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Musical ‘East Of The River’ Examines A Gentrifying Anacostia

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Nothing says “gentrification” quite like the opening of a Whole Foods.

That’s the message, at least, of a new musical about the idea that a location of the largely organic, high-priced grocery chain could one day open in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood.

Anacostia lies east of the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C., in a part of the city that’s historically been more impoverished and more heavily African-American than other areas.

Gentrification — or, as advocates would say, “revitalization” — has brought changes throughout D.C. over the past 15 years or so. Areas once blighted now feature shops with gourmet coffee and independent bicycle stores. Access to fresh and healthy food can increase for residents living in “food deserts,” where it could previously have been hard to come by.

New spaces for artists can open — like the Anacostia Arts Center, which opened in 2013, and where the musical East of the River held its first and so far only publicly announced performance in a workshop performance Friday.

Star Johnson, the play’s creator, wanted to show multiple sides to the debate about gentrification.

“You don’t have some of these tropes that you’ve seen before,” Johnson says. “You know, the mean white guy saying, ‘Get out of this neighborhood! This is my neighborhood now!’ And you don’t have all the black people saying, ‘Don’t take our neighborhood away from us!’ It’s varied reactions.”

Opponents note that gentrification can raise rents and the cost of living, and longtime residents — and artists — can be forced out in search of more affordable areas.

Massive condominiums that all look the same start to crop up.

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Steve Harvey and Mo’Nique Get Into Heated Debate

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Dame Dash Apologizes to JAY-Z & Others: ‘I’m Sorry. I Can Admit It’

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The breakdown of the original Roc-A-Fella Records, led by Dame Dash, JAY-Z and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, was a huge moment in hip-hop. For years, fans have begged the three former business partners to set their differences aside for the culture, but recent comments from Dash may have made that proposition even more unrealistic.

Without going into detail about his transgressions, the Harlem native is apologizing to his former partners as well as to others he has disparaged over the years, including Lyor Cohen, Steve Stoute and rapper Jim Jones.

“I don’t have beef with anybody – pause. I’m working past it. So JAY-Z, if I offended you, I apologize. Lyor Cohen, if I offended you, I apologize. Steve Stoute, if I offended you, I apologize. Just ’cause you don’t have the same morals and principles, it’s cool,” Dash said with a straight face. “I’m not angry with you no more. I did what I had to do. I was a little aggravated about Aaliyah, so y’all just caught the brunt end of it. It was therapy.”

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Smokey Robinson & J. Lo Defend Motown Tribute Amid Harsh Criticism

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Some viewers were outraged that the Latina performer was chosen to honor the Black music label during Black History Month.

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