People's District http://peoplesdistrict.com A People's History of Washington D.C. Sun, 10 Aug 2014 16:27:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 Danny on People’s District http://peoplesdistrict.com/danny-on-peoples-district Thu, 01 Mar 2012 18:17:49 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5820 Hi Everyone,

People’s District has been an incredible labor of love. Thank you for taking a journey across Washington with me. Over these past three years, the incredible citizens of D.C. have invited me into their homes to share their stories with our People’s District community.

During this time, I have learned to play pinochle with church ladies, toured a dominatrix’s dungeon, sat by the bedside of the dying, drank tea with gang members and toured every neighborhood of this remarkable District.

Most importantly, the site has changed my life.

A once grey suited terrorist financing analyst at the Treasury Department, I now proudly spend my days helping people tell better stories and build stronger communities through my newest venture, StorySocial.

Not to worry, I have not turned away from oral history or storytelling. To the contrary, I am taking the best of People’s District and launching a series of new campaigns, projects and initiatives to get the world talking.

Thank you for giving me the support and love to make People’s District happen. It is not easy to meet a stranger every day and spend the evenings transcribing hours of conversation and negotiating with Photoshop, but it was worth it. I have met so many incredible people in D.C. and around the world thanks to People’s District.

While the site may be on hiatus, I hope that you all will continue to live by its values: be neighborly, talk to strangers, and take an active role in your community.

I look forward to staying touch. Please feel free to keep up with my latest at www.storysocial.co or email me at danny(at)storysocial.co.

Now, go back to meeting your neighbors.

All my best,

Danny Harris

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Mark on A Wider Circle http://peoplesdistrict.com/mark-on-a-wider-circle http://peoplesdistrict.com/mark-on-a-wider-circle#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2012 14:19:45 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5777

Mark Bergel, Ph.D. - Founder & Executive Director of A Wider Circle

“When we think about our society’s health, we are only as healthy as the least healthy among us. In truth, I don’t think I fully recognized that until I found myself around those who struggle everyday because of poverty.

“At the time, I was teaching at American University, and wanted my students to work with those in need. I wanted them to see that the most important thing we can do as humans is to connect with one another. While I had talked a lot about these things, something changed when I found myself in the apartments of some of our most vulnerable. There were three or four or five people living there with nothing. I saw 18-year-old parents and 30-something grandparents who had nothing, but a chair or a television. The cycle of poverty was just so clear to me.

“I had my ‘Aha!’ moment when I realized that we could do better. I did a lot of prayer, and realized that no one should live so much worse off than the person around the corner. I admit, I brought a healthy dose of naivete and idealism to my thinking. All of the people in my circle told me to work for a non-profit rather than start my own. For me, that was not going to provide the impact I wanted. I wanted to build an organization based on the fundamental desire to connect in order to end poverty.

A Wider Circle is a grassroots, people-powered non-profit working to help those in need. We provide educational services and have a free furniture showroom. We serve in a way where we can say yes to everyone. It doesn’t matter what part of town you are from. The region is filled with people who lived in D.C. last week, and now they are forced to live somewhere else because of eviction or they are looking for better shelters.

The Furniture Showroom

“When we help a family in poverty, we are really helping ourselves. As humans, we don’t just stop at the edge of our fingertips. We continue on. We are as connected as trees that share the same root system. As a society, we should all focus on that.

“When people have things, they can exhale. They can put their kids in beds and lie down. Many people don’t even have beds. When you lie on the floor, that is not much of a break. When you can get people to the first rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people can start thinking about the other pieces. I want the people we are serving to live a human life. Poverty is a loss of life, both physically through some side effect of poverty or the loss of potential.

“I would encourage all of us to take whatever angst we have about people who are different from us and just peel it away. When we are born, we love people. In the eyes of a child, we want to learn and be near those around us. We should live more in that childlike way. That is where the solutions will come. Let’s forget about what separates us, and focus on the similarities. We are not going end poverty by building a service for people. We are going to end poverty when those who need help and those who can provide help come together.”

Since 2001, A Wider Circle has furnished over 11,250 area homes. Please consider donating your money, time, or furniture and home items to support their important work here.

A client and her new couches

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Heather on Helping a Stranger http://peoplesdistrict.com/heather-on-helping-a-stranger http://peoplesdistrict.com/heather-on-helping-a-stranger#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2011 15:04:10 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5748

Keith, Heather, Lily, and Darius Coleman

“It has been over three years since that day. I am still trying to understand what happened on October 3, 2008. I feel like I am putting a puzzle together, and with each piece, I am healing. I want to know what happend along the highway, and why people were kind enough to stop and help me.

So many cars just drove by that day, but a few people stopped. I want to know why they did, and thank them.

“That day, I had to attend a funeral of a co-worker’s mother. I am not a religious person, but woke up feeling like God was speaking to me. I saw signs of his presence everywhere, little things like a car with a bumper sticker saying, ‘Follow Me.’ At the funeral, I thought the service was speaking directly to me. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I felt like I was a special person and God had chosen me to save the world.

“Later that day, I was driving home, and started to really lose it. I was having crazy thoughts from movies, driving in the breakdown lane, and having phone conversations with my husband thinking he was the devil and I was God. My husband realized that something was wrong with me, but he didn’t know where I was because I would not tell him.

“I started driving towards water, and ended up on a bridge along the Potomac. I don’t really remember all of it, but I got out of the car, and started taking off my clothing. A couple of people stopped because they found me running naked along the side of the highway. At that point, I was completely delusional and thought the world was ending. I wanted to be baptized in the river before it did.

“The strangers stayed with me until the police and my husband showed up. I was taken to Greater Southeast Community Hospital. There, I thought I was the Virgin Mary. They tried to restrain me for an MRI, and I was screaming and trying to run away, so they gave me Haldon, which knocked me out. I was transfered to the psych institute, and I only became aware of what was going on a few days later.

“I learned that I suffered from postpartum psychosis, which was the first sign of being diagnosed as having mild bipolar disorder. Let me tell you, running naked on a highway with delusions is a crazy way to find out that you are sick! I couldn’t really wrap my head around it, and the first few months were a blur. The medications made me tired or depressed, and I couldn’t think of anything worth doing. Then, I was just trying to find a new normal.

“After two years, I started to get more brave, and wanted to talk about it. I started reading blogs, and eventually posted my story on postpartumprogress.com. Before I felt so alone, but the comments and responses were amazing. I found a community of others who had similar experiences. I even found a woman who stripped naked in front of her father. As they say, things can always be worse. I am just happy I got naked in front of strangers! I just feel so fortunate that I am okay, and have so many loving friends and family to help me. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky.

“I think back to that day, and am just so thankful that people actually stopped. These days, we get so wrapped up in things that many of us never take a moment to stop and help those in need. I am still trying to find the people who helped me. There are still so many holes in the story that I don’t understand. I was able to find one person, and know that a 911 call from a man named James from Richmond. Otherwise, I have no idea who helped me. So many cars just drove by that day, but a few people stopped. I want to know why they did, and thank them.

“This experience taught me that we are all much, much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We are strong enough to survive the most difficult things, to help others in need, and to tell our stories. I hope that in telling my story, people can learn, but also feel stronger in whatever they are struggling with.”

If you may be the kind stranger that helped Heather that day, please contact danny@peoplesdistrict.com.

Learn more about Heather’s story at IgniteDC.

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Wafa on Home http://peoplesdistrict.com/wafa-on-home http://peoplesdistrict.com/wafa-on-home#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2011 14:12:46 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5725

“To me, Bahrain is home, but I still think of myself as someone from D.C. I really love this city, and know more about it than I do about my own home. Sometimes, I find that when I talk, I say, ‘We’ or “People like us.’ I can’t vote, and if I break the law, I can be deported, but this is just as much my city as anyone else who comes here. I feel like I belong in D.C.

When I am here, I miss home. When I am home, I miss here.

“Part of why I love it here so much is because of how international it is. When I came to the United States for the first time for boarding school, I lived in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut for two years. It was definitely a culture shock for me. When I came here to go to Georgetown, I was so happy, and it felt so comfortable. My friends are from all over the world, and I am one of the few people I know who only has one passport.

“While many of the international people just come and go, I want to stay here after finishing my Master’s. I feel like I know this place. I know where to go and what to do here. When my friends come, I can show them around. I take them to Georgetown, but to the real Georgetown! Even if my friends want to go to Georgetown Cupcakes, I tell them that it is over-rated and we should go to Baked and Wired instead. Then, I take them to my favorite hole-in-the-wall spots and the other little places I have come to find.

“While I do want to stay, I feel conflicted about being away from Bahrain. When I am here, I miss home. When I am home, I miss here. In D.C., there are so many freedoms that I don’t have at home. I can walk everywhere or come home at 4 a.m. But, Bahrain is my home, and where my family is. I guess I will always feel conflicted.”

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David on What We Can Learn From Chess http://peoplesdistrict.com/david-on-what-we-can-learn-from-chess Tue, 29 Nov 2011 14:26:48 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5708

“Over the last twenty years, there have been a lot of chess games played within these walls. In truth, I am less interested in the games than in seeing how kids develop because of them. I like to think that learning chess helps children grow up to be good people and contribute something to society.

I like to think that learning chess helps children grow up to be good people and contribute something to society.

“While a few of the kids who train here go on to be very talented players, many just come to learn and have fun. Chess is a game of creativity, and kids can engage in competitive imagination. I realized the potential of the game when I was a high school teacher in the 70’s. I found that teaching kids to play chess had a profound, and almost instantaneous impact on their academic performance and social skills.

“By the 1980’s, I thought about creating a facility to teach chess. In the 90’s, it became a reality when we opened the U.S. Chess Center. Now, we teach 2,000 kids a week. And, I remember a time when it was not cool to play chess! Fortunately, the game has crept into youth culture, which I think is a move in the right direction.

“It would be great if everyone could learn to play chess. The game teaches you that there are consequences for your actions, that planning ahead is valuable, that being courageous has merit, and that you should be a good sportman.”

David Mehler is the Founder and President of the U.S. Chess Center, which teaches chess to children, especially those in the inner city, as a means of improving their academic and social skills.

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Lorenzo on His Award-Winning Watering http://peoplesdistrict.com/lorenzo-on-his-award-winning-watering http://peoplesdistrict.com/lorenzo-on-his-award-winning-watering#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2011 14:00:16 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5677

This week, People’s District shares three stories about and recipes from City Blossoms, a non-profit committed to kid-driven, community engaging creative green spaces. Today, we hear from five-year-old Lorenzo, the garden’s master waterer.

“Hi, my name is Lorenzo and I live on Girard St. in North America. I am five-years-old, and I loooove gardening. I like to plant plants so that other people can have plants. Did you know that plants need water? It’s true, they get real thirsty just like people.

I love to cook big, giant steaks and popcorn. We don’t grow any steaks or popcorn at the garden yet.

“I am a great waterer and I just got an award for watering the plants so good. I want to make sure that they have what they need, so they can grow up big and tall. When the plants grow, we can have more to eat, and share our plants with all the people who come to the garden.

“If you come here, you can see all of the plants that I done watered, like the eggplant and the grapes. I like to cook that stuff, but I love to cook big, giant steaks and popcorn. We don’t grow any steaks or popcorn at the garden yet.”

One of Lorenzo's award-winning paintings.

I asked Lorenzo to share a recipe from the garden.

Lorenzo’s anchovies, eggplant, and sweet leaves popcorn

–  “Get some anchovies, you know them fishy things from a can”

– “Pick some sweet leaves from the garden, like mint or other sweet stuff”

–  “Take an eggplant from the garden when it is purple and cook it up”

–  “Pop some popcorn”

–  “Mix everything together in a big bowl until you make it taste real good. It is the best, and everyone is going to like my recipe.”

Learn more about and/or consider donating your time and money to City Blossoms here.

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Dionte on Construction, but with Plants http://peoplesdistrict.com/dionte-on-construction-but-with-plants http://peoplesdistrict.com/dionte-on-construction-but-with-plants#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2011 14:34:58 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5675

This week, People’s District shares three stories about and recipes from City Blossoms, a non-profit committed to kid-driven, community engaging creative green spaces. Today, we hear from Dionte, the 10-year-old “Mayor” of the Girard St. garden. Friday, we hear from five-year-old Lorenzo, the garden’s master waterer.

When I grow up, I want to be a construction worker, but if that doesn’t work out, I will be a professional football player.

“I live on Girard St. and used to look out onto the garden, before it was a garden, from my window. This place used to be a dump and full of sand. The playground was all run down, and most of us weren’t allowed to play out here. Then one day, I saw the construction come, and they built a new play area for us kids. Now, we be out here playing football, riding our bikes, using the swings, and gardening. It’s nice to have a place where kids can come out and play instead of just staying all up in the house.

“When they started to build the garden, I got all excited. I love building stuff and construction, and thought that gardening was like construction, but with plants instead of wood and metal and stuff. Here, they taught me a lot about gardening, and now I feel like kind of an expert. I can plant stuff and cook a little bit and help other children learn about food.

“My favorite part about the garden is cooking. I bring home all kinds of plants and herbs, and now, every Sunday, I make dinner at my house. My Mom lets me make, like, Thanksgiving food. I cook baked chicken, greens, onion, and mashed potatoes. I would ask you to come over, but I gotta ask my Mom first?

Dionte's favorite herb: lemon mint

“When I grow up, I want to be a construction worker, but if that doesn’t work out, I will be a professional football player. I also want to work as a fireman because I like saving lives.  Did you know that healthy eating and gardening can help people save lives? I learned that here. So, I guess by helping in the garden, I am also helping to save lives. That is kind of cool.”

I asked Dionte to share a recipe with things collected from the Girard Children’s Community Garden at 1480 Girard St. NW. (Only the herbs listed below are from the garden.)

Dionte’s High Tea (“I suggest having tea at around 4 p.m., or when you are cold.”)

– Boil water in a pan

– Get a tea bag and put in in a cup.  (“I like apple cinnamon tea.”)

– Pour the boiling water in the cup.

– Add mint and rosemary to the tea and stir. (“It’s gotta be fresh from the garden.”)

– Let it sit for a minute (“So you don’t burn your mouth!”)

– “It’s delicious and makes you warm!”

Learn more about and/or consider donating your time and money to City Blossoms here.

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Capitol Pechakucha with FotoWeek DC http://peoplesdistrict.com/capitol-pechakucha-with-fotoweek-dc Tue, 08 Nov 2011 14:39:37 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5666

Please join me and eight other presenters this evening at Capitol Pechakucha Night in partnership with Fotoweek DC.

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in over 400 cities around the world to inspire creatives worldwide.

Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of “chit chat”, it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. Also referred to as “twitter for the visually inclined,” it’s a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

Tonight’s 20×20 presentations will feature storytelling through the art of photography and film, the power of one hundred smiles, navigating the Congo river, reclaiming adult recess, working with Annie Leibowitz, and more…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
7:30PM – 11:00PM
Fotoweek Central
1800 L Street, NW

Tickets: $10 online, $15 at the door (pending availability)
http://pechakuchavol16.eventbrite.com/

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Lola on City Blossoms http://peoplesdistrict.com/lola-on-city-blossoms http://peoplesdistrict.com/lola-on-city-blossoms#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2011 14:54:04 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5643

This week, People’s District shares three stories about and recipes from City Blossoms, a non-profit committed to kid-driven, community engaging creative green spaces. Today, we hear from Lola, City’s Blossom’s C0-Founder. Wednesday, we hear from Dionte, the 10-year-old “Mayor” of the Girard St. garden.

“When you look around this city, so many of the spaces are built by and for adults. Most kids feel left out of places, and their lives are full of adults telling them what to do. As an adult, I think back to the times when I felt empowered as a child, and want to bring more of those experiences to kids.

“At City Blossoms, we believe that kids should be able to build things, be tour guides of their own spaces, and be stewards for this city. We want to help build kid-driven, community-engaged, creative green spaces that integrate arts, healthy living skills, and environmental education to build community.

Honestly, if we all left right now, I am sure that the kids could run this garden easily for the rest of the day.

“When Rebecca, the other co-founder, and I developed this concept back in the 90’s, we had just fallen into gardening. We grew up in the city, and spent our summers at CentroNia. One day, they asked us to work in the garden. I knew nothing about gardening and watched what other people were doing, and just kind of followed along. It was incredible to see how that garden impacted the community, and how empowered the kids felt in their own space. From there, we decided to start City Blossoms.

“Now, we are very lucky in that we have the Marion St. and the Girard St. gardens as places for our kids to play, build, and work. Here, at Girard St., this used to be an asphalt play space with a few hop-scotch grids and a broken down basketball hoop. Now, the neighborhood worked to turn this area into a playground, and decided to embrace a green space where we can provide science-based and food-based activities for kids of all ages.

“The adults are here to help with the space, but the kids are really in charge. Honestly, if we all left right now, I am sure that the kids could run this garden easily for the rest of the day. They take so much pride in it, and know how to do most everything here. They thrust their hands in the dirt, and cultivate things that they can bring home.

“Our hope is that as kids take home fresh things from the garden and recipes, they can help educate their families on healthy eating. Now, I imagine that many of our families get a kid running home with a crumpled up bag of kale and say, ‘What the…’ We try and look at everything long-term because if the kids keep coming home with that same crumpled up bag of kale, that parent will eventually say, ‘I get it. My kid is harvesting vegetables from a garden, and we should learn how to cook these things together.’

“But, these things take time. What I learned in this city, is that if you only think in the short-term, you will not last. We believe in these kids, and want to empower them, so they can make better decisions now and in the future.”

I asked Lola to share a recipe with things collected from the Girard Children’s Community Garden at 1480 Girard St. NW. (Only the herbs listed below are from the garden.)

Lola’s Ranch Dressing

– 1/2 Cup milk or soy milk

– 1/2 cup lemon juice

– 1 cup mayonnaise (“It seems gross, but trust me, it is good!”)

– 7 or 8 sprigs of chives

– 6 leaves of oregano

– 3 sprigs of dill

– one clove of garlic

– pinch of cilantro

– pinch of parsley

– pinch of salt

Pulsate the ingredients together in a blender. “It’s amazing!”

Lola Bloom is the Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of City Blossoms, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to working with schools, neighborhood groups, community centers and other organizations to create spaces for children to use their creativity and combined strength and skills to learn how to grow and maintain fantastic yet functioning gardens. Learn more about and/or consider donating your time and money to City Blossoms here.

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Return of The Anecdote http://peoplesdistrict.com/return-of-the-anecdote http://peoplesdistrict.com/return-of-the-anecdote#comments Tue, 25 Oct 2011 13:58:43 +0000 http://peoplesdistrict.com/?p=5624

People’s District presents The Anecdote, a pop-up storytelling night, on November 3rd. 

This time around, we convert a furniture store into an interactive storytelling stage.

Come sit around the dining room table, gather on the couch, or lay in bed as storytellers regale you with tales of getting shipwrecked, Dominique Strauss Kahn-wannabes, raising chickens in your dining room, conversations about crabs with the family preacher, and more.

Storytellers include: Philippe Chetrit, Chris Keener, Danny Harris, Clare Kelly, Robyn Mincher, Jen Tress, and Patrick White.

Room and Board (1840 14th St NW – 4th Floor)

November 3rd
6:30 – 8:30pm

$10 gets you in bed with a storyteller

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