More Than Politics: Gentrification In D.C.

Growing up in Washington, D.C. I knew my city was stereotyped for politics, news, government affairs and political scandals. And although I acknowledged that these areas of interest were prevalent where I lived; I always felt that issues affecting everyday people who lived in the city were overlooked. I decided to highlight gentrification in my final project and how it is an important project plaguing D.C. I used clips from the T.V show Scandal, about political scandal in the city, a pan-over of the monuments, and a clip from a Senate hearing to show the narrative that the city is usually aligned with. 

Poster from the T.V. show Scandal that is based in D.C.

Homelessness, failing public schools and crime are issues that have plagued many D.C communities for many years; but I decided to look into an issue that hit closer to home. Gentrification as described by the website Investopedia is the “the influx of wealthier people to an existing urban neighborhood; and what I have observed from personal experience is that this phenomena changes the culture of certain neighborhood also with rising housing prices and the cost of living in an area. In my video, Dave Chappelle, a comedian from the city discusses the changing racial demographics. I also video clip that pans over a D.C neighborhood to introduce the topic in my video.


Anti-Gentrification signs in D.C.’s Brightwood neighborhood.

Throughout the course of the semester, when doing research on the issue of gentrification I realized that it boils down to the categories; race, class and economics. In D.C., gentrification has an effect on the racial makeup of the city, public/ affordable housing, and the types of amenities and services that are entered into these newly developed neighborhoods.

Speaking in terms of class inequalities; gentrification has a huge affect on the presence of affordable housing in the city and leads to displacement of longtime residents. In an article by the Washington Post the effects of gentrification on subsidized/low-income housing in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood is explored. The article tells the tale of individual cases of eviction and lawsuits which tenants were involved in and how those situations have played out in the midst of gentrification. 

Eviction lawsuits against poor tenants ramped up

The housing complex, where residents are being evicted, will be replaced by parks, retail space and smaller, expensive apartments catered to wealthier families. At the time some of the redevelopment started there was an influx in these cases. The specific incidents showcases how gentrification has an effect on the lower-class. In my remix video, I decided to highlight this issue by showing a clip from the T.V. show Shameless, where a character of a lower socio-economic class expresses his frustration for the issue. There is also a statistic on the lack of affordable housing in D.C.. The statistic states that: 

Since 2000, DC has demolished at least nine public housing properties, which coincides with the city losing more than half its low-cost housing units in the past decade. Meanwhile, DC’s homeless population has quadrupled since 2008.

A man in my remix video discusses the displacement is his neighborhood of Anacostia, D.C. and the changes going on in the neighborhood that clip can be found here. 

The next issue I decided to highlight in my video was race. I used a clip of a man all the street yelling about how “they,” referencing white people, are taking over the neighborhoods in D.C. Then comes in clip that states how the black population has declined.

D.C. is historically known as Chocolate City for its high black population and black influence but since the advent of gentrification in the city that population, as stated in the video, has declined. An article in the New York Times and personal expereince prompted me to explore this issue in my video. Coming from a majority Black neighborhood in D.C., I realized that over the years the racial demographic was chasing and that white people had more social and political power in D.C. over time than longtime Black residents.

Logo created by D.C. designers that pays homage to D.C.’s nickname Chocolate City.

The article states that:

“Washington’s black population slipped below 50 percent this year (2015), possibly in February, about 51 years after it gained a majority, according to an estimate by William Frey, the senior demographer at the Brookings Institution.

The shift is passing without much debate, but it is leaving ripples of resentment in neighborhoods across the city, pitting some of the city’s long-term residents, often African-American, against affluent newcomers, most of whom are white, over issues as mundane as church parking and chicken wings.”

This snippet from this article puts an emphasis on the racial tensions gentrification causes and could explain why the man featured in my video was so angry about the issue

I then moved to the issue of economy in D.C. using a snippet from the T.V. show The Jefferson’s. This was symbolic for the changing economy in the city and the rising cost of living; the city is “moving on up” as the intro says.

Earlier I talked about the lack of affordable housing in the city due to gentrification and the section on economy in my video emphasizes the changes that come when unaffordable housing is taken away. In my video used this quotes on top of a picture of a Starbucks to show the changing economy in D.C.:

Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate. Starbucks fuels gentrification and so is responsible for higher housing prices.”

This rising cost of living makes D.C. only accessible to people of the upper class and changes the type of businesses in the city. There are now Whole Foods and Starbucks all over, instead of businesses and stores accessible to those of the lower class. That is why I highlighted a Starbucks in my video because it signifies the changes in economy in the city.

Starbucks in a gentrifying area

My video ends by offering three solutions. One, that black residents who have been the majority in D.C. for over half a century need to be more aware of the issue. Two, that we need more affordable housing. Lastly, that gentrification needs to be discussed more in the media. This ties right into the intro of my video. We only think of government, history and political scandal when we think see D.C. in the media. These issues are not addressed. This is why I assigned the hashtag: #LetsTalkAboutIt to my project. We need to discuss the issue amongst are communities and in the media so it can be addressed.

Throughout the semester I pulled from the articles and videos listed below for my research and video:

Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – YouTube

Gentrification in D.C.

Jefferson’s Theme




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s