Hyra, Derek, Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City
I had been reading about this book in several venues (who have used my photographs in conjunction) and feel extremely fortunate to live in a place that has whole books written about it. On a regular basis. Across generations. Because there is always something to learn, and I am always learning something, especially here.
“There are only four stories: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power, and the journey. Every single book that is in the bookstore deals with these four archetypes, these four themes.”
Paulo Coelho, in Ferriss, Timothy. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (p. 511). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
The book has been widely discussed in other places, with rich and passionate conversation, some on the hostile side directed at the author. It’s about the conversion of this part of Washington, DC to a “gilded ghetto,” which attracts people of different backgrounds to a very deprived place that’s “Black Branded.”
I’m in this place and have met some of the scholars (see: Dog Parks & Coffee Shops + Leadership Networks doing work here) and respect what they are teaching.
What I’d like to add to this work are some images from this most important learning lab in our nation today.
- I see it. It’s the dog park that’s next to the soccer field, next to the basketball court, next to the skateboarding park. On the day I went to take photos, volunteers were spending time cleaning the dog park. There were no volunteers cleaning the skateboard park or soccer field. The groups of people in each section did not mingle.
- At the same time, there are connections that can take place, over longer periods of time. I still remember this interaction I had in 2014:
- I have planted Vermont Avenue with Frank Smith
Like many people here (and most humans) I was raised in a place intolerant to people of different ethnicities and sexual minority status and bathed in a media environment that promoted those same attitudes. I went to a medical school and joined a profession that harbored homophobic attitudes. My implicit bias testing shows the result. I will forever be working to modulate and eliminate the biases that were wired into me. I came to Washington, DC, in part, to accelerate that process.
The LGB community (See more about ‘T’ and ‘Q’ below)
- I was impressed and felt respect to see the inclusion of the LGB (see comment below about excluding the “T”) component of changes happening in this neighborhood.
The story of the death of Tony Raldolph Hunter, a gay man beaten by a 19 year old, semi-penetrated my soul, because I remember it. Sort of. I have been to BeBar, (which is now gone) a few times. Several of the web sites that chronicled what happened are no longer online. There is no memory of his death on the street today. There is also no memory of the death of a 15 year old and 8 other people who were wounded at the City Market shooting in 1994, just a few blocks away. These things are forgotten. There’s an empathy gap – it’s a microcosm of our country.
- Speaking of empathy, the comments on the blogs about the book in some sense validate Hyra’s idea of the cappuccino city. In a place undergoing tremendous change, there aren’t opportunities for people to walk in each others’ shoes naturally, and so they see a perspective that they know well, which can come across as exclusionary.
Bringing back in: People who are transgender #TransVisibility
- Hyra focuses on “sexual orientation” and doesn’t discuss gender identity.
Part of the modern transgender rights movement was born in Shaw, with the death of Tyra Hunter in 1995 at the hands of DC EMS (see my blog post on this topic). As much as there is discussion of gentrifiers and non-gentrifiers, there’s the significance of the rebirth of U street as the home to other defining civil rights movements of our time, such as Capital TransPride, in the same spaces where the city was once smashed to rubble after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The populations coming together here all share historic vulnerabilities in different life stages.
- The discussion about why existing residents don’t go to meetings led by new entrants makes the modern transgender rights movement even more significant in my mind. We have Ruby Corado, who doesn’t miss any meeting when it comes to making the city a better place.
- Ruby is the embodiment of a leader who creates a community third space. She has been connected to this neighborhood over a long period of time. In 2015 she received the 2015 Community Pioneer Award in the Thurgood Marshall Center. It’s the theme of this neighborhood: Photo Friday: Leading in a world that doesn’t want you to – Thurgood Marshall Center, Washington, DC USA
Winners and Losers
- In the book, there’s a kind of establishment of winners and losers, within the confines of U Street and Shaw.
Is the dichotomy between new and existing residents of this part of the city, or is it between this part of the city and the rest of Washington, DC, where the obesity rate is 7% and the number of people without health insurance is less than 3. Not less than 3 percent. Less than 3 people. Every map shows this disparity.
- Back to Ruby for a second, she is not a winners and losers leader. This one of my first exposures to her
I really enjoyed the book and I recommend it – it made me think. The process used to create it is one I respect, embedding in the community and observing – it’s the way to avoid pitfalls in what is a very nuanced discussion.
When to put away your moral compass “Our point is, if you try to approach every problem with your moral compass, first and foremost, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You’re going to exclude a lot of possible good solutions. You’re going to assume you know a lot of things, when in fact you don’t, and you’re not going to be a good partner in reaching a solution with other people who don’t happen to see the world the way you do.”
Stephen Dubner in Ferriss, Timothy. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (p. 575). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
I came here to learn and I haven’t been in any other place in the world where I learn more than here about health and life. While what’s happened here has happened, there are several other parts of Washington, DC where what’s happened is about to happen (NoMA, H Street, and eventually Wards 7-8). Washington, DC is the best learning lab for the future if there ever was one.
Comments always welcome.
More scenes of Shaw below. I like to say that it’s being destroyed for the third time now – the first time in 1968, the second time in the late 1980’s, the third time in this century. All photographs are @CreativeCommons licensed, feel free to use.