It’s just past 6 p.m.
The wall was supposed to be up and running by now, but there is only an empty building with bland plywood walls.
The drone of the usual rumblings of a city are suddenly broken by ecstatic cries.
“We made it happen! We made it happen!” Omeed Tabiei said, as he rounds the corner in a gray business suit, sprinting at full speed and shouting with glee.
Omeed Tabiei, director of Think Local First DC, has been working tirelessly for two months to bring “The World We Want Wall” to Anacostia. He explained how difficult it can be to bring independent art projects into the community.
In 2008, President Obama delivered a speech on the anniversary of the March on Washington. He described the courage that development needs to reach “from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia.”
What he did not mention was the rich artistic development already blooming in such areas.
Anacostia, known as the community “east of the river” is separated from the rest of D.C. by the Anacostia River. Think Local First DC recently partnered with Project Create, a nonprofit that provides art education for children and families experiencing homelessness, to bring “The World We Want Wall” to Martin Luther King Jr. Street in the area.
This black wall consists of multiple squares that prompted members of the public to write on them with chalk – what world they want to live in, and how they will create this world.
Bringing the wall into this community was not an easy task.
“I’ve always recognized how difficult this community is to come into,” Tabiei said. “This community is considered by many to be separated from the District of Columbia.”
He explained the long process that he went through to bring the project here.
“It was road block after road block after road block. They really tried to stop me in every way,” Tabiei said.
Once the wall was approved, minutes after the scheduled opening time, Tabiei said he felt jubilation.
Immediately, he sprinted up the stairs of the Project Create office, rushing into a brief celebration before everyone went back to work to actually put up the wall.
Lindsey Vance, art therapist and coordinator for the studio program for Project Create, still had spray paint on her blue flip flops from the two hours she spent decorating the large tiles to be drilled into the empty plywood wall around the corner.
She explained the importance of bringing art projects such as the wall into Anacostia. She said art brings outsiders into the community, and sparks discussion about social justice.
“There’s a lot of things happening in this community that people don’t know about because they don’t venture across the bridge,” she said.
She cited three different art events happening that same night, including two gallery openings around the corner. Vance said every day, she fights to end homelessness in an area known for disadvantage, not for its art.
The wall also happens to be drilled into the plywood store front of a future Busboys and Poets location.
Anas “Andy” Shallal founded the coffee and restaurant chain Busboys and Poets in 2005. He came to see the wall installation.
He seemed to look forward to seeing Busboys and Poets bring more to the art scene in the area.
“I always like to go to places where the people in the area want it,” he said. “Southeast, Anacostia, and this area certainly have been neglected for too long and there are people who want to have amenities that they have to cross the bridge to get to.”
On the wall he wrote in every color of chalk available to him: I want to live in a world where … “No other man will scorn and love will bless the earth.”
Anthony Powell is a junior at Anacostia High School, assisting in the wall installation.
He works with Project Create, and says if he were to write on the wall, he would state: “I want to live in a world where everybody is treated equal and everyone is willing to listen and help out everybody.”
Many visitors to the wall Sept. 18 were students from universities in the area. Most of them had heard of the event through Facebook.
One student wants to live in a world where everyone has the opportunity to get an education. Mckenna Pugh, a freshman international affairs major at George Washington University said her passion came from her sister having a disability, and that much of her mother’s life has been driven toward making education accessible for those with disabilities.
Victoria Alukpe, a junior at American University studying political science came to see what other people would write.
She appeared passionate about human rights, and wants to see basic equality accessible for everyone.
“Especially being a black female in America, there are so many things that people don’t see. It’s all hidden. I don’t want to live in a world where I make 64 cents to the dollar.”
After the wall was drilled into the plywood storefront and visitors started writing, Nicole Garder, who helped bring the wall to fruition, buzzed around with excitement.
She collected the emails of visitors in order to create a listserv to hopefully transform the goals on the wall into a reality.
“There are little things you can do to help people on their way through those journeys” she said.
“Two months I’ve been coming to this community, going to government meetings, going to every type of neighborhood meeting that I could find to tell everyone,” Omeed Tabiei said.
Finally, the wall is up, a testament to the growing arts community in Anacostia.
Featured Photo Credit: Fiorella Montoya, a Kensington, Md. resident, leaves a message on the World We Want wall. This wall was one of two set up in the D.C. area, located at the intersection of 11th St. NE and H St. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.