Anacostia, with its sweeping views across the river toward the Capitol, its many quaint and historical houses, its parks and open spaces, is one of the loveliest areas in Washington.
That's the belief of the Rev. George Stallings of St. Teresa's Catholic Church in Anacostia. He can't understand why the developers haven't yet caught on. One day, he thinks, Anacostia will be a posh area.
"A lot of the blacks (here) don't know what's going to happen, or when," Stallings said. "People say, 'Have you seen the number of young white couples who come touring Anacostia early Saturday mornings-before people are out of bed, while people are still inside having breakfast?'"
There is some fear among blacks that they may eventually be pushed out of Anacostia the way they are being pushed out of Capitol Hill neighborhoods, Stallings said. He hopes more people will buy the houses they live in and that Anacostia will come to reflect a "proud black presence" in Washington.
At a time when so many traditional values have been challenged and shattered, Stallings think the cohesive, small neighborhoods of Anacostia are on the verge of realizing those values again-"respect for another's property and person, that mutual caring and sharing . . . I feel safer here in Anacostia than in many places in Northwest."
There is a "subtle type of racism" behind changes on Capitol Hill, Stallings thinks. He said racism is no longer blatant as it once was, but it still works through government and private mechanisms. The result: removal of blacks from the city.
"God only knows what's going to happen to the people who live here," he said.
The Rev. Willie F. Wilson is pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, not far from St. Theresa's in a quiet area just off the busy commercial strip along Good Hope Road. Lke Salling's congregation, Wilson's is made up mostly of lower middle income people. Wilson says these "middle class" black people often contribute to the "sophisticated racism" that Stallings talked about.
Recently Wilson put up a sign on a rundown building the church owns saying that Union Temple would start a halfway house there. At a meeting on the subject, neighborhood people exploded in anger at the prospect.
"How can you do this? How would I have the nerve to put up such a sign? What right do I have?" Wilson said people asked at the meeting. "That is the kind of experience (that makes me think) my black people have kind of gone to sleep on this whole thing. There wasn't any sensitivity. I was being called on the carpet for dealing with a need of poor black people.
"Many blacks who were very aware and very conscious are not there any more. They're only thinking of their own selfish desires and aspirations. . . . I felt insulted by the meeting. . . .
"I think middle class blacks get very upset when you start talking about racism. They start cringing. They don't want to talk about that. They want to close their eyes."
Across Good Hope Road to the north and not far from the two churches, Richard C. Simmons, a white man, has lived in his pleasant brick rowhouse for 20 years. The area was predominantly white when he moved in. That was before Supreme Court orders desegregated schools and restaurants, contributing to the white flight to the suburbs.
"When we first moved in this was a beautiful neigborhood, said Simmons, who does roofing and sheet metal work. "We had white kids (playing in the area then). You could sit on your front porch. But if you do now, you have this profanity-screaming, hollering at all hours of the night . . . .
"I just give up. I used to try to keep my place neat inside and outside. I just give up. . . . There's just no pleasure in living here no more."
Simmons said he will move out, but only when he is ready to retire in a few years. "They're not going to run me," he said.
"Why should we move, go into the expense of another house and actually be driven out?" said his wife.
She recalled what a "quaint little neighborhood" it used to be when it was all white, with neat lawns and carefully clipped treeboxes. She remembered how other whites on the streets fled "at the first thought of a black family" moving in.
She recalled how three neighbors moved into apartments out on Pennsylvania Avenue extended. Now, she said, "They're the only white families there. They spent the money from their houses and they're living on (capital) and they're getting old. I told them at the time, "Okay, chickens, desert me. You'll be sorry.'"
However, Mrs. Simmons said she has had some tough times living in Anacostia. There was the time she was taking a bath when a man's head appeared around the corner of the door. She screamed and her husband went after the man with a .38. The man got away.
Then there was the time someone was trying to get in the back door. Mrs. Simmons shot through it with a .22 and scared the potential intruder off. There is still a hole in the door when the bullet went through.
Simmons' views on government center around his resentment of bureaucracy and waste-for example, having to spend hours downtown getting a car registration. He gets angry at the sight of six or eight men working on a trash truck when, he says, three could do the job.
"I think we better get the blacks out of government," said Simmons. ". . . They just don't know how to manage. . . . Right now they holler equal rights. If I must say the word, where is the white man's equal rights?"
Despite all this, the Simmons said they get on well with their black neighbors next door, the Colcloughs.
Acrokss the street lives Evelyn Armstrong, black, a National Security Agency analyst who just spent nearly $1,000 having wrought iron bars put on her windows and front door.
Armstrong said she put up the bars after someone came in the window one night and took her television. If whites return to Anacostia, she said, it doesn't bother me. "I don't care who lives next door provided they don't throw thrash in my yard or harass me."
The Colcloughs own their home, but they are having a tough time since Colclough lost his job as a union truck driver last year, they said. He still works, but is paid a lot less.
One son was killed in an incident with police, Mrs. Colclough said. She has had three miscarriages. Another child died at birth. And still she had five children to raise.
She love the neighborhood. "One daughter said, 'It's like wr're all related to one another.' Everybody helps. If someone's sick then they (the neighbors) try to help. If someone goes on vacation, they watch the house, water the flowers. . . ."
But Mrs. Colclough is worried that a tax reassessment might make home ownership too expensive for them. "It bothers me because right now with the job my husband has I don't know how we make it."
Optometrist Albert Russell runs "The Glass House" on the Good Hope Road commercial strip. In 1962 he was a janitor. Now he has two stores and says they are very lucrative. He lives in Maryland but says he wouldn't mind living in Anacostia, which he thinks is a nice area.
Russell wears a big pair of glasses with the word "Mandingo" lettered in gold on bottom of the glass on one side. "I'm a Cber and that's my handle, " he said with a smile.
Asked about reaction in the area to Wilson's proposed halfway house, Russell said: "In our ethnic group we have . . . blacks who put themselves above the common man. . . . They set themselves socially apart from the poor. It's about like the caste system in India. What happens with these blacks getting jobs in government bureaus, they look down on the poor man. But nobody wants whites to come in and take over."
Russell said he and other businessmen in the area object to a nearby rehabilitation center for drug addicts because it means that a number of tough youths are usually hanging out on a nearby corner.
"We don't like the rehabilitation center. We don't care for it. Number one, there's nothing but a bunch of loiterers. Ladies on the corner get a lot of catcalls. We tolerate it because it's here."
James Ray Cox, a roofing man who lives with his family in a comfortable, modest house in Anacostia, said some of his relatives have moved out to Maryland.
"They thought they were bettering themselves, but they're not," he said. "I got a nephew who bought a great big bungalow in Suitland and the taxes are $1,500 a year. You can't survive like that."
Cox likes life in Anacostia and in the District.
"If a black man can't make a living here, he needs to quit," he said. "That's one thing about this place. He don't have to rob nobody. All he gotta do is go out and work. And you can get help. At one time when I needed real bad I went to the welfare. They jumped on my case right away.
"We're buying our house and I have my own business and I was afraid they'd back off-but no, they said, 'That's what we're here for.' They helped me for three months. I ain't never had it again. I said, 'mister, look, if things open up this spring, you'll never see me again. Give me a job, that's all I need.'"