• Ashley Quarcoo

Our First Ward 7 Story Circle!

On December 1st, we hosted our first story circle in Ward 7 at the Dorothy I. Height/Benning Road Library. I completely forgot to snap a few pics, but I was blown away from the stories that folks shared. Newcomers and lifelong residents from across Ward 7 shared stories of change, stories of Ward 7's history, and struggles to find a place when one is a part of the change. Such gratitude to those who participated! Here is a beautiful story from the event:

I am a native Washingtonian but I grew up in Brookland, and I've worked my entire life East of the River. I had to reevaluate my thoughts and my approaches to things when I moved East of the River. Because now I am a resident, and it really made me reevaluate the suggestions and the way that I looked at residents when I was offering suggestions, "It's not that difficult. Your city services will come, you just need to call 311." (laughing) However, the thing that I love the most and I think that I am so blessed is that I live in the house that the seller, who is my neighbor, grew up in. And his dad and he built the kitchen and they built the garage. I have “ed-u-ca-tors” on my block as they refer to themselves. And when I moved in, they actually gave me a pie. They let me know that the standard was to have tea because the mother that lived in my house hosted teas. And that I was not to do with tap water(laughs). I was to have tea with Dasani water. I don't drink tea, and then I needed a teapot.

So my neighbors have done a lot to culture me. But the one thing that I love about it is that all of them have grown up there, and it's so rich. And to see the beautiful pictures of when you could see from East Capitol Street all the way down to Dean Avenue, which is now Nannie Helen Burroughs. I love the fact that in my neighborhood I am the youngest person for my block, and they were just so excited that I was moving in and that I had a child. They ask about my son. They give my son books. They look after me. If my alarm goes off, they are calling me, they are calling my mom and they're assuring her “We're already there.” So my neighbors have adopted me.

I also like the fact that I can go two blocks up at Lincoln Heights - and people have their owns views of Lincoln Heights because it's public housing. But I know that Daybreak Ministries, which is an offset of Acclaimed Bible, is there and they're doing really great work. And I know that the residents that live in Lincoln Heights, they've actually embraced me. Even though I'm not from “Lincoln,” as they refer to it, they still embrace me because they know that I live in the area and I'll go out there - because there are no kids on [my] block. So my son has to play with somebody, which means I would have to stand in the freezing cold while he's playing with the kids up there. But the moms are nice enough to welcome me in their home because they realize I am really freezing out here.

I actually feel like I'm part of some of the challenges because when I am in Lincoln Heights, even though some of the parents are welcoming of me, some of the parents "Hm" me, "Oh that's that bougie lady." I'm not really bougie. I'm really down to earth. But I don't know. Sometimes I feel out of place because I didn't grow up in Ward Seven, and Ward Seven residents have this unbreakable bond. And if you are not from this side, they make it clear that you don't belong. So amongst my elders and the helpers of the community, I feel welcomed. But outside of them, I do feel like an outsider. I don't understand why I don't have a Panera. Then I had my neighbors tell me that a Panera is just a fancy Subway and I should get over it 'cause we have a Subway.

So, it's like in the many days that I've went, I don't necessarily know that my entire community loves the same things because sometimes it makes me feel extremely out of place. And when I advocate for schools, I wanted a Mandarin immersion school over here, and they literally said “That's what white people do.” So in those situations, I feel like an outsider. But I always have the nurturing backing of my neighbors and the “ed-u-ca-tors” that tell me, "No baby girl, that's fine. We'll help you. If we have to sign something, we'll sign it." So I live in these two worlds now that I live in Ward Seven. And that's my story.


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