Hill neighbors led a march on the 300 block of F Street NE to stand up for a neighbor and fellow MoTH whose daughter was the target of racist harassment on her block. About 100 residents and children walked a circuit on both sides of the block for 30 minutes, chanting “WHO BELONGS?! EVERYONE!” and singing together.
Veronica and her 15-year-old daughter, who are both black, live on the 300 block of F Street NE in a home that has been in the family for nearly 100 years. Last Saturday, June 13, the teenager was helping to load laundry into the family car when a white woman walking past with a child on a bicycle told her, ‘you don’t belong here, you need to get on the street’.
At first, the teenager thought the woman’s concerns were related to COVID-19. Perhaps although she wore a mask, she thought, the woman wanted more distance. However, the woman then sat down on a stoop and watched as the teenager continued to load the car, continuing the harassment. “She said, ‘mom that wasn’t about COVID at all. She was a racist. She said something racist to me’,” Veronica recounted.
Veronica said that she ran out to confront the woman for addressing her child that way, but was unable to find her. He doorbell camera did not capture the interaction, either. Now, she said has given her daughter advice in case of a future encounter.
“I told her, the next time something like that happens I want you to scream, I want you to scream like somebody’s trying to hurt you,” Veronica said, “because in that moment I can come out and say, ‘hey, what are you doing?'”
The teen’s mother said she was moved to share the incident after reading about a similar incident caught on tape in Lincoln Park. “People need to know what kind of neighbors we have,” Veronica said. “Not everybody is happy to see African-American people in the neighborhood. It’s sad, but it’s reality.”
‘Not What This Community Stands For’
Veronica’s neighbor Amanda put out a call to the neighborhood on the MOTH list serv, calling for people to march in support of Veronica and her daughter, and to show people that exclusion and racism do not belong in the community. “For a family that has been here almost a hundred years to be made to feel like they don’t belong by the racist actions of another family is not what this community stands for,” she said.
Neighbors said they wanted to walk down the street with this family, to show up and reinforce that the family, long-term residents, clearly belong. Stephanie said that she and her family came to make sure that Veronica and her daughter felt safe in the neighborhood, and to show others that that racist actions are not acceptable. “I should not have been shocked, but was that it was happening,” she said.
Having so many neighbors come out out meant so much, Veronica said, because it showed her and her daughter that people in the neighborhood care about her. “I didn’t think I would get emotional, but as I was chanting and you guys were chanting behind me,” she told the group at the end of the march, “it did something to me –it gave me chills to know that you all are behind us.”
Veronica said she just wants the woman who shouted at her daughter to know that her behavior and words were not okay. “Who are you to say she doesn’t belong? Who the hell are you to tell a child she doesn’t belong?” she said she would ask.
“Whoever she is, I’m sending her so much love and so much light her way, because she obviously needs it.”