For the first time since Nationals Park opened along the rapidly-developing South Capitol Street corridor, the Washington Nationals have secured an opportunity to join baseball’s elite as World Series champions — instilling pride in fans long frustrated by the subpar performance of their local favorite teams over the past several decades.
Such a victory, however, as momentous as Nationals stalwarts have made it out to be, can’t overshadow the anxieties of those who once lived in the majority-Black communities razed to construct a gargantuan Nationals Park, along with other commercial attractions in Navy Yard and the Southwest Waterfront areas.
“I don’t think newcomers understand the issues. They might hear about them but they don’t get an idea of what we’ve experienced and are going through,” said Curtis Lynch, a Southwest resident and former tenant of the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg housing projects.
The structure, demolished two years before then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) broke ground on Nationals Park, totaled more than 700 households.
Since leaving Arthur Capper in 2006, Lynch has lived between Southwest and Maryland, uncertain about whether he would ever be able to purchase property near his old stomping grounds. Though he acknowledges his excitement about a possible citywide celebration, Lynch says the division between displaced Washingtonians and transplants remains lingering beneath the surface.
“They see all this new stuff and don’t understand that Washingtonians got displaced because they can no longer afford to move in the city,” said Lynch, an Arthur Capper tenant of 10 years.
“Most people assume it’s a lot of complaining, rather than a real issue. The makeover was good but we need broader access to programs that will help Washingtonians have sustainable living in the city.”
In 2011, three years after the Washington Nationals played their first game at Nationals Park, the District lost its Black majority. The Navy Yard, Southwest Waterfront and other majority-Black neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast gave way to the influx of single, mostly non-Black college students and white-collar professionals who brought with them an affinity for nightlife, culture and baseball.
Not far from Nationals Park, congregants at two churches, Second Baptist Church Southwest, located near the Southwest-based Department of Motor Vehicles, and St. Matthews Baptist Church, prepared to move to Maryland amid rising operational costs and decreasing parking.
In recent years, as native Washingtonians have seen historically-Black institutions go by the wayside, efforts to protect remnants of indigenous D.C. culture have manifested in the form of several movements.
The Don’t Mute DC Movement, partially engineered by Southwest native and award-winning producer Tone P, arose out of his experiences in years leading up to and after the revitalization of the South Capitol Street corridor.
As the Don’t Mute DC coalition gears up for a fight to institutionalize the go-go sound, Tone P reflected on his coming of age crossing a bridge from Southwest over to the Arthur Cappers community to meet up with friends. Even with remnants of his old life gone, Tone P says he’s hopeful that displaced Washingtonians will be able to enjoy the trappings of their revitalized hometown.
“It’s a reality check seeing your neighborhood change but change can be good if it’s done with etiquette and integrity,” said Tone P who visits his parents in Southwest at least three times a week.
“I’m not mad but don’t want to see people get displaced. Most things are done for financial reasons, so I just encourage people to be smart. A lot of these things happen to people who don’t have the tools to keep up.”