Reclaiming Chocolate City
A few weeks ago, an Uber driver informed me that when he used to live on Flager NW, he ran out of his house to avoid becoming the victim of a violent crime.
To step back a bit, Flager NW is a street in LeDroit in Northwest DC, Ward 5—a neighborhood designed explicitly for whites only when residential development began in the 1870s. However, by the 1980s, the area had become home to upwardly mobile Black families, many of whom were connected to nearby Howard University. The area’s location north of what was then the city limits (Florida Avenue NW) lent itself to such exclusivity. The community reached its peak in the 1940s.
The aftermath of the riots of the 1960s, as well as crack-cocaine, drove many of the area’s Black intellectuals to the suburbs. Urban blight beset the area and much of the rest of the city, most of which continued up until recently.
Today, the neighborhood has returned to its white supremacist beginnings. There is no gate, but Black folks have been run out of the Northwest Quadrant due to the increase in property values and dubious realty practices. The neighborhood’s proximity to North Capitol makes it a prime target for gentrification.
The resilience to DC’s Black community is evident; many long-term residents have found ways to survive and preserve their history through storytelling and other forms of art. DC’s open mic circuit is full of youth who spit aggressive poetry about the creeping gentrification and white obliviousness. The fate of the city hangs in the balance. I am confident that future generations of Black DC residents will reclaim and reinvigorate “Chocolate City.”
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