Friday, February 01, 2013


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The HIVE, and The HIVE 2.0 in Anacostia
Call me obsessive or a busybody (or a bit of both) but I've made it a habit the past month to search Twitter mentions of "Anacostia" and "Southeast DC" and then to follow up on those who tweet negative comments.

Why do I do it?

Because I know that for every positive tweet, article, and testimonial out there about the good things in the neighborhoods of Ward 8 (that includes Anacostia, Congress Heights, Bellevue, and the half dozen other neighborhoods of Ward 8) there are way more negative things floating around out there. I decided to  find out from the people who were putting them out there where they based their negative perceptions on. Was it first-hand experience? Was it speculation? Was it just a joke gone a little too far?

What did I find out?

This is purely anecdotal in nature so don't ask me for hard numbers (but I'm sure someone can put them together) but about 99% of the people I have followed up with about their negative tweets about Anacostia have either 1) never been to the Anacostia neighborhood at all (or at least lately)  2) didn't know where the neighborhood of Anacostia was located. It seems that all the knowledge they had on "Anacostia" or "Southeast DC" in general was from other people or news reports. Not exactly reliable or based in fact. I don't think these people are "bad" I just think they are uninformed and the years of negative media stories (more often than not overblown and sometimes not even geographically correct) played a part in shaping these perceptions.

Please Note: All of these photos were taken IN Anacostia

With that in mind I invite my readers to take a moment every now and again to do a search of their own and try and reach out (respectfully of course) to those who opt to use our Ward 8 neighborhoods as the butt of some joke. I try to take a moment to educate them on the reality of our communities, while not perfect, there are good things here, there are good people here, and even more good things to come. The time of "Southeast DC" being a euphemism for "crime and evil" is long past. It's almost as baseless as those who still think "Anacostia" is the name of everything east of the Anacostia river. It's long past the time of using stereotypes as some basis in fact, particularly when we are talking about communities that are predominantly black. It's too easy to equate that type of geographic bias to racial stereotypes. It is literally and figuratively time to broaden our horizons.

Take a moment. Make a change. 

I'm happy to say that almost everyone that I have followed up with on Twitter regarding their negative assumptions about the neighborhood of Anacostia and Ward 8 in general has been pretty open and understanding. After talking with them most are willing to accept that what they heard may not exactly be 100% fact. Hopefully I've encouraged them to think twice about posting such overly broad comments in the future. I'm not saying you can change years of negative coverage with 140 characters but we have to start somewhere.  For those of us with first-hand, daily knowledge of the neighborhoods of Ward 8 lets continue to effect some positive change and reshape the narrative of our those of us who actually live and work in these communities. As much as the tweets themselves concern me, the people that favorite those tweets disturb me more. They either accept as fact or reaffirm what the prior tweeter said and thus the stereotypes continue. And lest you think I am uncaring or sympathetic to these tweets I do get it. In the 10 years I lived in DC before moving to Ward 8 I know I said something similarly stupid. I clearly remembering telling an out-of-towner to avoid "Anacostia" -- even though I didn't have a clue where that "Anacostia" was even located (pretty sure I thought it meant all of Southeast).  I didn't know any better.  I was just parroting something I heard from someone else who probably heard it from someone else.  For someone so smart I am amazed at how uninformed I was and allowed myself to be. Looking back it made no sense.

You wouldn't ask for a steakhouse referral from a vegetarian would you?  Perhaps we need to take a look at the people who are telling our story? I say it again, it's not perfect over here but we can't fix the real problems if the overall perception of these communities is that they are without value. What makes the neighborhoods of "Southeast" hopeless in comparison to other DC neighborhoods? The race of our residents? The economics? The unemployment? The crime? What makes it okay for our neighborhoods to continue to be the butt of some inside joke?

I've said it once, and I will say it again. We have a long way to go as a city when this type of behavior is acceptable - either from people from outside or inside of the community. We need to reevaluate the message that we are sending and the message that is being received and distributed.  Imagine the response if "Anacostia" and Southeast" was replaced with a different neighborhood name like "Georgetown" or "Dupont Circle" or the quadrant of Northwest. People would be fit to be tied.

Including some Twitter searches I did recently on "Anacostia" and "Southeast DC." We've made some progress but it is clear there is still a very long way to go -- let's start with a tweet and lead to a friendly and informative dialogue. 

"Anacostia" Tweets (a friendly reminder that Anacostia is a small neighborhood in Ward 8)

"Southeast DC" tweets (another friendly reminder that east of the river includes NE, SE, and SW quadrants, not just SE)

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Anonymous said...

I'm just going to come out and say it.

Does anyone else notice a commonality with all of the posters of the negative tweets in this post? Perhaps it is just a coincidence but I find it disturbing to see caucasians warning other caucasians to avoid predominantly african american communities. What are these? Racial public service announcements? The anti-Anacostia tweets may not be racially motivated but it definetly feels that way.

Thanks for posting! It was indeed an eye-opener.

Anonymous said...

So i'm a rare Dupont native who grew up here in the 90s, left in 2000 for school and work, came home a few years ago to a city that bore little resemblance to the one i left. The whole place got insanely fashionable and expensive, and i found myself priced out of places i used to be afraid to go to as a teenager. So i looked east across the river and recently bought a place on maple view pl for the cost of a a parking space in dupont where i grew up. I haven't moved in yet, but I've spent time in the area getting to know my new neighbors and I can only say that I'm pumped to get to it. I regret i missed out getting to know this part of our city as a kid. but am happy i get a second chance as an adult. Stigmas are durable and hard to get rid of, but its important to try, godspeed to the author. anacostia deserves a fair shake

Anonymous said...

Another great post! Spot on!

Darrin D. Davis said...

I am very sensitive to the negative stereotypes about Anacostia. Since moving to the Anacostia in 2002 and opening a business here in 2009, one of my missions has been to help change the negative perception of Anacostia. By me being on several citywide boards, I have become sort of a real estate development voice for Wards 7 and 8. When I mention Anacostia now, the comments I am starting to get from colleagues are positive. They are aware of the positive buzz and they know about the development that is taking place in the area. I am not shocked by the negative, stereotypical tweets. I chalk it up to their ignorance and keep moving forward.

Darrin D. Davis, Owner
Anacostia River Realty

SilentWarrior said...

Anacostia is an absolute gem. I bought my home here almost two years ago, after living many years on the "other side of the river" and also in N. Virginia. It's also and investors paradise (savvy investor's that is). Like the the Warren Buffet strategy say's, when the herd is spending millions to live in a match box for sake of being "trendy" go the equal and opposite way, it always lead to a big pay day...

Timeshare Secrets said...

Had a friend move near Suitland metro, was mugged outside his house and pistol whipped - sent to the ER. The whipping also damaged his hearing. That is what I think of when I hear SE DC.

Anonymous said...

Also, its hard to berate people about generalizing SE DC as a shitty place in light of the polling on your website.


Anonymous said...

Timeshare Secrets - Suitland metro station is in Maryland!