There is something about D.C.

Telling OUR Story

As I think back to the first time that I visited the nations capitol, I remember a young girl of no more than 15 visiting the Chocolate City as a cool collected tourist with yellow and white coordinating bows in my hair.  I was taking a short supervised excursion with a few of the other girls on my team.  We were a rag tag crew of adolescents supervised by a teammates mother that were too excited to see our nations capitol.  As soon as we got out of the metro I was struck by this place that was warm, bright and seemed to have something that was not exactly present at the soccer tournament I had just played in or in my home town: tons and tons of brown faces.  Brown faces smiling, selling goods in a local street fair and just being themselves.  I was struck by this place and surprised at how “at home” I felt in the Chocolate City.  Fast-forward almost 15 years into the future and I’m back in DC.  Although this time I sit it what seems to be a recently gentrified part of the city with one of my besties.  As we enjoy the sounds of The Petworth Jazz Project, I notice something that is absolutely different from the DC I fell in love with almost 15 years ago.  The feeling of calm was still there, the warmth of the city and its quiet small town & big city feel was still there but the crowd was for the most part absent of the brown faces that I had originally noticed.

As I juxtapose these two very different experiences, my visit to the city as a wandering forgetful open-minded teen and my more recent experience as a cynical loving calm California girl not so recently transplanted to a NYC state of mind, I find myself examining a topic that I often love to discuss:  the tension between who I want to be and perceive I am (a travelling womanist) versus who I will become (a buppie living in city).  I am struck by the overabundance of words, images, faces and interactions.  First I am reminded when visiting the Smithsonian of the remarkably absent faces of those that visit the museums versus those that are employed to work at the museums.  I am fascinated by the number of brown faces that I see wearing the government uniform (khakis and a formal shirt or dark colored suit) leaving offices for lunch and after work activities.  I am happy and sad when visiting the new neighborhood of my besty which seems to have a predominance of brown faces on the cusp of all signs pointing to a newly gentrified neighborhood.  I am struck by what I would call the subconscious commodification of pain and horror in how people explain visiting the museum of the American Indian versus the holocaust museum.  I am excited and stimulated by a conversation I have with a fellow African American scientist as we discuss the workforce dynamics of being the other in an office filled with almost no people of color.  And finally an isolate incident in a restaurant brings all of this almost entirely to a head.

I walk to the bathroom of a nice little Scandinavian restaurant.  I walk past a woman and a number of excited white patrons.  I slowly move to the bathroom and just as I am entering I hear in a very very rude voice “excuse me mam.  May I help you?  Do you have a table?”  I reply, equally snotty, “ummm yes!” “Oh sorry” she responds seeming to be somewhat embarrassed.  As I closed the door to the bathroom my mind jumped to one thing:  would she have questioned my friend or any other white patron in the restaurant in this same manner?  As I return to my outdoor table I mention the incident to my friend and the table next to us chimes in as my friend and I discuss the incident. “Oh she is rude like that to everyone.  We used to work her and don’t worry she is an equal opportunity offender.”  I also noticed her interaction with a white patron and was pleasantly surprised to recognize that what the folks at the table next to us mentioned was absolutely true.  She was just plain rude.

While these isolated collection of interactions, thoughts and reflections make up only a portion of my wonderful trip to DC, I realized that this was at the root of why this blog is around.  The many different layers that we encounter while travelling as black woman is always fascinating.  Unfortunately, there are not too many venues for this discussion and our stories to be shared.  I hope you enjoyed this small tidbit of my reflection on travelling to DC as a teenager and woman.  I leave on this note.  As my friend drove me I saw an ad that had the picture of a returned soldier from the army.  The soldier was a woman on her knees gripping a child very tightly as tears rolled down her eyes.  Below the caption read, “Freedom is never free”

This caught me by surprise and served as the perfect end to a wonderful trip full of love, fun, freedom, laughing, crying and passionate conversation.  Freedom is not free and I am thankful to be a TW with the ability to express myself and reflect on how powerful and proud I am to be free to experience the world as ME!

Peace B. Still,


Authors Note:  Here is the link to a documentary entitled There Goes the Neighborhood about what has been going on in a DC neighborhood, Anacostia that my friend Dr. Arthur Pope sent me.  Thanks Doc!!  Please share your comments on this hot issue in the comment section!!


~ by travelling womanists on May 24, 2011.

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