Joyce is a round-faced fourth-grader with cornrows and large brown eyes beaming behind even larger brown-rimmed glasses. She is nine years old, with no possible remembrance of bus boycotts or Bull Connor's firehoses.
Joyce has heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, but then again, she gets plenty of reminders. The Savoy Elementary School she attends in Southeast Washington is just across a parking lot from the avenue honored with King's name. Popular musician Stevie Wonder has made a national crusade out of making King's birthday a national holiday, including memorializing him in a hit song.
And Joyce says her mother frequently tells her about Dr. King's life and work. Joyce's mother was 13 years old when King was cut down by a sniper's bullet on a Memphis motel balcony in 1968, an assassination that set off a wave of riots that reduced the once thriving Washington business corridors of H Street NE and 14th Street NW to ruin and debris.
Much of the rubble, and the memories, have now been urban-renewed. For the children of the 1970s, there were no riots, and no black leaders other than King.
She has heard of Malcolm X -- the elementary school on Alabama Avenue SE, not the black nationalist. Stokely Carmichael draws only a stare. Clayton Powell she wouldn't know from Adam. And SNCC might as well be a candy bar. She has no idea what the name is behind the acronym NAACP.
During Black History Month, it becomes particularly poignant that the children born in the 1970s have no knowledge of what happened during the decade before, for black Americans perhaps the most farreaching and decisive period since the 1860s.
And here in Washington, D.C., the struggle for black equality and civil rights was central to the future, in the cast of characters who began here and in the kind of local confrontations that were the forerunners of other movements nationwide.
Old-line black Washingtonians remember the days when the People's Drug store at 14th and U streets NW -- a corner once well-known as the heart of black Washington -- refused to serve blacks. They remember Julius Hobson jumping into a bed at the then-segregated Washington Hospital Center to open the door for black admissions.
Of the dominant black figures on the national scene, many, if not most, had roots in the struggle to organize and then integrate the nation's capital, to make the city the showplace for integration in this county. H. Rap Brown began with the Neighborhood Action Group -- called "NAG" -- while Stokely Carmichael used Howard University as his springboard, through the militant HUSA -- Howard University Students Association. And Andrew Young, a protege of King's, later to become the highest-ranking black in the Carter administration, was a Howard undergraduate.
Many of those leading activists since have settled in Washington, some of them moving quite comfortably into local District politics. Walter E. Fauntroy, who marched with King, is now the city's nonvoting delegate to Congress and one of the District's best-known and most popular politicians. Marion Barry, former SNNC chairman, is now mayor while his colleague, Jim Forman, teaches at Howard Rev. A. Knighton Stanley, who led the sit-ins for cafeteria integration in Greensboro, N.C., is now pastor of the prominent People's Congregational Church.
Washington was a kind of experimental laboratory for integration, the test tube for many black activists. But this city managed to go through the 1960s with relative complacency. It is a city steeped in church tradition, where God-fearing middle-class Washingtonians often did not take kindly to rabble-rousing on the streets by out-of-town young militants from Howard.
Washington had its own civil rights confrontations, but they were relatively calm, compared to some of the more dramatic social upheavals that changed the shape and character of other large American cities.
The 1960s are over, and nowhere are the signs more telling than in the changing nature of District politics. On the D.C. City Council, old-line street activists are being replaced by professionals. Gone are Julius Hobson, Willie Hardy and Doug Moore. In their place are Charlene Jarvis, a researcher and H.R. Crawford, a successful private businessman. The few former activists who remain, like John Wilson and David A. Clarke, are now faced with the dilemma of what to do next, given the limited nature of local politics.
And it is ironic that Marion Barry, who gave up his dashiki to become mainline, is now accused by opponents of being the candidate of the white establishment.
As one ambitious District politician said recently, "People used to ask, 'Where were you during the civil rights movement?' Now they want to hear that you were at college getting your MBA."
Dr. Russell L. Adams, director of Howard University's Afro-American Studies department, put it this way: "In the 1960s, there was a confrontational style. Those days, of course, are behind us. The high-profile activism has disappeared. Those movements have become institutionalized."
Adams said that "the initial stage has passed, and a new generation is here," a generation of children, like Joyce, with no memories of the turbulent 1960s. But, as Adams said, "The vehicles now exist for them to catch up with what they missed."
Simply having a month dedicated to the study and appreciation of black history and heritage is itself, Adams said, an accomplishment. He called that his vehicle, by which children like Joyce can learn some of the untold stories of one of the most pivotal chapters of recent black history. t
Saturday night's annual mid-winter dinner of the Greater Washington Board of Trade -- this year dubbed "Welcome to the world" -- at the Washington Hilton Hotel was more like welcoming the once staid and stodgy board to the 20th century. Indicative of the board's coming of age, the table that many of the city's parking czars shared was without last year's table sign: "Good Old Boys, Inc." It was also without former city adminstrator Julian Dugas, a regular there when he was in power.
Mayor Barry, unannounced candidate for reelection, shied away from election talk early in the night before the coquille St. Jacques was served. Standing next to former Army secretary Clifford L. Alexander, who ran for mayor in 1974 and says he hasn't ruled it out for '82, Barry was coy about his own plans. "Who's running?," he asked at one point. "Maybe nobody's running." Later, Barry boasted about his indifference to criticism from Bill Brooks, the Georgia Avenue gasoline station owner who once called Barry a sellout. "I'm gonna have Bill Brooks on my campaign committee," Barry crowed. "What campaign committee?" a reporter asked. Hizzoner only smiled and retreated. Gotcha!
Still, the music -- June Valli and pianist Roger Williams -- was vintage 1950s.
"When is the Board of Trade going to discover disco?" a reporter asked Andrew Ockerhausen, executive vice president of WMAL.
His reply: "As soon as they discover Geritol."
Welcome to the world.