Mapping Commonplaces: How U Street’s past shaped its future


The U Street Corridor is a very fascinating spatial network that has experienced many changes. Throughout its history the corridor has seen the height of jazz to record high crime rates and,most recently, a multicultural utopia. Now, when I refer to the corridor as a utopia, I try to exemplify the fresh look of U Street as a melting point. The reason for comparing its culturality to a utopia is to help my audience of travelers and tourists understand the recent change it has experienced. Once the change is understood, it can be investigated and studied to see how the past of U Street beautifully shapes the method that was used to implement its change. The argument is not designed in such a fashion which praises the culturality of the new U Street while mocking the African American ghetto of the old U Street. Rather, it portrays the network which was created in the old U Street in order to explain the multicultural change which has occurred. Of course, such a network can be used at the discretion of the neighbourhood’s officials and was conspicuously used to model the means through which the change was facilitated.

Communion on U Street

To better understand the point of my research, you must understand the rhetoric which was present before the contemporary U Street. Firstly, lets go all the way back to the jazz age of U Street and understand how it emerged as an African American community. As Brianna Thomas put it in her article on “The Washingtonian,” “the neighbourhood hummed day and night.” The interesting mystery was the reason behind all the unity and communion. As Brianna Thomas explains, the neighbourhood had almost 300 businesses all run by black people, many of which were in turn supported by the same people. But, it wasn’t the myriad of businesses which kept the community together in harmony, it was something more magical.

Music trembled through the streets day and night, literally exemplifying the “humming” phrase Thomas used to describe the vibe of the community. Specifically jazz was the unifying music that acted as a honey which attracted every single bee or in this case, person, to the honeycomb. In this situation, the honeycomb is the various famous jazz clubs in which black people met and harmonized over the sweet sound of jazz. The early jazz clubs were literally basements with jazz musicians and instruments, which occasionally served beverages. Further down the road, the predominantly black community realized their love for food, as well as music, and began producing famous restaurants where most of the community would meet. Eventually, the two titans of community, jazz and food, became one when many jazz clubs started to offer food and live music. The black community loved the idea so much that the corridor started to flood with music lovers, food lovers, and lovers of social communion. The U Street Corridor was finally coined “Black Broadway” and continued to flow with black musicians and black artists.

Dessertion on U Street

Zooming a little further in time, the community which boomed with so much life and union turned into a drug market. Furthermore, it was a deserted neighbourhood which housed drug lords and gang leaders in abandoned homes for no charge. All of this change and turmoil was finally seen by the neighbourhood’s leaders. These leaders looked at the deserted neighbourhood and started to come up with ideas which would help the well being of the neighbourhood. The first thing they did was create housing projects which served to be very affordable for the residents around U Street. With minimal success, this idea was halted and leaders started to look elsewhere. Although not expressly stated, leaders started to become desperate to rebuild their neighbourhood. Finally, they looked to the past for some answers and the past answered. According to her article about U Street on “The Atlantic,” Garance Franke-Ruta explains how leaders lowered property taxes and rent to encourage the middle class people to move to U Street. Sooner or later, the plan worked and the neighbourhood started to repopulate. With the repopulation of different peoples, along with the low housing costs, new businesses started to open their doors. Through different combinations of music, food, and culture, venues started to open and fill with different and unique cultures.

My research is provided to explain how the rhetors of the past shape the contemporary U Street Corridor. Using a few famous landmarks, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl and Twins Jazz, I portray the new cultural venues as deviations of these past venues. Through my four rhetors of music, food, culture, and change, I construct a CLS which is derivative of the eternal network of the corridor. Even though I explain my rhetorical situation above, I try to let the commonplaces speak for themselves and make my audience ask themselves: What was before?


Works Citied:

12, Briana Thomas on February, and 2017. “The Forgotten History of U Street.” Washingtonian, 12 Feb. 2017,

Franke-Ruta, Garance. “The Politics of the Urban Comeback: Gentrification and Culture in D.C.” The Atlantic, Aug. 2012. The Atlantic,


Miami Open taken by the new #4 in the world

Roger Federer won his fourth straight over Rafael Nadal, rolling through last weekend’s Miami Open. With this win and his new world ranking, everyone wants to see whats next. In a French publication, called “L’Equipe”, clay-court specialist Nicholas Mahut said that Federer would not play in the upcoming clay season at all.  He said that Federer “would want to win” the French Open, but will withdraw because he couldn’t do so without adequate preparation. Mahut also added that that Federer will “take a rest” and play next on grass in Stuttgart in June.                                                                                                                                                          This article about a fellow player’s thoughts is the effect of the suspense that Federer has created with his skills this season. It is a fact that there are many different newspapers with articles about Federer’s plans and when the world will see him play again. The rhetoric that structured this article and many more was created by one man. If I were to guess, I would say that the french newspaper, which published Mahut’s opinons, surely has alot of tennis fans that also want answers from Federer. Federer’s greatness alone has created a sense of  suspense for the world of tennis fans.

Federer pushes toward number one ranking

“Then we will reassess my goals but I am not chasing rankings, I want to win tournaments. I am happy I have won this one so I want to enjoy it.” – Roger Federer  

 It has been a record breaking, jaw dropping year for my favorite 35 year old tennis player so far. Roger Federer is two for three in the three major tournaments he has played this beginning half of the year. He has flew past his expectations and fans are starting to wonder if he could become world number one once again. In January, the beginning of the season, he was top 20; now he has raced past everyone to world number six. His success is predicted to be so high not only because he has won, but also because of the gracefulness he exhibits when he plays that is extremely similar to his golden years. People have seen that he continues to turn back time and oust all these younger players. Finally, he was asked about his race to world number one in an article by Sky Sports. Federer was congratulated for his victory and he responded that ”I have totally exceeded my expectations, my goal was to be top eight by Wimbledon. I have time now and I can go and sit back! From that stand point it is an unbelievable start to the year.” His personal goal was reached and he even showed some thought about the rankings. But when he was asked about the ultimate goal of number one, he responded with the quote above. The reason that his phrasing and rhetoric seems so important is because of the simplicity of his answer. He responds that he is not chasing rankings because he actually has nothing else to chase, he broke all the major records for modern tennis. His answer shows his genuine love for a sport he has played literally all his life and he emphasizes that he just wants to enjoy his time while he can still play. In basic terms, Federer just describes to us that he just wants to have fun and hold on to his youth.  


Commonplace #6


How many boards  Could the Mongols hoard If the Mongol hordes got bored?

– Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
This sentence has rhetoric which makes it silly even though it is a grammatically sound sentence.The beginning of the sentence about the mongols has a subject(mongols) and a verb(hoard) that allow it to stand alone. The end of the sentence, which includes the mongol hordes, has a subordinate conjunction “If” that makes it a dependent clause. The independent clause in the beginning asks a question, but the dependent clause at the end adds a limit to the answer of the question, and therefore it is a subordinate clause . It looks like a normal sentence, but the dependent clause adds three rhyming words, that correspond to the subject and verb in the independent clause, which make it sound funny.
David Fleming concludes his City of Rhetoric by arguing that “education [should be] oriented to the ‘strong publics’ of decision making rather than the ‘weak publics’ of opinion formation” (205). For Fleming, then, composition courses, which traditionally have asked students to write about and accept someone else’s opinion, should instead have students formulate their own thoughts and theories using guidelines that merely push them in the right direction. In other words, writing composition courses should help each and every student explore their own sort of path or idea while they conduct research on various writing assignments.

In my project, I have went off to explore the interesting and spectacular jazz age of U Street. The reason why I picked this area is because of the love for jazz I acquired while singing it. Thats right, I used to professionally sing jazz when I was younger. I might even use some of my clips to strengthen my audience’s interest in jazz.
The trailer of The Polymath talks about a writer that redefines all boundaries in his science fiction writing. Samuel R. Delany is regarded as an enlightened thinker in our current “ violent unintellectual streak.” The trailer appeals to ethos as it brings out the qualities of a revolutionary, someone regarded in our society as credible. The trailer describes his credibility by explaining his profound view is unique and yet it is far more intellectual than our contemporary view.

Ernest Hemingway: The Killers


Ernest Hemingway


In his collection of short stories, Ernest Hemingway writes about an interesting story about two killers waiting in a lunch-counter. In “The Killers”, two men by the names of Al and Max take over a lunchroom in order to attempt to assassinate a very famous boxer. The short story explains that these two hitmen basically walk into the lunch-counter and hold up the entire group of staff. For approximately two hours, these hitmen keep sam and nick tied up in the kitchen while another staff, George is placed at a table closer to the entrance. The hitmen do not accomplish their goal and finally leave the lunch-counter. Later on, Nick visits the target of the assassinations and sees his miserable situation as he lays in his bed. The reason I explained this is to show that the rhetoric of the story is not intended to describe a failed assassination, instead, it is intended to describe a situation which accurately portrays human psychology.            When I mentioned the situation where Nick and Sam are in the kitchen, the others make a unconscious formation in the dining room that Hemingway emphasizes in great detail. The formation looks like this: George very very close to the entrance, Max at the bar, and Al is between the kitchen and the dining room. Throughout the story, Hemingway uses interesting rhetoric to describe George while he looks at the clock, at the door, and basically acts as if he wants to bolt out. Then Hemingway describes Max as trying to pick a fight with George when Max mocks George calling him a “Bright Boy.” Finally, Al is described as a control, when he tries to calm everyone down and make Max shut up. These three men portray an accurate example of how the fight-or-flight situation can mold personalities and behaviors. George being the flight, Max being the fight, and Al being the control or normal personality.

Narcos: Tuyo


I am the fire that burns your skin,

Soy el fuego que arde tu piel

I am the water that kills your thirst.

soy el agua que mata tu sed.

Of the castle, I am the tower,

El castillo, la torre yo soy

the sword that guards the treasure.

la espada que guarda el caudal.

You, the air that I breathe,

tu el aire que respiro yo

and the light of the moon on the sea.

y la luz de la luna en el mar.

The throat that longs to be choked

La garganta que ansio mojar

that I’m afraid I’ll drown in love.

que temo ahogar de amor.

And which desires you are going to give me.

y cuales deseos me vas a dar

just to look is treasure enough,

mi tesoro basta con mirarlo,

it will be yours, it will be yours.

tuyo será, y tuyo será.

In the Netflix original series, “Narcos”, there is an introductory song that is played that really captivates most viewers. Written by Rodrigo Amarante, “Tuyo”, is a song that has a melody that sounds like a sweet serenade. If it weren’t in a soundtrack of a tv series about a drug kingpin, then it would probably be in a romantic latino movie. According to the artist, Rodrigo Amarante, he was inspired by the thought of what Pablo Escobar’s mother would have listened to while raising her ambitious young son who would go on to be an infamous drug kingpin. Altogether the song creates a luring effect that I believe plays a big part not only in Escobar’s life, but also the lives of the narcos. The song starts out with two lines that have a similar rhetoric, but two different meanings. The first one sounds like an actual harmful situation but then the second creates a sense of urgency, or need. If you analyse them closely, they create a concept of something that sometimes kills you but is also essential to your survival; kind of similar to a relationship between two close, long-time lovers. Since the series has no main plot about love between two people, it seems like evil is one of the lovers trying to lure the narcos into a relationship with it. With evil’s promises of wealth and success, at the end of the song, it pulls the ambition of the narcos into its trap and controls them almost like a wife controls her husband. The rhetoric of the serenade really shows you the dark and twisted lives that the narcos live because of their obligation to evil.   

Jamesy Boy: How James Burns got out of Jail.

“In my mind, there’s a boy who exists in chains. Inside a cold, dark room of painful solitude is where he will remain.Behind these walls, the sorrow is inevitable, as relentless as the passage of time. Mentalities corrupt and dark,brainwashed, and hopelessly blind.Prisons are packed with crowded spaces, lifers and guards with hollow faces. Shackled hearts afraid of changes,and weakened wills become complacent.Yet, I maintain with patience, time can limit but not shatter my will, strength blazed across my chest as solid as penitentiary steel. But the silence speaks, it tells me all I need to hear, it confirms my beliefs and its promises I have to fear. It reminds me that without freedom, I’m alone. And these whitewashed walls don’t make up for blackened souls. I’ve given 95% of my boys a handshake than a pound, before they were either locked down or buried off in cemetery grounds. What I’ve done is who I am, but who I am is what I do now. I won’t let up or cease to fight. Just time, I plan on doing it right. And what’s right lies within me. I’m learning to appreciate my struggle for it would be hard to find the joy of accomplishment without it. We live and we learn. We rise and we fall. Like the heartbeat of a sleeping giant, with bittersweet dreams. Stay up, never down.” – James Burns Over the weekend, I watched a movie named Jamesy boy. It was about a true story of a 14- year old boy named James Burns and his trouble-making personality. It begins with him trying to get into high school after months in juvenile detention and his home arrest sentence. The movie shows the eye-opening  transition from a troubled boy who lives in his mom’s house to a street-born young man that makes his money outside of the law. However, shit hits the fan, and he finally gets tried as an adult and locked up for a sentence of 4 years. In the moments he is in jail, James Burns stays a troubled young man as he was in the past and continues to get into physical fights. But, after a couple of unfortunate events he finally understands that his past was pretty much a “free trial” at life and that  he needs to take his mind of his time in jail and look to the future. At an age of 16 this young James Burns matures and starts to think about what life is actually about. He understands that all this ego-driven, and animalistic fighting is not worth losing his life over. Naturally, he takes a pen and paper from a inmate friend and begins his journey into poetry. The reason for this in-depth explanation of James Burn’s history before he took up poetry is to show how closed and secluded his life was before he opened his eyes. At the top of the page I took a very important excerpt from a beautiful poem he had written in jail. The poem was about, as I said, a secluded boy locked up in chains waiting to actually see the real world. But, at the end he puts this sentence to remind himself that there is a way to get up after you mess up. This sentence, with its reference to a sleeping giant, explains that no matter how bad you mess up, do not look back. Distract yourself with something unprecedented, a new hobby, a new thought, anything that will help you “stay up, never down”. Its rhetoric reminds us that there is always a way to distract yourself from the past and look to the future. Rhyme and wordplay is what helped James Burns get up and stay up.  

Commonplace #2

Juan M. del Potro@delpotrojuan  Jan 29


Thank you both, don’t you ever quit tennis!! GRANDEEE ROGER   So inspiring!!

This past Sunday one of the legends of tennis, Roger Federer, won his long awaited 18th grand slam. To a non-tennis fan, this may seem like another sport legend doing what he does best, but I can assure you that this win was not like any other. The tweet that is posted above came from one of Federer’s strongest competitors, Juan Martin Del Potro. If I am not mistaken, this tweet sounds like something straight out of a die-hard federer fan’s newsfeed. This only raises the question: exactly how significant was Federer’s victory?

First off, Federer is 35 years old. This seems young for such a healthy human being right? Well, most tennis players retire before the age of 34 and there were only a few that had the strength and desire to play into their late thirties. To further limit his chances, Federer just came back from a 6-month injury. Lastly, to further diminish any Federer fan’s hopes and dreams, the last time he won a grand slam was 5 years ago.

Now, one would think that the significance of this victory was that Federer overcame all these obstacles, but the real significance is the rhetoric in the tweet. The phrase “don’t you ever quit tennis” is the phrase Federer heard when everyone doubted that he would win another grand slam. This phrase, along with many other acts of love, came from the multitude of Federer fans over the years. This tweet fits in with the story of Roger Federer because it describes a feeling towards him that rings through every fan’s mind. It explains the love for Federer that is in fact so “inspiring” and “Grande” (big in portuguese).