There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
A few weeks ago, 2nd District Commander Andrew Solberg sought to assist Georgetowners in fighting crime. Just days after a white man had been killed on Q Street NW, allegedly by four black locals, Solberg stated publicly that it was “unusual” to see black people in Georgetown. He spoke in the context of suspicious behavior, giving some the impression that he was advising residents to report black people out at night. The police department reassigned the commander; last week, it reinstated him. Score a victory for racial profiling. Given the commander’s reinstatement, the Washington City Paper has decided to assist the Black Man in navigating D.C.’s very own Whiteland.
The Walking Company
3101 M St. NW
Georgetown’s many scenic attractions are ones you’ll want to enjoy briskly, lest the locals think you’re casing something. The Walking Company offers many varieties of ECCO shoes, which earned the Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association for their foot-friendliness. Drop by here, and you’re assured to look stylish—but not suspicious—as you stride past the lovely sights of Georgetown. If you’re accidentally caught up in a dragnet, it’s helpful to know that a little ways down M Street is the Georgetown Running Company.
The Black House
1410 36th St. NW
For more than three decades, this unassuming town house has served as the locus of black life at Georgetown University. A handful of students live in the three-story abode, where they throw house parties, hold lectures on human rights, and otherwise try to unify students of color. These future leaders of minority America got their positions in the house by applying to the school’s Center for Minority Educational Affairs. But given their devotion to outreach, we can’t imagine them closing the door on you if you’re fleeing a cop.
Association of Trial Lawyers of America
1050 31st St. NW
Georgetown is rife with opportunities to acquaint yourself with the local criminal-justice system. Police cars, lights always flashing, illuminate the colorful shopfronts of Wisconsin Avenue like a Tijuana disco. On one recent evening, this Black Guide writer witnessed five young adults at Wisconsin and M Street NW arguing with a cabby over a fare. Five police cruisers showed up, eight cops emerged, and the one black member of the party was handcuffed and put into the back of a cruiser for allegedly pushing the cabbie. When you suspect your civil rights have just been violated, head down the street to the headquarters of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. They should be able to connect you with a bulldog lawyer who will help you get your dignity back, plus damages.
2819 M St. NW
It’s best not to use this pay phone. There are not many pay phones in Georgetown to begin with, so scrutiny is likely quite high here.
3000 M St. NW
The French have always been close to Africa, what with their history in Algeria, Morocco, Togoland, and Cameroon. They are used to working with black people and are generally more accepting of racial diversity than your average Georgetowner. There is perhaps no finer destination in which to relax on your trip than La Madeleine. Free bread and water too!
3222 M St. NW
Georgetown at one time was known for its flashy dress shops. Hustlers from the suburbs came to hunt for alligator shoes, local basketball stars for fine Italian suits. But many visitors to Georgetown complain that the fashion scene has become lackluster. “There is no sense of individuality here,” says Ryan Himmons, a black man from Alexandria. “Like, dude, I don’t have that many Polos. I just don’t. I’ve never seen so many pleated shorts in all my life—in all my damn life.” The new H&M offers nontraditional clothes, at least compared to the local style. Fun fact: Black mannequins reside here.
For those who want to see the splendor of Georgetown from the air, the elevated Whitehurst Freeway provides a delightful opportunity. Locals have used this roadway for years as a way to avoid Georgetown. Walking along the shoulderless freeway from Key Bridge to K Street provides both a challenging hike and a way to dodge APBs.
3040 M St. NW
An ideal excursion in Georgetown is to the bench across the street from the Old Stone House. The Old Stone House is a charming Colonial-era residence once inhabited by members of a long-forgotten Georgetown society: the middle class. The bench is a sturdy wooden one handily situated next to a stop for the No. 36 Metrobus, which runs all the way to Southeast. Eagle-eyed locals are used to seeing people of color hanging out near bus stops: Your presence will probably go undetected as you try to catch glimpses of the Old Stone House and its well-kept English garden. Viewers must be patient with halted buses. Nearby: Barnes & Noble sells newspapers, jigsaw puzzles, and copies of the U.S. Constitution.
3000 K St. NW
Black people driving cars with tinted windows freak out the local gentry. Black people piloting boats with tinted windows, however, will never threaten anybody. The Washington Harbour, located about as far away from the residential areas of Georgetown as possible, has become a very popular nightspot for the nonwhite nautically inclined. On weekends, it’s not unusual to see boat after boat of black sailors docked on the Potomac, listening to onboard tunes and scoping the shiny rides of visiting motorcycle clubs. If the harbor patrol starts pursuing you, you’d better head downstream—that’ll lead to international waters, where you can negotiate a truce.
1054 31st St. NW
Since 1991, the Parish Gallery has exhibited work that is African or inspired by the African Diaspora. “The dominant society has dominated in Georgetown,” says owner Norman Parish, but his shop, wedged away in shadowy Canal Square, provides a splash of ink on the otherwise all-white canvas. Parish is happy to assist you in finding the right Patricia Underwood healing shield or Percy Martin bush-people print, and he has an extensive knowledge of the area’s black history, as well. This is one hot spot to delve into a popular Georgetown conspiracy—the Metro stop that white people prevented. “That’s a known thing,” says Parish. “Some of the white folks in Georgetown have come in and said, ‘You know, we really blew it. We blew it because these people, the black people, come anyway.’”
3251 Prospect St. NW
Georgetown’s thriving lunch scene is truly something you’ll want to explore. In broad daylight, the chance that somebody will call the police upon seeing you walking through their neighborhood is greatly diminished. Cafe Milano enjoys national renown for its unhurried, carefully orchestrated dining experience: “Easygoing and lingering” describes the afternoon crowd, according to the restaurant’s PR person. Lunch specials include a smoked-salmon-and-buffalo-mozzarella sandwich, tuna tartar with a sea-urchin-roe sauce, and poached codfish in a black-olive salsa. Fun fact: Barbara Harrison of NBC 4 is an occasional diner and no doubt will be happy to follow up on your false-arrest leads.
G-Land Embroidery & Apparel
1516 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Black travelers in Georgetown often report feeling as though they must have a reason on call for being there, should someone ask. But if you make G-Land Embroidery your first stop, you can just show people why you’re in their neighborhood. The store has a nice selection of working-class and graveyard-shift uniforms, from breezy hospital scrubs to reflective construction-crew vests. Once you identify yourself as a member of the itinerant working class, you can walk Georgetown’s residential areas with your mind at ease—and everybody else’s at ease, too. G-Land also embroiders shirts if you’d like to get stitched with a nonthreatening “Hi! My name is…” or “Just Passing Through.” Nearby: If you’re not on a budget, grab a tuxedo from the tuxedo shop around the corner. Nobody ever suspects the guy in the tuxedo.
1310 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Last year, here in the heart of Georgetown, police arrested a white person. Duke University lacrosse player Colin Finnerty was charged with misdemeanor assault after he and some friends allegedly called a man gay and then beat him in front of the Georgetown Inn. This year, a stripper hired to perform at a Duke lacrosse-team party accused Finnerty and friends of rape. Come visit the inn with a camera and memorialize Finnerty’s contribution to Georgetown’s history: Taking the heat, if only briefly, off of the Black Man.
House of Jack Evans
3141 P St. NW
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans has a reputation of being a friend to black people. One hundred and thirty-nine precincts spurned Evans during his 1998 run for mayor—but one, in the overwhelmingly black Sursum Corda projects, embraced him. Evans also hires minorities to staff his office, from receptionist to chief of staff. He created the Shaw Anti-Crime Task Force and pushed for the Kennedy Recreation Center, which, according to former chief of staff John Ralls, “was like going through the Olympics of red tape in the D.C. government.” Drop by Evans’ house, and you’re guaranteed a sympathetic ear for your racial-profiling gripes. Fun fact: Evans recently helped two constituents produce a musical about Shaw titled Where Eagles Fly. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Robert Ullman.