The mission of the People Issue is very simple: find interesting folks, ask them questions, print their answers. That’s it. We tried to pick a cross section of men and women who challenge us, inspire us, entertain us, and lead us. You’ll find a ballerina and a councilmember; a punk rocker and ball players; a chef using flavors from the other side of the world and advocates trying to improve our quality of life. Ultimately, we hope you agree with us: More than anything, the people are the best part of D.C. —Steve Cavendish

The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.


In August 2014, after four days on her couch watching the protests unfold in Ferguson, Erika Totten decided to act. She rented a car, put a call out on Twitter, and, with five strangers, drove to the Missouri town as it grappled with Michael Brown’s death. Since then, Totten has become a leader in the Black Lives Matter DMV movement, using social media to draw global attention to cases that may have otherwise stayed in the shadows forever. This includes the death of Natasha McKenna, who died after she was restrained and shocked with a stun gun four times in the Fairfax County jail. Totten is also the founder of Unchained, which seeks to promote black joy. —Sarah Anne Hughes

How did you get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement?

It started by me going to Ferguson. I was always a part of the Black Liberation movement, but my actions started [after] seeing the uprising in Ferguson. I saw through Twitter that the people of Ferguson were standing up and pushing back against power, against militarized police, against tear gas, against tanks, and they weren’t backing down. As a black person in this country, it’s like you’re always waiting for the uprising, for someone to make some noise. And when I saw it happening there, and when I saw that they were met with militarized force, I knew that I needed to stand with my people.

There’s been some criticism about the visibility of women who have been affected by police brutality. But [your] social media, the hashtags you promote, your Emancipation Circles, a lot of your events are so inclusive. Has that always been at the forefront of your mind, to make the movement here in the D.C. area one that includes everybody?

Absolutely. Early on in the movement here, we didn’t see that. And I was pushing for that in organizations that already existed, and it wasn’t being received. Ultimately, when we don’t see our reflection, we create it. I ultimately created an inclusion meeting of anyone who was witnessing the erasure of women, of trans folks, of queer people, differently-abled [people]. Let’s have a meeting, and let’s talk about what we want to do next. Knowing that the Black Lives Matter movement is about all black lives, what I saw in D.C. wasn’t reflective of that, so we created our own. That’s been the purpose and the mission from the beginning. I can’t participate in the erasure of women, of trans folks, as a woman myself. That’s something that we really, really had to push back [against], and that’s intentional to make sure that our actions are intersectional.

You’ve been instrumental in keeping Natasha McKenna’s name in the news. I know that push continues for you. I feel like there are probably so many Natashas here in the D.C. area, whose voices aren’t being heard, whose stories aren’t being told. How do you find these stories and bring them to the mainstream?

There’s a team of us. What I’m very careful about is burnout for myself. I amplify the [stories] that I hear, and more people come to me and bring stories. Ultimately, my role is emotional emancipation and creating spaces for black joy to exist while we’re doing all of this. I’m not really the most visible person in the movement when it comes to social media, but I’m connected to highly visible people. When I hear stories like this, I try to find them so it’s easier for people to receive and do their own research. I think sometimes we cripple people in doing all that work for people. I think it’s really important to find out what’s happening in your city, too, then amplify that message and connect with a network of people, connect with people who you know are visible in the movement to get that story out there.

I think Jason Goolsby [the teen detained by D.C. police] and the warrantless search section of Mayor Bowser’s crime bill are two perfect examples of things that you amplified and allowed other people to take on for themselves, to go to the street, to march, to go to the Council building. And it seems that part of the bill is going to fail. You give people the information…

…And you empower them to get up and act. We have a leaderful movement, but [I’m also careful as a leader] to create a space for people to step into their own leadership. It can’t just be me leading rallies or mobilizing people. What I’m seeing now is more people are stepping into their leadership, stepping into action, which I really, really love, because that’s what will keep this movement going.

Avant-Garde Musician

The music of multi-instrumentalist and composer Janel Leppin isn’t easily classifiable. A classically trained cellist and scholar of Persian and Indian music, the prolific D.C. native makes avant-garde music with the virtuosity of a jazz great. She’s one half of the experimental duo Janel & Anthony and tours with folk artist Marissa Nadler. Leppin has returned to her District home base to perform, teach, and record, with a new solo vocal album coming later this year. Color her eclectic sounds whatever you’d like—just don’t call it “world music.” —Maeve McDermott

You’ve been an artist in D.C. for decades—what’s your take on the state of the arts community here?

There is a real burgeoning scene at the moment, and I hope that scene continues. The energy is there, but what we need is a feeling of permanence, places to work, places to live. We have venues—more are obviously better—but they need to be more inclusive, and the community needs to be excited about the art, and not consider us to be part of the gentrification process.

Are there any particular venues you see popping up and impacting these communities?

I don’t know if I should answer this question, because I feel like I’ll be pointing fingers at places that need to be kept under wraps for a little bit longer.

How about established spaces that you think are doing valuable work in D.C.?

Pyramid Atlantic, which is responsible for Sonic Circuits—they are always supporting artists. It’s a valuable, open community. That one is closing, but they’re going to find another space. Union Arts has been a really beautiful center for both traveling artists and people in the D.C. area. I’ve seen a large array of different kinds of music there. I like when there’s not just one kind of music in a club. I think it’s healthy. I mean, I think Black Cat has some pretty expansive music, too.

Rumor has it that the Union Arts building will be turned into a hotel, right?

This is exactly what I’m talking about: the importance of having a center for artists to work, in every area of the city, that will not be followed by gentrification. You go to great efforts to build a community, and they come in and tear it down. Then they use it, like, “This was a great center for the arts, and now, it’s your home.”

Where have you traveled in the world that is more accommodating to artists?

The Netherlands—I studied for a period there, working with Indian classical music. My roommate was a modern dancer, with subsidized housing, subsidized health care, subsidized bills, and that completely allowed her to be 100 percent committed to her art. And if we saw something like that in D.C, that would be very helpful. Basic needs need to be met for artists in order for them to stay in a place.

How do you approach genre with your own work? Are there any genre signifiers you particularly bristle against?

I don’t like to think about genre when I’m writing a record, and that can be problematic. Take Janel & Anthony: Reviews have found all kinds of boxes to put us in, and if they’re trying to put us in one single box, good luck. I just hate the term “world music”—what does that mean? Just because I’m influenced by Persian music or Indian music doesn’t mean I’m a “world music” instrumentalist. It’s Eurocentric, it’s very problematic.

Government Technophile

Matt Bailey was a civic hacker who co-founded Code for DC, the District’s chapter of Code for America. Then in May, Mayor Muriel Bowser named him the Office of the Chief Technology Officer’s first-ever director of technology innovation. —Zach Rausnitz

With a title like that, do you feel pressure to do something exciting? People may have high expectations for “innovation” without having anything particular in mind.

I’m an English major by training, so I always like to think about the word “innovation.” The cynic in me wants to say innovation just means shiny and new, and then you just apply it to whatever context. But there’s an opportunity to make government more of a platform for residents, something that feels more responsive to people’s needs. I feel the weight of that. And I feel the weight of the civic-hacking community in D.C.—there’s this “one of us is inside the walls now” feeling. There’s a need to propose a compelling answer. Innovation is almost too wide of a word. Which of the many paths that I could go down would be the one that everybody agrees would be really compelling?

Do you see your job as an extension of the work of Code for DC?

Yes and no. The civic hackers have more freedom because they’re outside of government. It’d be really easy to propose a new design for a [Department of Motor Vehicles] application, but the question is what happens with that in five years, or where’s the funding? And if the DMV application goes down, that’s not so bad, but if you think about more critical services—people who are trying to find a shelter for the night or trying to get emergency services—those things really need the infrastructure of government behind them. I think this is typical of grassroots work. You start out outside and can see all the amazing opportunities that the government isn’t realizing. The job now is about finding ways to synthesize that with the deep expertise that’s already inside of government, to create the magic unicorns that we need to ship.

Code for DC focuses on citizen-facing tools. Do you plan to work on innovations for how the government itself works, internally?

There are two aspects to this job. One is about shipping services directly to residents. The other is reviving government’s own sense of what it can accomplish. I think a lot about the New Deal era of government and our picture of what it meant to be a civil servant during that time. That phrase “civil servant”—I throw it around a lot, deliberately. There was a weight of responsibility that came with that, and also a sense of possibility. This job has an element of finding the people in government—and I think there’s a lot of them—who are ready to be reactivated and convened in that spirit. I think that’s part of what I’m here to do.

Does the technology part of your job title just refer to software?

The definition I tend to use is that technology is “that which increases power.” If you’re trying to help people connect with human services, in addition to a website you also need to make paper brochures that are available at the library. These are all on a continuity, and they need to be designed together. Paper is technology in the same way that a website is technology. Maybe it’s about creating policies—that’s a form of technology as well—that enable people to speak more effectively back to government, to co-design their services with government. It’s about areas where folks have expertise about what they need, but don’t have the power to express that need.


Chef Seng Luangrath first built her loyal following at her Thai and Laotian restaurant Bangkok Golden in a strip mall in Falls Church. Then last year, she opened Thip Khao in Columbia Heights, the District’s first Laotian restaurant. From grilled chicken heart to salmon head soup, Luangrath is on a mission to take her native cuisine mainstream. —Jessica Sidman

Thip Khao was named among the 50 best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appétit this year. How do you feel about how the restaurant has been received?

I was surprised. The restaurants that have been nominated in the past, it’s more like modern American. The style that we cook here is true, honest, homey family style. I love what I do. I just cook whatever I want to eat and serve.

You learned to cook in a refugee camp in northeast Thailand as a kid. How did that influence your cooking?

My grandmother was the first person to actually influence my cooking. We have a big family and my grandmother had 12 children, so she had to cook every morning… We left [Laos in 1981 amid political unrest following the Vietnam War], and my mom wasn’t a good cook. My mom grew up going to school and then getting a job. We ended up in refugee camps. My whole responsibility was helping cook things. I learned a lot from people who lived in the same building where we were living. They were from different parts of Laos. I learned from the northern region where the cooking techniques are very similar to Vientiane [the capital of Laos where Luangrath grew up]. Then other people they’re from the south—very intense, very spicy.

When you opened Bangkok Golden, you were a little hesitant to highlight your native cuisine. [The menu was initially only Thai.] Here, you’re doing 100 percent Lao food. You’ve got pork blood sausage, intestines, you’re not pulling any punches. What’s changed for you?

When I first started Bangkok Golden, in my thoughts, I really wanted to do it 100 percent. But being my first time in the food business, I’m not sure how the crowd would respond to the food. The question I got all the time was,“Will other people eat it?” It’s too funky. It’s too spicy. It’s different. So that’s why I kind of held back a little bit. And then I was just like, OK, let’s go ahead and do it a little bit at a time.

Do you feel like Washingtonians are becoming more adventurous eaters?

I think so. If I had done [Thip Khao] in 1998, it probably wouldn’t have worked like us today. People are traveling more to other countries, more adventurous, willing to try anything, especially the younger crowd that comes here.

What’s next for you? Can you tell me more about Khao Poon [a noodle house that Luangrath plans to open with former Doi Moi chef de cuisine Deth Khaiaphone].

We know for sure we want to be in D.C., but we don’t know what neighborhood yet. We have discussed bringing Lao chefs from all over the country to come.

How will Khao Poon be different from Thip Khao?

We focus on khao poon, which is a rice vermicelli noodle. And also we are going to focus on Southeast Asian. It’s not only just Lao. Chef Deth he’s very good with Thai, Vietnamese.

Do you think Lao food can become as ubiquitous and well-known as Thai food in D.C.?

Yes, I think so. From what I experienced with Thip Khao, the customers came, never had Lao food, and brought friends and then brought more friends. Just word of mouth, it kept going and going. I feel that there should be more Lao restaurants in D.C. I really hope for a destination for Lao cuisine where people traveling will come here.


You may not know Aniekan Udofia’s name, but chances are you know his work. The artist has painted murals throughout D.C., including massive portraits of Duke Ellington, George Washington, and Frederick Douglass, among others. —Justin Lynch

You grew up in Nigeria. How long you were there for?

I lived in Nigeria for 16 years. I left D.C. when I was around seven, and I came back here when I was 24.

When I was looking at your artwork, it reminds me of Nigeria—filled with beautiful colors (like markets) and free flowing (like West African dance). Do you think your time in Nigeria is present in your work?

Absolutely, it’s always been. You see the vibrant colors from the fabric, you will see people wearing the wax fabric and a wide range of colors, and it’s like the fearless nature they have. There is no boundaries of it. They are not trying to match. It’s about the vibrancy of it, and I incorporate that into my work as well.

Do you remember your first piece of artwork?

It started by default. We were here in D.C., and before parents gave children iPads, my parents gave us coloring books. There were three of us, and our parents would buy us coloring books to give us an activity to do. And from there, I liked coloring more of the superhero stuff more than the Mickey Mouse stuff. It wasn’t something that was encouraged, and when we moved to Nigeria, they said it was time to pick up on education, and time to get serious and pick up another route. When I was in high school, the reason why I loved biology was because there was a lot of diagrams. It was like art class. Other kids would give me their books to draw their skeletal and muscular systems, and that was my first experience being “commissioned.”

It was right around the time when I was going to finish high school that I discovered what illustration was, and there were a lot of cartoons that had illustrations, and at that time I thought this is what I want to do. But imagine showing your highly educated parents a cartoon in the newspaper and you said, this is what I want to do.

So what did your parents say when you showed them the newspaper and said “I want to do this”?

Oh they were completely against it. And it was a shock. It was like, after you’ve gone to some of the best schools, you’re a smart kid, why would you want to do this? This is like having a child announcing, I’m going to play Minecraft for a living, so they were against it.

So when did the turning point come for your parents, if it has come?

The turning point still hasn’t come. They kind of understand that I am a grown man, and this is what I am going to do. But they still look at it like, OK, you could have still done something else.

What is the moment like before you’re about to unveil your work for a client? Is it kind of like asking someone out on a date?

Exactly, it is like asking someone out on a date. You’re confident, but at the same time you’re nervous. It’s like two worlds conflicting with each other. There is literally like the image of the devil and the angel on your shoulder. On one hand you’re like, “hey this is what I do, I know this is gonna work and I can already see what it’s going to look like.” On the other hand, you’re like “what if they don’t understand this?”

A lot of your pieces use pencils instead of guns. Where did that come from and why do you focus on that?

It is a project called “Reloaded.” Instead of guns I used pencils because pencils—it represents persistence. You can break a pencil in half, but as long as the lead is still there you can sharpen it and use it again. It also has an eraser, so you need the confidence ahead of time to make mistakes, which is the base of learning. Learning is an accumulation of mistakes that end up becoming genius. I think it is the last human superpower left, the ability to be creative, and the pencil piece is to remind people that in the murals that gentrification might be going on, but you have the power to write this history. You have the power to redo it and reload it. If you want to take back your community and have a voice within your community, you can still do that.

Human Services Director

Of the many D.C. agencies dealing with extraordinary challenges, perhaps none is facing a greater uphill battle than the Department of Human Services. But that didn’t stop Laura Zeilinger from agreeing to take the reins earlier this year, after Mayor Muriel Bowser recruited her to turn around the city’s struggling homelessness systems. —Sarah Anne Hughes

You worked at the D.C. Department of Human Services, then you went to the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness, now you’re back at DHS. What are some of the lessons that you took from your time on a federal level and brought back to the local level?

At the federal level, what helped really create energy toward change is by identifying what we’re doing that’s successful and working and driving positive change, and using that frame—that really hard things are really quite achievable when we make the right investments, we use data well, and we implement evidence-based practices. On the federal level, that lesson very much is [seen with] veteran homelessness, when we were making investments in the solutions, we were seeing the numbers go down in historic ways, in the right direction, and that success is bringing more success. People began to believe that it was possible, [and] we were energized and mobilized around that goal. The importance of really telling, understanding, identifying the successes, learning from them is certainly one of the lessons learned. Also, just the ability to make those connections from place to place, continue to learn better ways to address complex issues, and to really, again, at all levels of government, use data to really drive decision making.

In D.C., we’re so close to the veterans goal. That’s really a bright spot. It seems like collaboration has been a huge part of why ending veteran homelessness appears it’s going to be a success by the end of the year. Would you agree with that?

Absolutely. It is really an all-community effort. The partnership has been absolutely essential—the partnership with [Veterans Affairs], the partnership with private organizations, with outreach, with private sector partners, and between different government agencies. It’s all been critical.

I know that family homelessness gets a lot of attention in D.C., the past two or three winters for all the wrong reasons. But it seems that going into this hypothermia season, it’s a completely different game, between year-round shelter access for families and a Winter Plan that I think is in the best shape that, perhaps, it has ever been. How do you feel going into the winter about family homelessness?

We’re doing exactly what we can and should be doing to be very well prepared. We really have a number of tools in place to forecast need as well as to monitor along the way how that’s changing based on the demands that we’ve had on the system so that we can be ramping up even more when we need to ramp up. We’ve certainly done the work to secure the facilities that are going to be needed to make sure that everyone has access to warmth and safety. We have many more tools in place to support people before they need shelter, to keep as many people as possible housed, especially on the family side. I think we’re beginning to get our system to one that really operates around the needs of families, that’s not driven by the season or the temperature but by what’s really going on in their lives.


Although she’s a celebrated ballerina with years of professional experience already behind her, Ashley Murphy is beginning her first season as a dancer at the Washington Ballet learning the very basics: “This is my first Nutcracker season,” she admits. At Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she danced for 13 years before coming to D.C., she would have Sugar Plum season off. This winter, she’s making her holiday appearance on the stage as the Snow Queen, but she’s even more excited about some of the other performances that lie ahead.—Emily Q. Hazzard

How did you start dancing?

I grew up in Shreveport, La., and I started dancing when I was three years old. My mom was tired of me jumping on her furniture and flipping off her couch, so she actually put me in gymnastics. In order to take gymnastics you had to take ballet class as well to learn to point and for flexibility.

What made you decide to come to Washington Ballet from Dance Theatre of Harlem?

I’d heard many great things about Washington Ballet’s artistic director [Septime Webre], and I wanted an opportunity to try new choreography and do some full-length ballets, which we didn’t do at Dance Theatre of Harlem because it’s a smaller company. So I was excited about that and being able to perform at the Kennedy Center.

What’s different about the choreography?

[Dance Theatre of Harlem] is a neoclassical company. At Washington Ballet, there’s a little bit more of a range of ballets—from classical [works] such as Swan Lake and Giselle all the way to stuff like In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe. So I was excited about the prospect of being able to do just a little bit of a larger range of dances.

One of the pieces I’m really looking forward to learning is Trey McIntyre’s Mercury Half-Life [as well as] Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. I’m also very excited about learning a lot more of the Septime Webre ballets just because he’s so innovative and creative in what he comes up with. And just being able to do Theme and Variations. The rep for this year is going to be really awesome.

Last year, you did a Verizon commercial. That’s kind of unusual [for a ballet dancer].

It was actually really amazing. I think right now ballet is going a little bit more mainstream because of Misty Copeland and all the other great ballerinas who are getting the face of ballet out there to the world. People are becoming a lot more appreciative of the arts, especially ballet. I did the commercial and it actually aired during the Super Bowl, which was interesting. People were saying “I was watching the Super Bowl and I saw you on TV!” whereas they never would have paid attention before. I think the ballet companies are doing a really great job now of making ballet mainstream.

Do you think a lot of that has to do with Misty Copeland’s celebrity?

Her name being almost a household name is almost unheard of for ballet dancers. The ballet world is actually very small—everybody knows just about everybody else, but to have your name be a household name for people who have no idea about dance or ballet at all is a phenomenon.

Do you think Misty’s superstar status has changed anything for you, especially as a dancer of color?

As great as Misty Copeland has been, there are a lot of dancers who came before us even that paved the way, like Lauren Anderson and so many others, even the dancers at Dance Theatre of Harlem when they opened in 1969. Virginia Johnson and Christina Johnson and Judy Tyrus—there are so many beautiful African-American ballerinas that opened [doors] and paved the way for Misty Copeland to have a name. She’s carrying on the legacy, which is great, but you can’t forget about those others who paved the way even before her.

Transportation Wonk

Veronica O. Davis looks out the window of a coffee shop and declares, with a smile, “Oh, there goes one of my projects!” She’s talking about a bus ad for Vision Zero, a traffic-safety initiative spearheaded by the District Department of Transportation, for which Davis consults. The ad’s branding is a key to how Davis, the cofounder of consulting firm Nspiregreen, thinks about D.C.: as an urban center where people get around in different yet coexisting ways. An avid cyclist herself, Davis also co-founded Black Women Bike in 2011. —Andrew Giambrone

What’s it been like working with a District agency, especially surrounding issues of transportation?

It’s actually pretty exciting. One, I love transportation… Part of what’s exciting for me about what we’re doing locally is really being able to provide access to people. I think that we have experienced a lot of growth in this city but there’s still a lot of challenges. Transportation is a way to provide social services to people. We can say, “Oh, someone needs to get a job,” but how can they get there? People need to go to school, but can kids get there? Our right of way is our right of way. How do we move the most people the most efficiently?

So when you say “access,” what’s your framework or way of thinking about that?

I used to live in Ward 7, and one of the challenges in terms of access was: I could get on a bus in my old neighborhood of Fairfax Village and get downtown, to a Metro station, but I couldn’t even get to a grocery store a mile away, because there’s no way for me to get there, no bus that took me there. I had friends that also lived in Ward 7, and I couldn’t even go visit them unless I had a car. That’s frustrating. The old model for how the city was created was about getting people downtown and getting people back home, but I think as there’s new developments and new energies that are happening outside the core city, then I think you need to figure out how you get people to those new energies.

I can see where people who have been here for the long haul aren’t also able to benefit in this new prosperity. It’s hard to look at. When you look at Navy Yard—which is where I live now—a lot of that was public housing, strip clubs. And it’s gone. It’s kind of challenging because we invested in a ball field, and what’s the next step? I think the rub for me—and I think it’s the rub for most black urban planners, even just planners of color—it’s that you believe in these models, because you do think there should be density, so therefore it could make things affordable, and we do think there should be restaurants, and all those are good things. But at what cost do those things come? You become a little protective of communities in the sense that I feel like there’s something missing… Where’s the flavor?

Is that the biggest social issue to you in D.C.—equality of access and opportunity?

Yes. I hate the word “gentrification.” Anyone who’s ever seen me tweet knows that it makes me want to rip the paint off the wall. The beef I have with it is I think people are overusing the word and not using it in the proper context. It’s so nuanced, and you really have to look neighborhood-by-neighborhood. It’s almost like a red herring. When we focus on the theme of “the city’s losing Chocolate City,” it prevents us from getting dirty and saying, what is the issue? Why isn’t everyone coming along? And let’s solve it.

You have to tie your interests back to the interests of the community, and when you’re not doing that you end up with these rubs. As an example: You might want a bike lane. And that’s fine. I think it’s very important to have bike lanes. But how does that tie back into the needs of the community? So maybe that community is having challenges with crime. So bike lanes can bring more people, which brings more eyes on the street. Maybe that community is having challenges with people driving too fast. OK, well a bike lane can narrow the roadway, narrow the lane widths, which will slow down the cars—by design.

Do you think there should be more bike lanes in places like Ward 7 and Ward 8?

I think there are areas where there could be more bike infrastructure in Ward 7 and Ward 8, and I will never say no to more bike lanes. I can also say as someone who’s biked very much around Ward 7 and Ward 8: There’s other challenges that need to be considered. The topography is something that just really needs to be considered. I consider myself of pretty good health, but there’s some days where I’m like, I can’t do it; I’m just going to put my bike on the front of the bus. I can also say that the road network [in those wards] creates challenges, and that’s even just by car.


Five years ago, D.C.-made booze didn’t even exist. Now local gin, vodka, and other spirits are available at nearly every bar, thanks in large part to New Columbia Distillers’ son-and-father-in-law team, John Uselton and Michael Lowe. When they began producing Green Hat Gin in 2012, they became the city’s first commercial distillers in about a century, paving the way for the city’s thriving cocktail landscape. —Jessica Sidman

Is D.C. more of a gin town or a whiskey town?

ML: Most towns are more whiskey towns than gin towns. People drink more whiskey. Whiskey’s got a deeper American tradition. Gin’s growing everywhere, and I hope we’re making D.C. more of a gin town.

New Columbia is the first [legal] distillery in D.C. since before Prohibition. What took so long?

ML: Before Prohibition, there were a few small distilleries in and around Washington, and there were a couple of big ones in Baltimore. And then Prohibition just wiped all of them out. The industry just kind of moved out of this region. It wasn’t until the 1980s that anyone started doing little distilleries.

JU: The equipment’s big. It’s long term leases. You’re not moving. So you have to commit yourself: I am staying in D.C. for the rest of my life basically or until further notice. And I think that you had a lot of people who just weren’t thinking that they were going to stay in D.C. As you get people who are making things and really establishing D.C. as a place that can make things, it encourages other people.

What was the biggest challenge being the first?

JU: We’re experiencing it now. When we opened, we couldn’t sell a bottle from here. We couldn’t taste somebody on gin. We could run a factory and we could self-distribute—and that’s all we could do. We were pushing for legislation while we were opening so that we could do tastes [on-site]. You go to other distilleries and they’ve got tasting rooms half the size of our distillery. Well, if we knew about all this kind of stuff, we would have probably gotten a space a little bit bigger.

It seems like distillery pubs are on the brink of blowing up in D.C. What do you see as the future of distilling in D.C.?

ML: There are right now under construction or in operation six legitimate [production] distilleries in D.C… I would expect in three years, four years, we’ve got ten distilleries in D.C. plus however many distillery pubs. It’s not wild compared to some other cities. Seattle has 40.

You have also been pioneers in the revitalization of Ivy City. Where do you see this neighborhood in five to ten years?

ML: Very different. Ivy City was sort of a forgotten little corner. But now it’s sort of a distilling destination. There are a lot of people here on Saturdays when it’s nice weather wandering the streets. The Hecht Company [Warehouse development] is going to be a big draw, all the retail they’re putting in there.

Is this the next 14th Street? Could it be?

JU: Wow, no.

ML: It’s just physically not big enough. I would think it’s more like the Brookland neighborhood.

Most people at the end of day, they go home, they have a drink. Do you guys still do that? What is your cocktail of choice?

JU: I’ve been making a lot of negronis… You know, I was a beer buyer for years, so I still drink beer.

ML: If I want to [drink like it’s the] ’60s, I’ll still make a martini maybe once a week or so. For that I use our original Green Hat because of the herbal notes with Capitoline Vermouth. If you do a fairly high vermouth ratio, it makes a nice, soft, approachable martini with lots of herbal stuff going on.

University President

As the new president of the University of the District of Columbia, Ronald Mason Jr. faces a struggling school with budget woes and political problems. —Will Sommer

What are your plans for UDC?

In a nutshell, we want to establish it as an advanced public system of higher learning that serves the community of the District of Columbia. What does that mean? It means that we produce the workforce for the District, from District residents, and we can do it in various different ways.

You had ambitious plans at Southern University, but ran into some roadblocks. [In 2014, Mason left the position of president at Southern University in Louisiana after the board refused to agree to his ambitious demands for spending cuts.] What have you learned from that?

I learned a good bit. One, there’s some battles you can’t win no matter how hard you try. I was hired at Southern. They came looking for me to fix the problems. The politics, which was one of the problems, wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Given UDC’s troubles and what have you, critics say, “Just stick with the community college, make UDC a trade school, get rid of the bachelor programs.” You would disagree with that, and I’d be curious for your argument in favor.

One, every person should have the chance to achieve their highest potential. And as the public system of higher learning for the District, that would be our job, to enable them to do that.

I’ve been told that 70 percent of the jobs that are available in the District, people who are residents of the District or born in the District aren’t eligible for those jobs. So it’s about enabling as much human potential as possible to be available for the workforce in the District. And of course you know that many of the students coming out of the public school system are under-prepared, mostly [students] of color, right?

What do you think is the biggest problem you’re facing at UDC?

I have six pages of lists.

Go for a couple.

It’s hard to say the biggest. I’ve been meeting with the elected leaders here, and the business community, and one of the messages I’ve been trying to convey is that we need some space, some time be able to fix the things that need to be fixed.

There’s a history there, there’s a distrust of the institution—brand issues. But it’s all doable as long as people give us the space to do it.

It seems like a lot of the job is making people believe in UDC.

I’ve been told that people don’t believe it can be fixed. When some of those people say it—they’re in a position to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? But I think that timing, as much as anything, is a factor in these outcomes. And I get a real sense that people want UDC to succeed. I get a real sense that the stars are in place to make it happen.

And without getting too spiritual, I think I’m where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there, which is at UDC.

Point Guard, TV Analyst

In between winning gold medals and WNBA championships, Kara Lawson thought she would end up as a lawyer. In fact, because the league paid for graduate school, the Springfield native planned to shuttle between a few years of playing overseas and summers in the U.S. playing pro ball before hitting the books. Then, eight years ago, ESPN called and asked her to do some college basketball work. She got hooked. Now, Lawson is one of the few broadcasters who works both women’s and men’s college hoops games. Last year, after signing with the Mystics, she came back to D.C. —Steve Cavendish

You’ve had the chance to play at home the last couple of years for the first time since high school. Enjoy it?

It definitely is enjoyable, because I’ve had a chance to see my parents more frequently than at any point in my career, because when you’re a pro athlete, you live a nomadic existence. Most of my fellow players go overseas and play, and even though I don’t, I still live that life because I’m working for ESPN.

Where do you have roots these days? Because as soon as the WNBA season is over, you’re into pre-production for the college basketball season.

My first work is covering Kentucky’s Midnight Madness in Lexington. Most of October, for me, is spent preparing for the season, going to practices, observing players, trying to get a feel for as many teams as possible, both men and women. There’s a lot of freshmen on every team that I’ve never seen play because I’m not a college recruiting guru. A lot of times, if it’s a highly touted player or someone who’s going to play a key role on a contending team, I try to get a look at them. On the men’s side, the roster turnover is much more severe than it is on the women’s side because of the ability to leave early. There’s 300 some-odd Division 1 teams. Now, I’m obviously not going to cover all of them, but when you factor in the NCAA tournament, times two, that’s a lot of information. [Laughs]

You’ve played 12 seasons and spoken fondly of playing with the Mystics. Do you have a 13th in you?

I usually start training heavy in January. You don’t know how your body is going to respond and you don’t know if you’re going to want to climb that mountain again, mentally, because it’s a three to four month process to get yourself fit. I still enjoy playing. It’s been a huge challenge to do both, but I view them as helping one another. Playing helps me as a broadcaster. It’s like a basketball lab, and there’s strategy involved. All of those things that you kind of talk through as an analyst on television, you’re putting them into action as a player. That’s really unique. Nobody else in the business really has that, except for a couple of analysts who still coach. For me, that’s really powerful and colors my broadcasting. I love that interplay between them.

Did you always want to be on TV?

I wasn’t interested in broadcasting at all. In fact, I was so afraid of public speaking as an undergrad at Tennessee, [head coach] Pat Summitt made me take a public speaking course. I would get so nervous. My teammates that were there when I was a young player laugh whenever they see me on television now because they remember how fearful I was.

What do you think of the Mystics getting their own facility?

I think it’s going to be great, because what you want is for players to have a place that they can go at any hour and have a chance to get their work in, whether it’s extra shooting or lifting, and that’s not currently the case at Verizon. It’s hard if you want to go in early and get extra shots or stay late and get extra shots. That building is being used all the time, so that’s not an ideal professional environment to be in because you’re limited by the calendar. You’re constantly getting put out of your locker room for stuff that’s going into the arena. I think it’s going to be good to have everything under one roof.

What do you think about the location, in a former mental institution?

I can’t say that I’ve spent much time there. [Laughs] I’ve heard it’s not a great area, that it needs a lot of work. But anybody that’s from D.C. will know that they’ve said that about a lot of places, like where Nats Park is now. The size of the arena is going to be beneficial and it could really create a good home court environment.


In 2013, six scientists—all of them unusually small—donned headlamps, helmets, and cavers’ canvas overalls to maneuver themselves into a deep, barely reachable chamber of a South African cave. At one point, the team says, researchers wedged themselves through a passage less than eight inches wide. They were in pursuit of a cache of hominid bones that appeared in photographs other cavers had taken in the Rising Star Cave. They expected to find a partial skeleton belonging, they hoped, to of one of mankind’s early ancestors. But down in the cave, the group found their bone count didn’t add up.“When you find you have three right femurs, for example, you suddenly know you’re dealing with more than one individual.” The complete discovery would include at least 15 individual specimens from a range of ages, and once they were cleaned, recorded, catalogued, and analyzed, the evidence pointed to a brand-new species: Homo naledi. Among those six cavers was Becca Peixotto, an American University PhD student and archaeologist. She’s used her experience on the Rising Star team to advocate for gender diversity in science and open sharing of research in her discipline. —Emily Q. Hazzard

Were you an outdoorsman before you were a scientist?

Absolutely. I worked for many years doing outdoor experiential education, leading wilderness expeditions—climbing, backpacking, mountaineering, and that kind of stuff. And when I came back to school, I came back to grad school to study archaeology. All of those different things I’d done in the past came together to help me do field archaeology.

What’s a typical day like in the field?

It’s so different depending on the field type. In general, we’re up pretty early, there’s some sort of a meeting at the beginning of the day, and then everybody hits the field. Then you spend quite a bit of time digging things up. Some pretty quick lab work happens, because it’s not just about digging these things up out of the ground, it’s about studying them and figuring out what we can learn about them—what it looks like when it’s in the ground, what’s nearby, what else we’re finding. In the [Rising Star] cave, for example, we use a 3-D scanner. Sometimes we use survey techniques to record where artifacts come from… Because of course in archaeology, you spend, I don’t know, ten percent of your time in the field and the rest of the time is in the lab. It’s so much more [work] to study the stuff than it is just to get it out of the ground.

There’s a lot of publicity for Rising Star, plus the fact that all the excavators are women. Has this opened new doors to talk to girls about involvement in science?

Even when we were doing the first round of excavations back in November 2013, and we were tweeting and blogging and Skyping [about it], the fact that we were all women was something that people were excited about—having women doing not just lab science but the adventure side of science and being able to speak to middle school and high school girls about “Look, this is a possibility and an option [for you].”

Did you know before you went into the Rising Star site that you would be pulling out a new species?

No. We went in thinking that we were going to recover one partial skeleton of a species that had already been described… It started to become clear that we were looking at something that was not what we expected to find.

That must have been so exciting.

It was very exciting! It’s a new species and the science itself is really amazing, but I think [it’s also exciting] the way that the science is being shared and made accessible not just to other researchers but to, for example, schoolteachers who want to teach this stuff. We’re doing this project, Open Access, which [makes] the scientific articles available for anyone to download and read—you don’t have to pay for them or go to an institution to be able to get access to them. And then the 3-D scans of the fossils are available online for anybody to look at and download. [Educators] can download and print their own copies of the fossils for their classrooms, or people who are teaching more advanced science can download the articles for their students to read. And I think that’s lifting the veil of how science works. That’s something I hope to be able to do with the other kinds of archaeology that I’m doing.

Is that a trend in other disciplines as well?

There’s starting to be more and more open access in other kinds of science as well, but it’s still considered pretty new at this point. It’s not the norm. I think one of the hopes of the way that Rising Star is happening is that this may become more and more the norm—that the next discoveries and the next research that happens in paleoanthropology will also make all this data available to make it easier for researchers to compare information and for more people to be engaged in the process.

Punk Musician

If you’ve spent any time following the D.C. punk scene in the past two decades, you know Mary Timony. Since her newest band, the garage-punk trio Ex Hex, formed in 2013, the D.C. native has spent the better part of two years on the road—playing everywhere from the inaugural Landmark Festival to venues throughout Europe. Still, no matter how long she’s gone or how far she travels, she always gravitates back to her hometown. —Matt Cohen

You’ve seen the D.C. music scene change and evolve over the years. Many think it’s going through another renaissance—more D.C.-area bands are making splashes nationally. Why do you think the music scene is cyclical like that?

There’s some really cool kids playing bands today. A lot of younger people. It did kind of go through a transition period, but I think it seems that people are attracted to D.C. again. Kids that grew up here are staying here. When I was not here in the ’90s, there were a lot of musicians moving to town to be a part of the scene. That’s not really happening a lot now. I feel like it’s more that the people who grew up here don’t want to leave, and that’s kind of how it was in the ’80s, too, in the punk/hardcore scene. It’s kind of a return to that.

You toured with Speedy Ortiz last year, who recently started an in-show hotline for victims of harassment. Harassment at shows is becoming an increasing problem but not everyone is aware of it. Have you encountered issues like this a lot over the years?

Not really. I’m not in my twenties anymore. I think it’s kind of a generational thing, if I were in my twenties again, I think I’d be really involved in that. I think it’s pretty cool that Sadie [of Speedy Ortiz] is doing that.

I grew up being really interested in going to rock shows as a place to get away from anything awful in my life and always found that shows were a safe place to escape to. But it’s a new culture of show attendees, I guess. Especially growing up in D.C., that kind of shit would never happen.

Yeah, I imagine it’s a bigger problem at shows [where people are dancing and grinding] than punk shows in D.C.

Oh yeah, definitely. I think things are changing a lot. I feel like in the ’90s, things were just more isolated. Music fans were all—a lot of times you felt like it was all of your friends. You found out about this music on your own and then when you went to shows, that’s how you made friends. Now with the Internet, I feel like crowds at shows are more of a random section of society that just found out about new music on Pitchfork or something.

One of my favorite interviews with you I’ve ever read is the one you did with the A.V. Club about how much you hate the song “Your Body is a Wonderland,” so I’ve got to ask, is there another song you absolutely loathe and why?

Yeah, sure. [Laughs]

What is it?

[Hesitates] I don’t know. I don’t want to share. It’s mean.

It probably won’t go to print.

OK, OK. I teach guitar—I don’t teach it that much right now, but I had to teach a few songs that, when I first started teaching I was like “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” but then I found that I could just get through the song and it wasn’t an issue, but I had to teach this one kid that song.

Studio Owners, Music Activists

Tucked away in the basement of a nondescript Columbia Heights house, some of the most exciting music in years has been recorded at Swim-Two-Birds, the home studio of spouses Hugh McElroy and Kevin Erickson. From Priests to the Cornel West Theory to Hemlines, Swim-Two-Birds has become synonymous with a certain sound among D.C.’s musical contingent. That’s mostly due to the studio’s all-analog setup—rare in today’s digitally obsessed culture—but also because of who Hugh and Kevin are: deeply passionate music nerds. Hugh—a D.C. native—has been a part of the local punk scene for years, playing in experimental post-hardcore band Black Eyes in early aughts, while Kevin works full-time advocating for artist’s rights with the Future of Music Coalition. —Matt Cohen

When did you first start Swim-Two-Birds? What was the impetus behind starting a studio in your basement?

HM: I bought the house in 2005—just a little over ten years ago. Before that, the studio had lived in a weird form in this kind of gutted rowhouse space I was living in in Adams Morgan. But actually, bits of it had lived in my parent’s basement out in Bethesda. I don’t know when I named it—I’d have to go back and look at the recordings that I did.

One thing about Swim-Two-Birds that I noticed is that it’s a completely analog setup. What’s the benefit of that for recording?

HM: Partially, for me, it was what there was when I started recording. I mean, there was digital stuff, but it wasn’t super accessible in the way that it is now. But I also do like what happens to audio hitting tape in terms of the tape compression and sort of natural stuff, which I know can be emulated pretty well. But it still doesn’t seem quite the same to me.

KE: Part of it is psychological, in terms of the performances it coaxes out of people. Digital makes it really easy to sort of punch things in super quick and be really instantaneous. With analog, there’s a rhythm that you get into between takes because you have to pause for a moment while the tape rewinds. You listen back and can make decisions. Because you don’t get the instant visual feedback of looking at waveforms, it focuses you on your ears more and that limits that kind of feedback.

There’s also a physicality to it—I’m trying to avoid saying warmth—but it’s true. When people say “warmth,” what they’re actually talking about is a particular kind of distortion. The recording quality is actually less good, but it’s in a euphonic way. There’s a comfort to it, a familiarity.

Kevin, tell me about your work with the Future of Music Coalition. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing musicians right now?

KE: With the Future of Music Coalition, we talk about it as two big buckets: access and compensation. Access to audiences, the ability to get your music out into the world, regardless of whether you have the financial backing of big corporate partners. And compensation, the rewards for the process for creation make it back to the people who created it.

There’s a lot of conversation about streaming services and figuring out how the revenue models can work around that. One of the biggest challenges around that is figuring out what that means for scale. If you talk about industry revenues purely in terms of gross numbers, that doesn’t necessarily translate to anything meaningful when you get down to the level of an individual artist.

Hugh, you work with kids in your day job and both of you have worked with young bands, like the Black Sparks. What’s the most inspiring thing about working with kids?

HM: Well, teenagers are cooler than adults most of the time. I was so deeply resentful of the way adults treated me as a young person that I—both in teaching and general interaction with younger people—wanted to be a person in young people’s lives who takes them seriously, as real human beings and not just as not-yet-fully formed human beings. So, there’s a lot of stuff—respect for them as humans—that informs my teaching and my general interaction with young people. Stuff that I want to get right that I felt were not gotten right in my own youth by adults.

KE: It’s creatively rewarding working with young people because they have a real expansive sense of possibility. I would hesitate to use the word “mentorship” applied to my work with the Black Sparks or any other young musician we’ve worked with—partly because it’s presumptuous, and partly because it denotes a one-way transmission of information. If I’m doing it right, I’m learning at least as much from them as they are from me.

Film Curator

Maybe when your dad, P. Adams Sitney, is one of the bigger figures in the world of avant-garde cinema, you are destined to spend your life in film, too. Sky Sitney spent nine years growing AFI Docs (née Silverdocs) into one of the larger film festivals of its kind before leaving in 2014 to help Diana Schemo launch Double Exposure: the Investigative Film Festival this year, to much acclaim. —Steve Cavendish

Is there a film where you can look back at as one you and your dad bonded over?

So much of my early childhood experience, particularly with my father, was spent in a movie theater. I almost don’t have a memory of when that began because I was brought to films even when I was an infant. It was such a dominant thing. We lived across the street from the New Yorker film theater, which doesn’t exist anymore. I spent many weekends doing double features at the Regency. I grew up at a time where there were so many independent film theaters and, you know, we didn’t have air conditioning, so summers were truly spent there. I’m not kidding. We’d see three films in a day just to cool off.

Did you always pay? Or did you sneak from film to film?

Not then, because they weren’t multiplexes. But when the multiplexes came, sure! I’d hang out in the bathroom for 45 minutes until the next film started. But instead of having this one pivotal moment, all I can remember is film and avant-garde cinema. To an outsider, avant-garde may seem like this elitist, impenetrable kind of cinema and my father was deeply committed to it. For me, it was very accessible, but we would see everything. I can remember a weekend when we saw Fast Times at Ridgemont High followed by Zapped, featuring Scott Baio. [Laughs] So my father was high art and low art and indulged everything.

How much did it help to have Spotlight in Double Exposure’s first year to get people’s attention?

Hugely. There were a number of things that we worked hard to make happen that were fortuitous. Spotlight was critical. Edward Snowden’s appearance in the symposium with Kirby Dick and Alex Gibney and Ross Kauffman. Those are all Academy-nominated or award-winning filmmakers. All of that. I think we were leveraging our years in the field and our confidence that people might have in us based on our track records to bring a really stellar lineup. Certainly, for me, Diana was the first to even know about Spotlight. My life had been so deeply immersed in documentary that it wasn’t on my radar. And from day one, she said, “my dream would be to have Spotlight.” Because of the existing relationship I had with Participant Media, it was this perfect story where it worked for everybody. Having Spotlight, a film with such high profile and such great interest, was a wonderful plus.

It seems like over the last ten to 15 years, that the aesthetic side of what we would consider journalistic documentaries has changed. There’s a feature quality to many of them. They’ve changed how they’re telling stories. Is that fair?

Yes. There’s two areas that I think are really blossoming in documentary. One is indeed this relationship to journalism. Laura Poitras’ work with The Intercept has created this new online platform called Field of Vision that’s been getting a lot of attention and premiered at the New York Film Festival. It just keeps bursting. But the other area that seems to be hitting a major shift is indeed the use of aesthetics and the increased comfort that documentarians have using narrative techniques that would normally have been understood as purely in the realm of fictional narrative.

In many ways, this started with Errol Morris and The Thin Blue Line in the 1980s. He would always say that the look of a film doesn’t guarantee truth—nothing guarantees truth. A film that uses reenactment is no more or less true than direct cinema or fly-on-the-wall camerawork. There are films that are 100-percent animation that are comfortably situated as documentary, which would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

Documentary is bursting at the seams with creativity in these areas. There are different things at stake. When a film is engaging with the world of journalism, the truth claims have to be honored and there has to be an ethical responsibility. So there’s a challenge in pushing the aesthetics that you don’t compromise what’s true.


You can peg D.C. United’s recent success to a lot of factors, but it’s unlikely that this year’s team would have made the playoffs had it not been for the heroics of goalkeeper Bill Hamid. In a game in Montreal in August, for example, United was outshot 25–1 and still managed a 1–0 win. Hamid, an Annandale native, was the first player produced by the club’s youth academy to sign professionally (in 2009) and signed a big, new contract this season. His play earned him MLS’ goalkeeper of the year honor last season and call-ups by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to the national team. —Steve Cavendish

When you talk about D.C. to friends who aren’t from here, how do you describe it?

It’s very open. You’ve got places like U Street. It’s got a vibe that is very welcoming to anybody and you can get along. You can meet people very easily here. I go to different cities. I don’t think it’s similar. There’s great restaurants.

What are you eating these days?

I like everything. [Laughs] When it comes to food, I don’t really hold back. My favorite restaurant in the city is probably Peacock Cafe. It’s got a nice little vibe, and I love the food. I usually go with the rigatoni. They make it really well. And on the plus side, I go there after training. So if it’s a Tuesday or a Wednesday, the owner—he’s a good guy—loves soccer, so he always has the Champions League games on. You can sit down, watch the game, and relax a little bit.

There’s not a lot of high-profile Muslim athletes in the U.S., much less in D.C. Do you feel any pressure to be a role model? I mean, there are Muslim kids here playing soccer who can look at Bill Hamid and say, “Hey, he’s like me and he’s really successful.”

I think it’s more the influence in terms of being a kid from this area and then signing on [with D.C. United] than being Muslim. There’s youth soccer players in this area from Baltimore all the way down to Richmond, and the team that they follow is D.C. United. I think the pressure of that is massive because these clubs, they’re always watching to see who came out of the D.C. United Academy. To be one of the few—me, Andy Najar, Ethan White, Conor Shanosky, Collin Martin—to come out of the Academy, I feel a lot of pressure to be a role model to all of these kids who are playing. They all have the dream. They all play FIFA [the video game]. They all watch soccer. They all have their favorite player. They want to become a professional. For me to show myself in the right way, whether it be out on the field or out in public or on social media, there’s always going to be pressure. You just want to be the right person.

You play FIFA?

All the time.

Xbox or PS4?

I’m a PS4 guy.

Who’s your team?

I’m a Manchester United fan. The team is not very strong, right now, on FIFA.

Do you play them straight up or do you “juice” the team with transfers?

Yeah, I’ve taken a few Ls. [Laughs] I’ve had to buy a few players. I went and bought Zlatan Ibrahimović (from Paris Saint-Germain); I bought Lionel Messi (from Barcelona); I bought Romelu Lukaku (from Everton); I just needed to help out the offense because United [in the game] is not very strong. In real life, they’re doing really well.


In April, former Muriel Bowser staffer LaRuby May won the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat following previous Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry’s death. Now, after securing her seat by fewer than 200 votes, she has to run again next June. —Will Sommer

Ward 8 is an iconic ward in the city. Marion Barry called it “the last, the lost, and the least.” What is different about being Ward 8 councilmember than any other ward?

I would believe that we probably have a larger percentage of native Washingtonians than other parts of the city. Downtown and other areas I believe are more transient, right? If you’re down in Foggy Bottom, when you’re around the college areas, Brookland and Foggy Bottom and different neighborhoods, you have a lot of transient people.

But in Ward 8, I think we have a lot of not only native Washingtonians but second and third and fourth and fifth generation Washingtonians. And so I think that makes it a little bit different and gives people a different sense of pride in their hometown and in their community.

What do you want to get done in the next year?

One of the reasons that I decided to take this, to run for the seat, was to be able to bridge the gap between where Ward 8 residents are in reaching their full potential and to make sure that we direct resources and investment into Ward 8 in all arenas.

Speaking of campaigning, what’s with the [May campaign color] purple? You’re always in purple, very on brand. Have you always been into purple?

So I announced in the season of Advent, and you know purple is the color of Advent. I’ve always stated that I’m unapologetically a Christian, so purple [is] not only the color of advent but a color that’s very associated with faith.

I’m OK with people connecting me to my faith and my leadership to my faith. Purple is a great color for that. I can’t tell you how many people told me “purple is not a campaign color.” Before I started, I had zero things in my closet that were purple. It just wasn’t a color that I rocked, right? Now I think I rock it better than anybody.

During the campaign, people were saying “LaRuby’s the mayor’s puppet.” What was that like?

I was pretty clear that my mom’s name is Mary, her mom’s name is Joan. My dad’s name is Theophilus, his dad’s name is Joe. So by definition, we’re different people.