planning The HIVE 2.0 Grand Opening Party & Art Sale in Anacostia (that would be the neighborhood). To do this requires more than just making sure we have enough ice. This is a big deal for Anacostia and a big deal for Ward 8. If successful, this will bring more of what we need to the community, opportunities for economic development. It's not just enough to plan a good event you have to anticipate the reasons why someone won't come, you have to give them a reason to come out despite the stereotypes, and then encourage them to come again -- hence me ordering 1,000 "I heart Anacostia" buttons. :)
These type of of flashy but inaccurate headlines just adds to the challenges (real or perceived) of getting people to come to Anacostia, especially at night. I spend about 30% of my day reassuring people that the gossip they hear (or read) about neighborhoods east of the river isn't always the gospel. That gets real tired, real quick.
As I spend most days (and nights) working for a better Anacostia (and Ward 8) I think about all the great things that are being missed by people who don't live east of the river because a publication is implying they should be afraid to come east of the river. I think about the lack of food options in Anacostia because prospective business owners are fed cautionary tales about investing here. I think about the hard work of those who work in and for Anacostia with projects like the America's Islamic Heritage Museum, Honfleur Gallery, Cedar Hill, The Anacostia Art Gallery, and The HIVE (just to name a few). Some people will never experience these neighborhood gems because no matter what we do to encourage them to pay a visit, there are so many outside forces discouraging them from doing so.
|'Divine Revelations' at The Gallery at Vivid Solutions in Anacostia|
It's not just this one inaccurate headline, in this one article, in this one paper. It's the articles and editorials that it spawned, the comments and tweets that came from that, and the jokes (later turned into fear) that spread unchecked. I'm not saying Anacostia or the neighborhoods of Ward 8 are perfect. There are some real issues here that need to be addressed but Ward 8 is also not the center of every bad thing that happens in Washington, DC. The stories here are more diverse than poverty, race, and crime and they deserve the respect of being acknowledged accurately, if for no other reason that our city is only as strong as our weakest ward.
Someone once posted a comment on my blog accusing me of using shame as a tool to force publications to make sure their reporters correctly identify neighborhoods east of the river.
You know what? That assessment was 100% spot on. Anyone who wants to use "Anacostia" as a quick and dirty way to make their article seem more exciting (and in the process shaming a neighborhood unnecessarily) deserves to experience a little shame themself.
The moral of this Anacostia (but not really Anacostia) story? Do better because we are doing better.
P.S. If you are feeling brave, inspired, or just curious about the real Anacostia (the neighborhood) I personally invite you to hang out in Anacostia next Thursday, November 15th at 6:30pm (you can RSVP on Facebook HERE. It will be a great night. There will be The HIVE 2.0 grand opening, a rockin art sale, plenty of food and drinks, and some gallery tours. Heck, maybe you can even take the bus! :)
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