“Actually, I thought it was if you see a white guy in Anacostia, listening to an iPod, jogging or walking a dog!” joked Sariane Leigh, 33, who writes a blog called Anacostia Yogi, putting her hand on her hip and waving a sweet-potato fry for emphasis.
The friends fold into laughter. They agree not to use the G-word, at least for one night.
Gentrification is always a delicate topic, especially in a city where it usually has meant well-to-do whites buying up affordable houses in predominantly black neighborhoods. The trend is reflected in recent census figures that show that the District is no longer a majority-black city and by ever-whiter neighborhoods such as Shaw and H Street Northeast.
But black gentrification is increasingly redefining the G-word and changing the economics of places like Anacostia.
Many older, middle-class black residents say they are proud that successful and wealthy black professionals are increasingly choosing to live in black communities. They feel confident that they won’t be standoffish to black neighbors, especially in a city with a bitter history of racial discrimination and segregation in housing.
Many said they too want the safer neighborhoods and better-quality stores that development brings. There are also long-established black middle-class enclaves east of the river, such as Hillcrest, where residents are also happy to see more well-to-do black neighbors.
“I have to admit that when I see a house for sale, I wonder if my new neighbor will be black or white. There is an extra sense of excitement when I find out it’s a young black professional,” said Wilson, who started a civic group, the Historic Anacostia Block Association.
“I want to see more of us take advantage of the American dream of homeownership,” he said. “But I know that when people see white residents moving in, they assume that, ‘Oh the real estate value is going to go up, my neighborhood is going to get better.’ But my mission is that the neighborhood can improve with the people who are currently here.”
Living in Anacostia
On a recent sticky summer day, the skies opened and Courtney Davis rushed into the gleaming new Anacostia Library. Davis recently published “A is for Anacostia,” the first children’s book to depict daily life in the neighborhood. She said it was an attempt to portray local kids positively.
Davis wears red-frame glasses and lives with her dog in an A-frame home near the library. She grew up in Chicago, has a doctorate in special education from the University of Virginia and is an administrator at Dunbar High School in Northwest Washington.