- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Admittedly, like a lot of my Sistagirls, I’m looking forward to seeing the stately, smart and sophisticated first lady-to-be, Michelle Obama, presenting the positive face of black womanhood front and center on the world stage.

But my ears perked up and my heart quickened when Mrs. Obama told the largest “60 Minutes” audience in nearly a decade that she and President-elect Barack Obama plan to be as active in “their community” in Potomac City as they were in the Windy City.

While we don’t have Chicago’s great lake and city beaches, we’ve got the Potomac River, the Tidal Basin and the Chesapeake Bay if the first couple get homesick for the choppy waves. And they can’t beat secluded L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls for the ultimate romantic dinner.

As a native Washingtonian, I feel compelled to make sure that the photogenic first family understands staging backdrops around their new digs. Not every venue in the nation’s capital presents a “Rosebud” or “Radiance” picture for pretty girls.

The very first thing the Obamas must learn when they move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW is that the District is not D.C.

Ours is a modern tale of two cities. Maybe even three distinctly different places if you count Embassy Row with the federal enclave and “Dee Cee.”

“I, both Barack and I, believe that we can have an impact in the D.C. area, you know, in terms of making sure we’re contributing to the community that we immediately live in,” Mrs. Obama said on “60 Minutes.” “That’s always something we try to do, whether it’s in our own neighborhood or in the schools we’ve attended … So, there’s plenty to do.”

Sistagirl, can we talk? Have I got a “plenty-to-do” D.C. wish list for you.

For starters, one-third of D.C. adults are illiterate. Women are contracting HIV/AIDS at the highest rate in the country. Our military families, from the Quantico Marine Base to Fort Belvoir Army Base to Bolling Air Force Base, go virtually unnoticed. They are prime places to make good on your campaign pledge to help them out.

Since we’ve been told that your husband cares about homelessness, “y’awl” can drive the presidential limousine by Second and D streets Northwest around 7 any night and watch the heart-wrenching scene of women of all ages, sizes and colors lined up with their plastic bags, totes and rolling suitcases just waiting for entry to a shelter but not necessarily a safe bed.

Put the “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on the first family’s fleet. My cross-town colleague, political analyst Mark Plotkin, would rag on me unmercifully if I didn’t point out that more than 580,000 Americans, who reside in the capital of the free world, do not have a vote in Congress.

Contact D.C. Vote or just ask D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, another native Washingtonian who should be at the top of the Obamas’ get-to-know “Dee Cee” social register.

Get used to the funky “go-go” beat of homegrown musician Chuck Brown. Look forward to the free picnic-style concerts the local parks offer every summer.

The eclectic Beltway region surrounding the center city offers alls sorts of recreation and cultural enrichment activities for children, from Glen Echo to Six Flags.

And I’d gladly be one of the first D.C. homies to offer my “Do-you-know-where-I-can” and “Who-should-I-call-for” services to help them acclimate to our town.

As for which the prickly issue of which D.C. school to send those precious little girls, Malia and Sasha, here’s a hint: Do as most Washingtonians do - whatever’s “best for my children.”

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s boys are in private school. The overrated and union-busting D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee jumped the long queue and enrolled her girls in one of the best public (really private) schools in the city - the nationally acclaimed Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in upscale Woodley Park.

Bet no one has dared to mention as an option Kimball Elementary in Southeast on Minnesota Avenue, where my cousin tries to teach disadvantaged black children, many of whom get their only meal of the day while there.

We’re used to our local politicians raising a ruckus about the poor quality of public schools as they carpool their own children to exclusive $30,000-a-year-tuition campuses. And the voters don’t ever hold it against these intractable incumbents.

Fun food for the children who I can’t wait to see at the Easter Egg Roll? There’s a California Pizza Kitchen just over the 14th Street Bridge in Pentagon City. Any self-respecting D.C. native will tell you that if you haven’t stood in line for either a half smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl or a fish “samich” at Horace and Dickie’s on H Street Northeast, you haven’t really been in “Dee Cee.”

Call yours truly if you want to know where to take the first grandmother for an authentic, home-cooked, Southern-style meal - not that sanitized stuff downtown.

President Bush, as did most of his predecessors, just breezed through officially stamped Washington. Every chance they got, they went home or escaped to Camp David.

For a fleeting moment, it looked as if former President Bill Clinton might come to the “hood.” During his 1992 transition, he walked a block along then-distressed Georgia Avenue with former D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis, and folks got excited, hoping that the historic thoroughfare would finally be revitalized.

Well, it was - but not for the people who lived there then. Those folks have been pushed out to Prince George’s County by “market forces,” or gentrification, exacerbated by local government policies.

I’d suggest that the president-elect head over to Georgia Avenue or H Street or even Adams Morgan to find a barber, but so many of them are going out of business for lack of clientele.

Beyond the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Grey Tours monuments is a rapidly changing urban city, with its adventures and suffering, unlike no other. And for all D.C. negative images, the “We-Bees” - what veteran WUSA-TV anchor J.C. Haywood once named those of us “who will be here when you got here and will be here when you gone” - love it here and notice that once folks move here, they don’t want to leave either.

Welcome to “Dee Cee.”

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