The question of if the arts belong in the public school system has been circulating for as long as I can remember. I looked to address that as I sat down with Ronald Lee Newman at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts to gather both his experience with he arts as well as his opinion on the issue. As both a student of the arts and a board member at Ellington he’s the perfect candidate to answer my questions.
Washington DC is being remodeled at an alarming rate. And although some see this as a great thing most won’t be around long enough to reap the benefits because of the rapidly increasing rates of rent and general living. I sat own with Lisa Wilkins who is a resident of the first ward to gather both her experience of living in the first ward as well as her thoughts on the gentrification at hand.
The Red Lounge is one of ward one’s most popular hookah bars as it attracts the majority of the ward’s nightlife due to its relative location to liquor dispensaries and bars. Located at 14th Street in Washington D.C., the Red Lounge has been in operation for 14 years and has seen a significant rise in the popularity of hookah within the last three years according to the lounge’s owner Amad Oubah.
“Because of the rising popularity of hookah my business has grown tremendously, especially since we are one of the only Hookah Bars that provide quality hookah,” Oubah said.
Also known as water pipe, shisha and narghile, smoking hookah includes the action of inhaling flavored tobacco through a long flexible tube that draws the smoke out of a bowl often decorative in design.
Kenny Young, a familiar patron of the Red Lounge said, “It’s a pretty cool spot for music and local artists on the weekends”.
Brendan Allen is a frequent patron of the bar and has described it as, “a chill hotspot with some of the best customer service in the area”
Like most of the hookah bars in the area,The Red Lounge sees the majority of its business on the weekend between Friday and Saturday. Oubah describes the crowd as “largely young African Americans who come for the music”.
Upon arrival to the Red Lounge on a typical friday evening the overwhelming presence of youth, alcohol, music, smoke, and the color red immediately consumes your peripheral and central vision.
However, the Red Lounge wasn’t always a local hip-hop hangout spot. It was originally established as the International Grill by Amad Oubah and his wife in 2001. Like most of the other ward one resturants like Dukems, The Apple Lounge, Madjet Restaurant and Bar and Selam Restaurant, the Red Lounge is Ethiopian owned.
“We weren’t just looking for the American Dream, but we added to the community around us as well, before the grill was the lounge. We barely had enough for the rent, but we still gave back to the community by making food for the local homeless shelters and even feeding those who would come to our shop looking to rob us,” Oubah said.
Oubah recalled a story when he and his wife fed a desperate man in need and went on to befriend him only to discover years later that upon his first arrival he intended to rob the store for money to help his sick daughter.
“We treated him so kindly that he changed his mind and would ward off any other person intending to rob the store,” he said.
Eventually the Oubahs worked their way up to the second level of the building eventually owning the entire complex and it also was then that they rearranged the menu and became a lounge, as they are known today.
“Even though we changed the name, people still know us as the International Grill because of what we mean to this community, we still hear people calling us mom and pop because the generations that we helped as kids have grown into respectable adults and I’d like to believe that was because of what me and my wife did,” he said.
While the International Grill has been replaced by a hookah bar, the values they’ve instilled in the community remain the same. Multiple individuals stopped by just to say hello during the two and a half hour interview process alone. With every passing individual the Oubahs knew their name and could recall an interesting story to go along with them.
BlackLivesMatter is an international activist movement established in 2013 as a Twitter hashtag that campaigns against violence toward black Americans.
It was created as a direct response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, 32, a white neighborhood watchman who was charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin who was only 17 at the time of his death. However, in the past three years since the murder of Martin, there have been numerous racially charged murders that have added a passionate spark to this movement.
In light of these murders the Black Lives Matter movement has gathered momentum. Because of the technological advances of the 21st century most of these acts are captured on video, which has finally brought racism to the homes of those who have chosen to turn a blind eye to it.
However, Black Lives Matter has grown from a plight for courtroom justice to a political battle cry which has been the hot subject surrounding presidential hopeful campaigns as well as political debates.
Most recently Hillary Clinton bore witness to the movement up close when she gave a speech at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. She was interrupted by BLM protesters who insisted that she only briefly covers the subject to exploit the black population for the vote. “Unfortunately, rhetoric DOES NOT save us, nor does it give confidence to black voters that we can trust Hillary to prioritize the necessity of ensuring our safety,” according to one of the protestors.
Although the black community would appear to be mostly united on this particular front, the white community does not appear to be.
The hashtag ‘All Lives Matter’ was created as a direct response to the black lives matter campaign.
David Bedrick, an author for The Huffington Post says it’s being called “more empowering as well as diversity affirming”.
Its popular opinion of black Americans that the ‘All Lives Matter’ movement disregards the importance of the BLM movement and instead attempts to hide the willful ignorance of America’s racist history.
White American resident of the first ward Jacob Jaehne, 18 says, “I see the “All Lives Matter” campaign and although I agree with the statement that all lives matter, I think people get caught up. Honestly, I think it’s downright ironic. BLM is a symbol that people do not recognize all lives matter. In my opinion, people misunderstand the context. Of course all lives matter, and it is because of that that we need to address why black people feel they do not matter as well as methods for which we can change that.”
However, there are some white Americans who are more reserved when they are approached regarding the subject BLM. Jess Marciello, 17 also a resident of the first ward stated “As far as I know I agree with their views but I’m not very educated on their objectives” almost as if she’s completely bias.
Her view is not uncommon. BLM is recognized as a radical protest on social media platforms such as Twitter. The use of the hashtag (Black Lives Matter) is usually followed by attacks from multiple, aggressive, close minded individuals who refuse to see the larger picture of the movement. Most of which are white males. Their arguments stand on the fact that black-on-black crime remains an issue within the black community and that black Americans should deal with that before they attack white Americans for not valuing their life.
All white Americans do not share those beliefs. When asked about the BLM movement Jaehne said, “everyone deserves a voice, no matter what they identify. I agree with the cause and feel that the best and perhaps only way to indicate that something is wrong is to raise awareness. BLM in my opinion sends an appropriate message that the issue of race is still that – an issue, and needs to be addressed and further dealt with.”
Which perfectly captures the message that BLM is attempting to reveal in the protests speeches and hashtags.
Gentrification is defined as the buying and renovating of houses and stores in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and displacing lower-income families and small businesses.
It is becoming an increasingly prevalent factor in the Washington D.C. area as hundreds of predominately African-American families are being forced from their homes at the result of skyrocketing property rates and rent to make way for a massive redevelopment plan.
Neighborhoods known for being predominately black within the District such as Barry Farm, Lincoln Heights, Northwest One, Park Morton and U Street have been targeted for reconstruction.
“The new homes will be razed and new “mixed-income” units as well as commercial spaces will be built in their stead,” according to a report from mixpressnews.
Within the first ward the presence of white faces have increased within the last five years. Statistically speaking the white and black populations have both been consistently increasing since 1970, however, in the last five years the white population has been increasing while the black population has been on the decline.
Ward one is known for housing some of the districts most historically black neighborhoods such as U Street and Adams Morgan. However, as of late the presence of African-Americans has been on the decline because of the rising cost of living within the areas mentioned. The areavibes site gave the U Street area an F rating because the rates to rent are 15% higher than the rest of the Washington D.C. area.
“A massive redevelopment was immanent as that is the way of the world, however it’s a shame to see that families have to suffer,” said Kevin Bryant when asked to comment on gentrification.
Bryant Resides on T Street with his wife in “one of the last black owned town homes in the neighborhood” according to Bryant.
“I’m under constant pressure from the DCHA (DC Housing Authority) to sell my home and move into one of the affordable housing projects in the ghetto. They’re desperately trying to send me the way of Levant, who was one of the other last black residents in the neighborhood.”
A year later on November 30th the DC Housing Authority was accused of furthering gentrification after one of the wards oldest residents, Levant Graham, 84, was suddenly removed from her home after four decades just a year prior.
Graham who is the mother of 12 said that the home she was removed from “would have been her first”. After four decades she was suddenly removed and relocated to an affordable housing property by the DCHA. The new location is one that she “doesn’t trust” and because of that she’s constantly inside.
“Most of the black population has been moved down to Shaw where the more urban neighborhoods are,” said Lisa Wilkins who is also a ward one resident when asked about the gentrification taking place in her neighborhood. When asked what the project future of her neighborhood was demographically speaking Wilkins replied “whoever can afford it”.
On October 24th, Chipotle Mexican Grill closed 43 of its locations due to an E. coli outbreak in Washington and Oregon State, which infected 35 patrons of the popular fast food chain. Although the cause of the outbreak is still unknown. Chipotle reopened those locations.
Chipotle has become one of America’s newest fastest growing restaurant chains in recent years. According to QSR magazine, sales jumped 25.5 percent from 2003 to 2013, making it the decade’s fastest growing chain.
However, due to the recent E Coli outbreak red-hot sales have been “growing cold” because of the looming fear of contracting the deadly bacterial disease.
“The effects of these recent events on the western coast of the U.S. has sent a ripple effect to that has made its way to the east coast,” said Casim King, 22 about the recent outbreak. King is an employee of a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant located on 14th Street in the first ward of Washington D.C.
Sara Cooper, 21, who is one of the store managers said, “since the outbreak, business has taken around a 10% dive because even though that happened somewhere else people don’t want to gamble with their health over a meal.”
“You can’t spell Chipotle without E. coli,” said The Center of Consumer Freedom who are critics of the restaurant chain, because of the higher calorie counts of their meals.
“Chipotle has been on top of the fast food industry for the last five years and this outbreak threatens that position,” said Cooper. “The restaurant went from constantly packed to almost always empty”. That’s saying plenty considering how popular Chipotle is in the district.
According to Bloomberg Business, “one location seeing particularly strong growth is Washington D.C., according to analysts at JPMorgan. In 2005, JPMorgan estimates that Chipotle had around 10 locations per million D.C. residents, and by 2014 had grown to just over 30 locations.”
Because D.C. is a popular location for the company, a lack or drop in business activity here could potentially signify a recessionary period for the company. A blemish on the otherwise spotless face of the consumer favorite.
An article posted recently on Bloomberg Business confirms exactly that, claiming that its biggest strength, the promise of fresh food, has now turned into its greatest weakness or liability. As a result of the E. Coli outbreak both sales and stock prices have fallen to an all time low.
With the victim toll rising to 52 people in 9 different states one has the right to be suspicious of the once favorite restaurant.
Some Duke Ellington students don’t feel safe at their temporary U Street location in Washington DC. Duke Ellington was relocated to the District’s first ward in August 2014 as their building at 3500 R Street underwent some much needed renovations. However, since then, students, alumni and staff feel their safety have decreased tremendously.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts has been home to many of the District’s talented youth since it was established and a joined venture by the late Mike Malone and Peggy Cooper Cafritz in 1974. Since its establishment It has been located at the heart of Georgetown. Many students commuting from the violent streets of southeast DC consider the location a “safe haven” offering the students a more welcoming environment to artistically express themselves. Be it dressing more expressively or coming to terms with their unique sexual identities they find safety behind the walls of Ellington.
Ellington Alumni Rashawnda Williams said “I’ve never felt more like myself among individuals who I considered peers. Even now still in college my heart desperately yearns for that connection. It was so rare. I just knew when it was over I would never have another experience like Ellington”.
when asked about his experience at Ellington Arts Marcus Spaulding agreed with Williams “you never quite understand how great something is when you’re living in the moment of it. You just know that when it’s gone they’ll never be another”.
However, as of the summer of 2014 that safe haven that students know and love would temporarily inaccessible to the youth that currently call this place their home as well as those that once did.
Despite not loving the move, Williams thought the renovation was long overdue. When asked about her experience at Ellington Williams said “The budget seemed to be a little lacking as far as the building’s interior was concerned. The majority of the funding seemed to be funneled back into the students for artistic ventures and less so the general upkeep of the building. That thing was coming down any day” she said.
However, it seems the true cost of relocating would not only be a monetary cost to the school but a sacrifice to the students as well.
Artistic ambitions aside Ellington parents send their children to this particular school for the comfort of safety in a city that is growing increasingly dangerous by the day.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, as of the second week of September 120 deaths have been recorded within the District. That’s a 50% increase from this same time last year. Gun crimes alone are up 20%.
According to Ronald Newman a member of the board of directors and a strong presence within the school “the temporary location has definitely has a major impact on student admissions and safety”
In the past five years or so the residents of the Georgetown area have petitioned to have Duke Ellington School of the Arts become a neighborhood school without the arts component for their children who lack any craft. The school has constantly been in danger of being removed from the hands of the students and staff simply because of the black presence it comes along with.
Hardy elementary school is located close within the proximity of the original campus. Parents of the students also had this to say in the Washington Post article “Chancellor Rhee is trying to squeeze African American students out of the middle school”.
This current school year marks the one year anniversary of both the school’s new location and the anniversary of then principal of the school father payne’s passing. William Garay past department chair of the technical theatre program had this to say about the situation “The first year was difficult but that’s because of the unfortunate circumstance of our principal Father Payne passing, it’s different without him there but we’ve managed and we’ve finally got it together man! if you ever need another story to report on this is the sunday times” as he motions toward the new location.
Ta-Nehisi Coates visited Howard University on October 7th 2015 to kick off the national tour for his New York Times bestseller “Between the World and Me”. During his visit Coates gave his opinion on the state of black America in light of the present turmoil as it relates to the hope for a better black America or lack thereof.
“The hope is Howard University,” Coates said as he discussed his five-year stint as a student at the university which is also called “The Mecca” by it’s students, and how ultimately he would take what he learned from his father and the Moorland Spingarn on-campus research facility and make a career out of it.
When asked about his experience at the lecture, William Hemsley, a staff member of the Howard University communications department said “I had no prior knowledge of Ta-Nehisi Coates before I attended the lecture, but I thought he was very honest and sincere.”
Howard University has a lengthy list of many notable alumni aside from Coates that includes Thurgood Marshall, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen and Toni Morrison. It has been home to many outstanding figures within the Black American community.
Though he never successfully graduated from Howard University he is revered as a “true son of Howard” as he has used the knowledge he found at “The Mecca” and gone on to find amazing success as author of Between the World and Me which reflects on the struggles of the Black American.
Coates has had an illustrious career as a journalist, even going on to becoming a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. The Atlantic is a highly respected news publication that covers politics, news, business, technology but more importantly culture where Coates specializes in particularly in regards to Black Americans.
Ta-Nehisi opened the evening with an excerpt from his bestseller that set the tone for what was to follow for the rest of the evening. In his excerpt Coates vividly reflects on one of his memories as a student at Howard University and how being there gave him a subconscious sense of community among his own people. “I didn’t read the book but it’s now on my to do list”, said Helmsley.
He recalls how everyone around him, though very different we’re all one in the same, the “survivors of catastrophe”. Oddly enough his return to Howard has signified just that.
He is a survivor of catastrophe. Statistically speaking uneducated Black Americans are the highest unemployed race group.
Coates said even though” I was not the greatest student I never stopped studying”.
As a result of his hunger for black education he has still found accomplishments without the degree.
Coates spent the majority of the evening speaking highly of the importance of black educational institutions and what they represent.
As he recalled an interaction with a critic of his bestseller he was asked “why is the book so bleak? where is the hope?,” to which he replied the “the hope is in Howard University”.
He goes on to state multiple times that “there is a presence here that you simply can’t find anywhere else” as he referred to the black intellectuals present on the campus. He constantly credits the university and its Moorland Spingarn research facility for sparking all of his success.
As the evening came to a close the floor was opened to the University’s student body. They presented questions that challenged Cotes’ knowledge of the grand spectrum of the continuing black struggle.
However, if Coates did find himself without a response he would admit that he himself did not have all of the answers at this current moment. Much like the students present at his lecture he still considers himself a student when it comes to the subject area that he specializes in for the Atlantic. He said “journalism gives him an excuse to be a student again” because of all of the research it includes.
&Pizza is quickly becoming one of the Districts quickly rising juggernauts within the food scene. For my third major assignment I was given the task of producing a photo story that tells the process of an event using 5 photos so I thought what better option than to use this beautiful artistry? Enjoy
For my first class assignment I was to Identify a particular news outlet (television, radio, blog or news website) and draw information from that example as a source of reference moving forward with this particular project. I selected none other than http://www.fox5dc.com because of its compelling edge on providing breaking news around the clock in a timely manner. It could be on social media, live television or on broadcast cable, fox news gets you the news when it happens as it happens. For example the website is updated almost every two hours or so. I’d like to emulate their sense of variety when it comes to publishing a story. You could find anything from hot trends around town to breaking murder stories almost fluidly. Given that it’s a news website they don’t particularly identify one specific person as the author of the website. It gives credit to the entire staff.