Bridging D.C.’s Starkest Divide
Can a park over the Anacostia River spur a revolution in urban development?
Next City, Nov. 21, 2016
On the evening of Sept. 17, people in running shoes swarmed over Washington, D.C.’s Yards Park. Contestants in a relay race, they chatted with team members wearing matching T-shirts, some emblazoned with the logos of Fortune 500 companies, and sipped beer under orange tents. The runners had just finished a Ragnar Relay — a 200-mile endurance test popular with the kind of highly educated strivers who have poured into D.C. since the early 2000s. The finish-line party matched the yuppie vibe of the redeveloped Navy Yard neighborhood around it, known for its restaurant scene and pricey apartments.
Farther down the Anacostia Riverwalk, as the runners thinned out, another crowd gathered. Families bent over long tables as a violinist played. They glued tissue-paper shapes and photos of figures from black history into colorful strips to make decorated lanterns. Volunteers handed out LED candles. When a local charter school marching band struck up and started to walk east, everyone followed, swinging their lanterns in the dusk. Their destination was Anacostia, a neighborhood just a mile away, but far removed from the urban playground that is Navy Yard.
Photograph by Jati Lindsay