March 13, 2017 - Juan Montas
9th and P Street
As I arrived closer towards 9th and P street I saw how the communities were diversifying as well as the different types of buildings. When I arrived at my location I only saw brick buildings and one of those was the Shiloh Baptist Church. “The Shiloh Baptist Church was founded in 1863 by twenty-one slaves during the Civil War” (SHILOH BAPTIST…).Throughout the course of the 1861 Civil War many slaves from Virginia ran away trying to seek the freedom they could not get. They arrived at Washington DC and here they decided to construct a baptist church. This church is similar to the one in Virginia and even called the same. The twenty-one slaves were led by William J. Walker, the individual who became the first reverend in the new church. He was the founder and the first man to become responsible for the church. While being the leader he also inspired many other slaves to build this holy place so that civilians from all around the city could attend. The current reverend, Wallace Charles Smith wants to follow William J. Walker’s steps by trying to help people around the community who need it.
The Shiloh Baptist Church is located between the Shaw neighborhood and Logan Circle in the downtown area of the city. This location as to where the church is is interesting due to the fact that the Shaw neighborhood is not really popular. In this neighborhood many African Americans have lived for a very long time. Gang violence, drug trafficking, kidnapping and assassinations occurred constantly in recent years. In an article published by Rick Uliano many people are rallying to see if crimes rates and violence can stop. “On Memorial Day, the 31-year-old was gunned down in the 600 block of O Street Northwest, one of the killings that has propelled the District’s homicide rate to its highest level in five years” (Uliano, Rick). The homicide rates are the highest in over five years and the crime doesn’t stop. The activities that are happening in the Shaw neighborhood are affecting the church within itself because crimes are slowly getting closer. This is why the church is trying to help out and fix the crimes issues. In an interview with Rick Uliano, the Shiloh Baptist Church minister Thomas Bowen said, “One thing that we have to do is get our community to stand up for itself. If you see something, say something.” By doing so then the minister is trying to see if the people that live there realize what is going on in order to stop the vicious crimes and create a positive impact.
Crime is an issue that needs to be solved. Although the church is working along side the Shaw neighborhood to reduce crime rates there are still some really concerning issues. Around two weeks ago (March 20) two kids were reported missing. The church has been putting up signs in the outside of the church in order to raise awareness so that civilians can see the problems and try to help. In an interview with WUSA, Reverend Wallace Charles Smith said, “Our children are so vulnerable and have so few protections that we think as a church we ought to do what we can to stand alongside them and keep them as safe as possible” (Henry, John). The church is doing all it can for the possibility of finding these kids. The signs have been put and the media is being used in order to united more people towards the same goal. Even the bystanders who walk around the streets say this. Edirin Davis, a civilian walking by, said in the news “I’m really glad that this church made these signs” (Henry, John). Just the fact that the church is adding signs in the outside of their building demonstrates that they want to help out the cause.
In the neighborhood surrounding the church the process of gentrification has been skipped. Gentrification is when something or someone is renovated. In this case it appears so that the community around the church isn’t. In an article published in 2005 by Richard Layman he says, “All too often, church buildings in commercial districts are activity vacuums that make a commercial district appear empty and unsafe.” The reason Layman gives to support his argument on gentrification skipping the church it is because of how many properties the church has that are unused. Not only the church has vacant properties, but the community in itself has many locations were there isn’t anything. Since this article from Layman was published in 2005 then many things have changed so far. For example in front of the church there is now a modern restaurant called Chaplin in the first floor and the other stories are apartments. Chaplin’s is a brick building covered in some black walls with a touch of glass. This place gives a touch of style to the community as it is different from the rest. As well, crossing the street from Chaplin’s there is an old building under reconstruction that will end up being a modern market.
The Shiloh Baptist Church and the community are transforming via gentrification. The places surrounding the area have started to reinvent themselves so that people can visit the place instead of skipping it. One of the main reasons why the church has remodeled was caused by a fire in 1991. The fire occurred during an organ practice and this allowed the church to rebuild internally.
As seen in the image provided above Reverend Wallace Charles Smith used this opportunity to create a more modern and renewed place. “This building is a reaffirmation of our belief in the city of Washington, and this is just a beginning of our renewed effort to address issues in our community such as poverty, social justice, and homelessness” (Harris, Hamil R and Bill Broadway). Reverend Smith said this after the church was reinstated once again in 1998. Through his message he is trying to show the neighborhood how the church is open to help out those who need it. Since the community is struggling so much with crime, then one alternative to help out is the church and this is why the reverend is letting the city know the door is open for everyone.
Gentrification has started to evolve around the community. One of the main reasons of this change and remodeling is also due to the constant new residents in the Shaw neighborhood. The impact gentrification has had is mainly due to the high amount of money wealthy people have and their interest to invest in lower communities. Chaplin’s is a restaurant held by wealthy investors who want to make a change as well as the old building under construction. This building will turn out to be another market such as the one located in O Street. These amounts of money spent are only making the neighborhood more attractive, but that doesn’t really mean the community is still progressing. As we read in David Fleming’s book City of Rhetoric a community is defined by the people who live in it and bring that culture and tradition. That tradition and culture seen in 9th and P Street is mainly due to the church since it has been there for over 150 years. It is true that with new people coming in then cultures will change, but more the meanwhile the old ones are the shown.
The Shiloh Baptist Church needs to stop crime. Gangs are still known to wonder around the Shaw neighborhood and the church. The problem with this is that across the street from the church there is a liquor store. This is a big problem because the store only sells alcohol, cigarettes, sodas, etc. and many people will want to use these substances. It is interesting to see how in front of a church that is trying to combat crime there is a store that sells alcohol. It is accurate to say that per week there are usually several underaged teens that go to the liquor store trying to get alcohol sold. These kids are committing bad decisions by doing so because this can end up leading them to a bad future. This si where the church should step in and help. The Shiloh Baptist is not just a worshipping center but a haven for the community. They needs to make it clear that their main goal is helping out people to have a successful life.
Reverend Smith should try and use the church as a way to promote prosperity around the community. He should try to give hope to those that have lost it and inspire those in need of help. The Shiloh Baptist Church is a means that can help many poor and homeless citizens become even better and prosper in the community. As well, he needs to advocate to the community the sense of right and help those who are wrong. The church needs to fight crime so that less kids are abducted, drug trafficking stops and violence reduces. This church is a symbol of hope in the community. Those homeless or poor people who need help can go at any moment to the church because they know that the people working there will be of service. It is amazing what a site can do in a community. This place has tried to help the surrounding civilians become better people. Until the day I visited The Shiloh Baptist Church I didn’t know this place existed in the city of DC. I had never gone to the Downtown area of the city, much less a specific place and it is extraordinary how a site can change everything. The environment built around the church has been changing throughout the years due to the process of gentrification. Remodeling is only making 9th and P street become an even better place than it was before. The brick building the church is is much more than brick, it is a place where people can be assisted and taught to become better, it is a place of prosperity.
Harris, Hamil R and Bill Broadway. “A NEW PLACE FOR AN OLD CONGREGATION.” Washington Post, 1998. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Henry, John. “DC Church Sets up Missing Children Display.” WUSA. Accessed May 2, 2017.
Layman, Richard. “Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: Losing My Religion: Shiloh Baptist Church and Neighborhood Destabilization.” Accessed April 12, 2017.
Montas, Juan. Photo 1. 18 Feb. 2017.
Montas, Juan. Photo 2. 18 Feb. 2017.
Montas, Juan. Photo 3. 18 Feb. 2017.
SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH WASHINGTON, D.C. RECORDS. 1st ed. Web. 22 Feb 2017.
Uliano, Dick. “Rally Held for D.C. Mom Killed in Memorial Day Shooting.” WTOP, October 25, 2015.