I was in Washington D.C. the week that Chuck Brown died. One of America’s beloved cities had lost its King and the city was in mourning. The city once dubbed “Chocolate City” was once a Mecca for Black Folks. Before Atlanta became the flavor of the month, D.C. was the spot for black folks. A prime example of that blackness was U Street. U Street was once the stomping ground for black legends Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey. But times have changed for the city. I could tell standing on U Street that a shift in demographics has happened. I saw more white faces for the first time than I could remember. And I don’t mean more but MORE!!! Every after hour spot I would attend had white folks in attendance. They were even in a club that was predominately white. Just 2 years ago when I visited, the only white folks I saw were driving through on their way to Adams Morgan. Now some white dude was walking down the street in pajamas.
This appears to be an event that is not lost on the black residence of D.C. They know that their city is changing and some don’t like the change. White Flight has been replaced by Urban Gentrification. White folks are coming back to the cities and don’t mind paying a pretty price to do so. You have Million Dollar Condo’s popping up in neighborhoods that back in the day people wouldn’t even drive through. But this isn’t just a D.C. issue. Most cities are dealing with this new revival. I remember when I first arrived to Charlotte N.C. for college I was warned about going Uptown. During the day it was cool but after dark it was not. A couple of years later, white women are jogging down the streets with their dogs. I don’t think black folks that lived in these neighborhoods ever saw this coming. Especially when they were sitting on their porch during the drug infested and low property value days. They couldn’t have known that their property would be worth so much in the future?
The angst that some black folks have with these changes is understandable. Will chain storesreplace mom and pop stores? Will the increase in taxes drive out residents that don’t want to leave? With their core audience leaving, will white folks continue to shop at black businesses? Then again, I’m 100% sure that black folks who sold their homes knew they could get paid. They weren’t concerned with the loss of heritage but with the bottom line. Only time will tell if all of this will be a good or bad thing. If you look at the surrounding areas of D.C. i.e. Southern Maryland, you see neighborhoods full of black folks. Black Folks are populating the suburbs to where the demographics have changed dramatically. How interesting to see this reverse in population and color. D.C. will probably never be the same again. Gentrification isn’t perfect but it’s not going anywhere. Every inner city area that has redeemable value will receive a makeover (if it hasn’t happened yet in your town it will).
I started off talking about the death of a legend. Chuck Brown’s death has meaning in the revitalization of Washington D.C. Brown was a consummate professional that kept the beat going all night long. The community around him might have been changing but that never stopped him from representing his city. There is something that is still majestic about our nation’s capital. I think the black residents of the district should take a page from Brown’s book. Although the music might change the beat never stops.