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How gentrification changes the portrait of a neighborhood

Editor’s Note: The H Street neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was badly damaged in the race riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, prompting white flight from the area. Now, that trend is reversing, causing problems for the area’s longtime residents. In this week’s edition of Parallax, photographer Brittney Sankofa, who grew up in the neighborhood, describes her relationship to H Street.

The men who leave afternoon Crossfit for their luxury condos won’t understand how it felt as a seventh-grader interviewing toothless liquor store regulars in the cold for a youth urban planning program called CityVision about what this street “usta be like befo’ ‘68. Was real nice. They had a street car would take ya to all the shops.” Amid these hip cafes and happy hour deals, it’s hard for me to channel my 12-year-old brain. I do know, however, that its absence is unnerving. So to combat that emptiness, I make an effort to acknowledge the “remnants of old H Street” as valuable antiques, griots to a colonized village, or, less romantically put, regular human beings. Two men smoking Newports on a stoop near the Atlas Performing Arts Center spot me taking photos. “Hey, sis!” one of them yells. “You ain’t never seen a smile this pretty!”

The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.

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