The Future of Chocolate City
March 23, 2021
The Nation's Capital has always been Chocolate City - but will it continue to be? Home of the largest slave trading city in the 19th century to the center of Black culture as the first majority Black city in the 20th century, Washington, DC is rooted in Black power. It’s the 21st century, however, and Chocolate City is at stake. 2019 showed Washington, DC held the highest gentrification rate across its neighborhoods than any other U.S. city. Today, the Black population has fallen to less than 45% from its peak over sixty years ago.
The erasure of Chocolate City is more than changing demographics: it is systematic and structural racism at play in the heart of this country. This identity and narrative of Washington, DC must continue to be spoken, heard, and seen. Recent movements such as Black Lives Matter and DC statehood can contribute to preserving Chocolate City, but it will take much more action and change to revive Black Washington.
The audience heard from a distinguished panel that included Jamal Holtz, Project Manager and Assistant to the President, LINK Strategic Partners who served as moderator for the discussion, Mignotae Kebede, Director, What Happened 2 Chocolate City, Willow Lung-Amam, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Urban Studies and Planning; Director, Community Development, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland, Andre Perry, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings; Scholar-in-residence, American University; Columnist, Hechinger Report, and Sabiyha Prince, Ph.D., Urban Anthropologist; Artist.
Jamal Holtz, Project Manager and Assistant to the President, LINK Strategic Partners (moderator)
Jamal Holtz is a Native Washingtonian, having grown up in Ward 8 of Washington, DC. He currently serves as Project Manager and Assistant to the President at LINK Strategic Partners. Jamal has extensive local government, public affairs, and community relations experience, drawn from roles at numerous State-wide agencies and District of Columbia agencies including the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services and the Department of Employment Services.
In his civic work, Jamal currently serves on numerous advisory boards including D.C.'s Mayor Board of Commission on Juvenile Justice where he advises the Mayor and DC Council on juvenile issues, provides active consultation to the government and private agencies, and assists in monitoring all juvenile detention and correction facilities and community-based programs to ensure compliance fits the needs youth may have. In addition, Jamal serves as a Council Member on Farmers Restaurant Group Diversity Council; an advisory council to Farmers Restaurant Group executives (9 restaurant locations across the east coast), working to provide insight and education on best practices related to human resources, employee relations, communication (internally and externally), and career development. Also, Jamal returned to his Alma Mater at the University of Rochester to serve as an advisor on the university's Diversity Advisory Council.
Jamal Holtz is a lead organizer with 51 for 51, a grassroots coalition to make D.C. the 51st state with 51 votes in the Senate. He's travels across the country and works to combine the power of young advocates and national organizations to fight for representation for 700,000 Washingtonians.
Jamal has a wide breadth of experience working with grassroots leaders, community-based organizations, non-profits, elected leaders, and government officials. At LINK, Jamal helps lead the firm’s local government and grassroots outreach portfolio. Jamal has experience working on national and local political and issue-based campaigns, in the DC region and beyond.
Mignotae Kebede, Director, What Happened 2 Chocolate City
A native Californian and graduate of The George Washington University (GWU), Mignotae Kebede is dedicated to exploring the intersections between creative expression and social change. After graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in International Affairs and Anthropology with a concentration in International Development, Mignotae served as the Development Manager at Life Pieces To Masterpieces (LPTM) in Northeast, Washington, DC.
It was through her work at LPTM, an organization serving African American boys and young men east of the Anacostia River, that she developed the concept for the forthcoming feature film "What Happened 2 Chocolate City". Mignotae conducted ethnographic research on the evolution of the district and its relations with native Black Washingtonians through an intergenerational lens. It is at the very intersection of creative expression and social change that Mignotae brought to life her findings and explorative journey using film and varying mediums of visual and fine arts. Mignotae has since written, produced and directed the feature length documentary "What Happened 2 Chocolate City", landing regional and national coverage, including PBS’ docu-series “No Passport Required”.
Mignotae founded her production company, MigKeb Productions, in 2016, and has since expanded her work into creating projects ranging from short and long form films across genres to music videos and live performances with artists, organizations and networks including Jazmine Sullivan, National Public Radio (NPR), and HBO Max.
With the growing demand of digital media in 2020, Mignotae founded THR33 Productions, LLC to meet the needs of organizations in both the public and private sectors. Mignotae is currently based in Washington, DC, and is actively working to expand the local film industry alongside fellow artists in the region.
Willow Lung-Amam, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Urban Studies and Planning; Director, Community Development, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland
Willow Lung-Amam, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning and Director of Community Development at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her scholarship focuses on how urban and suburban policies and plans contribute to and can address social inequality, particularly in neighborhoods undergoing rapid racial and economic change. She has written extensively on suburban poverty, racial segregation, immigration, gentrification, redevelopment politics, and neighborhood opportunity. Her research has appeared in various journals, such as Journal of Urban Affairs and Journal of Planning, Education and Research, books, and popular media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, National Public Radio, New Republic, Bloomberg’s CityLab, and Al Jazeera. She is the author of Trespassers? Asian American and the Battle for Suburbia, and a forthcoming book on redevelopment politics and equitable development organizing in the Washington, DC suburbs. Dr. Lung-Amam is also a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and a nonresident senior follow at the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies program.
Andre Perry, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings; Scholar-in-residence, American University; Columnist, Hechinger Report
Dr. Andre M. Perry is a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, a scholar-in-residence at American University, and a columnist for the Hechinger Report. He is the author of the book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities, which is currently available wherever books are sold. A nationally known and respected commentator on race, structural inequality, and education, Perry is a regular contributor to MSNBC and has been published by The New York Times, The Nation, The Washington Post, TheRoot.com and CNN.com. Perry’s scholarship has been featured on HBO, ABC, CNN, PBS, National Public Radio, NBC and in the Wall Street Journal. His research focuses on race and structural inequality, education, and economic inclusion. Perry’s recent scholarship at Brookings has analyzed Black-majority cities and institutions in America, focusing on valuable assets worthy of increased investment.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Perry has documented the underlying causes for the outsized number of coronavirus-related deaths in Black communities. His Brookings research has illuminated how certain forms of social distancing historically accelerated economic and social disparities between Black people and the rest of the country. Perry also mapped racial inequities in housing, income, and health to underscore how policy discrimination makes Black Americans more vulnerable to COVID-19.
His research has spotlighted the struggles of Black businesses—including artists and art institutions, restaurants, and barbershops and beauty salons—as they await federal relief from COVID-19’s economic impact. In education, he explained how college campus closings put housing-insecure students at risk during the pandemic. He's also written on the unrealized value of teachers’ work that’s been made apparent by COVID-19, and has commented on the potential loss of Black teachers as a result of an impending recession.
Prior to his work at Brookings, Perry has been a founding dean, professor, award-winning journalist, and activist in the field of education. In 2015, Perry served on Louisiana Governor-elect John Bel Edwards’ K-12 education transition committee, as well as on New Orleans Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu’s transition team as its co-chair for education in 2010. In 2013, Perry founded the College of Urban Education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Preceding his stint in Michigan, he was an associate professor of educational leadership at the University of New Orleans and served as CEO of the Capital One-University of New Orleans Charter Network.
Perry’s academic writings have concentrated on race, structural inequality, and urban schools. Perry co-authored the Brookings Institution report “The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods” and has presented its findings across the country, including to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. For the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Perry co-authored “School by School: The Transformation of New Orleans Public Education” in Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita, published by Brookings Institution Press. Perry also co-authored "The Transformation of New Orleans Public Schools: Addressing System-Level Problems Without a System," published by the Data Center of New Orleans. He also co-authored a chapter in Between Public and Private: Politics, Governance, and the New Portfolio Models for Urban School Reform published by Harvard Education Press. Along with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Perry co-authored the report “Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish: Ensuring Opportunities for Good Health for All.”
A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Perry earned his Ph.D. in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland College Park.
Sabiyha Prince, Ph.D., Urban Anthropologist; Artist
Sabiyha Prince is an urban anthropologist and artist who researches and writes about African American life and culture. A DC-native, her books include Constructing Belonging, African Americans and Gentrification in Washington, DC and Capital Dilemma; co-edited with Derek Hyra. Her paintings have been exhibited at The Anacostia Arts Center, The Hill Center, Zenith Gallery, and through The Petworth Artist’s Collaborative. Her media appearances include MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeera English, WOL, WPFW, and WYPR. Today Dr. Prince directs AnthroDocs, a qualitative research firm founded to problem-solve and promote social justice through anthropological data-gathering methods.
Christina Bowllan, NYU DC Student (Introduction)
Christina is a junior from NYU Shanghai majoring in Political Science with a minor in Chinese language. She is from New York City, but also studied in Beijing during her junior year of high school. She is avid-traveler and loves to meet people everywhere she goes. In D.C. this semester, Christina is excited to go for long walks and try the vast cuisine options. She cannot wait to work alongside her peers this semester and create thought-provoking virtual events!