WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — WASHINGTON -- Washington, DC got the nickname ‘Chocolate City’ because a large part of the city’s population was African-American, but the demographics in the District have been changing over recent years.
A new documentary called ‘What Happened 2 Chocolate City’ is shining a light on the way gentrification is affecting DC’s black community.
“People are coming here to chase their dreams, and the people born here feel like they’re in a nightmare.”
The film is a story about a city divided between DC natives and the people who move to the District.
It is told through the lenses of three generations of Washingtonians.
“John, Mike, and Zarina, each represent a generational experience many Black Washingtonians faced over the past century,” a description of the documentary described
Mignotae Kebede started writing the film over three years ago in 2015.
“For me, I’m from California. So, I moved out here about 8 years ago and had been told all about Chocolate City and that I was moving to, you know, such a rich black city,” Kebede told WUSA9. “I quickly realized that wasn’t the reality.”
The filmmaker explained that some longtime DC residents have begun feeling invisible in their hometown.
“Many people continuously used that word that the way that the city is developing is not factoring us in and the people who are coming here don’t even know our history so they don’t see us,” Kebede said.
Kebede said that DC is in its 4th wave of gentrification and is changing quickly.
“You have public housing that’s being demolished and privatized. You have luxury apartments coming up. That’s one end of it, right? Every city needs economic change and prosperity which is great. No one is challenging that, but it’s — I think for me, what I’ve noticed is a lot of development and a lot of the way that the city was building was not inclusive economically more so than racially,” Kebede described her film. “But obviously in this city, those two are very closely correlated.”
The documentary not only looks at, what it calls, the repercussions of urban development but also examines DC’s history and culture.
Zarina, our youngest and most colorful character, gives a glimpse into the future and what it means to persevere. _______________________________________________________ Stick around after the debut screening for a panel discussion with the cast and director, Mignotae Kebede on 6/21. To purchase ticket, follow link in bio.
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Kebede said natives are fighting to preserve things like DC music, food, and fashion.
“But a lot of people are scared because, you know, one of the most common things you come across in my film is that culture is shared by the people around you,” she said. “If the people around you aren’t even communicating with you and aren’t even looking at you — what’s going to be passed on? What is the memory of black dc? What is the memory of DC period to a lot for the people moving in here? It’s not there for a lot of them.”
Kebede said there are takeaway messages for natives, transplants, and the local government in the documentary.
The film will premiere on Thursday at the Lincoln Theater on U Street.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the film or to purchase tickets to the screening.