Here is some good news from Anacostia, brought to you by some of the 210,000 Washingtonians - nearly one-third of the city's population - who live east of the Anacostia River.
A "We Love Anacostia" parade was held yesterday to counter the notion that only crime occurs there. "Put in your paper that nobody got mugged," one man told a reporter. Nobody got mugged.
Children dressed in colorful costumes danced along Godd Hope Road SE, rocking steadily to the beat of the Johnson Junior High School marching band as spectators joined in.
Bruce Johnson, a WDVM (Channel 9) television reporter who sometimes reports on the darker side of life in Southeast Washington, was made parade grand marshal, "so he could really see that more than rapes go on in Anacostia," said Albert Russell, an Anacostia businessman.
Yesterday's extravaganza lasted nearly all day. There were 2,000 spectators and 1,000 participants in the parade. When this same event was held last year, it lasted about 45 minutes and only a few hundred people showed up.
The new spirit showed that Anacostians are becoming more aware that "The Forgotten City" across the river is the bold new frontier in boom town Washington.
In the last couple of years more than $250 million has been committed for new commercial and residential construction in Anacostia. At the same time, however, Anacostia still has only five supermarkets for its large population - each serves about 42,000 persons - only five lending institutions, and no movie theaters.
The area is characterized by the best and worst of Washington. Thousands of units of box-shaped, low-income housing projects are landscaped into the hills of Anacostia.
There are many parks, although much of the land has been set aside for St. Elizabeths, a mental hospital, and other government institutions.
But, Anacostia, with its rolling hills and spectacular views of the federal city, has some of the best real estate in the city. Not very well known are the lovely, tree-lined neighborhoods of large brick homes east of the river that are quietly occupied by middle and upper-middle-income families.
"We want to make Anacostia the Cinderella of D.C.," said Larry Bland, president of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation. "All you hear about Anacostia is negative. People are trying to create self-displacement by scaring black people out of the area."
In a speech to spectators at the end of the parade, Calvin Woodland, a community activist, urged those Anacostia residents who own homes not to sell because, he said, property in Anacostia is bound to become more valuable.
"All that talk about crime doesn't bother me. This is home," Woodland told a cheering audience. "Let's keep Anacostia black and beautiful."
Yesterday's event was sponsored by The Good Hope Road Merchants Association, and the four city libraries in Southeast Washington. The United Black Fund provided $300 worth of fried chicken. McDonald's, Holly Farms, Giant Foods and 7-Eleven also donated food.
"It just goes to show what we can do when we unite," said Margaret Kemp, librarian at the Anacostia Library. "We really need a positive image about this area."
Jay Marie Morris, a WOL radio newscaster and hostess for yesterday's event, said she was happy with the large turnout but criticized D.C. police officers who guided the parade.
"You all didn't do as good a job as you could have," she said, criticizing them for allowing cars to cut through the parade. "If they had been given a parade on the other side of the river, you wouldn't have let that happen."
John Warren, a school board member, said he was one of a few elected officials from Southeast. "I think more will be crossing over as time goes by," Warren said. "Today proved something. Although people talk about crime and how we can't read, it's nice to know what we can do when we all pull together."
Also on hand at the "We Love Anacostia" celebration were representatives from various community groups that assist residents with housing, food and emergency financial problems.
"Information is the key to all of this," said Kemp. "If we can get the word back and forth across the river, even though it does travel slow sometimes, we should be able to get a lot accomplished."