Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Struggling to Get Back (Response)

I just wanted to respond to a commenter on my previous post about the video "Struggling to Get Back."

I find the video’s nostalgia for the de facto racial segregation of the old Capper Carrollsburg to be very troubling. Efforts to make the neighborhood economically and racially diverse have been laudable and successful. Living next door to people of different backgrounds, or being invited to getting-to-know-you receptions with them, might push us out of our comfort zones, but we’ll all be better neighbors and citizens for it.

Yes, nostalgia is problematic, but is Rose in the video nostalgic for segregation?:
  • In the video, Rose wishes that everyone from the old Capper Carrollsburg could move into the beautiful apartments and houses of the now named "Capitol Quarter," like they were promised. Instead, few have been allowed to move back in. You can see how difficult it was for Rose to move back. Just yesterday, someone asked me if I could help her to move back. Rose conveys her sense that injustice has been done to those from the old Capper Carrollsburg.
  • Rose seems to have liked the people and the community life of the old Capper Carrollsburg. She does not speak about liking segregation. From my conversations with those who lived in Arthur Capper, it is clear that they view Arthur Capper as a special place. One must recognize that different public housing projects have different dynamics. Just from a few conversations, people from Arthur Capper who later moved to other public housing projects and "rough" areas of town found them quite scary, and found Arthur Capper to be an enjoyable place. The people who lived there created this community. From my previous post:
"Cappers residents remembered the immense number of activities and the fun that they had in their old homes. They also remembered some of the difficulties. Their rec center offered football, baseball, soccer, track, golf, and chess. There were regular BBQs and band performances, by resident bands and visitors, including Chuck Brown. There were tutors and coaches, who took a lot of time with them, which they sought to repay later in their lives."
  • One has to ask how the redevelopment of Capper Carrollsburg is "laudable and successful," for whom and according to which criteria? As I understand it, the redevelopment project forcibly displaced people since 1998. It is great that some former residents have been allowed to move back in. In contrast to HOPE VI projects like Capitol Quarter, other programs to create more integration 1) have made certain that former residents could move to areas with 10% or less poverty, rather than to just anywhere housing happened to be available, and 2) did not seek to erase entire communities but rather redeveloped the area in stages avoiding the displacement of people and communities and allowing them to reap the benefits of the improvements. Of course, I always ask why the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Capitol Quarter could not have been invested much earlier.
  • Back in 2003-2005, one of the big issues among the Capper Carrollsburg residents was: who was considered eligible for the 707 units of public housing in Capitol Quarter? Many of the residents had low-wage jobs and thus had to compete for just a small number of the low-income public housing units (see my previous post and another post). Also other restrictions, like personal debt, kept many residents out.
  • Yes, reaching out to neighbors -- including those in Capitol Quarter, those who had lived in Arthur Capper, or those living now in other public housing projects in Ward 6 -- is a great idea. Members of the Arthur Capper community have invited those living in Capitol Quarter and around Garfield Park to join them at the annual reunions. Every Friday, they play horseshoes in Garfield Park. Stop by and say hi! Through such reaching out, I agree that we might become better neighbors and better citizens.


  1. On the commentator: I find the use of civil rights language by the commentator(he/she claims to oppose "de facto racial segregation"!) to justify expulsion of the poor appalling. Question: why do the rich feel they need to justify their abuse of the poor in the language of moral improvement, etc.? Why do they act like an embattled community when they are, in fact, successful conquistadors? More importantly: how do those of us who still believe in democracy and a right to the city fight these hypocritical settler colonists before they finish turning Ward 6 into a gated community?

  2. Ms. Oliphant clearly has a realistic and nuanced approach to her neighborhood before and after the development. It’s the filmmakers who are nostalgic for an imagined past that doesn’t note the extreme racial and economic homogeneity of the neighborhood or its other social problems - factors that many decent people sincerely believe motivated, and probably justified, the extreme government intervention of this case.

  3. I do not believe there was any justification for the extreme government intervention. I believe there should have been discussion on how to co exist with among new residents moving in buying property and those coming back to the neighborhood who were renters. The promise that was made for residents returning was broken. Those actions cause distrust.

  4. my name is allen davis..(bones)..the process that was implamented to up seat the residents of Arthur Cappers to this new phase was cold blooded...lets be real and call it like it is..Arthur Cappers is an original capital hill venue as oppose to H st. NE, and other adjoining areas...There was no intention of allowing but a selected few back into this newly developed neighborhood...Before hand, the city council and developers and military knew these residents were not included into the new plans....THey would send the soldiers down to the field passing out bug juice and high sodium hamburgers, searashings, to the children and residents...Lack of education was the remaining residents demise as well as drug traficking...crime...there was never a high rate of crime in the area...only drug traficking...Stop playing with the intelligence of the Arthur Capper residents...we've moved on...but when we do our annual reunion we don't need the road blocks...Garfield park, G st, I remember area being predominatly black...I served news papers in that area...attended Brent elementary when it first opened...We're not outsiders, the new residents our..a place in Garfield park was commemorated to me for painting a picture for Arbor Day, a place where the tennis court is...did they confer with me? Hell no!!..Now you complain when we show up for OUR reunion..WHere is Councilman David Wells now...he needs to step in to solidfy our reunion tradition...you all have the neighborhood...we just want our day in the park with no problem...Peace


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