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Danny on People’s District

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Photo Credit: Lloyd Wolf

“A modern-day Studs Terkel.” – The Washington Post

People’s District was my way of meeting the people I saw every day, but never stopped to introduce myself to: Carolyn, the crossing guard on my street; Cedric, who ran by my office most days, spinning in circles while yelling ‘HOOT, HOOT’; Dave, who rides his bike up and down my street in a finely tailored suit and fedora; and Josh, who checks my ID at the 9:30 Club. I saw these people more often than I saw my own family, yet I had never exchanged more than a ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ with them.

During one of those proverbial wake-up moments in July 2009, I stopped my first person to ask, ‘So, what’s your story?’ Joe, my first interviewee, spoke passionately about growing up on U Street and his first experience of going downtown after the end of segregation. After Joe came Andrew, talking about overcoming homelessness, then Eric and Maddie, discussing the D.C. hardcore music scene. Each story shed light on a new slice of D.C. life and brought me into the world of a complete stranger who was kind enough to share his or her story with me.

While I came to D.C. to be a civil servant in September 2006, it was People’s District that really exposed me to the beautiful, and, at times, tortured soul of this city. I would spend my days as a suit-wearing, ID-around–the-neck-trotting, turf-battling, NW-loving, Treasury Department terrorist financing policy analyst, who used words like ‘lessons learned’ and ‘value added.’ After work and on the weekends, I would shed my suit and travel to all corners of the city to learn about go-go music, the D.C. Summer Youth Employment Program, why D.C. is a great town for a dominatrix, and how people were working to make D.C. a more livable city. In February 2010, I left the government to pursue People’s District full-time and have since brought People’s District into the classroom and worked with local businesses, non-profits, and neighborhood associations to help them tell their stories.

I thank everyone who’s made the time to talk to me, a complete stranger holding a camera and audio recorder, and share some wisdom on life in the District.  I also thank my family for their love and support. A special thank you to my grandmother, who proofreads all of my stories between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. every day. Hopefully, if I keep sharing enough stories about how great D.C. is, they will all move here.

I hope that, through sharing these stories, others will be encouraged to stop those people they see every day, but have never met and ask, ‘So, what’s your story?’ As you’ll see from the site, the responses can be pretty remarkable.

Want to suggest someone for People’s District to interview? Nominate his or her story here.

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74 Comments

  1. Just saw your Burning Man photos at the Gibson. They are absolutely stunning. I love the boys on rollerskates.

    Comment by Jim — April 7, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

  2. Danny, so great to meet you today at the vH office 🙂 Very inspiring to learn about what you’re doing. It definitely creates a sense of responsibility for the rest of us to follow your lead and appreciate those around us, no matter what city we call home. Looking forward to working together.

    Comment by Norma — May 2, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  3. I am so happy to have find this blog. It is the best thing I read about Washington since moving here from Germany. I can’t wait to meet all these people.

    Comment by Jasper — May 19, 2011 @ 10:06 am

  4. Your #igniteDC talk was so inspiring last night. I love what you do and wish more people saw the city that way that you do. After living here, we should all be able to give that same tour of DC in 20 faces.

    Comment by John — June 3, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  5. I was born in DC area and now live back in Vietnam. I miss home a lot. Your site helps me feel like i am back skateboarding downtown or hanging out with my friends in Chinatown. Thanks for keeping DC close to home for me. Peace from Hanoi, Tran

    Comment by Tran — June 8, 2011 @ 12:12 am

  6. […] Dan Harris over at People’s District spent DC Pride week interviewing some of the neatest queer folk in the Capital. TNG is proud to show off his work. […]

    Pingback by The New Gay » Pride: People’s District: Imam Daayiee Abdullah on Pushing the Limits of Acceptance — June 10, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  7. […] Dan Harris over at People’s District spent DC Pride week interviewing some of the neatest queer folk in the Capital. TNG is proud to show off his work. […]

    Pingback by The New Gay » Pride: People’s District: Dan on Feeling Whole — June 10, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  8. […] Dan Harris over at People’s District spent DC Pride week interviewing some of the neatest queer folk in the Capital. TNG is proud to show off his work. […]

    Pingback by The New Gay » Pride: People’s District: Annie aka dj vANNIETY Kills on Creating a Diverse Dance Floor — June 10, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  9. Never been to DC, but feel closer to it everyday thanks to your blog. Nice to learn that DC is not just full of politicians and Weiners. Samuel from Seattle

    Comment by Samuel — June 10, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

  10. Haha! You should totally interview Anthony Weiner’s weiner for your blog!

    Comment by KeepItInThePants — June 10, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  11. […] Danny Harris over at People’s District spent DC Pride week interviewing some of the neatest queer folk in the Capital. TNG is proud to show off his work. […]

    Pingback by The New Gay » Pride: People’s District: Toni on Feeling Like a Woman — June 10, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  12. […] Danny Harris over at People’s District spent DC Pride week interviewing some of the neatest queer folk in the Capital. TNG is proud to show off his work. […]

    Pingback by The New Gay » Personal Narratives: Jim on Being a Witness to History — June 14, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  13. Saw the Post article. Congrats, you are a star. So happy to see you finally recognized for your great work. Love and love, Q

    Comment by Q — July 21, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  14. i want to jion in you.but my english is poor.iim a chinese girl.

    Comment by jiangshan — July 24, 2011 @ 4:45 am

  15. Hello from China. Saw you in my newspaper. Very nice man are you. I like to read you stories and thank you for people stories.

    Comment by Jackie — August 1, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  16. Thank you for making the best website for our city. You make me see the beauty of Washington. You make the world see that we are more than those clowns who argue about debt ceilings and the silly tourists who only visit the Mall. We are a proud people in all four corners.

    Comment by Steph — August 2, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  17. Hello from Saudi Arabia. I like reading about Washington. Thank you

    Comment by Ahmed — August 9, 2011 @ 12:08 am

  18. Well done Mr. Harris. This is great service you do for all of us.

    Comment by Duane — September 13, 2011 @ 12:12 am

  19. Please come visit us in Wichita. My cousin, Ellen, from DC just passed along your work. What a lovely view into a city that I know and love. Once you finish with Washington, please come and bring your work here. We have so many great stories for you.

    Comment by Karen Josephs — September 16, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  20. I absolutely love your blog!! I came across it because I’m a supporter of Free Minds Book Club. What you are doing is something I’ve tried to incorporate in my daily life. Thank you for sharing in such a positive way!

    Comment by Emily — October 20, 2011 @ 9:40 am

  21. Thank you from Greece. I like to read about your work and people in Washington. One day, I hope to visit and maybe we can meet for a coffee. I hope so. 🙂

    Comment by Alex — November 5, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

  22. This is one of the best examples of the positive power of the internet. Reading this restores my faith in humanity amdist all the crap. Thank you Thank you; please keep going.

    Comment by Mar — November 11, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  23. […] sad, happy and in-between. One of my favorite projects is The People’s District, run by Danny Harris. His niche has been recording and sharing the stories of average people all around him. In this […]

    Pingback by This Year: Shut Up And Listen | Capital Comment — January 4, 2012 @ 8:11 am

  24. […] thing. This lonely realization propelled him out of isolation and into his neighborhood. He started The People’s District, a blog dedicated to telling the stories of Washingtonians. Like many, he moved to DC for a […]

    Pingback by Christians in the Capital | Capital Comment — September 21, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

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