Solo, a.k.a. Solomon Becton-Locke, 32, is the voice of the streets in a city where the streets are changing — quickly. This neighborhood, tucked between Petworth and Howard University and known as Park View, is one of most rapidly transforming Zip codes in America due to a soaring white population, according to a 2012 report published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Solo sees those changes up close. He uses part of his time on the mike in Park View to address newcomers in the neighborhood, largely white residents who have complained that the summer tournament is too loud and draws too many people, with anywhere from 100 to 250 people in the stands. Solo, like most of the game’s spectators and its organizers, is African American.
“I’m gonna give a shout-out to all the newcomers and put into the microphone what people are feeling,” he says. “I think the new folks might actually like us, if they give us a chance because we’re cool like ranch Doritos, blue bag,” he adds with his signature playful grin.
Park View was once a solidly working- and middle-class African American neighborhood of spacious 1920s row homes. The skyline is now pierced by construction cranes building glass-and-steel condos, a block-long upscale supermarket and bars and coffeehouses.
One of Park View’s most famous residents was Eugene Allen, the longtime White House butler whose life was the subject of a 2008 Post story and now a Hollywood movie in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” Today, Allen’s street and those surrounding it are papered with “Cash TODAY for your home!” flyers from developers.
The Park View Recreation Center has hosted the Ty Hop basketball tournament every year since the tournament started 11 years ago. It’s one of the biggest events of the summer for Solo, who announces the games three nights a week from mid-June to mid-August. His voice narrates the triumphs and near-misses of 12 teams of athletes age 18 to 30. Team rosters feature college players and former high school standouts.
It’s loud and crowded and a living memorial to Torrone Hopkins, a former Coolidge High School basketball star who was fatally shot in 2002 while sitting in his parked Lincoln Navigator on Warder Street NW, next to the park. Hopkins, who was 22, was listening to an NBA playoff game after a cookout and basketball game. Friends and family, along with the police, said at the time Hopkins had never been in trouble and was likely mistaken for others in the neighborhood who had the same model of car and were being targeted. (He had bought the car two weeks earlier.)