July 22, 2008

Anacostia History II

by Jessica Wright, Community Blogger.

The best part of my time at Bread for the City has been meeting people of the area with stories to share. I recently met Pearl Tate, a lovely 81-year-old Anacostia resident who has lived in Southeast for over 50 years. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Tate and her grandson, 31-year-old Andre, another DC native, and ask them about their experiences in the area.

Ms. Tate remembers the changes in the community that took place following white flight in the 1960s. “It was a white neighborhood…very few black people lived here…then in the years to come they were moving out and black people were moving in, and that’s the way it was.” She shared that once the white residents left, the city government didn’t keep up the community as well.

Ms. Tate described the run-down buildings along Good Hope Rd., which once housed thriving businesses such as a five-and-dime store, two dress shops, and a hardware store. “Good Hope Rd. was built up, had more buildings; it was like coming into a little city, a little country town,” she said.

As Anacostia residents are quite aware, houses and apartments, as well as public areas, have also become run-down. Andre feels that this problem is associated with a lack of understanding and knowledge, as well as dysfunctional families. “If you don’t care too much about yourself, you’re not going to care or help anything at all--your property, your children, your community. If you don’t care about yourself or have a knowledge of who you are, you’re definitely not going to care about anything else.” Ms. Tate described how when she was younger, she was able to sweep the block and plant flowers to keep the area beautiful. (For the record, her home is still beautiful). Now that she is older, no one in the community has stepped in to fill that role. Both felt that if the city were to invest more into the community, people would learn to respect, appreciate, and care for their neighborhood.

Grandmother and grandson alike were concerned for the children of Southeast. “They need more community centers for kids, and more parks, and just more recreation for the children… children don’t have much to do but to get into trouble around here.” said Andre. He described his childhood as being spent playing in the woods, building a clubhouse, and finding animals by the creek at Oxon Run Park, on Southern Ave, SE. Today’s children can’t enjoy much of the recreation that he did due to development. “Back then it was more wooded areas, but they cleared out the trees and everything to build apartments and houses and stuff like that. So a lot of the places that I’m familiar with that I used to play, they’re not there any more.” With the lack of available activities today, he feels that the youngest generation is spending too much time with the television. “The TV is raising them, and that age is lost and going in their own direction; they don’t know what to do, so they come up with crazy ideas, you see, to keep themselves entertained. They need more stores and more job opportunities, and you know, just to try to get more good leadership.”

Leadership, Andre believes, needs to come from both the government and the citizens. He thinks the government needs to “step in more and be more involved with the city.” He also called on people of the community to have a positive influence on the people around them. I think we can all share that responsibility.

No comments: