Professor Hyra’s Talk on Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City

Bus Boys and Poets had the honor of hosting a panel for a prestigious professor’s new book Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City on Thursday, April 27th, 2017. Professor Derek Hyra of American University discussed the backstory of writing his book and his perspectives on the book itself. A former New York resident, Professor Hyra grew up in a city and has seen and studied the effects of gentrification across the country, especially right here in the District of Columbia. His research and journey that made his book possible is a story that was a pleasure to listen to, and a story that is hard to forget.

Professor Hyra originally did research in Bronxville and Harlem in New York City. Having this background, he was then able to apply his research methods to the District and thus, he selected the gentrified area of Shaw and U Street to write his book on. This research started when D.C. was still predominantly African American, even more so than it is today. Because of this fact, D.C. earned the nickname, “Chocolate City,” and this is where Professor Hyra derived the name for his book.

Map of U Street: Professor Hyra wrote his book on this area

Due to the introduction of whites into the Shaw and U Street area and many others, Professor Hyra reinvented this nickname to “Cappuccino City.” Professor Hyra explains this with the metaphor of a cappuccino. Whites are being mixed with the blacks in these areas, and pushing them out of the areas with the process of gentrification. Just like in a cappuccino, the dark espresso is pushed to the sides when the white milk is poured into the cup. That is what Professor Hyra argued is happening in his area of study, in D.C., and across the country. This “milk” in the U Street and Shaw area is not only whites, but it is predominantly white millennials. They are coming because the opportunity is here as Professor Hyra argued, and this brings a certain atmosphere to the area. These millennials seek opportunity, and many of them come in with loads of cash that their parents have. Thus, this makes the area have a wealthy atmosphere when these white millennials come into the area. Because the atmosphere changes, property values go up because wealth and white power is in the neighborhood. This drives long term residents out of the area, the majority of these residents being black.

The process of gentrification is quite universal when one puts it into perspective. An area that was crime ridden and broken gets renovated, new people come in, drive out the old people that were associated with the problems, and the neighborhood is reinvented. Shaw and U Street follows this example, as does the Edgewood neighborhood in D.C., Harlem in New York, the south side of Chicago, and even in Austin, Texas. When one ponders about it, Professor Hyra’s book is a message not only for our nation’s capital, but for many towns across America that gentrification is happening in. That is why I considered his book to be so special, in addition to the fact that I have developed a personal passion for this topic.

I grew up in a small suburban town in New Jersey. When deciding where I wanted to go to college, I decided based on one major aspect; what was the best school for my major that was in a city? I knew I wanted a school in a city because city life attracts me, and I wanted a change from what I had grown up with. The constant activity of a city is right up my alley, and it is why I feel that this topic in the city that I have fallen in love with over the past year has made a mark on me. When sitting at the panel listening to Professor Hyra, I thought about all I had done, all I had seen, and all I will be doing over my next 3 years here at American. I bought Professor Hyra’s book at the event, and it is my intention to read it over the summer. To be honest, I can hardly wait to start.

Extra Points Course Concepts Blog Post

What we have done in this class has given much opportunity to reflect and show what is important for the course concepts. The first explained that writing is a recursive series of choices that required us as students to make sophisticated choices in their own writing. This was done in several ways, so being the reading analyses, the annotated bibliographies, or even revising and updating our websites so that our work is neatly organized. In doing this, we were able to formulate an original, increasingly complex thesis in their writing projects and develop that thesis into a well-supported argument. This was done with our writing most obviously, but the method in which this was done is the key concern here. The use of Graff and Berkenstein’s They Say I Say and its various templates, the single author template, and the BEAM analysis all gave the opportunity to form our own thesis on our projects and assignments.

The third part of the course concepts required that we give critical feedback to our peers’ writing and apply critical feedback. This was done using comma patterns, commenting on other’s websites, but the most influential and coolest way this was done was with the use of hypothesis. Hypothesis was an interactive way to conduct and give important feedback on papers and have a conversation with not only ourselves, but for many others that also use hypothesis. This was also done through  Slack, and because it is growing in popularity, Slack is important for this class and most likely will appear again in a student’s career. The next part of the course concepts required that students use a range of research methods and incorporate source material into their writing so that it develops and supports their ideas. This was done through annotated bibliographies, the digital archives, and most especially with the work and research behind the first paper.

In doing so with regards to research, we were required to develop effective and appropriate organizational strategies for our writing. Multiple drafts and rewrites were given for this reason, so that we could know how to better organize our writing so that it made more sense and had a stronger system. This paved the way for us to practice critical thinking and reading skills so that original ideas can be devised, rather than simply echoing the ideas of others. This was done by the reading that were done and the comments and questions they respectively raised. In doing so, our own original ideas could be formed based on what we read. Lastly, this course required that we evaluate the credibility of sources, use academic/scholarly resources, and incorporate sources effectively and ethically. This was done for a majority of the assignments, especially the annotated bibliographies. Finding sources to go along with what would represent our projects was important, and in doing so, reliable sources were ascertained.

City of Rhetoric Introduction Analysis


It has become common today to dismiss history to focus on contemporary issues. However, I believe that history is a contemporary issue, because it is history that paves the way for the future. In other words, what happens today will often have an effect on what happens tomorrow. Fleming in his introduction discusses the immigration in Chicago in the early to mid 20th century, and while this data is ancient in terms of modern statistics on housing and racial background in neighborhoods, it does explain a pattern of housing that has not changed often in multiple cities. One in particular is right here in Washington D.C. As a member of AU’s Community Based Research Scholars program, I have done a plethora of research and projects dealing with D.C.’s demographics. One of the main focuses is the topic of gentrification in D.C. When reading the introduction, I thought of the many similarities that D.C. has to Chicago at this time. When one population is seen as to be the issue to a society, people take action toward that population. And as history often reveals, and does not fail to do so in City of Rhetoric, that population is often immigrants, blacks, and Hispanics. Thus, Fleming’s Built Environment, in my opinion, will explore what is needed to become truly educated on what society’s flaws and strengths are through hidden facts that nobody bothers to look at or study.

City of Rhetoric Preface Analysis


When it comes to the topic of the Built Environment David Fleming discusses, most of us will agree that it exists. Where this argument usually ends however, is on the question of how it exists to an individual’s life. Whereas some are convinced that it is only endemic to certain areas and does not affect them, others maintain that the Built Environment is important to us as a population. Fleming explains in his preface that “I (Fleming) try to situate the environments studied here in stories about how they came to be and plans for what they might become.” Giving an account for the past and future is how City of Rhetoric will explain the Built Environment that has encompassed the US and the world. It explores the hidden rhetoric in situations that people often miss and how things like modern society are in reality. Therefore, the Built Environment, according to Fleming, is so important because it gives a sort of “binocular view” to larger pictures, which in turn will explore perspectives into common situations.