In his Oct. 23 Outlook article, "It's a Change, Not a Conspiracy; The City Is Gentrifying. Live With It," David Nicholson demonstrated how wrong he is concerning gentrification. He needs a spiritual awakening about the negative impact of what I believe is forced and, yes, planned gentrification. Across America, as in Bloomingdale, there are concerns about gentrification and displacement.

Opposition to gentrification is not about rejecting new neighbors; rather, it is about resisting a small, vocal group of new residents who lack respect for other residents and "older" neighbors. Many D.C. residents lived in the District when it was a challenge. They did not flee to the suburbs; they fought and persevered through the lean and mean years of the 1980s and '90s. They have a right to participate in the District's economic rebirth and rejuvenation.

African American neighborhoods and others, notably those with many seniors, should not be sacrificed so that "well-to-do whites with their Starbucks coffee and Volvo station wagons [can] move in." No neighborhood should lose its legacy and have its community spirit hijacked by those unaccustomed to and uncomfortable in an urban racial environment.

Community revitalization and low- and moderate-income housing can coexist. But forced gentrification masks realities of race and income. If Nicholson is advocating a conversation about race, it is about time. What should not happen, however, is a wine-and-cheese social talk about gentrification.

The District should be a place where all residents, regardless of race, who have lived here for years or even days can live, work and socialize together in clean, safe neighborhoods. It should be a city united, where everyone respects each other and values diversity. The District needs a strong and diverse middle class. Forced gentrification should not be welcomed but resisted.

-- Robert Vinson Brannum


The writer is advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area that includes Bloomingdale and is a former president of the Bloomingdale Civic Association.