Thursday, January 28, 2010

Prosperity in River East: Part 1 - ATTITUDE

Hello friends,

This post is the first installment of a four part serious on black American prosperity. As a conservative black American residing in River East, I feel compelled to articulate my ideas on how the people of River East and black Americans as a whole can begin to prosper. These solutions are not popular. In fact, I believe they may be offesive to many readers. But we must agree that we need a drastic change. In each post, I will present my analysis of a particular obstacle, provide supporting opinion, and outline practical steps we can take to mitigate the obstacle.

The greatest hinderance to prosperity in River East and other black communities is the ATTITUDE of the residents. Our attitude affects our values, our thoughts, our actions, and ultimately our quality of life. There are three attitudes that need adjusting: victimization, entitlement, and debauchery.

How many times do you hear your brotha talk about "the man" holding him down? The brotha can't find a job because the "the man" won't hire him? Or the single teen parent who blames her child's dismal grades on the books, the facility, the teacher - everything other than herself. And we can't forget the slavery and segregation excuse. Yes, we all know slavery and segregation were the darkest hours in history but how long can we play that card? Example: last Fall, I joined the Anacostia Coordinating Council on a fundraiser boat ride. Your usual suspects were in entow - Eleanor Holmes Norton, Marion Barry, William Lockridge etc. And what do they do? They talk about how evil white people were 40 years ago. They talk about the struggle. The don't talk about personal responsibility. They blame the "white man" for the problems we face today when the truth is - the white man isn't thinking about us. He's moved on to bigger and better things. The white man doesn't even know we exist over here in River East, yet we're still holding on to a grudge that should have been forgiven long ago. We need to shake this attitude of victimization.

Second, we need to adjust our attitude of entitlement. For some reason, residents of River East feel like the city owes them something. River East residents see themselves as victims. They want to live like the residents west of the Park but they don't want to make the necessary investments that would economically and socially support that quality of life. River East residents want the best teachers, but we don't attend PTA conferences, respect the teachers, or instill intellectual curiosity in our children to excel. We want jobs in our community, but we don't support locally owned business and resist all efforts to attract industry to River East. We want first class public services, but we vandalize our metro buses, litter in front of schools, and we refuse to cooperate with police in fear of being called a snitch. Further, we want to be respected and taken seriously by the rest of the city, however we are the fools who voted Marion Barry into office. Please, good people, explain how we can be entitled to anything? The situation we find ourselves in is of our own doing.

Finally, we need to adjust our attitude towards ourselves and our community. Muhammed Ali said, "What you are thinking is what you are becoming." And he is absolutely right. A few months ago while driving home from Southern Metro Station, WPGC announced a new hit from rapper 50 cents and singer/songwriter Neyo titled “Baby By Me.” Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

I need you to give more what I need, more liquor more weed
I need you to maybe give me a seed…

Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire
Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire
Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire

This song doesn’t talk about marriage, long-term relationships, raising children together as a family. Nope. It reinforces a message of sex, drugs, alcohol, usury, and broken families. And yes, I understand that this is one song, but nearly every hip hop song that gets radio play has this same denigrating message.

The damage done by the lyrics is compounded by music videos of half-naked black women, leased diamonds and cars, alcohol and smoke-filled VIP lounges, etc.

Now let’s be clear – it is one thing for mature adults to indulge in legal adult activities, but the problem is we are the only culture that seems to lack discretion in this department. When we’re jamming in the car to Jammie Fox’s “Blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol,” so is little Tamara. When we’re watching Beyonce dancing and carrying on half naked on 106th and Park, so is little Jamaal. And then we all want to be surprised when Tamara and Jamaal become the images and words they receive.

I end this installment of black prosperity with these affirmations:
-I am not a victim
-No one owes me anything. I hold myself responsible for the situation I am in.
-I will not encourage lyrics, music videos, or movies that denigrate my community.

We are becoming what we are thinking.


faithfulservant3 said...

Amen Sister and God bless you!

I have turned off the radio and TV precisely for the reasons you have mentioned.

It's been a while, but I said a couple of similar things:
"The Power of Faith"--

I look forward to your next installment.

Carl Rollins

Thom said...

'Milah, I think you're right. As an outsider, both by location and color, I can only offer what I think by looking in. And I have to agree about taking responsibility.

I'd like to look at two cases that I've noticed when dealing with Black American parents (as opposed to parents who are from Africa or from other countries: ie Black French). Last year I had one student who was Black. His parents were both born and raised in the states. He had a hard time behaving in Kindergarten. He was more than capable of doing the work, but wouldn't. I scheduled several meetings with his parents (they even changed their schedule so one would pick him up once a week so we could have more face-to-face contact). And they supported me. We problem solved. And this boy made it through Kindergarten.

This year again, I have one Black child (many other who are from other countries themselves or are first generation American). This year, however, her mom is a young, single parent. And she blames every one and every thing else for the child's failures (including the child herself!) Mom has missed meetings with me. This child has come to school every day exhausted, both myself and other teachers and the principal have given the mom ideas on how to help the child go to sleep, but there is no follow through.

It makes me sad, that because of this woman's apathy and lethargy she is setting her child up for failure. I do what I can. I offer this child unconditional love, a safe place where she's aloud to make mistakes and order and discipline. She response wonderfully to all of these, but it's hard work! If mom would take the responsibility for her own child, this girl has the potential to do great things!

Stepping off my soap box now.

Maceonline said...

Thank you for sharing your idea of how these "other" River East and Black people live.
I am very curious about the research and analysis of your piece and have a few questions.
1. When you discuss residents’ “attitudes” how did you conduct your research? Your descriptions of attitude and community norms seem overgeneralized to me, but perhaps you have some more substantial data points that you can help me better understand your assertions.
2. What is your personal historical perspective that has led you to these conclusions?
3. In your analysis, what led you to discount the legacy of racism and segregationist policies that continue to contribute to many of the social inequities and community “attitudes”?
4. You mentioned that each one of your posts in this 4-part series would include solutions. Am I correct that your solution here is to encourage Black positive thinking and turning off BET, MTV and VH1? Are you planning to offer more substantial solutions in the future?
5. By the way, for the record – Eleanor Holmes Norton recently held a conference on increasing African American marriages and has personally upbraided me and accused me of being part of the problem for not being married and raising children. You may need to add a correction to your piece. Here is a link to an article that shows that she does talk about “personal responsibility” -

The Advoc8te said...

This post is so MONEY! I agree with you 2000% on everything you said! Especailly about entitlement! That is the god's honest truth and I was just talking about that yesterday with someone. I definetly will be linking to this series on my blog and I cant wait to read the 2nd installment

The Advoc8te said...

And I am abosuletly sick of people blaming stuff on "the man". Sometimes I feel like I can't have a frank and honest conversation with our local "leaders" of a certain age before the "big bad white man" comes into the conversation.

They are not thinking about us. In the list of River East crimelords (political and criminal) all I see are black faces. All the poverty pimps I see have black faces. We need to have some accountability here for what we do and what we allow others to do to us. We have no excuse not to get it together.

Braveheart said...

@faithfulservant3 - thanks for your note! I'll check out the blog today
@Thom - I love when you lend your perspective as an educator! Its a shame that you have to put so much more effort into some of your children (not because the child has special needs) but because the parent is slacking. God Bless you.
@Maceonline - 1. I always do statistical research for each post. DC gov provides excellent stats on quality of life indicators in ward 8 but I try not to bore readers with numbers. In fact, i try not to use them too much because that stats are almost unbelievable! For example, 30 percent of TANF families in DC reside in ward 8 alone; however ward 8 only makes up 12% of the city's population! 2. My historical perspective is from living in two worlds. I grew in an inner city in NJ but when to private schools. I attended a HBCU. I've also lived in MO, VA, and now River East. And the same racial dynamics were evident in each location. My folks, however, are African immigrants and they DO NOT suffer from the social ills black American live with. 3. I choose to discount segregation and slavery because it's time to do so. Historically, black American communities were stronger before desegregation than they are now. There were more black owned businesses, and (in my opinion) the caliber of HBCUs was greater. I have a no-excuse mentality. As long as we give ourselves an excuse, we will exploit it. 5. You're actually right on Eleanor, but I think she has the ability to jump from one school of thought to the next - depending on who she's talking to. So, at the ACC cruise, she co-hosted a pity-party. I appreciate your comments!
@Advoc8te - LOL i LOVE you comment about River East crimelords! LOL We need to take a good look at all these clowns from the ANC commissioners to the shady business owners to agitprop newspaper journalists. I think Thomas Jefferson said "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing."

Anonymous said...

River East Idealist is a needed voice of clarity and reason in our community.

Anonymous said...

Research needed for this post is stepping foot in East Washington with open hears and eyes. You will see hard evidence and data to support this concept quickly.

Anonymous said...

open "ears"

Natasha said...


I was once a resident in Anacostia; lived there for a little over a year. I agree with the points you have made, in my opinion ATTITUDES are the BIGGEST HINDERANCE. The 'woe is me' mentality amongst residents in River East has got to stop. We live and reside in America, if you dream it or desire it, you can make it a reality in this country. River East residents...remember life is about choices...CHOOSE to change your ATTITUDE!

dbrighthaupt said...

Great! Your views are part of the reason I sought answers for the Old Guard's longevity. In keeping w/ what is undeniably obvious to the educated civic reader, might I throw in something to ponder?

I met my ANC for the 2nd time the other day, her friend dropped some knowledge that has convinced me to stop crying gentrification and look at the history of cultures that have RECLAIMED their stakes/or RECOVERY. More importantly, look at different scenarios on how US Gov't has 'recovered' various claims.

Isn't it just amazing how The Jewish Cemetary has remained intact, w/o visible vandalism, halloween hide & seek, police chase through it, dead body found, graffiti, neglect, nor metro rattling it during underground construction?

As a poli sci student, I was commanded by 3 of the best to keep The Bible at arms reach and The Prince in my hip pocket. Perhaps these 'Old Guards' like the ones on ACC's annual boat ride understand the nature of 'The Man'. Unfortunately in their attempt to have you never forget, their nostalgia gets in the way.

Don't get me wrong, if ever you see me in a room with MB & he digress' to his glory years, pinch me so I'll stop rolling my eyes, huffin' & puffin' and dare I growl "Lawd here we go again, Nickle address the issue at hand."

For obvious reasons, MB/loyalty/me will blend as oil & water. And I'm one of the few who'll tell him what he needs to know both publically and personally cause his cronies don't have the courage and he's a leader of which I happen to have a living interest in.

BUT since personally peeling his layers, picking his brain, and really after reading This Washington Post article, "Marion Barry Just Wants to Be Loved" By Arthur S. Brisbane
Sunday, April 26, 1987; Page W20; I'm a little less harsh on him and have decided that just as a snake is a snake, Marion is Marion. Their nature is God given/can't alter it. Fortunately neither lasts forever. Like a cold, Ward 8has to allow him to run his course, as there is no real cure for the common cold.

Again, Great!
Someone was interested in beginning a book club. That article would be a great first read to gather and dissect.

masterplan said...

This is a great article and I have been saying a lot of the samethings for awhile. I'm from NYC, but have in lived in DC for the past few years and have become deeply troubled by what I see in communities across the District. Personally, I do not live in the River East Community, but there are many like it in NY and across the country. We all have to put our heads together and figure this out. I ready to join in on some effort to make some real change.

Dale Banks said...

Great article Jamilah!

Alice M Thornton said...

I just came across this blog today--love it! I'm a relatively new Ward 8 transplant--5 years (DC native, originally Petworth/Columbia Heights). I come from a pretty conservative family (many generations in DC). The reason it took 4 decades to see improvement in Ward 4 was the fact that nobody spoke up and made themselves visible; by that, I mean that when planners came in and started talking about the market, they were under the impression that the neighborhood was "poor". I happened to attend an ANC meeting during which one of the new residents made this statement; I explained to him that, although my family (just one example) lived in Petworth (since moving from Georgetown in the '30s) we shopped in Friendship Heights because that's where the decent stores were. I'd had very little use for the barber shops, liquor stores, storefront churches and beauty parlors that lined Georgia Avenue, so they didn't get much of my business. The planners were speechless. Needless to say, they did more research, and look at Ward 4 now.

Same sitch in Ward 8--we get so little representation in contrast to "the last, least and lost"--who wants to open retail in a poor neighborhood? If those of us with a decent income(and I suspect there are a lot, judging home sales) were to make ourselves more visible/audible, folks would start to listen. (I don't mean brag about your income; that would be foolish! Subscribe to the WSJ, the Economist, the NY Times; once 20020, for instance, is in those databases, the market will sit up and take notice.)

Also, we all need to recognize that there is some diversity in this ward (though not a lot), and we need to make sure that people feel welcome; stop insisting that everything be geared solely toward African Americans. I come from a multicultural family, and my daughter is bi-racial (I can't believe people still say the same idiotic things to her that they said to me when I was growing up, but that's another blog somewhere). Getting accustomed to moving about in diverse cultures prepares one for working in the world at-large.

Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading more!

Tracey said...

I agree with your affirmations. Are you taking out of context the conversations you witnessed? Slavery and Segregation are historical atrocities that can not be forgotten. Your series suggests that you will continue to belittle Blacks in Anacostia.