I live in the Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. across the street from a school. When my wife and I bought our house, it was a public school serving a low to moderate-income population that was 95 percent African American, reflecting the neighborhood demographics.

Each morning when I headed to work I’d find a trail of discarded Little Hug juice bottles, honey bun wrappers and empty potato chip bags leading to the school. Weeds sprouted through the cracks in the asphalt on the school grounds and the play structure was tattered and rusty. The schoolyard looked more like a laboratory for tetanus rather than a playground for children. Inside, portable walls, not classrooms, separated the kids who were group two grades at a time (1st & 2nd, 3rd & 4th). When I visited the school to inquire about volunteering one morning, I heard several teachers instructing their students at the same time, and a disruption in one classroom affected the others.

“I wish someone had done that for me when I was getting my ass kicked in junior high. Most of my beatings happened at a bus stop or somewhere else in public, but no stranger ever pulled me to safety. I eventually, learned how to deal with these situations: I got stronger and learned how to wrestle. If I was outnumbered, I decided to focus on just one aggressor and inflict as much damage as I could, so others might not want to mess with me in the future. The physical bullying stopped, even if the threats and verbal abuse didn’t.” Click the link in the bio to read more. #community #ittakesavillagetoraiseachild #parenting #bullying #raisingkids #schools #gentrification #washingtondc #districtofcolumbia #juniorhigh #fatherhood #cubscouts #kidsonbikes #ThinkingGood #BeYourBetterSelf

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The school closed a few years after we moved in and briefly became a hangout for older teens and young adults who smoked weed, drank and played dice.

Eventually, gentrification took over, the school was reopened as a charter school and the building was overhauled.  The playground was upgraded. Sunflowers and a community garden replaced the weeds. Woodchips covered the fissured asphalt. A section of the sidewalk was replaced and white children soon made up about 40 percent of the new student body—although the neighborhood demographics barely changed. Former First Lady and President Obama even came to christen the new facility. Even the litter got an upgrade, with Honest Juice boxes and string-cheese wrappers in the gutter instead of the cheap, corner-store junk-food trash.

Parking is a little harder to find, hey, that’s life in the big city.

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For much of the past decade author, Jioni J. Palmer has worked for members of Congress and the Obama Administration as a communications strategist and coalition builder. He lives in Washington DC with his wife, two sons and their two cats.