Social Justice Bus Tour Spurs Student Action
November 11, 2011 – A tour of some of Washington, D.C.’s historic and underserved communities, offered by Georgetown’s social justice center, often results in students volunteering in those communities.
Each semester, the university’s Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) provides three to five tours that focus on such needs as education, worker justice, hunger and the homeless.
Milana Edwards (C’12) of San Diego said having a better knowledge of the city’s needs prompted her to become involved with CSJ’s DC Reads tutoring program.
“We do this to create greater understanding between the university community and D.C. residents, as well as to support the numerous students who volunteer, work or intern each week in local communities,” said Jane Kirchner, CSJ’s coordinator for community-based learning.
“The socioeconomic divide is much more jarring than in San Diego,” said Edwards, an English major. “While we – like most large cities – have stratified wealth, the way San Diego is spread out along the coast makes it much more subtle.”
“In D.C.,” she added, “you can literally see gentrification in many places.”
David Schwartz (SFS’12) also said the social justice tour gave him a better understanding of the District and its needs.
“[Washington] isn’t just a place we attend school,” said Schwartz, who has immersed himself in local worker justice issues. “We’re a part of this community.”
Edwards and Schwartz recently helped organize a tour sponsored by Georgetown’s NAACP student chapter and LGBTQ Resource Center.
The bus of about 35 students made its first stop across the Anacostia River into Southeast D.C., where they explored the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.
Students learned about historic Anacostia as well as other parts of the city – including the evolution of Barry Farm, one of D.C.’s oldest African-American communities. Today the Ward 8 neighborhood is occupied mostly by public housing.
“We were looking for a chance to introduce freshman in the [NAACP] group to the city, and I definitely wanted to go into Ward 7 and 8,” said Edwards, the NAACP’s education chair. “We wanted to do a tour that focused on opportunities for volunteerism in those areas.”
U Street Corridor
The bus traveled next to another historic neighborhood – the U Street Corridor.
The neighborhood, located in Northwest D.C., served as a cultural hub for the segregated black community from 1900 through the 1960s until its decline just before the 1970s through the 1980s. The historic area remains a popular cultural point in the city, but is now more diverse as a result of gentrification.
The tour group also visited the DC Center for the LGBT Community, which offers programs and services to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.
Schwartz said he learned about both the differences and similarities in the African-American and LGBT communities.
“Both are communities that are often marginalized in the city,” he said. “And that’s the kind of information about the city that makes you want get involved.