I took a mental break over the weekend that extended to Monday. Why? You ask. Because I think people are trying to drive me nuts. In 2012, I embarked on a journey with my neighbors to create a creative placmaking project called DeanwoodxDesign. Five months of activities every weekend in a neighborhood with at the time one art gallery, two sit-down restaurants and more green space than a little bit. I spent every weekend in my community meeting new neighbors and those who have been here for years. It had plenty of challenges! Plenty! But I think considering those challenges we did a great service to the community and highlighted an area that is still in need of the Office of Planning but we are getting there.
Fast forward… so somehow that has morphed into community activist. I attend meetings on everything from zoning to business, not to mention the ANC meetings. Really if I do not take a break I would be at a meeting every night about something. But the focus is off. I know there need to be some basic infrastructure changes before certain things take place but I am an artist and want to bring art as a form of expression and release to an unserved community.
I bought my house in 2003 in NE. Before that I was living in NW. I could walk to U Street, was close to Howard, a bus ride to both Rhode Island Ave shopping center, an Union Station in a matter of minutes. I took for granted the luxuries that existed in my life in NW. So my earlier days in living in NE were spent on the NW side of town enjoying the amenities that were missing in my neighborhood. I always thought about how much time I spend on the NW side and how great it would be to live AND work on the same side of town. I wanted to be more involved in my neighborhood, get to know my neighbors, learn more of the history of the area. Well I can say I am certainly involved now. What keeps whirling around in my head is “be careful what you ask for.”
But really it is not a negative thing. I enjoy certain aspects of it. What I don’t enjoy are the stories of greed and injustices. I am tired of malice and ego. The predatory actions of a few make it hard to make moves in any direction. Not having the capital also hurts. Predators that use the community to fulfill grant responsibilities or political aspirations should fully expect karma to be a major part of their life.
Growing up I learned a lot about my family. I admit at the time I was like ‘ugh this is boring.’ But it sunk in. Learning about “from whence I came” helped define my values in life. Family and education are major pillars in my foundation. I am not nor have I ever been great at names and dates in history. But having knowledge of the people who made history and their story is another strong pillar. People that have the aptitude to memorize years and such are awesome in my book. But that is not what impresses me. The lesson and the knowledge of a historic event feeds my foundation and adds another reason to fight for acknowledgement of the history maker and continue their legacy.
My current neighborhood was once bustling with entrepreneurs who were making a difference in their community. Now there are only three remaining businesses and a few that have sprung up recently. The community was once a resource for African Americans because folks in this area were not welcome downtown. We had to create an enclave of businesses to survive and really beyond that, thrive as a community. Yes I have a mere 10 years here in Deanwood and 20 in the District. I am still a Jersey girl. In middle grounds when it come to DC. I will always be an outsider. Sadly, the real outsiders that are looking for personal gain are more influencial than I am.
My only “agenda”… restoration of what the foreparents of this community envisioned for this side of the river. A community full of vitality, self determination and entrepreneurship.
Funny, as always once we create that hole in the matrix something always comes in to thwart our progress.
We are so scattered and pocketed that there are days that I question why am I going to this meeting, why am I talking to this person? I need folks to realize that a bundle of sticks is harder to break then one lone stick. I mentioned ego before. It is a dangerous thing to have in the wrong hands. Ego makes some expect accolades or adoration. Nah mayne, go ‘head with that. Define community. If you define it there is no room for ego.
I am constantly skimming the grass beneath my feet for snakes.