It was ironic to have Jonetta Rose Barras's Outlook column on the controversy over Bill Cosby's comments about lower-income African Americans, a Metro story on the furor surrounding the forced closing of Sisterspace and Books and an editorial salute to Northeast community activist Lloyd D. Smith all in the June 27 edition.

Ms. Barras was right that African Americans are not well served by a cultural narrative that minimizes the extent to which our communities' wounds are self-inflicted and the extent to which healing is in our own hands. Part of this is played out in the squabble about Sisterspace.

That store's owners see themselves as having been priced out of their community by white "colonizers." What's left unsaid is that three decades ago, when crime and drugs made the Shaw community almost unlivable, the black middle and upper classes could have chosen to reclaim the community from decay. Instead, for the most part, its members moved to the suburbs. So why blame "yuppies" for filling a vacuum that moneyed African Americans would not fill?

Mr. Smith, president of the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, was not one to whine about what white people did. Instead, he saw a need to save a battered shopping strip on Minnesota Avenue NE and marshaled resources from both public and private sectors and from all races.

When I lived a block from that shopping center in the late 1960s, I don't recall it even having a name. Today East River Park Shopping Center is a symbol of what caring people can do for communities.

One more irony: The Post reported that income from the building that has housed Sisterspace goes to support a 63-year-old African American. African Americans need to ask ourselves if we are too busy lashing out at ghosts from the past to see the people in our midst whom we are hurting now.

ISAIAH J. POOLE

Washington