Living Wage Bill Mixtape

Courtesy of Chip Somedevilla / Gettysburg Images / New York TimesBy now we’ve told you how the bill made its way through Council, the heavy-duty organizing and coalition-building that’s taken place over the summer, and even how you can get involved — no matter how you feel about the bill.

We’ve heard strong opinions for and against the bill in Council, hints from the Mayor on how he’ll vote, and continued threats from Walmart to leave DC and drop development if the Large Retailer Accountability Act (i.e. the LRAA or “Living Wage” bill) were signed into law.  In other words, we know pretty well how the politicians and corporate executives feel. But what about those most impacted by the bill, like DC residents and retail employees themselves?

GrassrootsDC brings you this mixtape of voices collected from actions in support of the Living Wage bill across the District. We hope you enjoy!

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Mixed with Head Roc’s 2012 track “Keep DC Walmart Free,” these are the voices of:

Reverend Virginia Williams (native Washingtonian, Ward 7 resident),
Kimberly Mitchell (Macy’s employee, UFCW Local400 member, lifelong Ward 7 resident,),
Tonya C. (former Walmart employee, fired from a Laural, MD location),
Cindy Murray (13 year Walmart associate at Hyattsville, MD store, member of OUR Walmart),
Mike Wilson (organizer with RespectDC), and
Inocencio Quinones (Ward 7 resident and organizer with OurDC)

We thank everyone who contributed to this mixtape, including all the speakers listed above, Head Roc for the musical element, and the folks that live-streamed a protest from a Hyattsville, MD location on September 5th, 2013.

Audio download available here (Living Wage Bill Mixtape), please share freely!


Branch Avenue Day

Surviving Gentrification Along the U Street Corridor

14th and U Street NW before the Metro.

14th and U Street NW before the Metro.

Gentrification is a funny thing.  The developers who bought up all the property along the U Street Corridor staked their fortunes on being able to attract wealthy individuals looking for a central location to live and shop.  They capitalized on the history along the corridor and named buildings and businesses after DC’s most famous African-Americans.  Ironically, they attracted a whole slew of white folks who seem to think the cultural history of DC is cool, but the low-income and working class black folk who are alive and well today don’t always make the best neighbors.  Thus, a neighborhood like Shaw, which was for decades a bastion of the black middle class, who came together to build a sense of stability within a deeply segregated city, remains stable only for those African-Americans who bought and paid for property before the housing bubble or those who are extremely well-heeled.

And so it was with the U Street Corridor.   Only three U Street businesses between Georgia Avenue and 16th Street survived the riots of the 60s, the neglect of the 70s, the housing boom and the coming of the U Street/Cardozo Metro Station.  Those three businesses are Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, the Industrial Bank of Washington and Ben’s Chili Bowl.  How they survived is chronicled in the audio podcast

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  produced by Brenda Hayes and Be Steadwell.  The report makes it clear that although these business owners are thriving now, that was not always the case.  For those of us attempting to withstand the harsh winds of gentrification, it is a history well worth remembering.