Annandale’s Korean community: a unique cultural enclave in suburban Virginia

| By Mark Sakamoto |

Young-hee Lee, 73, first-generation immigrant and mother of Bandi Books ‘ Dong-hyun Lee, peruses a novel in the store. / Photo by Mark Sakamoto

Kay Kim tidies a rack of muted fall-colored cardigans, turning a few hangers to face in the proper direction. The glass door jingles as it swings open, and Kim pauses to politely greet a customer, a man looking to buy a scarf for his wife. She directs him to the right wall, where rows of neatly folded scarves lie on three wooden shelves, before returning to tending to her store.

“I don’t think I could run a business like this anywhere else,” said Kim, the impeccably dressed proprietor of CeCi Total Fashion in Annandale, Va. “The Korean community here is just so strong. So many people come to this store through personal connections, from hearing about it from members of our church, that kind of recommendation.”
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Worship, abandoned properties coexist in an up-and-coming neighborhood

Thomas Cowen, Minister of Social Justice at the Shiloh Baptist Church, said the church is trying to work through funding and church bureacracy to develop abandoned properties the church owns in Shaw. / Photo by Mary Bowerman

| By Mary Bowerman |

After a 150-year-old history that began during slavery and survived race riots and two fires, Shiloh Baptist Church faces a new obstacle: a congregation that can no longer afford to live in close proximity to the church.

Thomas Bowen, the social justice minister at Shiloh Baptist Church says as Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood has changed, many long-term residents who did not own homes have moved out of the city, others have struggled to pay rising rent.

“The community has changed,” Cowen said. “We believe that those coming into the community will find something of value. We also continue to find ways to meet the needs of those in our community.”
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Indonesian immigrants at Foggy Bottom deli demonstrate the power of informal networks

| By Brigitta Kinadi |

In the cramped and stuffy kitchen of Leo’s GW Delicatessen, Dian Nugraheni braces herself for the rush of students that will inevitably bombard the sandwich bar as soon as afternoon classes are dismissed. She puts on her transparent plastic gloves, and fixes the red patterned bandana on her head with resolve.

Within a few minutes, the deli buzzes with conversation as students from George Washington University place orders for BLT sandwiches and steak and cheese subs.

As more customers flow in, the kitchen becomes increasingly chaotic. Seven people work behind the sandwich bar. Each worker in the kitchen handles their own orders, but they collide and jostle in the small space. Nugraheni tries to avoid crashing into other workers as she heads to the counter with an order of a bacon, egg and cheese bagel wrapped in aluminum foil.

As she brushes past one of her co-workers, Nugraheni apologetically says “permisi,” “excuse me” in the Indonesian language. Nugraheni is one of five Indonesians working in the deli. Throughout the day, more snippets of Indonesian, a language most Americans are not accustomed to, are heard in the deli kitchen.
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Dance Place: Revitalization and gentrification of the Brookland community

| By Maya Kosover |

After being forced out of Adams Morgan by gentrification, Carla Perlo was left with no choice but to find an alternative home for her newly established organization, Dance Place. Her monthly rent quadrupled from $1,500 to $6,000 nearly overnight in 1986. Brookland in Northeast became her solution.

Student Denaise Seals moves swifty through the studio, smiling at each dancer that passes by her at her intermediate modern dance class. / Photo by Maya Kosover.

When attempting to find the Brookland neighborhood on a D.C. map almost 30 years ago, it was close to impossible – the map key covered it.

Now, in addition to Catholic University and the Washington Hospital Center, the area is full of developing real estate and cultural, creative spaces, including Dance Place. Continue reading

Voices from a changing neighborhood: An old church and new development

| By Rae Daniel |

After 150 years of change, one church still stands strong

Thomas Bowen, the social justice minister at Shiloh Baptist discusses the changes the church has experienced. Standing strong for 150 years, the church hasn’t traveled an easy road, Cowen says. Members of the congregation are no longer walking to the church, but rather driving from places outside of the Shaw community. Bowen says while he’s aware of the changes in the neighborhood, he wants the people to know that the church is still one of the community’s strongest advocates. The church continues to serve the needs of Shaw residents with many services, resources and events for residents. Bowen ensures that even with the changes happening, Shiloh Baptist is here to stay and to serve.

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Takoma Park councilman teams up with former gang leader to help city’s youth

Launchpad’s producer, Jerry Cowan, left, and creator, Councilman Terry Seamens, right, in the Takoma Park Community Center after a meeting with five young men as they prepare for their upcoming forum./ Photo by D’Ante Smith

| By D’Ante Smith |

It’s a clear, dark fall night. The streets are quiet, with no signs of anything or anyone. The audible sounds of doors slamming from the street echoes this sentiment. This is not the typical Saturday night in Ward 4 of Takoma Park.

“The Alternative: Crime, Prison and Death,” the first event organized by LaunchpadMaryland, a music concert headlined by local talent, could be contributing to this quiet. With 10 to 15 youth in the audience, that’s 10 to 15 fewer who could potentially be on the street corners making noise, and possibly getting into trouble.

This is a victory in the eyes of the program’s creator, Councilman Terry Seamens, and producer, Jerry Cowan. Continue reading

A brave new world: With rapid renewal comes mixed emotions in Shaw neighborhood

The historic Shaw district was once a neighborhood troubled by crimes and violence. Shaw is now in the midst of a total facelift. / Photo by Ryan Oliver

| By Ryan Oliver |

“Good morning my young brother. May God bless you.”

Richard Durham repeated this phrase to each and every person he passed on 9th Street Northwest at 6 o’clock that morning.

For 63-year-old Richard Durham, who refers to himself as an elder of the Shaw neighborhood, this morning greeting means more to him than it would typically mean to anyone else. For Durham, these simple morning pleasantries are a representation of how far the neighborhood has come since he first began living in the historic Shaw District of Washington, D.C., 43 years ago. Continue reading

Activism in Takoma Park sparks new initiatives for residents

| By Monika Thomas |

Residents of Takoma Park, Md., see various forms of grassroots activism as a way to preserve the city’s history sense of community while adapting to the needs of a demographically diverse population. From health-based advocacy programs addressing African Americans’ and Latinos’ increased risk of diabetes to a “buy local” movement that seeks to preserve small businesses, residents say they feel their city is unique among the larger, more commercialized and racially divided communities that surround it.

One community activist says, through these varied grassroots initiatives, Takoma Park residents are making connections and creating a place where people can meet each other and hold conversations that have the possibility to spark change. Continue reading