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I live in Brookland, not Mount Rainier, but I spend a lot of time in Mount Rainier, especially in the summer. I would like to make a few observations about “Grit and Granola” (7/13). Although the information you presented about the political differences was interesting, I thought the article missed helping the reader understand who lives in Mount Rainier and why.
As in Brookland, there are many families who chose Mount Rainier because of its affordability and proximity to jobs in the District. Many of the families may appear to be old hippies, but most of the families I know are those who chose to have only one parent work outside the house while the other parent stays home with the children. Some families chose to home-school. Others spend a great deal of time helping out at their children’s schools, both public and private (such as Christian Family Montessori, De Matha, or the Friends School).
As in Brookland, the families I know, both Caucasian and African-American, have chosen not to be “house-poor.” They can afford their houses on one income, if they so choose. I don’t think I know any family, including my own, who has cable TV. Most of the families are not inundated with consumer goods; there are not a lot of fancy cars in Mount Rainier.
All of the families I know place a high value on education. The parents are well-educated, many with master’s or doctoral degrees, and make sure their children are also well-educated. Instead of dining in expensive restaurants, they eat potluck suppers. Many families are foster or adoptive parents. In the summer, the families spend days and evenings at Prince George’s Community Pool (corner of Chillum and Buchanan), a privately owned cooperative pool (the only Olympic-sized outdoor pool in the area). The pool has almost 250 member families, along with a swim team that won county divisionals last year.
Joe’s Movement Emporium provides much-needed arts education for families. It offers after-school and weekend classes for children and adults. Yes, belly dancing is offered, but there are also classes in African drumming, which my son took, gymnastics, and modern dance. It is a wonderful experience to show up at night for an open jam session of African drumming and watch your child drum next to professional musicians. Each summer, Joe’s Movement Emporium and the children in the community and at the pool put on a musical performance, reminiscent of Mickey Rooney in the ’30s. Every child gets to perform. Professional musicians and actors join in the production. You would be truly amazed at the quality of the production.
So, yes, there may be a dispute over gentrification in Mount Rainier. But give me music and dance over drunks and prostitutes any day of the week.