Barry Farm: Community, Land, & Justice

by Isiejah Allen,

13 September, 2022

Post-Film Panel Discussion at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Take a left off of the Anacostia Freeway on to Firth Sterling Ave – what do you see? You see empty fields. You see shiny new buildings just breaking ground, construction equipment, and sweeping views of the capital.  As one community member states, if you are a developer, you see a gold mine.

Nonetheless, these empty fields hold powerful memories. Enslaved people once worked this land. Later, during Reconstruction, the formerly enslaved purchased it, and built one of DC’s first thriving Black communities.

Here, the city constructed a sprawling public housing complex in the 1940s, beloved by insiders, if notorious to outsiders. Here, the movement for Welfare Rights took shape. Here, the Junkyard Band honed its chops on homemade instruments before putting a turbocharge into the city’s Go-Go music. Here, residents lived in the Barry Farms Dwellings up until 2018, when the final community members were removed for the redevelopment.

Empower DC has supported Barry Farm residents through the very difficult redevelopment process since 2011. We organized the Barry Farm Tenants & Allies Association (BFTAA), who worked with Attorney Ari Theresa on a successful appeal of the original development proposed for the site. As a result, some changes were made to the plan to address residents' concern, but BFTAA continues to work to ensure residents return home to a community that reflects their needs and priorities, and offers opportunity to improve their economic conditions. 

In 2019 we supported BFTAA with filing an application for historic landmark status for the remaining buildings at Barry Farm. The Board passed a resolution affirming their desire to confer historic landmark status to a portion of the Barry Farm site.

The Bertelsmann Foundation and the DC Legacy Project collaborated to create a documentary that tells the story of a journey for community, land, and for justice. It is a story of Barry Farm, but it is also a story of Washington, DC., and in the cycles of place and displacement, it is a story of the United States of America.

For a list of upcoming screenings, please click here.

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Directors Samuel George and Sabiyha Prince

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