Cultural Identity Two
You've submitted a lot of good answers to the question about what
constitutes Washington's cultural identity, but we haven't exhausted the subject. Keep
Well, the cultural identity of Washington, DC, seems to be a conundrum
because we cannot seem to put it into words; it is more or less something you feel.
However I think I will try. Being a young black female born and raised in Washington, DC I
think being a Washingtonian is a combination of the following things: knowing who Chuck
Brown is; remembering your first GO-GO; eating at Ben's Chili bowl, before the Fox 5 news
team did their best restaurants in DC Expo; going to the Turkey Bowl in High School; the
Hispanic Parade in Mont. Pleasant; shopping in Georgetown after school; giving tourists
directions; expressing subway etiquette: stand to right, walk to the left; supporting the
Redskins despite the politically incorrect name, from the Superbowls through the scandals;
hand dancing at the Eclipse; Halloween in Georgetown, and the Drag Race in Dupont Circle;
only going to Capitol Hill for a class trip; Georgia Avenue Day; the Unifest; being the
home of some of the most prominent universities and HBCU's in the nation; picnics under
the Cherry Blossoms; 365-day access to some of the most amazing works of art in the world,
via the Smithsonian. All these things are what our identity is wrapped up in and more.
However, our cultural identity can be summed up in the most important thing: knowing and
loving the fact that though this is the Nation's Capitol but we are a nation unto
ourselves. And for all of you transplanted out-of-towners who feel that they have
gotten no real sense of a cultural identity from Washington, DC, I feel
extremely sorry for you, but maybe it's simply not meant for you.
PS: Specifics: however I do not think that any city's identity is made up
in a dance, or a food. DC food: anything that tastes good, from steak, to four wings fried
rice with Mambo sauce at the carry out, to Crabs from the Wharf. DC music: Go-Go and those
70's hand dance classics. DC Dance: for the young people Spotlight
Go-Go, for all else I guess I would have to agree with the Electric Slide. These are all
suggestions because DC is something you feel, not something you eat or dance.
My sister moved to England 20 years ago. She still identifies as an
American and votes absentee (although not in Florida!). themail subscriber John Whiteside
moved to DC from Boston four years ago and identifies as a Bostonian who lives in
the District. I moved here from Michigan and still at least to some extent
think of Detroit as home (contrary to Peter Luger's report, my
Detroit-area friends ALWAYS say they're from Detroit even when they're really
from a suburb (except Ann Arbor)). Why should my sister, who doesn't even live in the
United States, have more representation in the US Congress than we do? So: what's the
likelihood we could get foreign status for DC and let us all vote absentee in our origin
states? At least we'd have the right to vote for someone!
Look, I Live Here
Rob Pegoraro, robp@~typo~speakeasy.org
I think I mentally moved into D.C. at the start of my junior year of
college, when I cam back from a horrifically boring summer in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. I
was never so happy before to see the spires of Georgetown swing into view from the GW
Parkway the view told me I was coming home.
I identify far more with this area than with my ancestral homeland of New
Jersey. I may have a near-complete set of Springsteen's work, but he's far outnumbered by
the local artists in the CD rack Fugazi, the Kennedys, Danny Gatton, Last Train
Home, Tsunami, Velocity Girl, Alice Despard, the Dismemberment Plan, Smart Went Crazy and
a few more I can't recall. Likewise, I've got four of George Pelecanos' books lined up
next to Edward P. Jones' Lost in the City and Christopher Buckley's Thank You
For Smoking. If I lived elsewhere, I never would have heard of half this stuff.
Yes, the pizza situation here could be better, and the cannoli
availability is just deplorable compared to NYC or Boston. But I bet the burritos here
could hold their own against anything in those two cities. And can you order
all-you-can-eat steamed hardshells there? I don't think so.
When I'm returning from a trip, I still gawk at the landmarks that tell me
I'm home. If I'm rolling into Union Station, I have to walk through that beautiful hall
before getting on Metro. If I'm landing at Dulles, I'll trace the paths of the highways or
the W&OD Trail; at National, I'm glued to the window from the moment I can spot the
high-rises in Rockville and Bethesda, and I can usually pick out old apartment buildings
and friends' houses in the moments before touching down. Then I know I got on the right
Cultural Identity of DC
Michael Bindner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultural identify is a multiple choice questions, as there are four or
five at present, although hopefully in time one will predominate. As with every issue,
this one has race at the core. There are the native Washingtonians who are
both black and white who have several common memories like how the town reacted when JFK
was shot, how they couldn't vote until the 23rd Amendment, how segregation effected
everything, from lunch counters to church, how the Commission ran things or didn't
run things. There is the African-American subculture of this group that remembers the U
Street era where the best and the brightest came and entertained a thriving black middle
class. There are the Barry haters in the white community who remember life
before integration and how their Washington was ruined. There is the current
hip-hop culture among the youth, which is not necessarily only black. There is the east of
the river welfare culture, who think Ward 3 gets all the services.
One aspect of Washington culture is that an assistant secretary or
congressional staffer (or congressman) may be your next door neighbor or a member of your
church. It is the feeling of ownership of national and world affairs what my
fiancee describes as the national news being the local news. (the inside the
beltway culture which was formally just the Washington culture as former city
residents have moved out to the burbs) Of course, some of us take it too far and deal with
the federal government and regional congressional delegation rather than our own local
government, when that would be more appropriate (the elite culture of Washington which is
antithetical to statehood). Finally, there is the progressive culture, which celebrates
life and politics across racial lines some of which is included in the democracy
movement and the statehood green party and the democratic state committee, and various
District-wide civic groups. You could call this the small town DC culture, which at its
core supports self-government, the empowerment of the poor and the unity of the city.
Hopefully, that is the part that will grow with time and become the dominant culture.
Oh! Speaking of cultural identity, did you guys read that right now some
chamber of commerce-type group is attempting to overthrow Wisconsin's cultural identity?
Really. They're peeved that Wisconsin is identified with those rubbery cheesehead hats and
the Packalope well, unless you're a Packers fan that one's too hard to explain.
But, come on, Wisconsinites know exactly who they are! They are cheeseheads, thank you
very much! And let's hear it for them. Woo woo!
Anyhow, as a relative newcomer (here seventeen months now) I have pondered
D.C.'s cultural identity a lot. I'm originally from Chicagoland (deep-dish pizza, Al
Capone, Lake Shore Drive, permanent-underdog Cubs) and spent the last 10 years in Kansas
City, Mo. (great barbecue, jazz, a big and friendly cow-town). As we mulled the move from
K.C., a colleague who had lived in D.C. issued this stern warning: D.C. is not a
city. It's an activity center. It has no soul, no identity.
I've come to disagree with that. Our identity, our soul, is power. But
what's happened is, The Government has come to have such a lousy reputation
over the years, that D.C. shies away from claiming that as its identity. Hell, we're the
seat of power for the entire free world! That's who we are! And hurray for us, by the way.
Not to mention all the cool international stuff/food/people here. Embassy Row kicks ass!
So, personally, I think that's who we are: People coming together from
around the country and around the world to run, well, everything. Which is why we don't
have, for instance, a food. We have food from all over the world; we don't
have a song or a dance, we have dozens if not hundreds of them. My
suggestion: Let's take a lesson from those cheeseheads and start wearing Styrofoam hats of
the Capitol dome!
The Other Culture
Danilo Pelletiere, email@example.com
The feeling that D.C. has no culture and identity is closely related to
the feeling that D.C. is not a real city. Most often I hear these sentiments
from White, well educated folks, and they refer to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or even
Baltimore as the counter examples. Clearly, D.C.'s non-industrial heritage make it a very
different city, but this is not all. The biggest difference is that the working class
culture they want to see (but not actually be a part of) that does exist in this city is
African American. When I was a recently arrived high school student here, a lot of kids
wore It's a DC Thang, You wouldn't understand T-shirts. The shirt was full
front and back of things I didn't understand then, and probably would understand only a
few more now.
How many times have I been in the Florida Farmers Market and seen yuppies
looking around confused because instead of the Polish and Italian Sausages and other
European ethnic cuisine they expect in a central market? Instead, they find North Carolina
sausage, pigs feet and greens. Hand dancing, GoGo, the Butt, half smokes and collard
greens, they are all a big part of the city's culture, but a lot of us don't feel as
comfortable with these things as we do among Boston's Irish or Philly's Italians. So we're
a small city with much more recent -- and suburban -- immigration and that makes us
different. Black and White we are also very white collar, on average more highly educated,
and certainly more bureaucratic than our counterparts in other cities. But we
are also a Southern city still, with a resident largely Black culture and a transient
population (largely White) that brings their culture with them and leaves with it again.
Transplants to DC
Joan Eisenstodt, firstname.lastname@example.org
I have thought about what DC's culture/identity is and I am as
hard-pressed to find it as I was when I lived in Dayton, Ohio, where I was born and spent
most of my life. When I said I was from Dayton, I would say, "You know, the
birthplace of the Wright Brothers? Jonathan Winters?" Dayton was called the Gem
City for reasons I forget. Now when I say I'm from DC, I can call up the monuments,
stately buildings, historic neighborhoods, and interesting things that happen here, in and
outside politics. Is that who we are?
Dave Bosserman, email@example.com
What makes us Washingtonians is our cultural diversity, not cultural
Regarding the question as to whether we have an identity that makes us
Washingtonians: last year, I tried to spell out that identity for businesses at least. See
Washington, DC From A to Z at http://www.synpub.com/washingt.htm. (This
was written for the DC Chamber of Commerce.)
I Love DC from Tennessee
Jerry Hachison, firstname.lastname@example.org
I love WDC. However, I am speaking as a new Memphian (6 months), after 25
years in WDC and a bit of the 'boibs. We've retired and moved on . . . and up. Yes, there
is a WDC culture. It is closely knit neighborhoods with neighbors who watch out for each
other. It is religious communities and places of hope which reach out to each other and
work for a higher and better good. It is a place where some racial tension can be overcome
by working together, but there is a hard tone of racial animosity which has not been
alleviated by the changing years. It is a place where food pretensions (and costs of both
buying and eating out) can overrun mere mortals who try to live in the ordinary world and
improve it (even with the Washingtonian's 100 best and cheapest).
HOWEVER, It is also a general streak of nastiness and a tendency for
disdain for anyone not of your class or group. It is a place segregated by political
affiliation, visions of self worth and self importance. It is a place where meetings and
greetings can unfortunately revolve around who you work for and know rather than who you
are and can be. It is a place of inflated property values which far exceeds the worth of
the areas and which enforce enclusivity of a variety of types. It is a whirling maelstrom
of fears, hopes, anger, class hatred, and, yes, love.
And, there could be lots more said on both sides of the question.
DCs Official Dish
Kerry Jo Richards, email@example.com
I seem to remember that Washington Post article on Washington
DC's favorite food. After a very scattered race, it came down to the half smoke! What a
[Steve Fehr, firstname.lastname@example.org, adds that the dish was the half smoke
as served by Ben's Chili Bowl. Gary Imhoff]
Washington County, DC
Richard Bartel, email@example.com
The DC Surveyor has confirmed that Washington County still exists north of
Florida Avenue (old Boundary). Can we get voting representation in Congress for Washington
County, DC, residents (who will continue to pay taxes), and make the City of Washington
tax-free below Florida Avenue?
I would disagree with some things David Sobelsohn said in the last themail
(Sun, 03 December 2000). Call me naive, but invective against Republicans simply seems
foolish. While there aren't many in the DC voting population, they do control Congress and
probably the presidency for at least the next four years. I would contend that Republicans
have been far greater friends to the District, historically and of late, than have
Democrats. Work with Congressional Republicans to come to a governance solution for the
District. Or build a coalition out of Republicans and Democrats. Dismissing them out of
hand and hoping Democrats will come back into power and will make DC governance a priority
seems wishful at best.
We Deserve It
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
In spite of a very rational plan for D.C. General Hospital, put forth by
Mayor Williams almost two years ago, the hemorrhaging of money at that poorly managed
facility continues due to bickering by the city council over how to get that situation
under control. Coupled with the inability of some of the city's major departments to
control spending and to live within their budgets (notably D.C. General and our very own
ineffective Police Department) we are well on the way to earning another stint by the
Control Board. And, we deserve it.
Here's an idea for a festive and socially-conscious holiday gathering. The
idea is simple: invite a bunch of kids (and/or adults) for a holiday get-together. The
focus of the party is that each guest is asked to bring a new unwrapped gift for at least
one child. Then, at the party, each person wraps their gift, makes a card and puts a note
on the package noting the age and gender best suited for the gift. Then, the host gathers
all the presents and delivers them to a local place of worship or local shelter for
distribution. A slightly more complicated variation is to call the shelter or place of
worship first (or DC Housing Authority) and get a list of first names, gender and ages of
the kids. (They won't provide last names or addresses for security reasons.) The benefit
to this second plan is that the guests can purchase gifts with a specific child in mind
and the cards can be personalized.
Footlights DC's only modern drama discussion group meets
monthly to discuss plays from the modern theater. Participation is free. On Wednesday,
December 20, we'll discuss Patrick Meyers's K2 (1982). Thrilling (The
New Yorker) and inspiring (New York Times), K2
depicts two friends, clinging to an icy ledge atop the world's second tallest mountain,
who stay alert by sharing stories of their lives. Our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30
p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Luna Books, 1633 P St., NW, three blocks east of Dupont Circle.
It will feature K2 director Wendy Goldberg. To make reservations for our
discussion E-mail email@example.com
or call 638-0444. For discount tickets ($28 orchestra, $24.50 balcony) to the Tuesday
January 2 7:30 p.m. performance at Arena Stage, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-897-9314. You
can join us for the discussion December 20, the performance January 2, or both. For
general information about Footlights, visit http://www.footlightsdc.org.
David Jamieson Art Exhibit
Peter Stebbins, email@example.com
On Sunday, December 10, from 2:00 p. m., there will be a reception at the
Studio House at Walbridge, 3229 Walbridge Place, N. W., celebrating the loan of artworks
by David Bethuel Jamieson (1963-1992) to the Art in Embassies Program.
A special exhibition organized for newly appointed Ambassador to
Mauritania John W. Limbert and his wife Parvaneh, Landscapes, Abstractions, and Seascapes
by David Bethuel Jamieson (1963-1992) includes Flowers, 1989 and Flowers at Burlington,
Vt., FALL, 1991 selected by the Limberts for loan through the Art in Embassies Program, U.
S. Department of State. During the period of this loan, these selections may be viewed at http://aiep.state.gov. The Studio House at Walbridge is
pleased to offer the public complimentary reproductions of Flowers at Burlington, Vt.,
FALL, 1991 in celebration of this event. The Studio House at Walbridge is located in Mount
Pleasant, between Adams Mill and Park Roads. For more information or to RSVP, please
contact Peter John Stebbins at 319-7656.
Discover a new public education option for Grades Pre-K through 6th at
Capital City Public Charter School, 3029 14th St., NW (across from the Columbia Heights
Metro) on Wednesday, December 13, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. See the smashing new space,
learn more about the school's model program, meet our highly trained and dedicated staff,
and observe students at work. For more info, call 387-0309.
Christmas Tree Sale at John Eaton
Leila Afzal, Leila.Afzal@noaa.gov
Beginning this weekend and next, the John Eaton Elementary School is
sponsoring its annual Christmas Tree and Wreath Sale. We will be open Friday the 8th from
3-5 p.m., Sat. 9-5, and Sun. 10-5 and again the following weekend. Come buy your tree from
Eaton and support the Home and School Associations enrichment programs for the children.
The school is located at 34th and Lowell Streets, NW.
This Saturday, Washington Storytellers Theater presents This Ain't
Your Bubbe's Yiddish Theater, a vibrant and joyful celebration of life that will
warm hearts, tickle funny bones, and stir memories for Bubbes and Zaydes and all members
of the human family. This husband-and-wife team Renee is a storyteller and juggler;
Mark is a cantor and musician blends ancient arts to bring you an evening that
evokes the feel of old time Yiddish theater, while bringing wit and wisdom to the daily
dramas and dilemmas of modern-day life.
Tickets cost $12 ($9 for WST members, seniors and students). The
performance takes place at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, 4700 Whitehaven Parkway, NW,
between Foxhall Road and MacArthur Blvd. The performance begins at 8 p.m. Please call
301-891-1129 for tickets.
Cultural Identity and Voting Rights in Congress
Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am very interested in the conversation about the symbols of being a
resident of the District of Columbia. Obviously we at DC Vote are working hard to change
one of the unique characteristics -- no voting representation in Congress. To that end, DC
Vote is organizing a welcoming effort for the members of the 107th Congress. We have
already written to each member, and are now planning to go to the Hill on Wednesday,
January 3, 2001, to welcome them in person. Our plan is to have as many families from the
District as possible join us at the Capitol at noon on Wednesday the 3rd. We hope to
provide the members of the 107th with welcome baskets full of symbols of DC and useful
information, like neighborhood maps, and personal stories of the residents their votes
I welcome your thoughts about items for these baskets. (I thank you in
advance for the suggestion of tea -- pleased stay tuned to April for a tea related event!)
We want to start a cordial relationship with the 107th, and hope to personalize our
disenfranchisement. We expect that relations will grow contentious fairly quickly, but we
want to extend our best wishes at the outset. Please visit our web site if you would like
to read the introductory letter that was sent to the Hill, http://www.dcvote.org. In
addition, anyone who would like to help us plan for January 3rd is welcome to come to a
committee meeting on Monday, December 11, at 5:00 p.m. in the DC Vote offices at 1500 U
Street, N.W. I look forward to your suggestions, and hope that as many people as possible
will join us on January 3rd.
CLASSIFIEDS HELP WANTED
Bookkeeper Needed at Local Literary Agency
Jessica Lee, email@example.com
Literary and Creative Artists, a local Literary Agency, is seeking a
part-time (equivalent to one day per week) bookkeeper. We are located in the Van Ness
area, and are open to inquiries from retirees, students, and stay-at-home moms/dads that
would be able to commit to a few hours per week. Visit our web site, http://www.lcadc.com,
for details about the agency; fax cover letter and resume to 362-8875.
Volunteers Needed: Childrens Section of Mount
Peg Blechman, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Children's Section on the second floor of the Mount Pleasant Library
is truly a gem of a children's library and a wonderful place for kids to go. They have a
great selection of books, a beautiful, large reading area, three or four computers, and
two beautiful alcoves for kids to sit and read in. But there's only one Children's
Librarian there on Saturdays, so she could use some help with a variety of tasks. Even if
you only can spare one hour a month, I know it would be appreciated. Contact the
Children's Librarian for more info. I'm sure that they would appreciate any help you could
Rental or House-Sit Needed
Sue Bell, email@example.com
My family of four needs a place to stay from February through May. We are
looking to rent a small house, sublet an apartment, or house sit for someone on an
extended vacation. Please call or E-mail if you have any ideas. We don't have pets and our
two kids are elementary schoolers. Ideally, we would like to stay in the district or
somewhere near Tenleytown close to school and work. Call 244-4595 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Referral Directory Listing for Non-Profits
Norah Lovato, email@example.com
Attention nonprofits, service providers, government agencies, and all the
like: make sure your agency is included in the next edition of The Referral
Directory: Free and Low Cost Services in Metropolitan Washington, due out early next
year. This human services resource directory is the most comprehensive directory of its
kind in the region. The upcoming 15th edition of The Referral Directory will
have expanded categories and full range of programs including housing, food and clothing,
mental health, senior citizens, financial assistance, parenting, HIV/AIDS, alcohol and
drugs, and employment, to name a few.
This edition has been expanded to include more than 1000 programs.
Information was sent to many of your agencies to update your current entries or to inform
us of new programs for the next edition. If your agency has not returned your entries, it
is not too late -- or if you would like for your agency to be included in the next
edition, please call 223-0020 to receive a entry form. Listing your agency is a free
service to your organization and helps to increase awareness of your organization and
become part of a much valued and important community resource.
Gabriel Wiest, firstname.lastname@example.org
Would appreciate any recommendations for a reputable roofer. I just moved
to Capitol Hill and need to replace a small flat tar roof.
CLASSIFIEDS CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, email@example.com
From washingtoncitypaper.com's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
JARVIS JIVE: The District hasn't met a failed politician it couldn't celebrate. When,
after at least two resurrections, Mayor-For-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. finally left office,
he received a shameless sendoff at the MCI Center lauding the first few successful years
of his political career. Nobody mentioned the fact that he had nearly driven the city to
Rose-colored glasses also were handed out at the goodbye soiree for 80-something At-Large
D.C. Councilmember Hilda Mason. Harry Thomas -- God rest his soul -- got a street and a
recreation center named after him, although there were times during the tenure of that
councilmember when it was hard to discern whether he was punch-drunk or simply drunk on
the dais in the council chamber.
Now comes the big hooha on Thursday, Dec. 7 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel for defeated Ward 4
councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/lips/lips.html
From washingtoncitypaper.com's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early
warnings for upcoming events:
Saturday: Basset Caroling. Dogs (of any breed) and their owners are invited to don their
gay apparel and howl Yuletide carols. At noon in Dupont Circle Park, Dupont Circle NW.
Tuesday: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment, on view from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Newseum, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html
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