A Right to the City

When: now until April 2020
Where: Anacostia Community Museum,1901 Fort Place SE, Washington, DC
How much: Free
More info: Smithsonian Institute

A Right to the City is now on at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, exploring more than 50 years of neighbourhood change in Washington DC, as well as the history of civic action and urban renewal that sparked its evolution. After decades of under-investment, Washington DC is experiencing the same problems as many other cities today – rapid population growth, rising rents and deepening inequality.

Curator Samir Meghelli says the battle for these neighbourhoods started back in the 1940s and 50s, when they became the test sites for federal urban renewal projects. Independent, working-class neighbourhoods were seen as a problem by the federal government. “It was seen as a perfect prime opportunity to try this experiment of urban renewal, which at the time was really a policy of large scale demolition and … slum clearance,” Meghelli says.

Looking at six neighborhoods – Adams Morgan, Anacostia, Brookland, Chinatown, Shaw and Southwest, the exhibition shows how DC’s citizens have fought for everything from quality public education through to a democratic approach to city planning. With more than half the world’s population living in cities and that figure increasing, A Right to the City asks questions that are pertinent to how we live today.

[Main image: Tenant associations lead a march up Columbia Road N.W. in protest against threats of eviction. Photo by Nancy Shia, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute].