On Washington D.C.’s Georgia Avenue, a neon sign tells the tale of a community’s evolution. “Fish in the neighborHood” it reads, with the word neighbor in stark contrast to the rest of the sign.
For 15 years prior, the sign in front of this storefront restaurant simply read, ‘Bill’s Seafood Kitchen’, having earned the nickname Fish in the Hood from local Howard University students. The “hood” known as Parkview lies just a few blocks north of the school, but as longtime owner Bill White has pointed out with the new sign, “hood” is probably not the right word anymore.
Gentrification has landed with full force in Parkview, for better or for worse. New apartment complexes have risen up around Fish in the ‘Hood, and the demographics have shifted. For the first time in 50 years, African Americans may no longer make up the majority of the population in D.C. Parkview is no longer an area to be avoided, but a diverse community open to blacks, whites, Indians and anyone else.
“Maybe some people—older black residents and some white newcomers—would see the term ‘hood’ and think it’s negative. I also wanted to emphasize the word ‘neighbor,’” White told The Washington Post.
For African Americans, gentrification is a polarizing issue. While communities can be revitalized through the process, it can also mean the loss of decades of black influence and presence in the neighborhood. As property values increase in areas that were previously home to low-income residents, those same families and businesses are often forced to move elsewhere. Recently, Fish in the ‘Hood’s rent increased four times over, from $1,000 to $4,000 a month.
“The avenue is changing, and I’m like the last of the Mohicans around here. There are so many black businesses that are dying off,” White said to the Post. “We’re adjusting, because it’s the only way to survive. I try to look and see what’s around me.”
Though some might see the sign change as a white flag of defeat, it can also be seen as an acceptance of change. Bill’s Seafood Kitchen may no longer be in the “hood,” but the business is as popular as ever among its new neighbors. White serves as a great example for black business owners who should look to embrace change, rather