Among his friends, 19-year-old Tony Farrar of Ponds Street NE is known as "Mr. Natural" because of his amiable personality and his "cool," streetwise nature.
"Growing up in the part of D.C. (near Kenilworth Avenue NE) where I live means proving yourself on the street," he said. "A dude has to be 'thorough.' He has to have his act together at all times. He's got to know how to fight, how to rap, how to make money and how to get over in any situation. He has to be a man before he's 12 years old."
Farrar, a senior at McKinley High School, said he finds Washington women and Washington music to be the most appealing features of growing up here. He is especially fond of the live funk, rock, soul and jazz concerts that play to packed houses at the Washington Coliseum and the Capital Centre.
On the negative side, Farrar worries about: "The budget cuts. Unemployment. People can't find jobs. The value of the money ain't much. And, the crime. Crime is the worst part of living here. Crime, man, crime. You can't walk anywhere without getting stuck up. I just got robbed last week. I got robbed at the subway after I cashed my check at "Big D's" liquor store, on Minnesota Avenue (NE). It wasn't even dark yet."
In his lifetime, he has noticed things getting worse instead of better. "I remember a long time ago, when we first moved out here, we used to sleep with our doors and windows wide open. It felt so good in the summertime to have that breeze coming through. Man, wouldn't nobody bother you in those times. Now, you got to buy alarms and locks and all that security equipment and people still break in."
Farrar works at two jobs during the summer. During the day, he works at the Far East Community Center, cutting bushes and waist-high grass in vacant lots. In the evenings, he works at the U.S. Department of Education, doing light moving and maintenance work. "It's the only way I can make a living right now."
Farrar, who aspires to be a hair designer, lives at home with his mother Betty, a homemaker, and six brothers and sisters ranging in age from 2 to 23.
As Farrar and his friends stand on the street corners of his predominantly black and poor neighborhood, they often talk about the helplessness felt in "being black in a white man's world."
Shaking his head, Farrar said, "Black people are letting white people take over everything. Like, whites have more jobs than blacks and whites are moving back into the city and sending blacks out to Maryland. Black people need to be going out there and educating themselves a little more. You see, that's going to make it better for their kids and that's the only way the blacks are going to get somewhere."