Join us on a journey through DC’s Chinatown community

August 31, 2018
By Kendra Allen

The Friendship Archway was erected in Chinatown in 1986 to celebrate the District’s relationship with Beijing and to reinforce the area’s Chinese identity. Some see this archway as the only symbol of Chinese identity left in a Chinatown that once touted 3,000 Chinese residents but now only has 300.

“This used to be a Chinese grocery store but now it’s a Walgreens…A lot of parents have to drive out to Virginia to get some of their groceries. But my family doesn’t have car so…” This quote came from a longtime resident during a tour of Chinatown which was organized by the youth of Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development and National Korean American Service & Education Consortium VA. The increase in property values over the years has caused the closing of Chinese businesses and restaurants like the one mentioned above, which were flourishing in the community. Many of its residents were also forced to move out of the neighborhood, and often even the city, because of the rising rent and other historical causes (like the 1968 riots).

Credit: Postdlf

The decades’ long pushout, helped along by the construction of the sports and entertainment arena, chain restaurants and the apparent desire of the city to turn the community into an entertainment destination, has destroyed a tightly-knit enclave and threatens the culture and the families that remain.

Most people know about the Chinese residents who are currently fighting to stay at Museum Square apartments, which was supposed to be demolished a few years ago, but do we know the history of their fight? Or the history of Chinese resident’s resistance to displacement in DC?

Although it is easy to see the impact of gentrification on the neighborhood, many in the city have not heard the story of change from current and former residents who feel this displacement keenly.

On October 18th from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., CHF and Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development invite you to visit the Chinatown neighborhood with us to learn from community members about their histories, their lived experiences of displacement, and their aspirations for their families, communities and the District. You can register here: bit.ly/thisfireburnin.

This community visit is part of our 20th Anniversary Celebration at Blind Whino SW Arts. The program will begin after the visit and we will engage in dialogue with special guest speaker and civil rights attorney, Aristotle Theresa. Mr. Theresa was featured in the Washington Post this year for his bold legal strategy to hold the District of Columbia accountable for alleged racist, classist and ageist housing policies. You will learn more about the lawsuit, why Mr. Theresa has pursued this strategy and how it fits within the larger set of strategies to stymie displacement.

Mignotae Kebede, director of What Happened 2 Chocolate City, a documentary that explores the rise and decline of DC’s Black population through three generations, will be interviewing Mr. Theresa during the dialogue.

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