by Darryl Walker
Board Member, Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc.
It is fascinating to watch the demographic changes that have transpired in Washington, DC since World War II. Seventy years ago, our Nation’s Capital was predominantly White. Blacks lived in most of Northeast except the Brookland area, in Northwest around Florida Avenue and U Street, in all of Foggy Bottom, and in Southwest Washington. Neighborhoods west of 16th Street NW were red-lined where Blacks could not rent apartments nor buy property. The Anacostia neighborhood, which includes Ward 8, was totally White, as was Anacostia High School.
Following the 1954 public school desegregation ruling by the Supreme Court, White flight began in earnest. This demographic shift of Whites to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs continued until the vast majority of residents in Washington, DC were Black and Latino by the latter decades of the twentieth century.
So, the 2015 MLK parade in Ward 8 not only celebrated the accomplishments of a civil rights icon, it epitomized the myriad of demographic changes that continue in the District of Columbia. While the majority of the participants and onlookers were African-American, there was a noticeable number of Whites participating and intermixing with Ward 8 residents. This diversity was further reflected by the participation of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and by Mary’s House for Older Adults (an LGBT friendly residence slated to open later this year in Ward 7). The reactions of onlookers to LGBT participants in the parade were both enthusiastic and affirmative. Near the end of the parade route was a contingency of Arab Muslims who were also warmly received.
Ward 8 remains one of the DC neighborhoods that has challenges resulting from decades of poverty and lack of private investment. The recently inaugurated Mayor Murial Bowser was in the official viewing stand waving to everyone. Her presence indicated a recognition and hands on response by her administration to the plight of this and other neighborhoods in Washington, DC seeking economic parity with Northwest and Southwest. The MLK parade exemplified the hope of Ward 8 residents for an inclusive and productive neighborhood that reflects the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.