around my way: River East musings

So yeah I live in Anacostia…well Hillsdale to be exact, but most folks don’t know the difference (including myself when i first moved here 5 years ago). I am under no delusion..i am a gentrifier (Racialicious guest contributor M.Dot from ModelMinority has great piece on gentrification, that partialy inspired this post read it here…when i first moved to Anacostia, i tried to convince myself that i was otherwise, but i had a rude awakening to realize the actual distance between where and what i thought my sensibilities were and the reality of where and what my sensibilities are. Another realization is that part of that reality is how you are perceived by the members greater community in which you choose to live, it was made very clear that we (the people who live in my condo complex) we seen as outsiders. Over time though, I can honestly say that i think we are being seen less as outsiders because we have made great efforts to become part of, become visible and engage in what is present in the community before we started to make our gentrified commandments and decrees about what must change.

But that is only part of what inspired this post….the other inspirations came from a few other blogs that i check on a regular basis… Southeast Socialite (SS) and Washington’s Other Monuments (WOM)…I find it interesting how both of these blogs examine the same topic, the comparision is not totally fair because professional photographer Lloyd Wolf devotes a who blog and body of work to the phenomenon of “shrines” as he calls them, while SS only has one post dedicated to “street memorials” as The Debutante calls them. While the space each blogger gives to this phenomenon is not ultimately super-important for the purposes of this blog, i think the language is. Shrine or monument vs street memorial definitely give two totally different kinds of connotations.. As your read both of their blogs too, the the difference in the treatment that each gives to the subject becomes even more clear…i am not going to quote either of them at length here, but i invite you to go and check out their respective blogs to note it for yourself.

So i am probably saying to yourself, what is going on in Fred’s head? Gentrification, shrines vs street memorials, etc.. Ok Fred is a Looney Tune..well that may be true, but i promise i will try to make it all make sense or at least explain myself.

After reading SS’s diatribe about how street memorials must stop i was a little disturbed and I took her comments as a bit insensitive (the kind of insensitivity that will immediately make you be seen an outsider or perhaps even a target for harassment or worse) and lacking understanding about the cultural idiom out of which these “shrines” come or as they are called in the Low Country and Sea Islands, “bottle trees”. Because my family on both sides is from Low Country South Carolina and Georgia I very much identify with the idea and reality of the “shrines”. Furthermore, as many regular folks, academics, intellectual, artists and curators do, I understand that cultural significance of these “shrines” and the significance of claiming (if possible) the space where your ancestors blood has been spilled.

What I like about Lloyd’s blog is that he not only shows inner city shrines, he also shows middle class communities where these same type of shrines are constructed. Additionally i am sure that some of you who are reading this may have been driving through Maryland, Virginia or other states and seen “shrines” for people who have died in car accidents and many times the state gov’t allow them to stay as matter of respect. Right here in the city at Dupont there is a shrine to the biker that was killed by a street sweeper, should her “street memorial” be removed?
Before i go any further i should say that i don’t totally disagree with The Debutante… i do think some of the “shrines” are unkempt and if mourners want to properly honor their dead they should keep them up, so that vermin and the like don’t take up residence and to keep them from becoming an eyesore.

To simply say that all shrines must stop is no the solution, nor is suggesting that all of these street memorials are for those who are just “hanging out becoming targets for violent crime” tell that the mourners of the Peters’, or to the widow of Lt. Col. Bennett, Cynthia Bennett or the DeWitt or Lofton families..sadly the list goes on…

I guess what I am getting at with all of this is that as gentrifiers when we move into our “new” neighborhoods, be mindful that this is someone’s “old” neighborhood that they probably care about it just as much as you do regardless of how much money they spent on their homes. Additionally, understand that there are customs and folkways at work in these neighborhoods that have roots beyond the city blocks where they now manifest..it is these customs that give the neighborhood the character and richness that draws us in the first place..that is not to say that there are problems to be solved or improvements to be made, but that does not mean that throw it all away because we don’t understand all the dynamics at work or because our gentrifier aesthetic tastes are a little bruised by what we might see..why not figure out a way to maintain them them as a part of a collage for the future vision of the neighborhood… The logical end and very real danger of not trying to make this neighborhood collage is the disrespect and annihilation of a whole culture, just like in the wonderful documentary The Language You Cry In and Family Across the Sea…check here ,here ,here, here and here. I think there is a scene in one of these docs that shows what happens when the gentrifier does not value their “new” neighborhood and the culture there; Emory Campbell walks us through a family cemetery that is now in the center of a private gated community. in addition to the docs i have my own family has had to deal with the reality of family cemeteries where a strip mall or hunting resorts have been constructed over our monuments to our ancestors and the dead.

Before i shut up…i want to share two anecdotes about folk art and cultural, which is the continuum that these shrines fall under and if we are not careful some kid with a Ph.D from Harvard is going to end up as high priced art consultant to the District gov’t to tell and show them how to construct a proper cultural correct shrine..how’s that for your tax dollars at work?

Anecdote #1
Nellie Mae Rowe was a self-trained fine folk artist from Georgia, after the death of hear second husband she started to make art as a medicine for her loneliness. She used a wide range of materials that she had access to:paper, Styrofoam, cardboard, and wood, colored pencils, ink and felt tip pens, gouache, found objects, marbles, glitter, chewing gum. She created and entire world with her art, unfortunately is an ancestor now but her art lives on and is being studied and exhibited all over the world, like this piece Big Eye Sea You going for $6000 at Ginger Young Gallery. Clearly someone sees the value in her paintings and bubble sculptures.

Anecdote #2
I was blessed to go to an amazing exhibit at the Addison/ Ripley Fine Art Gallery in Georgetown, DC. It was an exhibit of prints made by the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, this is a family of women who have passed down the form, function and beauty of the quiltmaking tradition and are now enjoying the critical and monetary success as fine artist, but it took the compassionate eye of newcomers or outsiders to understand and add the beauty of these quilts to the great collage of American Fine Art.

more links ( i will add more later):
Bottle Tree
Bottle Tree in the film Daughters of the Dust

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18 thoughts on “around my way: River East musings

  1. Interesting perspective on gentrification as a difference of sensibilities rather than the readily-identifiable characteristics of income/color. But then, there are and have been people from and living there in Anacostia (and here in N.W.) with the sensibilities of some of the newcomers, but with arguably more historical attachement and emotional investment.

    Good stuff.

  2. Thank you so much for reading my blog. That means a lot to me. I wanted to explain my perspective a little more. I am not an outsider, I was actually born in SE and attened stanton Elementary. My family has lived in SE since the early 60’s. I also have very strong southern roots and I do undertand the importance of those memorials. HOWEVER, hunderds of liquor bottles around a tree is not leagal and it becomes a safty issue. Also, with the amount of murders that happen in the city, if this were allowed we would have grey goose bottles and stuffed animals around every single tree around. When does it stop? And other jurisdictions do not allow these memorials to take on the life of the one in my neighborhood. And surly not for almost a years time.

    • Southeast Socialite, Thank you for reading my blog as well. I am sorry to assume that you were an outsider,compared with your strong familial connections my mere 6 years is a little paltry; despite have extended family who lived in the Frederick Douglass Homes back in the day.

      I understand your frustrations, but i will say that I have to disagree with you about “other jurisdictions”. indeed they may not take on quite the same life in other areas as they do in communities with larger ethnic populations, but they remain up as a shrine to the dead’s life for sometime.

      The point you raise about grey goose bottle and stuffed animals, while somewhat valid..i will say that people mourn with what they have access to and with items that are significant to them. The question you ask about when does it stop is a valid one however it is directed at the wrong issue. When does the displacement and entitlement stop? when does the poverty? When does the willful neglect and marginalization stop? All those questions need to be addressed as parallel questions.
      I honestly think that the shrines could help bring about a solution and end the need for them at all, however it would require other people to stop viewing East of the River communities simply as the last bastion of undeveloped and under-developed land for their financial gain. To me seeing the shrine is a reminder that the concerns and needs of many people are being neglected..it speaks to the blind eye we are turning to neglect, poverty and marginalization of a whole demographic of DC residents. I think that seeing and documenting the shrine in all of their disrepair and neglect is a powerful metaphor for how some one the people feel about their lives in this city and indeed in general. The rising numbers of shrines would all speak to the absurdity of how much violence their is in this city, in life as in literature sometimes it takes the absurd to make sense of the reality and i think seeing shrine after shrine after shrine could help illustrate that point.

      Additionally, as a intellectual and culture worker I am seriously concerned about the disappearing of cultural folk traditions of which African Americans play a major role in, here in America. Right now the phenomenon of the bottle tree (and other folk idioms are) is being studied and academic work being published; yet the African Americans who created and continue to create these national treasures are not benefiting from their own art and grief. This is unacceptable..it is important that as intellectuals and progressive thinker and movers we protect the historicity of our cultural expression, to me that is more important than the demographic make up of a neighborhood because statistics show us that those change in cycles anyway..Anacostia was demographically a very different place in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. it is more important to me that we at least get to tell our story right and represent ourselves in our on way, than to have someone else come and tell us (and profit from) about ourselves and our traditions while we are still living them.

  3. “Cultural folk traditions” ????? I am a proud African American woman and a shrine of liquor bottles does not have anything to do with tradition. The tree in question on my blog had over $2000 worth of liquor surrounding it. I work everyday and can not afford that type of alcoholic recreation. To say that is what they have access to is ridiculous. I love my neighborhood, I love my people but we have to do better. It’s a matter of choices. If I die tomorrow, I would hope my family would not waste good money on alcohol and place the empty bottles around a tree. If I died out of an act of violence, I would hope they would devote those resources toward helping others stay away from violence and make better choices. I am very glad you thought enough to include my perspective in your blog. Please don’t take my response the wrong way. But it’s this type of thinking that prevents us from progressing and rising above, violence, poverty and hopelessness. It’s this type of thinking that has us looking for outside intervention when the solution is within ourselves. We are the change we seek. We deserve to live better. We deserve more than a liquor store every 15 meters and a drug house on every corner. As soon as we realize what we deserve we won’t have to worry about these shrines anymore. In the meal time, DC government needs to enforce the laws and remove them in a timely fashion.

  4. Yes “cultural folk traditions”, this is the academic term being used to describe things like mourning and burial rituals, as well as quilting, culinary customs and whole range of cultural activity…

    I think you misunderstood what i was saying..the point i wanted to make is that much of what we call All-American folk culture comes from the full scope and range African American life and living, from culinary delights to spiritual practices…i was not trying to question your authenticity as a “proud Afr. Amer. woman” or somehow say that just because you did not agree with bottle tree that your were somehow not part of the “African American” family. the other point i was trying to make is that people create art and meaning out of what is closest to them. whether you and i like it or not altars and shrines made from liquor bottles, mason jars, hand made clay pottery, stuffed animals or flowers are folk traditions, while they may not mirror our own traditions or the ones we choose to honor and express, but they are valid. People like you and I with our sensibilities might not like the materials, but that does invalidate them as folk traditions, worthy of being preserved and studied and the participants in that tradition regarded as experts on it. When i was in Belfast, Northern Ireland, i was surprised to see similar altars and shrines, there they are treated like treasures and much anthropological study is being conducted on them to link them to Northern Irish history and in struggle for independence and a call to the greater community to work and strive for peace. Seeing that made me think that the same could work here, that altars and shrines in out communities could raise awareness about the volumes of people young, old, innocent and guilty that are victims of violence.

    To speak of traditions some people in other places may look at how much money many of us spend on burying someone once they have passed and say that we make bad choices with our financial resources, $2000 (contributed by many community members and neighbors) worth of bottles is a small sum compared to 4000-5000 casket, burial fees, etc paid by only the family.
    Your assumption that somehow all of these shrines are for people who did not “stay away from violence” or “make better choices” is not a fair one nor does it represent the reality of the circumstances around the deaths of some of victims

    I am not clear how what i have said “prevents us from progressing and rising above, violence, poverty and hopelessness.” as a matter of fact in my original post and my response i did say that the shrines need to be well maintained to properly honored the dead in the same way that some cemeteries are manicured. Additionally, I think what i am advocating for is more personal accountability with respect to how we mourn and how we present our communities and the people in them. I am also making the case that we need to control the intellectual and culture property of our communities in the same way that other groups of people do…in terms of outside intervention, i do think that people outside of River East communities should take notice in what is going on here to raise awareness and spark action and create a more inclusive proactive community, in the same way that displacement in Adams Morgan, U Street and Columbia Heights became city-wide concerns.

    I am curious what your view is on the shrine at Dupont Circle for the woman who was killed while riding her bike or the shrine that is in Upper NW for the man that was killed while out on a late night walk?

  5. It is great to see a dialogue and I definetly have a lot to say on the subject but it will have to wait a little while. I did a post about this particular “shrine” on my blog Congress Heights on the Rise. I wwas happy to see it go.

    A few things:

    1) As someone who drove/walked past this huge tree shrine or memorial or whatever you call it I considered it and will continue to consider it an eyesore.

    2) Despite any history that may be attributed to these bottle trees they are illegal, unsightly and are not a respectful and appropriate way to remember a victim of violence. Some ancient cultures used to sacrafice livestock to remember ancestors – if I were to slaughter a goat on my front steps I would be rightly going to jail. Some things regardless of their historical signficance are no longer appropriate today.

    3) That “shrine” ceased to be less about the victim and more about the Gods of Patron and Grey Goose about 40 bottles in. It should have never been allowed i the efirst place. Everyone appreciates the pain of the family and friends of the victim but that was not the way to show it. How much nicer would a suitable plague or better yet a scholorship in the victims name would have been? Why must we keep “dumbing it down” for our people by thinking that the ultimate sign of respect is “Poor some for my homie”. That’s ignorant and short sighted and I am not afraid to say that – wether I am a new or old resident. A scholorship or a fundraiser would have been far more influential in making a POSITIVE statement (lets be honest a hundred bottles of liquor is not posiitve – it is a testatment to excess).

    4) That “shrine” was on public property. No one owns the sidewalk and that sea of liqour bottles was technically trash and should have been removed as trash. It’s one thing to set up a memorial on your private property it’s another to take up space on a public street.

    5) Residents and neighbors complained about that shrine for months – it should have been removed. The complaints were not only because of the shrine itself but because of the loitering, loud noise and trash that the folks hanging out around the shrine caused. Keep in mind that the location of the shrine was the site of a shoot out between drug dealers. Drug dealers are a problem to the neighborhood – I am sure we can all agree to that and that tree was acting as a further hang out spot for them to deal their drugs, drink Patron by the bottles and dispose of it under the bottle tree.

    Anyhoo I have spoke on this too long. Really great to see the dialogue. Perhaps the solution here is to find a more respectful, communityy friendly and POSITIVE way for familys and fridnds of victims to memorialize them.

  6. theadvoc8te,
    thank you for CHOTR! i appreciate the attention you bring to River East at large and Congress Heights in particular. Letting digital DC (and the world) know what is going in our community is part of the very important duty we all share in accepting personal responsibility for our own spaces. bravo!

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on the discussion as well, I did however want to respond to few of yor points.

    1. As i stated before, admittedly many of the shrines are unkempt, which makes them eyesores. If those who want to honor their dead don’t want to maintain them, them by all means they should be removed without discussion or remorse. I would like to pose the same question to you that i posed to southeastsocialite, though. Do you think all shirines should be dealt with in the same way that it is claimed that they are in other jurisdiction of the city, for example the memorial for the biker killed at Dupont on a public sidewalk? or the shrine created on a public sidewalk for the man killed on a night walk in georgetown?

    2. The practice of building a bottle tree, though has roots in antiquities of the some parts of the West African Diaspora, is still practiced today as spiritual practice and has been. The practice of animal sacrifice is not quite a fair comparsion because there are rules about the treatment of animals even on your property, so rightly so you should be punished for that..I dont think making (and maintiaining) a shrine is a comparable offense.

    3. Although I am not wuite sure what you mean by dumbing down, i dont think that a bottle tree is “dumber” than a plaque. But in general intellectual pursuits agreed “dumbing it down” is never the answer, but i never advocated the idea of “Pour some out for my homie”. To me it is not about what kind of bottles they are but that they are bottles at all.. And yes mere wanton expressions of execess and conspicuous consumption even in mourning is not a proper way to honor one’s dead. Scholarships and fundraisers are all fantastic ideas…constructive ideas (not a fan of the terms positive and negative), no argument here, but I am not sure that that necessarily means that shrines are “negative”, to use your term.

    4. Again i totally agree with the use of public property, so i am particulary interested in your answer to the question above about other shrines and memorials public space that may not use bottles and the like.

    5. Agreed, providing a space for drug dealers to congregate and have an excuse to dispose of trash is obviously not a good thing and clearly we agree on that, but to make the assumptive leap that all of these shrine are misused and abused that way is not a fair or accurate assumption.

    I think the terms “respectful, community friendly and positive” are all too subejctive to really give any solution any meaningful teeth if we decide to use that language to talk solutions. Instead of paying someone to come around and remove shrine, i think putting the onus on the community or individuals that construct them to maintain it (or face fines) and yes perhaps naming a park, or placing a plaque or starting a scholarhship of mentoring program could be a part of that too. But i dont think simply saying that shrines don’t have the right to exist and craking down on those who construct them is the solution and could create a hostile environment, one that could promote a rise in the same kind of culture and class clashing crime we see in Adams Morgan, U Street and Columbia Heights.

  7. Shrines are illegal throughout the city. DPW is responsible for the removal. When ever I see one any where in my neighborhood I will call and complain. Everyone must follow the rules. The neighborhoods of Dupont circle, georgetown, U street, etc need to follow the RULES. No one is exempt! If the citizens feels they should be able to construct a shrine collectivly they should write their Council member and lobby for the law to be changed. Until then, those who maintain shrines are LAW BREAKERS!

  8. Ahhh thanks for the kind words about CHOTR – I appreciate it. It’s nice to see people enjoying the blog. That digital media has really given people an opportunity to feel connected in their media and has provided a great forum such as your blog to have an interesting dialogue like this one.

    To answer your question I feel the same wether a shrine is in Congress Heights or Capital Hill or Dupont Circle – it should be removed. Public property is not the place for unauthorized shrines or displays. It makes no matter to me what the story is behind it if it’s against the law for one it’s against the law for the other. I think when you start making allowances for one you are on a slipperly slope. The laws of the city should be applied to everyone. I love my dog to bits – I would be mortified if he was run over in front of my building but I would never think to place a huge shrine in his honor on the sidewalk (not saying a dogs life is the same as a person). It would be inconsiderate to my neighbors and it would be breaking the law. In my opinion that is part of the problem with some of our neighborhoods – some people forget they have neighbors and they forget to show consideration and they forget the responsibility of being a good neighbor. For that reason (and many others) I think it is time that the laws of the city are respected and followed – no exceptions.

  9. You know, I think it’s way too easy to look at this abstractly, to say “Those people over there should know better”, “there are more appropriate ways to grieve/express your feelings for said victim of violence”, “think about your neighbors.” And yes, I suppose that’s valid. (particularly the maintenance/hygiene issue.) But honestly, there’s no “proper” way to grieve. There’s no “proper” way to express how painful it is—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually—to suddenly lose someone you love and care about a great deal, especially to an act of violence.

    Many times, people who get these kinds of shrines are the kind of people not deemed worthy of an obit in the local newspaper, not deemed worthy of more police resources to resolve the crime, not deemed worthy to be remembered. Not always because they were of a criminal element but because this kind of thing is normalized in this country.

    So what do you do to commemorate that person, that person you know will never be featured in the paper, or on the local TV news, or have a plaque or statue put up somewhere in their city? You grab what you have, empty liquor bottles from late night drinking sessions/trips down memory lane; stuffed animals that you knew the person liked, pictures of that person, graffiti scrawled on an abandoned building, a mural, something, anything you can do to say “This person existed, I loved them and they deserve to be remembered.”

    It’s not just a black thing, (or a poor black thing, because really, let’s just cut out the euphemisms and be honest: is that the real reason why these shrines seem to be so disconcerting to some?), it’s a human thing. A grief thing. Grief can do strange things to people, make them act and feel differently than they did before and the last thing on their minds is whether what they’re doing is “proper” or “appropriate” or what the rules are. Or, it is, but it doesn’t stop the strange thoughts and actions anyway.

    There’s a shrine like this in downtown Silver Spring for a 14-year-old Vietnamese kid who was shot on a bus on his way home. His classmates at Montgomery Blair High posted photos and balloons across the street from Borders to show their love and appreciation for that boy, to express their grief. I don’t see that as any different than what you see in SE. And yes, I suppose if you’re following the law to the letter they’re illegal and should be removed. But just because it isn’t officially sanctioned doesn’t mean it isn’t art, nor does it mean it doesn’t have the potential to enrich lives and even be a teaching moment. It’s like graffiti and murals. Yes, some of it is just gang jibberish but so much of it is beautiful and enriching and culturally significant. Just because it’s outside and not in a gallery doesn’t invalidate the mode of expression.

    Sorry I got long-winded here but I just had to respond.

  10. Dscruggs, if a few of those bottles blow into the street on a windy day and you drive over them and damage your tire and then cause an accident will you look at it as art then? No, you will say the DC government is not removing these shrines fast enough. If some kids are playing outside and decide to make a game out of throwing bottles at cars (Which they do often) and one happens to fly into your window would you feel the same way? If the site of said shrine was the site of multiple shoot outs and drug activity, would you call it art then or would it be gangs marking territory. Everyone thinks these shrines are ok as long as they do not have to deal with what comes along with them. Let me put 1,000 bottles around a tree in front of your house and leave it there for a year. And lastly, all the money spent on late night drinking sessions could have gone to the Washington Post for a full page spread on the death of this young man. I don’t buy the “not news worthy logic” sorry.

    • Hi southeastsocialite,

      When I lived in Baltimore, there were shrines like this all the time in my neighborhood and honestly they never bothered me. I guess we’re just both speaking from our experiences and I’m speaking from mine but they were never a nuisance.

      I mean, I was bothered by the fact that people were dying at a rate that necessitated these shrines but the shrines themselves weren’t a nuisance and I never noticed kids throwing stuff around (of course, that’s a big problem, as is getting your tires damaged by broken glass.) And I did say that sometimes things like this are just gang jibberish but more often than not it’s people expressing grief. And like I said before, grief makes you do strange things, or even things that could be construed as self-destructive.

      I didn’t say late-night drinking sessions are a good way to deal with one’s emotions, I’m saying that’s what happens. You’re probably right, that the money could go toward a death notice (usually papers don’t pay for editorial content) but what I’m saying is, it’s hard to be that rational and that calm in the immediate aftermath of a sudden death, especially when it’s a violent death. So you grab what’s nearest to you and express how you feel.

      I’m sorry that you’ve been through what you’ve been through as a result of these shrines, I really am. And of course they should be properly maintained, I said before that I completely understand the health/safety concerns surrounding this issue. But I don’t think people put up these memorials solely to inconvenience their neighbors, even if that is the end result It’s an expression of grief that, yes, I still do think is valid.

      As for the shrine on Newcomb Street, theadvoc8te, do you think that the shrine caused or inflamed drug activity? Like, if it wasn’t there, there would have been less activity? Or would it have been the same? I ask because I’m not that familiar with the area, not to be provocative.

      Finally, Fred, I like your blog! Keep writing and thanks for posting this.

      • Thanks for the input. To answer your question I absoluetly believe that shrine was a nuisance and was indirectly increasing drug/gang activity.

        I think if that shrine was initially started by family of the victim (and I have my doubts) it became a competition in liquor bottles.

        As someone who would walk my dog up and down that street I actaully stopped walking my dog over there because of that shrine for a few reasons:

        1) The drug dealing over there got so bad that I was concerned for my safety.

        2) I was concerned about catching a bullet if my dog used the bathroom near the tree.

        3) There would be a congregation of folks around the tree and to be honest they weren’t exactly the most law abiding of folks. In fact they were drug dealers and that was a known fact.

        Luckily after enough complaints the police really started cracking down on the drug activity on that corner and part of it was removing the liquor bottles. If you haven’t seen a picture of the “shrine” take a look on SS’s blog. That picture was taken midway through the shrine building – it was even larger than that in the end.

        Again, I totally appreciate grief and I pray to God I never lose someone close to me but in my opinion we are being a bit loose with the term “shrine”. Some of these displays are nothing more than abandoned items on a public street and since there are laws barring these items I will call them in after a reasonable amount of time has passed. I also call in graffitti, garbage and abandoned vehicles because I am committed to keeping my neighborhood clean and tidy. In my opinion (and it’s just mine) there is not such a thing as a “tidy” sidewalk memorial since by it’s very location it’s illegal which is why after 30 days I think they they should be removed – no exceptions.

        And for the record if I were to lose my life through some act of violence or a bullet I would still feel the same way. I would hope that my friends, family and neighbors would honor my spirit with something that would give back positively to the community and preferably with a message – something that would reflect my spirit.

  11. One thing I want to point out that I dont think was made clear in all or our commments.

    These shrines are illegal but the city (including MPD and DPW) have a practice of letting the shrines stay up for a month and they DO inform the family before they take it down so they can make arrangements to remove it. The city has been sensitive to the needs for the family and I think those of us who would rather not have these shrines have been sensitive HOWEVER as in anything there comes a limit.

    The bottle shrine on Newcomb Street was there for about 9 or 10 months and was directly in the hotspot for drug activity on that street.

  12. It’s odd how coincidence arises. Just as this conversation was ensuing, a shrine was built this past Monday on 7th & O Streets after the murder of a young man in NW, DC.

    The vigil itself was sad enough, but it should be noted that MPD was present before, during and after the vigil. The tree grew and grew with teddy bears and candles (I haven’t seen any alcohol bottles as yet). I do see the necessity for and the emotional closure such a vigil might provide for the neighbors and family of the deceased, but I’m not sure how the shrines serve to honor the deceased when it becomes unkempt.

    I’ll keep an eye on the shrine to see how it evolves, that is if it allowed to remain. Personally, the reminder of this young man’s murder is not something I want to experience emotionally every time I go to the grocery store. Yet, I respect a family’s and a community’s expression of grief.

    Yes, “street shrines” may be illegal” but a precendence has been set to a point where the creators of these shrines, sort of like jaywalkers, face no real penalties. And considering the emotional gravity, I am not the one to really blame the police for this one. If anything, maybe there should be time limits and/or restrictions to what can be posted (i.e., permit the pooring of libations, but not the littering the shrine with alcohol bottles).

    2 cents.

  13. Not surprising I have spoke to 7D MPD on this very subject and while they are sympathetic to the families (7D is the best by the way) they feel they need to be removed after a certain amount of time as well – some of these shrines turn into a safety issue. Then comes the tricky part. DPW workers don’t feel safe removing them (in the event that the family doesn’t remove it after they were notified) without the police. DPW workers have actaully been attacked trying to remove these displays after the 30 days. The day after the Newcomb Street display was removed someone tried to start it again – not with a momento of the victim but a Grey Goose bottle.

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