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Go-Go City: Displacement & Protest in Washington, DC

Just Economy Conference – May 10, 2021

 

Experience a screening of this new documentary from the Bertelsmann Foundation and filmmaker Sam George. Featuring several NCRC staff, this documentary tracks the ongoing gentrification and displacement of Washingtonians in the midst of the George Floyd protests.

Speakers:

  • Samuel George, Documentary Filmmaker, Bertelsmann Foundation
  • Jason Richardson, Director of Research, NCRC
  • Ibijoke Akinbowale, Director, Housing Counseling Network, NCRC
  • Dr. Sabiyha Prince, Founder, AnthroDocs

Transcript

NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.

George 00:15 

Hello, welcome welcome and I’m sure for some of you welcome back to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Just Economy Conference. And this special session featuring the documentary film gogo city displacement and protest in Washington DC. My name is Samuel George, I’m with the Bertelsmann Foundation, we’re a nonprofit institution here in Washington. I’m also the director of the film that we’re going to stream this afternoon. And this is a film project we started working on working on started back in January of 2020. And if you can stop and imagine, to January of 2020, it was a little bit of a different world back then. And there was a whole lot that was about to happen, that we hadn’t exactly planned for. But we knew we wanted to make a documentary about really what we would consider this violent impact of gentrification in Washington, DC, and specifically looking at it through the lenses of housing, an impact on small businesses, and an impact on culture, and how those three elements kind of feed off each other and reinforce each other. Now, as I said, in the title, this is a film that takes place is and is about Washington. But we know that gentrification is a major issue in a number of cities across the country, and really around the world as well. As you will see in the film, and NCRC was extremely helpful to me on this project, both in terms of giving background and research and advice, as well as sharing their time for interviews for this project. So you know, I know we don’t have a lot of time with this session. So I want to get right into starting to film. It’s a slightly edited version of the film, we cut it down. It’s about 40 minutes in duration. And that was done to leave time for post film discussion that we’re all really looking forward to. So after the film, I’ll be back here with Ibijoke Akinbowale, the director of housing and counseling network at NCRC. We’ll have Jason Richardson, the Director of Research and Evaluation also at NCRC, both of whom appear in the film, as well as Dr. Sabiyha Prince, an anthropologist and artist who is in the film as well. And there will be room for you audience members to be a part of this conversation. Please feel free to write in your questions. There’s a comment section, a chat function in the bottom right hand side of your screen. And we will definitely be keeping our eye out for your comments and to work those into the conversation that we’re looking forward to. So with that, it’s my pleasure to present the film gogo city displacement and protest in Washington DC, and we look forward to seeing you on the other side. 

 

Film Playing 03:19 

I heard they used to put Deaf to people like me. Even if people like me were minding their business. strolling down the wrong dirt road behind some abandoned farm we were hung by our next cut by our skin, beat with shotgun bullets and old guard sticks. And if we were lucky, if our mouths function long enough, half dead screens would pierce through the wind that hugged the night as our minds tried to fight off the fire that our bodies consumed but couldn’t fully endure these flames that will put us like for centuries they’ve been lying. For centuries, we’ve been dying for centuries. I’ve been trying not to let this be the reason I ate but my blood burn every time I’ve tried to sleep pulling my pig probably They wrote us out our story. Who knew we came from glory? I was blind in my mind was defined by the lies they designed and put out before me. So just sit back and listen. This is a new resistance. politics has nothing to do with my city for real Capitol Hill, the White House and all that. We have so much more to give. We have our own music, we have our own culture foods. That’s what it was. And it always be chocolate city. They call it gentrification.  They call it progress. We can be a part of, I call it cultural genocide, a lot of the people who filled the street,  one of those people don’t live here anymore. The people were not showing up a year or two years ago, not because they didn’t care, but because they believe that they had already lost these protests were reasons for people to come back  and use a power to the people. To the people, I’m here for you, your kids, your grandkids.  You can take a lot of stuff away from it. You’re not going to take the gogo you can mute us man, never would they be able to mute us never, ever. On this memorial day as the COVID-19 death toll climbs closer to 100,000. More states now have an  upward trend in cases than downward. Is it fair to say this crisis is far from DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and hope to announce tomorrow that phase one would be happening on Friday, they’re not seeing the numbers trend the way they want to. So now the reopening of DC is in jeopardy, just those very comorbidities that are unfortunately disproportionately prevalent in the African American population.  Growing up in Washington, DC, and being from the neighborhoods I grew up in, you get immune to things. But to see him guys cry for his life, and he take his last breath. Just watching other offices stand beside, it brought me to tears. And it’s still happening to this day. 2020. DC is this place where African Americans have tremendous opportunity. African Americans after the end of slavery headed to the cities, life was free or there it wasn’t free, but it was free or there. And it just so happened that one of those southern cities where the pullback from reconstruction after the Civil War was perhaps the least violent, and the least disruptive to African Americans  found work in housing and urban development and different, you know, branches of the federal government. It was a magnet for African Americans who honestly thought that if I’m going to work hard and accumulate money, there’s a higher likelihood in Washington DC that it will not be taken from me through force or through law. My husband Ben and I opened Ben’s Chili bowl in Washington DC on August 22nd 1958. This was still a segregated city. When we met and fell madly in love in order to be married, he talked about wanting to be self employed, and perhaps opening a restaurant. So he had this special chili recipe that he thought would be great on hot dogs. We talked about that. And we decided all we needed was the ideal location. ideal location was what return Like Broadway, that’s use fee. It was a entertainment center for African Americans. The good thing was we were able to find the architect, the contractor, the plumber, the electrician, and the cabinet maker, all minority owned businesses to within two, three blocks of here.  It was chocolate city in terms of businesses, homeownership, they thrived within the city. We had black pharmacists, we have black doctors were black banks, savings and loans, institutions that gave me a sense of who I was. All you had to do is work hard. And he was a businessman. If you work hard, you can get whatever you want in this city. If he was a government working, if you work, even whatever you want it if it was a street vendor, would you work hard, you can get whatever you want.  It was possible to survive on a working class salary here for a long time. In fact, my mother passed away when I was young, and my dad was able to raise both me and my brother. He had a high school diploma, he worked as a clerk at the hospital. But we rented a house, it wasn’t in the fanciest neighborhood. We didn’t have a lot of luxuries, but we had everything we needed. People all over the world and all over the country looked at DC as a special way. Because they felt like we had a sense of pride. And we had an ego that we were proud to be black. We were proud to have our own music. We were proud to create jobs and have contracts with people of color, where where you go to different places. They were like, how does that happen? That doesn’t happen in my backyard. There was a black run city as well. Back in the 1960s. That was not very common.  You start to see very early Black Power activists cropping up in DC, you have a large number of lunch counter sit ins starting as early as 1943, during the Second World War, then you had the Black Panther movement, you know, which was like they had us headquarters, right across from where I used to live. And we would go in the morning before school, and they will feed us breakfast and stuff like that. Dr. Kay had a satellite office at 14 to you. So whenever you came to town, he had come into the chili bowl as well. And I’d had an opportunity to to sit with him for a couple of minutes to hear about his dream. By the time we get to the late 1960s DC is easily rivaling places like Newark in Chicago in New York, as a center of Black Power activism in the country.  struggle is eternal. The only thing that will make the power add is when those on the margins become a disruptive force. That will not surrender until full freedom and full human humanity’s grant. How can you defend a system that works against their own people? But you won’t, but you won’t vote for Trump.  Dr. King stated decades ago, protest is nothing but the physical manifestation of failed government policy. The masses are on the move because they become beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired. may go go music to me means DC Go Go is black culture in DC is a product of China city. That’s the foundation for a lot of our upbringing is in the DNA. You know what I mean? jazz chords you think in New Orleans juke music closer you think in Chicago. You could think of a whole lifestyle surrounding that how people dress how people talk. You know where people like Going eat is all cultural You understand? So go go to me is the culture DC started back playing gogo and 78 Go Go back then was more of an atmosphere is like hey man, where you going today? I’m going to go go see Chuck brown and the soul searches.  I mean, go go buy everything you need because I mean everything to my mother. I remember my mother being in the room and shutting the door and just blast in trouble focus EU in a room Those were the bands she always played. Of course, I was gonna be just like her the basketball court right on 14 Earth and they used to have all the bands or sorry, I started the afternoons, the bands and play. And we’re just be I’ll be on our bikes and climbing on the fence in the basketball court watching the bands play. So I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to paint a planet oglebay is what people in generations have heard for years and years and years. It makes you proud to say yeah, this is a drawing up. I always wanted to be one of the guys that big g shouted out from this day, you know,  all raw white, but I wasn’t a popular guy like that. I didn’t didn’t roll with any any crews. My grandparents were very strict. I live with them most of the time. So I just had to sneak out of the house to go to the go load.  The first time that I snuck into a gogo, I was in junior high school, you know, 1415 years old. My friends were a decent bit older than me. And I remember walking in and one of my neighbors who you know, I knew from the neighborhood but didn’t know well. He saw me at the door and just kind of gave me a puzzled look. And I just said like that. There was something that Chuck brown created. Go with the atmosphere called a gobo beat started out as a COVID  Driven sale where the Congos in Tim Balis in the drums was the dominant force. All of us in classrooms always bind on our desk, you know, I’m saying your whole idea. You’re holding  the big move. When you move when you move in a room, bobbing your head thinking actually pulling in. And it’s grooving anybody is grooving. And I can’t describe the feeling  is unreal. When you take no print, you’ve got 100% quakin. Nothing like it man. I was telling you, they just have a ball but let them dance and  then ages high, they start dropping in low. Oh man, quick means everybody just having fun man, when you when you see a band is cranking. You can look at the whole entire band and everybody’s smiling. Just see that grit come across their face. They are the drummer all of us who like this cago play, you know just getting it.  The pocket, right? That was the real magic of gogo. That’s why they call it go but just keep going and going and going. He was playing for like two hours straight without stopping.  Just that beat going and people would love. There’s nothing like saying you create a son. It’s like it’s in your blood, you know, saying your DNA.  DC was known historically as the chocolate city. But increasingly over the years, we’re noticing that the African American population is getting pushed further and further out. For me, the definition of gentrification is what happens in urban areas that have been marginalized and neglected over a significant period of time. And then you have a shift, where real estate speculation occurs and people take an interest in this community, and an influx of resources begin to get poured into that community, followed by the people who have access to those resources. Look, the city used to be 73% African American is now 46%. African American, that’s a very fundamental change. There’s a clearly worn strategy. You take these places that are very poor, you buy cheap, you kick all the poor people out. You fix it up, you move what we used to call yuppies, or young professionals in especially following 911, you saw a lot of investment in DC as federal spending increased, that brought in a lot of new people. And at the same time, you had a city that was eager to attract development.  You have to hold the policy makers accountable. DC really went broke, and had to figure out a way to increase our tax revenues, increasing the the average salary of residency or attracting people with higher salaries was a deliberate policy decision. And we did need more tax revenue because we have so many people with high needs in the city. But you also have to be very conscious of the fact that attracting people with higher incomes will start to put a downward pressure on people with more limited incomes. And so you have to create some stopgap and some safety nets to help those people. And that’s, I think, where we fell short. One kind of backlash is that you will start to have sort of a domino effect. And next thing, you know, neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood now has become out of the price range for so many African Americans. We pushed out it digitus Washingtonians, it changed the culture, to the point where Shai doesn’t look like the shot out remember, does it look like the joy part guide member doesn’t pet work doesn’t look like the pet where they remember? Yeah, builders, that’s just coming up out of nowhere. But with these buildings, you have a lot of homes that’s been taken away from people that’s been living in these neighborhoods, for over 30 years. You go from paying 875 or maybe 13 $100 to somebody telling you Oh, well, this is gonna cost 2750. What I was just paying barely $100.  I don’t think he’s arguing that economic investment is bad. But to the incumbent residents have the option to stay and get all the benefits from that investment, or are they being pushed out and replaced by incoming residents who are going to take advantage of all of that, and it looks like in most areas, we’re seeing the former. We are on Ustream, the historic Ustream. How you doing? Thank you, brother, known as Black Broadway, the heart of chocolate city. This was an area that was perhaps like 80% African American, if not more, and is currently hovering below 40.  People have accused developers of taking on the names of local celebrities. That is a condo using the name of DC native Duke Ellington. These are people that are pioneers in African American culture. And these spaces are not necessarily as welcome for African Americans. You’re looking up at gleaming condominiums, which are not cheap to purchase or rent. And, you know, you’re also looking at groupings of African American men that are very unwell, that are very down and out and they’re struggling with addiction. And I just wonder where the resources are for them. And I understand it’s not an easy problem to solve, but it’s almost like they’re invisible. There’s a sense That what was here before is completely disposable, that the past doesn’t matter. And that the people don’t matter. A friend of mine said she was walking behind a woman and her daughter and they looked up at one of those buildings. And the little girl said something about her mom and look at this and she said, Come on, baby. That’s not for us. When we think about gentrification, many folks only think about that as it pertains to homeownership. But that means the loss of business that means the loss of property rents don’t just increase for living purposes but rents have increased at places that have been standardly affordable to do business and have have priced folks out in the Washington in 1963. I’ve been here ever since. Listen, waiter out  to tell you tables ready to come in. This is my grandfather’s my father made by one man two brothers evening, man. I’ve been in here in and out since I was a little kid. It helped me keep myself out of trouble gave me something to do. I appreciate it. I know that people appreciate it because it’s good food. They get a bang for the buck, baby. All right, my baby.  No problem. Thank you. They call it gentrification. I call it cultural genocide. Put yourself in a six, seven or eight year old child’s place. You know, they first time to get a chance to go on a black business and see how it functions. Thank you. Before you had a variety of stores at clothing stores, supermarkets, nightclub hardware stores, women’s clothing men’s clothing. Thanks, sir.  I appreciate you. I know potato salad. Only fame I did. I mean going up and down h street used to be riddled with local faces that live in the communities and also work and employ others in the community as well.  Anybody else just won’t fit myself. Dickey gave me the chance of a lifetime to be something more than I thought I was and he taught me how to want to run my own business, being a manager to have the moon for the customers like they had for him. Dickie has my loyalty for the rest of my life. No way. You’re gonna mumble songs.  Now you got Whole Foods and Walmart keela bar tanning salons, Starbucks smoothie shack hakgala donut shop.  So you make a business decision. You have to live with it. Where can we get fish from now? No, right there. And that’s too far is it feeds an overall sense of alien nation to see these landmark businesses kind of disappear, right? Because people like to eat the kind of food that’s associated with their culture. If you no longer have access to that, then that’s a loss.mWe saw  Bye Bye. Have a good night. Glow glow  Allentown row. You know, if you look at the centers of gentrification in the city today. They are the centers of the revolt in 1968 someone just rushed into the door that evening and said Dr. King has been shot. But of course, we don’t believe that not our beloved nonviolent leader couldn’t possibly be.  After Dr. King was assassinated, you had uprisings. And they occurred in a number of key corridors, the H Street corridor being one and with east, the U Street corridor in the historic black area. Sadness turned the frustration, the frustration to anger, and the uprising began, riots took place. It is tremendously destructive, tremendous fire damage on all of the business corridors. I can remember just being afraid, because I was about nine years old, then I remember the smell of smoke, I remember the, the tanks. And I just remember that sense of danger and unsure at but to see a person cut down in that way. The pent up anger, the grief, which people may not know how to express or how to channel that energy. And you also have to put it in context of all the other people that had been assassinated, leading up to that the Medgar Evers and the Malcolm X’s and the so many others. This is all a part of the context of what happens when people are disenfranchised and pushed to the side.  after it was over, the businesses that reopen it destroyed a significant amount of property. And it also demonized that community as a community that you cannot invest in.  The federal government, city government simply did not reinvest. The people who were left were disproportionately poor. And what you had was a sort of investment desert, where money just did not come in for a solid another 30 years, until young white people began to return to these neighborhoods about 40 years later. Should we? that corner is a touchdown. That’s how I know that I’m in the chocolate city. With all of the widespread gentrification whitewashing whatever else was happening, you know, it was still chocolate city because you can still hear that music on that corner that  DC has maybe three or four venues that we can perform in now. Were 2030 years ago, there had to be 20 or 30 venues. It’s frustrating because, you know, you can’t go back there is nothing there, or the whole communities is gone. If you wouldn’t go down now you would never see it. But I know it was what was there. You street in Florida Avenue in georgia avenue was filled with clothes, but unfortunately, is not accessible to the gogo bands.  They definitely tried to mute gogo, there was a big deal about the music that they’ve been playing like for years, or we have Florida Avenue. Little Metro place. Guys sells all kinds of local music. That’s like another staple of DC. I’m Donald Campbell. I’ve been here in this store since June of 1995. What I wanted to do, I want to keep our music alive. So I will play music outside every day and there would only be local gogo People came in their building right there beautiful building basically felt like our music was noise. So they tried to stop the music and culture it in the expense of the people, right? So we became collateral damage. People who thought they were entitled to come and stop our culture. broadcast live in Florida  started the entire don’t mute DC movement. They said the police department out here maybe 100 times. They said the fire department out here maybe 10 times. They didn’t get the results they wanted. So they decided to go over those heads. So they went directly to T Mobile. I didn’t want to lose my contract. So I cut the music off and made me mad to come to DC, Maryland or Virginia, what we call the DMV and talk about turning gogo music off.  Hey, you trippin. I was apoplectic, honestly, like this is one of the most violent thing that you can do is to silence this corner. That’s, that’s we made you Street. You know, when nobody wanted to be here. We stopped playing this music and a greater life. And we ended up getting 80,000 signatures from something like 94 countries around the world.  I just saw what happened. And I felt compelled to take action. I was talking to my boy Wayne. And I was like, Man, you think we need to do another rally? He was like, yeah, we need to do it tomorrow. Everybody come out terrified to tell a friend as they know, or they just are blown up from this. You were on fire last night packed with 1000s of people out demonstrating in support of the don’t mute DC movement. The street as the gogo was, was coming out and performing and given shows. That was amazing.  Let’s talk about the damage. I didn’t even know fully what I was doing with the capacity. You know how granted we get talked about the implications and the effects of gentrification in the city. We’re using the gogo music as the glue. And we’re creating a platform which are these rallies for people to come and have their voices heard and make the spectacle. I want to take the next 50 seconds to talk about the growing don’t mute DC movement. Today organizers went back to where it all started in Metro PCs store seven and Florida. Organizers say they don’t want DC to be muted.  And they also don’t want its historic African American neighborhoods to be forgotten. This gogo music thing is something that we all really treasure. You can take a lot of stuff away from us. You’re not going to take the gogo we had all these people respond just like that. And then T Mobile cut the music back on. I think it was right then and there when they realized the power of gogo. And that was like a history changing moment.  is a small victory of award and we try to win. They can’t stop us. We do good together.  Teamwork make the dream work now. Let me see this guy right now. This is powerful.  on here we go apologize down to 16th Street. We don’t go to the New Black Lives Matter Plaza. Let me know Black Lives Matter  has a power period, this power and gogo period. It’s about what you use the power for. As far as actually moving people and getting people engaged. Music is a universal language. Right? So let’s use that as a tool to get a disenfranchised community more active again. These are all the things that George Floyd protests COVID and the disparities, you know, they’re all these things in our world that are conspiring to meet black people, what a part of the rallies have been doing is about using your bodies to make sure that you’re there that you have a physical presence, you’re not erased, you’re seeing and also that you’re hurt. placement and displacement is a recurring motif for black people all over the world. We’re always looking for a home, we’re looking for somewhere that we can relax, where we don’t have to think about being oppressed thinking about whether somebody is going to shoot you thinking about being told you’re in the wrong place. One of the places is in our music and in our culture and in our rituals. So whatever else might be happening. Your home in that moment, you know, you’re right where you should be. It was a great experience for me to see people, especially this parent demick we’ve been in now. You see the people still come out.  I saw Caucasian Indian Chinese man, it blew my mind. And for those people to walk with us, they followed us the whole time, all the way back up. That hit me, and especially part of my heart. We’ve been on the back burner for years, and we still on the back burner. Now we a little bit more than we older. So we know what we got to do. We got attention.  After the first rally, I saw the support and we can’t just stop. This is a moment. You know, this is a movie you got to keep going. You have groups of DC residents, using the culture to make a place for themselves within DC politics. Gogo has definitely been the music of the movement here in DC. They come out to one of these rallies, they feel the the energy and electricity. They see the people really for who they are for real people with real culture and real history in the city. Gogo has always been a way for us to say we’re here. We exist. Look at us. We’re living we’re thriving,  we’re connecting. We’re doing the rituals and cultural traditions that our ancestors have been doing, you know, for 1000s of years. It is music of the movement. But it’s not just this movement. It’s just our movements as black people. Go goes out a trick is not a game. It’s us. The drum was always the power to keep us going. It magnified our voices. It resonates with the people we just breathe in in the spirit of our ancestors, and we put it out through our heart, our soul and the passion that we have for our city. We have the power we use 

 

George 44:47 

Okay, welcome back. And thank you very much for joining us for this special version of gobo city displacement and protest in Washington DC part of the Just Economy Conference. And It’s now my pleasure to bring in our panel from NCRC. We have Ibijoke Akinbowale, the director of the housing and counseling network, where she focuses on the development of strong and successful housing counseling programs, foreclosure programs, homeownership, financial literacy, and post purchase programs. Also from NCRC, we have Jason Richardson, he’s the director of research and evaluation. He’s a geographer by trade. And he’s done extensive research on mortgage financing, and its impact on people and communities. And finally, we have Dr. Sabiyha Prince, an anthropologist and author and artist, many other things, and someone who has a long personal history with Washington, DC, and whose voice was absolutely invaluable on this project. So again, as a reminder, I see some folks have put some questions and comments in we invite you to do the same that’s in the bottom right hand corner, I believe of your have the function, just we’re all getting used to these online formats. And I would love to ask your question, I just want to kick off with one of my own, I just want to give the panel an opportunity to respond to the film. I mean, what was your takeaway from the film? How does it feed into your work? And how can something like this maybe call attention or help motivate people to make changes? And I guess if you want to go there, what kind of changes would you like to see? Ibijoke, maybe we can start with you. You’re muted, 

 

Akinbowale 46:55 

Wanna, I gotta say that. It really it was a pleasure to participate in this documentary. And as a DC native, and also as a housing professional. And so really, for me, the documentary really does highlight the ongoing civil unrest, not only in the District of Columbia, but across the country. And it’s not as though there hasn’t been significant historical inequalities when it comes to housing, from homeownership to fair housing, the access to fair just and equitable housing opportunities for all Americans, because it’s something that we really strive to struggle with as a country. And so I know a lot of people had questions around, well, what are the protests have to do, you know, with housing and gentrification, and its folks are angry for a reason. And it’s not. There’s so many factors here, when it comes to, you know, the unjust killings that we see happening in the streets, all across the country, but also the inequitable access to opportunities when it comes to housing when it comes to employment when it comes to the ever growing food deserts that are in these communities and banking as well. And so it really does hit home for me, and I thought it was a wonderful depiction of what’s happening across the country and let alone within the nation’s capitol. 

 

George 48:22 

Yeah, I appreciate that. You know, I know from my perspective, in making the film, the question was, what is the connection here? And I think the connection is, of course, the initial protest and reaction to the murder of George Floyd stemmed from the systemic racism, in policing and interfacing with criminal justice. But I think it really began to expand beyond that. And people started to talk much more about where we see that systemic racism in other elements of day to day life. And that can be very different depending on the city. And I think one way in this particular city in which it manifests itself is in the housing practices and what’s become this gentrification. So I appreciate you making that point, Jay. You think about the work that you’ve done in terms of your research you’ve done? And not you personally, you and your team have done an excellent job of quantifying this, I think you’re being behind some of the very famous studies that have called attention to just how strong of an impact gentrification has had on Washington DC. What’s your initial kind of feedback to the film? And do you think it kind of bolsters or falls in line with what you see when you look at the numbers? 

 

Richardson 49:34 

Yeah, what, you know, the challenge with with measuring gentrification is that in a lot of ways, it’s a subjective process, right? You know, people view gentrification, they feel it. And although I’m proud of our work, and you can, you can, you know, look at NCRC’s website and see a lot of great work on gentrification, where we measured, for example, the displacement of over 20,000 black residents from Washington, DC, in the study period, from 2000, to 2010, for example, you know, you know, those are things we can quantify, but the film really picks up on the things we can’t quantify the feeling that people get, and the one part of this film that that always kind of gives me a little bit, it makes me stop a little bit, every time I hear it, is where somebody his mother said to them, this isn’t for you, Sophia, that was that was your part there. This isn’t for you. And that feeling that feeling of here is a development coming in, it may be a new store, it may be new housing, it may be who knows what, into a community that that should be a sign of economic progress and investment. But the the it’s made clear, either semiotically or in other ways that it is not for the incumbent population. It is for these new people who are coming in and in in DC, that’s, that’s almost always going to be white versus black. Right. So so I think that’s the part that really struck me about this is that the film does a really good job at putting kind of a human context, whereas my work is always much drier and more quantitative. You know, so I think it’s, I think it’s valuable to have both. 

 

George 51:10 

Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. It’s always great to kind of package it together on both sides. And I also agree with you with the power of that quote from Dr. Prince about, you know, this isn’t for us. And that that’s in reference to buildings on, you know, 14th, the new which used to be epicenter of chocolate city. So it’s very sad to hear that. And as I mentioned, Dr. Prince is somebody that has a long standing experience in Washington, DC dating back decades. Can you speak a little bit, if you want to respond to the film, but also, as Jason mentioned, the feeling how the feeling of the city has changed? I mean, you’re probably uniquely qualified to reflect on that. 

 

Prince 51:51 

Sure, well, first, I have to thank you for making the film. I think that it’s just a beautiful work of art, and it captures something really important. And, um, you know, as a cultural anthropologist, culture is the thing, that kind of the glue to the work that I do, you know, my areas, African American history and culture. And so I like to represent that, and the work. And I think that’s what you did with this film, you cope, you captured the culture of personal expression of cultural expression, musical expression, and also resistance. Right. And those are key themes that run through the black experience. And so thank you and the Bertelsmann foundation for doing that. I think what’s so very important about, um, you know, much of what you did there was, you know, this kind of musical formation, people are asking, what does this have to do with the protests? I mean, it’s mobilization, right? I mean, you can’t always mobilize people with pretty speeches, you have to meet people where they are. And as Natalie in so many of the people in the documentary kind of expressed so eloquently, Natalie, I think, very beautifully stated, you know, we are here, it’s about sticking a claim, it’s about saying, you cannot silence us, you cannot end this culture. Um, and so that is a very, very strong and pertinent way of resisting, right. So of course, it has to do with protests and, and then you mobilize people, you pass on information, you know, but you’re getting people together, people need to release, they need to have a good time, they don’t always have to be thinking about the negative and be, you know, oppressed we can, we can deal with the fact that we have inequality, we can have a good time, we can learn something, we can pass out some information, and we can get ready for the next, you know, mobilization. So, I see a connection there. And then so that’s one piece. But then of course, the next piece is the issue of policy. I mean, that’s how we got here. Um, you know, we got here through policy, and I don’t know if I’m completely answering your question, but I’ll just say that one thing that I really Appreciate, and I guess at the same time kind of troubles me is when we start talking about solutions to gentrification, it’s always an indirect sort of solution. And I really am very much wedded to direct, deliberate action in addressing the problems associated with gentrification, because we did not get here through indirect means we got here through very specific policies as well as neglect. So, you know, I know the conversation is going to go to solutions, there’s a long list of them. And they need to be direct and specific, tailored to the people that are directly affected. And they need to be at the table when we’re having these conversations about where we go next. 

 

George 54:55 

Any of them you wish to share anything that would be on the top of your wish list for recognition? 

 

Prince 55:00 

How much time do we have? Um, I mean, I’ll say this. I am a proponent of reparations, you know, plain and simple and in relation not just to enslavement, but also to redlining and all the disenfranchisement and all the asset theft that African Americans and other groups will focus on African Americans right now have experienced in this country, right. So, as the Brookings study I, you know, like to say the 150 6 billion stolen from black people are an asset that that needs to be addressed, that will mitigate the impacts of gentrification gentrification has taken off, the impacts are harsh now we can talk about stopping it, you know, a moratorium. And then let’s talk about mitigating the impacts, making things right making things fair. So, yes, myriad forms of reparations, we can talk about that we can talk about community land Trust’s community based development, again, making sure that when you’re going to have these great massive development projects, or even smaller ones, let’s talk about community benefits. Let’s look at the impacts. Let’s talk about what people need, right? Because there’s uneven development, so everybody doesn’t have the same needs. So if we’re not talking about that, then we’re kind of not grappling with reality here. Um, don’t vote for pro gentrification politicians, um, you know, support, stop tearing down the public housing repair, it doesn’t have to be demolished or building place. You know, there, there’s so many things that you can do, Sam, and the bottom line is centering people over property and over profits. And there’s a long list of things related to that. That’s where we need to go. Yeah, 

 

George 56:52 

I mean, I think you’re absolutely right, in the sense that this isn’t the kind of problem that we can kind of wring our hands at and kind of go around the edges of that you have to take policy steps that are direct and and can really have an impact. So you know, this is a session that’s supposed to wrap up at five, I’m going to go ahead and take it just a couple extra minutes. Don’t worry, not too long. But if anybody wants to hang around with us, you know, maybe five, six more minutes, because it feels like we’re just kind of warming up. And Kirby alluded to a question that came in from Dr. David Hester. And we very much appreciate your kind words about the joy in the film. I mean, that was the culture of the city. I mean, it’s what we’re trying to highlight in the history and the interplay of that. And the question is, What purpose does the music you know, in Dr. Hester’s examples, it’s can be gogo could be hip hop, it could be it house that often seems to come up. You know, it’s funny, we actually presented this for a European audience recently, and they talked about how in the 70s and 80s music was a major part of protest movement there when the Berlin Wall was coming down. What is the relationship do you see in music and protest? Okay, Jason. 

 

Akinbowale 58:14 

Sure, happy to chime in here. Um, well, one, I have to I just have to quickly comment on Sabiyha’s points about the policies. I absolutely agree. In terms of policymaking, we’ve got to give a thing a name. If we’re talking about making policies for black Americans, we have to specifically advance and support policies that are for black Americans. And some of that would include special purpose credit programs, supporting downpayment assistance and additional goals towards homeownership and financial security for blacks. But to your point in question, what makes the city a city and I would say that culture and gogo is as DC is Jesus to Wisconsin. And so but music specifically, of course, the arts have always been important to any protest to any movement to any community that has been disenfranchised and faces and deals with oppression. So, I mean, it really is, captivates me to see these bands going down Black Lives Matter a street in DC and saying don’t mute DC and hands up Don’t shoot and screaming George Floyd’s name and Breanna Taylor. I mean, I myself participated in quite a few of those protests. And so it was invigorating. It was empowering. We all left there with conversation and additional movements to make, just as, as others have experienced with Childish Gambino, this is America. I mean, I resonate with that music so heavily. It’s a way of reaching the masses and capturing the sentiment of the communities. I will also say, what coincide with the don’t mute DC movement actually had been in the neighboring shop community, a number of gentrifiers were complaining about not being able to use the Howard University’s yard as a space to walk dogs. And so you’ve got to take into consideration, I would say, the importance of a native culture and the shock that a community experiences. I mean, as Jason and his team’s research showed, over 20,000 people have been displaced. Just in the last, I believe, 10 years or so, that’s significant. We feel the impact of that what represents us, how do we keep our culture thriving and alive and use it, there’s always a way to do that. 

 

Richardson 1:00:30 

Keep in mind, that’s a 30,000 figure was probably a minimum, you know, just what we can measure. You know, the question about music is interesting, in your mention about Berlin is interesting, because, you know, music gives you a way gives people a way to focus their energy all at one place, and one time if it connects people. So, you know, the Berlin Wall, you had Springsteen, you had, you had Pink Floyd, and you had what the scorpions, right? They were, they were all, they were all playing concerts around the around that time, they drew huge crowds to the area. And you know, you’ve got that here, too. I mean, I think I think that crosses generations and cultures pretty effectively, that music has that power to bring people together. 

 

Prince 1:01:08 

That’s true. And you know, when you put all of this within a broader context of the African American experience, what you’re seeing is, you know, a population that has had their culture attacked perpetually, for centuries, right. I mean, starting from the very beginning, when ancestors were, you know, loaded onto ships, they were deprived of their languages, they were deprived of their hairstyles, you know, and during enslavement, there were so many things that people were denied, recognizing that a person a populations, culture is their strength, it is a solace, right, it is a, a, a area, a comfort place to to come together to celebrate. And another part of our culture, in our experience has been fighting to be recognized as human beings, right. So I mean, this historical trajectory here, you know, you’re going to tell people that they cannot have their way of life, they cannot celebrate in the way that they have done as a communal way of coming together and relishing the culture. I mean, you know, I’m relishing the right word. But you know, what, that I think that’s a big part of what we’re looking at here. It’s the manufacturing of invisibility, and irrelevance. And black people have always pushed back against that, and we will continue to do so. You know, you cannot silence people. And you, you know, you say the people, and you say the culture these things work together. Right. So, and, hey, that culture is something that the whole world has enjoyed. Right. And America has, you know, taken it as their own. So, you know, it’s not going anywhere. And we people are just going to continue to resist and fight. 

 

Richardson 1:02:57 

Yeah. So there’s a question in the chat. I kind of wanted to address.  

 

George 1:03:00 

Absolutely, absolutely.  

 

Richardson 1:03:03 

And actually, there’s a couple of came in after that. But as he asked every question, but what are your thoughts about low to no downpayment, home loans for low and moderate income black renters, who have consistent rental payment history? so low and moderate income would mean that they make 80% or less of the area median family income? Just a couple of things. Celia, I think those are, you know, yeah, there’s absolutely a need for this stuff. But you run into a problem in DC with it, where low to moderate income in the DC area is about $100,000 a year. So so you and and I even joking, probably has a point on this also. So you know that that may not be the most useful definition for, you know, in DC, I think the black median income black family meeting income is around 38,000 a year, I think. So your challenges here are exponentially greater than than I think just a lending program, where you’ve got an extremely high level of income inequality, and there simply isn’t the house I mean, if your income is 35,000 a year, you’re not buying a house in DC, it doesn’t matter what kind of loan program you get. So I think we’d either I don’t know Ibijoke anything. 

 

Akinbowale 1:04:17 

Yeah. So just to set the stage a little bit, the AMI for DC is about $126,000. Let’s talk wards seven and eight. Specifically, both wards have a concentration of over 990 percent African American, the average income for Ward seven is $39,000. And for wards 820 $9,000. In a community and market again, where it we’re talking about an ami of 126,000. And so I think in general, in in DC, it is challenging for extremely low income, low income, moderate black households to advance into homeownership. A significant part about this, for minorities in general is the credit box as it exists. The credit box is not inclusive of minorities, who are often skeptical about banking institutions have non traditional savings hold higher debt, have less access to capital, also, because they haven’t had opportunities to do things like create generational wealth through homeownership or through a legacy pipeline of that. And so we’ve got to be truly innovative. When we talk about how do we increase the number of blacks that are moving into homeownership. And and it’s not through a standard means that reaches white households, which goes back to that policymaking component. And from a policy perspective, I’ll say it’s, it’s critically important to preserve what you have preserved what you have in the means of affordable housing, because, frankly, pre pandemic, we’ve been in an affordable housing crisis for quite some time. They’re focused on preserving what you have, and how you keep your natives here. And that is by creating policies for people that are indigenous to the communities for black and bipoc communities. And so there’s something to be said about policymaking that occurs from that lens, but then also policymaking that helps people return home, because it truly as an as a native, it’s a sad perspective, when you want to live where you’ve grown up the culture that you know, and that you’ve been embedded into, but you simply can’t afford to and, and much like what a lot of people have seen and of course, forced into the Ninth Ward or as we refer to it, Prince George’s County and other communities, because DC is no longer affordable, and it’s not affordable for low income, extremely low income or a lot of moderate income earning households. 

 

George 1:06:50 

Thank you, you know, there’s a question from Joshua that I would like to address here. And that is the impact of COVID on the arts and culture. I think we can even expand that. Beyond that just to say, you know, what, from your expertise, we have a lot of expertise on the panel. How do you expect the COVID pandemic to impact gentrification and housing in the ways that you studied? 

 

Akinbowale 1:07:15 

Okay, so I’ll quickly just oh, no, go ahead. Go ahead. I just in terms of the statistics for DC as it pertains to COVID, I believe some 75% of the deaths that have occurred from COVID-19 were black families. And, and comparatively, only 26% of blacks in the district have have received the full vaccination or partially vaccinated in comparison to over 33% of whites in the community. So the equity question that exists, is widespread, and we do see it playing out in terms of COVID as well, that’s from a health perspective. And then also around the financial security. One, we talked about how the credit box is not really helpful to minorities at large. And if you think about a pandemic, and the overall the average American American renter is at least $6,000, behind on their rent, not to count the what to over 2.6 million individuals that are in forbearance. And so what we this pandemic is making homeownership even more unrealistic for a number of communities. And so now is certainly the time to strengthen what we do in terms of the advocacy for this population. And the policies. I’m happy to say at least the Biden team is working to support some of the interests here but I’ll turn it over to Jason for more. 

 

Richardson 1:08:52 

I kind of have the So Josh I’ve got kind of a more pessimists or a pessimistic view of this is that you know from from a property developers point of view, whether or not you purchase a property and redevelop it and do something with it is strictly a numbers game and the input the the cost of purchase Seeing the property is a huge part of that. If we’re in a situation where renters are not paying their rent, then for the landlord’s point of view of the property owners point of view, the value of that property is declining for them, and there’s an increased chance they’ll look to sell it at whatever price they can get for it. They’re in places where there is gentrification, which is generally concentrated in the top largest 20. metro areas in general, they, they’re the ones who are really seeing the gentrification activity. At a large scale, this is going to have property developers taking a look at areas they thought were previously beyond their price range. And it may, it may create a situation where deals make sense for development that didn’t make sense pre pandemic. That’s my fear. A lot of this depends on the administration and what kind of support they get to landlords and renters. And this crisis is absolutely a crisis for renters, as opposed to the last housing crisis, which was more focused on the impact to homeowners. I think that this time, renters are really going to bear the brunt of it. And unless there is a significant investment in helping renters and landlords, even though we don’t like to talk about landlords that that way, but but without help, they, they’re they’re going to be looking to sell those properties off. And developers will come in and swoop up the most desirable ones that they think they can develop, and it will result in gentrification and displacement. 

 

George 1:10:31 

Well, right. We’re getting really towards the end here. I want to thank everybody for tuning in. There’s some folks like selia Wilson, that have had some really nice comments, Dr. Hester about the film asking how we can see this film down the road. There’s also some questions about me as a filmmaker, I think that that’s a fine conversation that I’d be happy to pursue, you know, bilaterally, please reach out to me, I’m happy to talk about the process. And in terms of sharing the films down the line, our films are always available for free. You know, we’ve had some success with this film. And we’ve really enjoyed doing these kinds of public, private, public screenings, but they’re not online. Soon enough, the film will be online and available for folks to watch whenever they want. You can follow and Bertelsmann foundation to see information on future screenings in the film, and we definitely hope it can get shared and passed around. So I thank you for that. But I want to leave the end of this conversation, I want to give our panel a chance to really focus their work, and where they’re going moving forward. And I’ll just kick that off with an observation that I’ve had that I’ve discussed with all three of you. And that’s this notion that I’m afraid I see this dichotomy in the United States of certain cities that are facing this extreme gentrification pressure. And then it gets mirrored in other cities that are getting the opposite. They’re facing this kind of persistent underinvestment and lacking the resources. And I don’t think anybody really wins in that kind of scenario. So there’s my observation, you guys are the academics and the experts on this topic. Where do you see us moving forward from here, you know, and how can we get back on a track? That’s, that’s going to be more working for, you know, middle class Americans? 

 

Prince 1:12:18 

I think that’s an interesting question, Sam. And it’s going to depend on a number of factors, right. I mean, nothing happens without the push. So everything that we have, I mean, I’m thinking now I have to, you know, you frame this documentary with the George Floyd, murder, and two words, videotapes and protests, right? I mean, so that’s what we have to do. And that’s what people have been doing, and they’re gonna have to continue doing so. Organizing, I worked for an organizing a grassroots organizing entity in power DC. And that is very hard work. mobilizing people. It’s different from activism, right? I’ve been an activist for a long time. But mobilizing people is a whole other ballgame. And it needs to happen. It needs to be intensified, and we need resources for that. That’s very difficult work. It’s not very well remunerated. And it’s very stressful. But it’s necessary. And, you know, I’d like to see more of that more mobilizing more teaching more civil disobedience, right? I mean, we just cannot take no for an answer. It’s entirely too much vulnerability and entirely too much suffering, and it’s not sustainable. So I see more mobilizing in our future and with younger people at the table, we will continue to adjust strategies right so that they are inclusive, and that we can constantly work at being at being heard and being seen. 

 

George 1:13:58 

Thank you so much. Ibijoke. Maybe we can bring it bring you in. I see. There’s a comment that’s directed to you. Let’s see if it comes with a question. 

 

Akinbowale 1:14:06 

Sure. And while you find that, I would just say that, to me homeownership and black homeownership specifically is a form of activism. And we have the responsibility to live out the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And those civil rights pioneers that are that the Fair Housing Rights Act, that would be more inclusive of creating, again, equitable access, well, equal access to housing opportunities for all persons. But we know equal, and equity are two different things. And we need more equity in order to be able to move the needle in the right direction. I agree with Sabiyha that that definitely comes from mobilization, and also from us, for those local community groups on the line, elevating what is working in your communities and what’s not working to the highest level to your national partners, like here at the team at NCRC. To your current members of Congress, these public servants work for you, they work for your communities, we have to elevate and tell them what we need, vote them out when they’re not doing what the community’s needs and hold these folks accountable so that we can have more equity in this country around housing issues and justice. 

 

George 1:15:30 

Jason, maybe we can come to you for for a final word real quick.  

 

Richardson 1:15:33 

I know we’re over time, but But yeah, so yo Wilson in the chat mentioned that she was in Cleveland. And I think I think that’s a good example here of the other side. You know, in Ohio cities are typically struggling more with underinvestment disinvestment. What we found and and what also other gentrification researchers have cooperated? Is that generally gentrification is is concentrated amongst the handful of economically vibrant large cities. So So DC, Denver, Boston, San Francisco, I think those are in the top five. Typically, I don’t, I don’t have the whole like, top 10 Top 20 list in my head. But in play in other cities, you know, you might you might feel that an area is gentrifying, and it may be in a small scale, but but overwhelmingly The problem is disinvestment. So for our community organization, like NCRC, that’s focused on Community Investment, you know, that we have to be, you know, cautious here we want to talk about gentrification, but disinvestment is overwhelmingly impacting a larger number of people and large number of cities. So you don’t want to you don’t have the conversation about just one or the other. They’re both important. They’re two halves of the same coin. And they need to be, you know, considered and treated independently, I think. 

 

George 1:16:49 

Well, thank you very much. You know, we really appreciate everybody for tuning in for everybody you hung on as we went a little bit over time. Our panelists, Jason Richardson and Ibijoke Akinbowale of NCRC, Dr. Sabiyha Prince, you know, if I were to be permitted a final editorializing, I would simply say what a beautiful and unique culture and city you know, the traditional washington dc was and how much we miss when we lose that. I mean, it’s, it’s really a global gym. And it’s been an absolute pleasure for me through this film, and through living here for 10 years to get to know it. If you’re relatively new to the city, I say it’s not going to fix a lot of the problems, make an effort to get to know where you live, it’ll it won’t just help other people, you will feel more understanding of your surrounding. So thank you very much. This is again, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Just Economy Conference. There’s going to be a lot of content online. There’s already a lot of content online. And there’s a couple more days of this conference. And like I mentioned, folks listening out there can feel free to follow up with me to talk about this documentary and other documentaries. And everybody have a wonderful day. And thank you for joining us. 

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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