- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

A group of D.C. residents got together this weekend to begin bridging the gaps between blacks and whites, and rich and poor.
"We believe in the power of dialogue. It's for a worthy purpose," said Jim Myers, a co-organizer of the "Can We Talk?" forum at Christ Church in Southeast on Saturday.
A former USA Today writer and author, Mr. Myers, who is white, moderated the forum, at which about 50 residents who live on Capitol Hill and in other neighborhoods discussed issues such as gentrification and the displacement of low-income residents.
The predominantly white audience voiced concern about high housing prices on the Hill and the lack of low- and middle-income housing, and residents talked about their perception of safety on streets.
One woman who works at Congressional Cemetery said she has noticed more people walking around with strollers. That wasn't always the case, she said.
A black woman talked about improved city services because of gentrification. She said that now when the police are called, they show up.
A white Hill resident said he was saddened by his black neighbors' lack of participation in planning and attending community events.
"It's a dilemma that affects our community," he said. "There is a divide, and I think it's tragic."
When Mr. Myers asked whether whites take over neighborhoods by default because blacks refuse to take steps to improve their communities, Brian Bakke, 39,stood up and spoke.
"If you're an African-American male, there's an 80 percent chance you've been locked up at least one time in your life," said Mr. Bakke, who is white. "A huge percentage of black men have records, go to [bad] schools and don't have any male role models in their lives. There's this anger. They come back to their neighborhoods, but the rules have changed."
Mr. Bakke and his wife live in the Northwest neighborhood of Shaw, which he said is being called "East Dupont."
Throughout the three-hour discussion, the word gentrification was never mentioned until Mr. Bakke spoke.
"I know whites are comfortable with 10 percent of blacks in the neighborhoods no more. Whites do not want 50-50. Whites want control," he said.
Lisa Alfred, 37, one of a few blacks who attended the forum and a homeowner who lives in Southeast, said the discussion went well.
"This is the first time that I've been in a room where whites brought up race on Capitol Hill," she said.
"But what I'm concerned about in general is the need for talk beyond people who are middle class, beyond people who have access to money, beyond people who are at a certain economic and educational level," Ms. Alfred said. "The fact is that everybody in here can move in or out at any time."
Alphonso Coles, 46, a black Hill resident who co-organized the forum with Mr. Myers, said he was pleased with the turnout and the input from residents.
"A lot of people spoke from personal observations and their perceptions," he said. "And a lot of people learned something that they didn't know. Residents who live in other neighborhoods added to the discussion. If 10 people attended and talked candidly, I would consider it a success."

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