By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
Despite the history laid within the asphalt of its streets and a bustling culture, D.C.’s historic Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast, has in recent years experienced a pall of bad reputations from violence and crime. However, as many District neighborhoods have undergone in the past, Anacostia is experiencing a resurgence of businesses and arts that are re-elevating the area’s historic profile and one of those additions has become a D.C. staple in itself- Busboys and Poets.
A restaurant, bookstore and event space, Busboys and Poets has found its way to several DMV neighborhoods including, the U Street Corridor, K Street and Brookland- all in D.C.; Hyattsville, MD and a location in the Virginia’s trendy Shirlington area.
“[Busboys and Poets] was opened with the intention of creating a space that is welcoming to everyone in the city. I’ve always felt that the city was pretty segregated when it comes to dining out, as is so many other things. And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a space that is actually able to be welcoming to all groups of people,’” Busboys and Poets owner, muralist and activist Andy Shallal told the AFRO.
Under the guidance and perseverance of Shallal, a new location in Anacostia will open its doors next week with a launch and preview celebration on March 6 that pays homage to old D.C. while bridging the gap with new hopes for the future.
The Anacostia location will bring over 80 new jobs to the community, while also providing a new dining experience, bookstore and event space for residents. Shallal, who has been active in the Anacostia community for many years, felt it was time to further add to the fabric of the significant area.
“Anacostia is a historic community. For me it represents D.C. at its finest in so many ways. Anacostia is so D.C. When I think of D.C., I think about Anacostia first,” he said. Yet even as a primary District location, Shallal felt the people of Anacostia and other neighborhoods “East of the River” weren’t receiving the same amenities that residents in other parts of the city get to enjoy.
“I think a lot of people that live here, have been shortchanged. They don’t have the kind of services and opportunities that are available to people throughout the city that would take it for granted,” Shallal told the AFRO.
Because of the lack of businesses similar in the area, Busboys and Poets is working directly with the community and its leaders to engage them and meet their needs.
One notable way of making the Anacostia location true to its community is honoring a figure that focused greatly on the betterment of all Washingtonians, but particularly in Wards 7 and 8. That figure is Marion Barry.
“Marion Barry represents so much of Ward 8. He’s had his difficult moments, I think, but he’s also risen and stayed up. As many people say, ‘It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get back up that really matter,’ and I think he represents that here,” Shallal told the AFRO.
To honor the celebrated “Mayor for Life,” the restaurant’s private room used for performances, book talks, parties and more, will be called the Marion Barry Room. The dedication of the room is happening on his actual birthday, March 6, which will double as the preview reception for local government officials, civic leaders, socialites, influencers and media.
“We could not think of a more appropriate individual to name this room after. Someone who is still current in people’s minds… and something that people can relate to more directly,” Shallal said. “So we’re working very closely with Mrs. Barry to honor him in the appropriate way.”
As the restaurant is a totally different neighborhood than the others, Busboys and Poets Anacostia, will have its own flare that can’t be found at other locations.
“Each one of our locations has a little bit of a different feel to it and it’s due to the folks that live there and attend there. In that sense this will be a little bit different, because it will be part of it’s own community,” Shallal told the AFRO. “It will also be different because we’ll have events and programs that are suited and for this community and this community’s wants. We may have jazz on a regular basis, which we don’t normally have at our other locations. We may do a radio show out of our stage here on a regular basis that is focused on the community and community issues.”
Further than making the location unique, Shallal said he hopes to elevate the neighborhood’s profile by building a location in Anacostia.
“Our intention is to raise the profile of Anacostia and let people know that this is a vibrant, exciting community that is open and ready for people to come here and be part of it.”
Busboys and Poets Anacostia is located at 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Southeast. For more on the new location, visit https://www.busboysandpoets.com