Be a better neighbor
If you braved the wind this weekend and happened to stroll through Park View, you might have seen the faces of your neighbors projected onto Georgia Avenue walls and storefronts.
The installation was a part of SEE/CHANGE, a collaborative project of dynamic video portraits, interviews, and workshops that aimed at to bring neighbors eye to eye. It was the brainchild of Pink Line Project founder and artist Philipa Hughes, with help from the city and Composite Co. (masterminds behind our spiffy redesign!)…and a small army of interested and engaged neighborhood residents who shared their stories in interviews and participated in discussions around the project.
As new Park View residents and dedicated 730dc gonzo journalists, David Meni and I joined the “Welcome to DC” workshop designed by local artist Holly Bass and facilitated by Mel Harper. We spent an hour and a half with a group of roughly twenty people — including more than a few 730 subscribers, which is so exciting — to share in a structured discussion and a little bit of woodburning (how else do you make a welcome sign for your front door?).
We walked through the questions most of us had confronted before, by ourselves — what makes us feel at home, and what makes us feel uncomfortable? How can we maintain the character and culture of DC as a black space? How can we be better neighbors?
It was a welcoming, intentional space to connect new and long-time residents, and give us a chance to learn from each other, and say our piece. Long-time residents talked about the joys of a neighborhood where everyone is connected, and the importance of avoiding stereotypes, especially for young black men (everyone knew the story of Jason Goolby). As newcomers, it was a chance to express how much we reject the idea of DC as just a stopover for young professionals — we want to engage, build community, love the place we live.
We heard solutions, too. Get a dog, and you’ll meet everyone on the block. Take out your headphones and open yourself up to interactions. Don’t overbook yourself — leave time to linger, say more than just “hello” to the people you see on your street every day. It doesn’t take a whole workshop to make a welcoming space. It just takes a little eye contact, a kind question, a new puppy. You can make that space in your neighborhood every day.
After we closed out the discussion and did a little woodburning, it was clear the workshop itself was really a formality —the point was that people were connecting, making plans, finding points of collaboration. We chatted with people already making these spaces, from cocktails and craft to the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment. Everyone is looking to engage and make this city home. So make spaces, and invite your neighbors (we’ll promote the shit out of it!). Make time for each other.
That’s the thing: DC is a freshman year dorm and everyone just wants to make friends. David and I are housemates because we met at last year’s 730 Day shindig. That’s insane! So please — go to shit. Just go. Read your Weekly Scheduler, put on some pants, and be a better neighbor.