Just One Mile: Gentrification in Congress Heights, DC

The Perks

The view from my front door. Yep – THAT is Congress Heights. What was known as the poorest section of the poorest Ward in DC.

The area had its little perks, like the tennis center. It had free educational programs that my son participated in, like Freedom School, but by the time I had my second son, the program was gone. There were still tennis lessons though. Every now and then the marching band from the local high school would march through the neighborhood and entertain us. On the fourth of July, there would always be fireworks. I grew up a quiet town in South Carolina, so all the noise wasn’t exactly my idea of a great time, but I dealt with it. A family friend, also from SE said that is was part of what made the area special. On our side of DC, no one complained. Then there was the go-go band that practiced in a basement of one of the homes behind us. I didn’t complain until I had two infants that couldn’t sleep through the noise. The police came by to tell us that it was so loud that the band couldn’t hear them knocking, and short of breaking down the door, there was nothing they could do. They were playing again last night – it is what it is. We had just enough of a yard for a cookout and to have a big dog, my son had his own room, there was a basement and a guest room, but still – even those in the most cramped apartments looked at us like we were the poor unfortunate souls. I can’t help but think that if we were white, we’d be seen as pioneers, investors even. But as black folks, we were just seen as misguided.