“When we go other places, other cities, we get mad love for being from D.C.,” says Keith Tate. “That’s because people know about us, they’ve heard about us, our story, and know we’re authentic.”
Tate, 27, has lived in Garfield Heights for 17 years. He says many residents are wary of the gentrification that’s taken hold of much of Northwest and Northeast Washington and the displacement it can cause. But Tate thinks there’s still time before those changes sweep his neighborhood. Not that he’s necessarily thinking that far ahead.
“We live in the right now, in the moment. That’s what it is for us, trying to get through day-to-day,” Tate says. “The idea of building something for yourself and your family, for the future, that’s not so much the mind-set.”
Tate says many of his neighbors are numb to the violence that can occur in his neighborhood, because it’s so common. But it’s still impossible for him to ignore.
“Every day is unpredictable here. You never know what’s going to happen when you step out,” Tate says.
Positive role models: Amenities in and around Garfield Heights are improving. The Fort Stanton Recreation Center was recently reopened with an upgraded look. Its increased square footage includes a playground, basketball court, fitness center and senior room. Rocketship Rise Academy Public Charter School is a high-achieving elementary school on Raynolds Place just over the boundary of Garfield Heights. The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum is a short walk away.
For some residents, hardship emboldens their sense of community. Chauncey Anderson is a 30-year-old lifelong Southeast Washington resident who works for D.C. Water. For Anderson, knowing his neighbors played a huge part in helping him stay on the right path.
“This community is a major factor in how my life played out,” Anderson says. “I can go up and down all these neighborhoods and know a few people anywhere I go in Southeast. It’s always felt good because friends, we keep each other out of trouble. If I hear something’s about to go down with someone I know, I’ll go and most of the time just exchanging a few words is enough to stop a bad situation.”
Growing up, Anderson recalls several mentorship programs he participated in, either through his school, or his neighborhood, and he’s still in touch with his mentors. For him, building relationships with positive role models made all the difference in his sense of right and wrong.
His views are echoed by Janae Morgan, who works in management at Kids Korner, a day-care facility. It is the only business in Garfield Heights. She says resources are lacking for young people in the neighborhood, and she’s working to make Kids Korner more than just a child-care center, but somewhere where people of all ages can find a safe haven.
“The millennials in this community don’t have a lot to do, and it seems when they try to do things, there’s always some barrier in their way, so our goal for this center is to reopen after renovations to be able to service them with classes and other outreach,” Morgan says.
“We partner with a lot of the neighbors for our community events like picnics where the kids can have a good time. We always encourage the families to bring their extended family, too, nephews, nieces, everyone. We want there to be equal amounts of that positivity for everyone in the community, not just early child-care.”
Morgan says that plans haven’t been finalized but that in the next year or two, ongoing renovations at the center will allow Kids Korner to expand its educational and recreational resources for young adults in Garfield Heights.
Living there: Garfield Heights is east of the Anacostia River, between the Fort Stanton, Skyland, Naylor Gardens, and Buena Vista neighborhoods, close to the border with Prince George’s County, Md. The neighborhood is bounded by Alabama Avenue SE to the east and southeast, Suitland Parkway to the southwest, and Bruce Place and Ainger Place to the northwest and northeast.
According to John Coplen, a Long & Foster real estate agent, four homes have sold in Garfield Heights in the past year. They ranged from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom rowhouse that sold for $181,000 to a renovated three-bedroom, two-bathroom semidetached home that sold for $350,000 Two homes are under contract; there are no active listings.
Transit: The closest Metro stations are Naylor Road, which is a little more than a mile away, and Congress Heights Metro, which is about a mile and a half away. Suitland Parkway is the nearest major thoroughfare.
Schools: Garfield Heights Elementary, Stanton Elementary, Kramer Middle School, Anacostia High School, and Rocketship Rise Academy (pre-K through fifth grade).
Crime: There have been 25 homicides, 123 robberies and 177 assaults with a dangerous weapon in Ward 8, of which Garfield Heights is a part, in the past year.