Mapping Commonplaces: A Story About Shaw – The Project

 

Throughout this semester I researched 5th & O Street intersection in the Howard/Shaw area. The reason why I had chosen Shaw was because in his book S Street Rising Ruben Castaneda had described this street intersection as a “combat zone” (105) one that was filled off strawberries, cocaine, and gang affiliated murders. I thought I would be living on the edge investigating and exploring a different side of Washington D.C. that I had not yet seen before since I was sheltered in the bubble of 4400 Massachusetts Avenue. It had been said that the district was known for being “Chocolate City” but instead, all I saw was million dollar mansions, white families walking their dog through my university’s campus. So, the second I heard that my semester long College Writing Seminar Assignment would involving the rhetoric or the Shaw Area I was excited.

However, my assumptions were quickly proven as false the second I stepped out the Shaw-Howard University Metro Station. As I have written in my Digital Archives instead of an area full of black, latino people I saw million dollar homes, overpriced mom and pop shops and isolated way at the end of 5th Street, the Second Northwest Cooperative housing complex the very few black families remained. To state that I was appalled and dare I say a bit of culture shock is an understatement. The community that was once there had been completed whitewashed over. After my first visit to Shaw, I couldn’t help but write about the complete disconnect between the two groups that now occupied the space. In my Essay 1 BED DigiDoc Textual Analysis, I brought up the fact that what can be explained as gentrification is seen as either a positive or negative based on the group of people you are speaking to. The individuals of the caucasian group might see it as “preserving historical land” improving the overall metropolitan era while the black group who were the natives of such areas as Shaw might see it as another instance where their history is being overlooked and not deemed important.

With the knowledge that I had acquired throughout the class discussion on the book “City of Rhetoric” I was able to expand my rhetorical understanding to understand better understand all sides of the conversation when exploring my CLS. My main goal throughout this project was to get all the perspective that I could gather concerning what Shaw meant to its residents, from the newcomers to the natives, the blacks, white and in between. I will admit that I am a bit bias when it comes to the “truth” that I had sided with more. Being that I identified with the black community, I understood their frustration when it came to the fact that they were essentially being forced to leave their community and the neighborhood that they had lived in for years. However, in the same token, I understood the oblivion that came from many of the new white young families and professionals that currently resided in Shaw being that they were seeing such “change” through a privileged lens.

After the practice that I had acquired with the assigned reading analyses throughout the semester I felt prepared with the Mapping Commonplace Project that was assigned. Though at first, I had difficulty figuring out what exactly to do when it came to what my multimodal components for this assignment I knew that I wanted it to be something that I could add on even after this class was over. Something that had definitely inspired me from our class discussions with Professor Hoskins was his colleague’s website mapping the different places in the Washington DC area; almost like an interactive art gallery.

I wanted my multimodal components to be like art museums where the audience can form the stories themselves with the pictures, videos, and music presented. I created a Tumblr page with a playlist including D.C. native artists like Marvin Gaye, Wale, Oddisee, Tarnica Junes among other artists such as  Kendrick Lamar, Otis Redding. I named the Tumblr Page “A Story About Shaw” (ASBS)  which presented videos and pictures and quotes that framed the evolution of Shaw from drug war zone in the 20th to early 21st century to this newly renovated, multimillion-dollar, white, quiet suburb-esque area. The Tumblr page was a compilation of both photos and videos that I had taken myself during my trips to Shaw as well as Real Estate listing screenshotted to how the prices of homes had gone up. I recorded a part of the ASBS Tumblr I attached a recording that I posted on YouTube and titled “ Shaw Confessionals.” The 2-minute voice memo is part of a conversation that I had with a Shaw native and Howard University rising sophomore who recounts how the change has impacted her community “for the worse”  I felt that hearing from a person who has experienced the change that Shaw has gone through. Since all my multimodal components connect I decided to put the recording as part of the Tumblr playlist.

To add onto the ASBS Tumblr page I created an Instagram Page  using the captions of each video and picture to tell a story of what was going on through my perspective. I used all the conversations that I had both published on social media or not to create a conversation through pictures on the Instagram time and my place is as stated before is to go back as years go by to add on to these components and truly show the evolution and for everyone as a group to comment and decide for themselves whether this renovation is better or worse and why.

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