Growing up in Northwest D.C. and then moving to a Montgomery County suburb, many of my peers from those areas had no idea what Anacostia is, let alone where it is located. And if they had heard of this neighborhood, it was often in connection to crime or poverty. It was simply a place where one didn’t go.
My parents felt otherwise. Both longtime D.C. residents who thoroughly know and love the city, they made sure I was not confined to the homogenous streets of my upper Northwest neighborhood and encouraged me to participate in classes and programs all across the city, including a sewing class at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center and another sewing class that culminated in a fashion show at the THEARC’s theater located off Mississippi Ave. SE. It was through this real world education that I came to know a diverse array of people, places, and experiences in this city.
During one summer in middle school, I distinctly remember my dad driving me from my home in upper Northwest D.C. to the sewing class. Through the window, I watched the landscape change: no longer did I see a grocery store every few blocks or a multitude of sit-down restaurants from which to choose—luxuries I often take for granted. The way the Anacostia River divides the city—more than just physically—has always stuck with me, and I’ve sought to understand this phenomenon in my Urban Studies classes at school.
This summer, I no longer just want to understand the structural forces that have created two separate cities within Washington, D.C. –now I also want to be a part of repairing that divide. For that reason, I turned to 11th Street Bridge Park, where I’ll be interning this summer. To me, the park represents more than a physical link between the Anacostia and Capitol Hill communities; it is a metaphorical one. It is the chance to engage two long-divided populations in creating a vision for a shared space; it is the chance to provide much needed public recreational and educational spaces for our city’s children; and it is the chance to promote responsible and sustainable stewardship of the Anacostia River so that all residents can enjoy its great beauty and so that nearby residents are not adversely affected by environmental hazards. The Park has the potential to serve as a catalyst for social change, and I am proud to be a part of that effort.