While taking a stroll Saturday in Columbia Heights, I noticed a piece of paper on the ground, outside of DCUSA. It was a normal weekend afternoon, with kids playing in the fountain across the street and the sidewalk busy with foot traffic. But after bending down to pick up the strewn item and discard it, I noticed something. It read: ANACOSTIA in big, underlined letters.
That was followed by the following notes. “BAD AREAS — No MLK St., No Benning St. and No Minnesota St. SLIGHTLY BETTER AREAS: Northeast — a lot of vacant areas. Branch Ave. + Pennsylvania Ave.”
On the other side of the page, there was a map with different addresses in the neighborhood marked. It read ‘Columbia Heights South’ at the top. The listings, according to a Google maps search, all appear to be either renovated condos to be or current single family homes. Maybe this person was looking to buy. It felt like a gentrifier’s chart to buried treasure.
But those notes were troublesome. They reminded me that even for people who might be choosing to lay down roots here or find new housing options, it’s still ‘Northwest and everything else’ . The person couldn’t even identify that Martin Luther King as an avenue or
Minnesota Benning as a road.
It’s 2013 and the effects of gentrification and development have gripped almost every facet of life in Washington. But on the ground, there is still the mystery of beyond. Crossing the Anacostia River continues to be an unfathomable option for some, even if they won’t admit it. Perception does not always equate to reality, but through whose eyes will we determine what we see?