DC’s growing homelessness – and how to get out of it


The escalator at the Metro Center in Washington, DC rumbles out of the tube and spits out people to the surface every second. It’s a cold and windy Friday morning. When men and women reach the top of the escalator, they put on their caps and tightly wrap their scarves around their necks. Denis Clayward, however, doesn’t mind the wintery weather – even if he stands in the cold way longer than everybody else, wearing only a black hoody and selling the homeless newspaper Street Sense. “It’s a culture shock”, the 34-year old man, who lives on the street, describes in regard to homelessness. “You panic. You don’t know what to do. You want to go back to your comfort but you can’t.”

Becoming homeless is one of the biggest fears of almost everybody. It doesn’t mean just loosing your house or flat, but also the place that felt like home and gave you a safe harbor in life – the biggest struggle is maybe the emotional one. In January 2014, 578,424 people were homeless in the United States on a given night as the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress states. Half of the homeless population in the US lives in five states: California (20% and more than 100,000 people), New York (14%), Florida, Texas and Maine. In general, homelessness in the US declined since 2007 in 31 of the 50 states, but D.C. experienced the opposite: Between 2007 and 2014, the amount of people without a home had a 45.6% increase to 7,648 people as a report of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows. Insiders expected the number to be even higher in 2015, but the US Interagency Council on Homelessness doesn’t want to name any specific numbers of the most recent national annual count yet, conducted in the end of January.

To be able to reduce that increasing amount again, two things are very important to know: What the reasons for the homelessness in the District are and how that number can return to its historically lower rates. As far as there are no official studies on that of the Government, the first question can only be answered by speaking with the homeless people themselves and find out, what happened to them. On the journey through DC to the main spots of the homeless population there were four main reasons that the men and women were willing to talk about why they live on the streets, which can be shown exemplarily on three persons.

For Denis Clayward the reasons were both, crime offences and familiar problems. The 34-year-old is a proud native Washingtonian. He loves his city, even though he has been homeless for three years now. Denis’ struggle to maintain structure in his life began at a very early age. “My father died when I was ten”, he states. “After that I had to become a man – and my daddy wasn’t there anymore to tell me how. I never could talk to anybody like I could to my father.” Denis started smoking and selling marijuana and not going to school. “

I became a hustler, not a man.” The first time he was arrested, he was just 11 years old. “I’ve been in prison the majority of my life, I’ve been raised by the government”, he admits with a smile. Three years ago, Denis Clayward finally ended his criminal career. “But once the fame of all the drug money is gone, people treat you differently”, he claims. Also, his family didn’t want to be involved into his life struggle anymore. The past three years of living on the streets blurred into a lot of hard nights in different shelters and unoccupied houses.

Besides crime and familiar issues like Denis’ experienced them, in a lot of cases just losing the job without having financial coverage causes homelessness. That’s also what happened to Reginald Black, who everybody calls Reggie. With his well-groomed appearance in a black coat and with new glasses, the 29-year-old homeless man doesn’t look like a stereotypical homeless person at all. In his early twenties, he lost one of his three jobs at a cleaning service. He didn’t have enough money to pay his rent and buy presentable clothing for work after that, so he forfeited his home as well as his other two jobs as a concierge and a cook at McDonalds.


The last leading reason for the homelessness in DC that can be found by talking to the people living on the street, is mental illness. Some of the homeless suffering from mental illness won’t even react to people talking to them, but Stephanie Thomas does. When she is asked for an interview, a tear runs down her face. She is used to people just ignoring her and the ones who give her some money barely talk to her. Maybe they are afraid of homeless people acting unpredictable if they have mental illnesses.

Meeting Stephanie on the coldest day in DC in 120 years, the 50-year-old African-American woman is still sitting at the street corners, holding her cardboard towards the pedestrians that wait for the green flashlights. When she is asked how she became homeless, more tears start to run down her cheeks. “Lost my place”, is all she finally mumbles with a trembling voice, repeating the words again and again. Having a conversation with her is hard, her eyes roll back into her head from now and then, and she won’t listen then. In a dazed state, Stephanie talks about her daughter that doesn’t speak to her anymore. She seems to be the only family left. The only thing that Stephanie Thomas seems to be sure about is her dream job: working in a restaurant.

Some homeless and chronically unemployed people in DC who also have the wish to work in the culinary field, can get the chance to gain a safe job in this branch and trade their life out of homelessness or addiction: at the DC Central Kitchen, founded 1999 by nightclub owner Robert Egger. To find a response for the question, how to reduce DC’s homelessness again, it is the best thing to look at already established best practice examples for sustainable ideas in Washington like the DC Central Kitchen is one. A lot of the non-profits – like soup kitchens and shelters – help people to survive but don’t solve these long-term problems: finding a new job and stabilizing the life situation again. But that’s exactly what DC Central kitchen focuses on: sustainability. “We are not a normal soup kitchen!”, makes communication director Erica Teti-Zilinskas, 31, clear. When Robert Egger volunteered at another place before, he noticed: “Often volunteering is more about redemption of the giver than the liberation of the receiver.” In a traditional soup kitchen the homeless people can get some food to survive the next day, but the facility can’t provide enough financial help for getting them out of poverty.

“So Robert had this idea to rework unused food from other kitchens and events to meals and deliver it to other partner non-profits in the city”, Erica Teti-Zilinskas describes the beginning of DC Central Kitchen. “The distinguishing factor between DC Central Kitchen and the homeless shelter upstairs or a soup kitchen is: We don’t serve any of our meals here.” Former homeless people or those who suffered from a drug addiction, who now are professionally learning how to cook, and 50,000 volunteers a year prepare 5,000 meals a day. Located in the ground floor of a homeless shelter, there is hustle and bustle in the kitchen that looks like a rebuilt small storehouse. The atmosphere is concentrated but blithesome. The employees show the volunteers and the trainees how to prepare the dishes, the majority of whose here are African-American. Chicken legs are being marinated, six people are cutting onions, two put the iron sheets with puff pastries out of the oven.

Outside, four men load the meals into small trucks. The food is distributed to shelters and halfway houses, allowing them to reinvest their funds in working towards their original mission and not feeding their clients. Erica Teti-Zilinskas states, that DC Central Kitchen saves these non-profits about $4 million a year because of the food distribution program. With this financial benefit and the job training program, “it’s more than just a good thing”, she thinks. The job placement rate in the culinary field also of the former homeless people after the 14 week program is high: “96 % of our 93 graduates from last year found a job afterwards”. A lot of them also stay at DC Central Kitchen and their subsidiary companies: 65 of the 150 staff are graduates of their own program. One of them is also Daniela Hurtado. “Now I am one of the chef cooks here!”, she narrates. “Right now I show my class how to make chicken pot pie.”


Another sustainable initiative in DC that could be viewed as a best practice example is the homeless newspaper Street Sense of which Denis Clayward also works as one of the 130 active vendors as of late. “Street Sense, Street Sense! Let’s make the world a better place!”, he shouts at the Metro Center with a smile on his friendly round face as if he has never done anything else. Quietly he murmurs: “It’s my first day – I’m still trying to get my swag together of how I do it.” Street Sense is less economically driven than DC Central Kitchen, but also progressive.

The office is located in the back building of the Church of the Epiphany downtown. From the outside, the bright white building looks impressive – but once you go through the red door you enter another world: Very simple furnishing, homeless people waiting for their newspapers, a computer room provided for the vendors. The homeless people can visit different workshops and write their articles here: 50 % of the newspaper is filled with texts written by the vendors. Founded in 2003, Street Sense raisers Ted Henson and Laura Thompson-Osuri wanted to both help the homeless to earn an income and increase the awareness of poverty in DC at the same time. Beginning with 5,000 copies biweekly it went up until 16,000 copies.

The most important things Jenifer Okosun, the voluntary Director of Communications and Marketing of Street Sense, learned in that time came from the vendors themselves. “It surprises me all the time that a lot of the homeless people even have college degrees – it shows me that homelessness can happen to anybody”, she explains. One of the first things a person loses then is the faith in oneself, she believes. “With Street Sense, they get more self-confident as far as what they can achieve.” Reginald Black, for example, tells that he has learned to participate a lot more in the community since then. For him, that is a big deal: He is one of the 63% of homeless Americans who experience homelessness in solitude. Furthermore, Reginald is very proud of his front-page stories and the appreciation that people show him as a reporter. “At some galas and political events I even got a press pass!”

However, Reggie’s dream job is not being a journalist; He wants to become an entrepreneur. He is on a good path to find his way back into a regular life: The 29-year-old just secured a room in a halfway house. “But homelessness still affects me – for example with sleeping problems”, he concedes. Nevertheless, Reggie tries to take the best from these years: “It will depress you and it will stress you up – but it is an amazing learning experience.” For example he learned a lot about local news, economics and politics in that time – just “how the city works”. The eloquent man secured much of this information at his standard selling point right in front of the World Bank by talking to his regular customers: bankers, lawyers and politicians. Now Reggie plans to use these contacts and the knowledge gained to change his life.

Denis Clayward also recently decided that he has to change his life fundamentally and hold an honest job for the first time. “It’s easy to break the law but it takes a man to take real initiative in life”, he describes. The main reason for the decision was becoming a better role model for his six kids. “I don’t want them to say anymore: ‘Daddy’s going to jail’”, he explains. “Now they will say: ‘Daddy’s selling newspapers on the street corners for the homeless. This is cool too, like Lil Wayne and Jay-Z!’” At the moment, he doesn’t get to see his six sons a lot. He moved out because he felt more like he was doing more harm than good. But he also decided to change for his mother. “All night she was worried about me when I went to away to do criminal stuff”, Denis narrates. “Now she doesn’t have to worry anymore.”

When the 34-year-old found out about Street Sense and the possibility to bring awareness of the homeless issues to the people, he figured out that it is his second chance. He started talking to some vendors about the classes one has to take to become a vendor and make $1.50 with each paper sold. “I was like: What – 75%? That is way better than selling drugs! I will try that!” However, after his first day he noticed that money is not the most important aspect of his new job: “The best thing is that I get to talk to people and they show me that I’m there. I can brand my own brand and just be me!” For the same reasons, he also recently decided to become a stand up comedian. “When I started doing that I turned my pain into jokes and laughter”, Denis’ alias DC DingBat states.

Poverty, crime, selling and taking drugs, going to prison, dealing with mental illnesses: as one of the over 7,000 homeless people on DC’s streets, Denis has gone through nearly everything. But it gives hope, that he is on a good way to get out of it with standing at the Metro Center for Street Sense and making nearly every person smile. “Happy Friday – it’s the last day, now you can breathe!” or “You look beautiful today, give me a smile!”, he shouts. And with these words somehow the former prisoner made peoples’ day while they step out of the tube and try to stay warm in this cold winter.


America Dreams of Sushi and Overfishing Nightmares

Wedged between a liquor store and a wig shop on Pennsylvania Avenue is one of Washington, D.C.’s not-so-hidden gems. Sushi Capitol has been featured on the Washington Post, the Washingtonian, food blogs online and hundreds of Yelp reviews, of course. Behind Sushi Capitol’s glass door, there are seven tables, enough to seat an average of twenty customers at a time. Only about three blocks away from the U.S. Capitol building, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, Sushi Capitol’s customers include a mix of tourists, locals, government employees, politicians, diplomats and self-proclaimed “foodies.”

Inside, Can Yurdagul, 25-year-old Sushi Capitol general manager, is making sure the restaurant is ready to reopen at 5 o’clock on a Saturday.

“Diversity,” he smiles, “that’s my favorite thing about sushi. It has such a simple premise: just rice and fish. The complexity that comes into play with every piece you enjoy, there are different taste notes and textures and flavors.” With nearly 5,000 customers visiting little Sushi Capitol every week (many of them regular visitors), there is no doubt that sushi is making a big splash in Washington, D.C. and throughout the United States.

Sushi has quickly grown into one of the most popular dishes introduced to America by another culture. With environmental organizations like Wild Oceans reporting the dangers of overfishing and documentaries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi depicting the devotion a sushi chef has for his craft while he struggles to make traditional sushi as fish populations continue to decrease over time, it is difficult not to wonder how sustainable this “new” trendy food might be. Government agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working to study and assess fish populations, fishing methods, and environmental patterns to make sure regulations are effectively protecting fish and are obeyed by fisheries. Despite environmental groups expressing their concerns, NOAA is sure that things are alright for now. Sushi continues to grow as a misunderstood but highly popular cultural force in the country. Consumers now face a dilemma when they are told they must choose between the responsibility to protect and preserve wildlife and their desire to experience a novel and fascinating combination of food and art.

Why is sushi so big?

“Beats me,” laughs Ken Hinman, president of Wild Oceans since 1997, “I guess it becomes trendy. There is a certain amount of cultural status. People want to try new things or maybe they have money to burn. But you have to understand the impact of your decision; it’s irresponsible to not find out.”

Seeking new experiences seems to be the main motivation for most first-time sushi-eaters. Most are inspired by the artistic value and traditions behind the creation of sushi dishes. The relationship between food and art is best depicted in the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which follows an elderly Japanese man who has devoted more than thirty years of his life to perfecting the art of sushi in his humble three Michelin-star rated restaurant, located in a Japanese subway station.

Have you seen Jiro?

“Three times!” exclaims Yurdagul. “I don’t think it was ever meant to popularize sushi, but it certainly has, indirectly,” he says. “After watching something like that, people focus on the fish rather than the people leading the industry. I think the essence of the movie, which gets lost in the translation, is Jiro’s devotion to his work. I think in the documentary, the food critic who narrates the experience emphasized that Jiro is not concerned with reviews. He knows what his craft is, he knows what it takes to perform at an excellent level, and he is willing to commit himself for his entire lifetime to wake up, make sushi, go to sleep, and repeat the same thing every day.”

Much like Jiro, Sushi Capitol’s dedicated owners have close ties with fisheries in Japan that know exactly what the restaurant is looking for in terms of quality and freshness. Sushi Capitol makes sure not to cut any corners when it comes to their dishes.

“We pay the price for the higher-end fish to ensure we serve the best,” Yurdagul boasts, “But also, the relationships we have built in order to get buyers to work with us over the years is important. Once they know you, they know what your preferences are and they know your skill level. And because they know that, they aren’t going to send us anything that’s below our standards.”

Unlike Jiro, however, Yurdagul isn’t too worried about overfishing. “When there’s an issue, there’s always two sides to a story,” he explains. “I’m sure there are people who say the issue of overfishing is overblown and that it doesn’t exist. And then there are people who say stopping overfishing is the most important thing in the world right now and in ten years we won’t have any fish to enjoy. I’m sure there’s overfishing being done in different parts of the world, but at the same time, there’s also sustainable fishing that is being done as well.”

Government agencies like NOAA have created various regulations over the years to make sure that fishing done here in the U.S. and abroad are in fact sustainable. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act first passed in 1976 aims to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, increase long-term economic and social benefits, and ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood.

The Magnuson Act regulates domestic fisheries through eight regional councils made up of scientists, academic experts, fishermen, fisheries, and everyday citizens. Under the Act, NOAA conducts stock assessments to analyze fish populations. The data collected helps these councils plan to regulate how many fish and what types of fish can be caught by fisheries in the U.S.

Are fish populations in danger?

“I think we are moving towards being okay,” says Alan Risenhoover, the director of NOAA Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries. “We have fishing efforts under control. We are always working to keep a sustainable population. In the US, we are doing very good.”

Environmental organizations like Wild Oceans work with NOAA to ensure that laws and regulations are created with the ecosystem, and not just the fishing market, in mind. Ken Hinman is most worried about the damage that can be done to the ocean if fishing methods are not monitored.

“We change the balance, and once that happens, fish may not find a spot in the ecosystem,” explains Hinman. “We have seen that in Chesapeake Bay with forage fish. Fish like striped bass have dwindled, people have had to switch to other types of fish. Then those numbers start falling, and they move to another fish. Most people do not understand, and even when we do, it’s not something we can reverse because it’s a complicated system that has developed over millennia.”

Hinman and Yurdagul do agree on one thing: it is the consumer’s responsibility to do some research about their food. Customers should know about the quality of their fish and, if possible, the means by which it was caught. With the Internet readily available to almost everyone, reviews, reports, and data are at customers’ fingertips. Customers can choose to frequent sushi restaurants that advocate responsible fishing practices and take pride in the quality they serve, like Sushi Capitol.

“If you choose to eat something new or different, like sushi, then you should do it right and learn about it,” says Yurdagul, “your understanding and enjoyment of that course will increase exponentially next time you eat sushi.”

Back at Sushi Capitol, Yurdagul and his team is ready for the next wave of hungry customers to walk in to the cozy restaurant to get their sushi fix. The experienced sushi chefs are ready to create Instagram-worthy dishes full of vibrant colors and textures. The phone rings—yes, Sushi Capitol does accept reservations. Soon, the restaurant will be packed with customers who have done their own research on where to get the best sushi in town and probably dreamt about the menu the same way Jiro does about his own creations in Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Whether or not sushi is the best thing to come to the U.S. since pizza and tacos is objective. What is for certain, however, is that the careful balance between preservation of the ocean’s fish and providing a hungry market with sushi cuisine must be constantly monitored by government agencies like NOAA and environmental groups like Wild Oceans.

“Here’s the whole big picture,” says Hinman, “the cost of the fish on your plate is more than you think.”

Food Factory: Where Delicious Food Exists

George Washington graduate student Ahmed Hassan, American University sophomore John Leo and senior Ali Muhamed stand in front of Food Factory on Saturday Jan 24. Food Factory is known for Mediterranean Cuisine. (Photo courtesy of Ali Muhamed)

George Washington graduate student Ahmed Hassan, American University sophomore John Leo and senior Ali Mohamed stand in front of Food Factory on Saturday Jan 24. Food Factory is known for Mediterranean Cuisine. (Photo courtesy of Ali Mohamed)

If your mouth waters for savory kebab, delectable gyros or tasty wraps, then look no further. Food Factory is the perfect place for you. Bringing South Asia and Middle Eastern flavors to the table, the restaurant features kebabs, buffet, wraps, salads and more.

Located at 8145 Baltimore Ave, College Park, MD 20740, the restaurant is within easy walking distance of the University of Maryland, as well as a number of professional institutions in the laid-back vicinity.

The neighborhood is like no other; it houses a myriad of fine shops and ethnic restaurants that provide cuisine from around the world. A sizable parking lot in front of the restaurant allows for a convenient commute, and from there you can see a few people walking their dogs around and some cars driving past.

At first glance, the restaurant, founded in 1994, seems Indian due to the complexion and the physical traits of its workers, most of whom are actually Pakistani. Another glance will offer a view of patrons sitting on green chairs, devouring the delicious food while chitchatting with those accompanying them. It is this peaceful milieu that makes Food Factory a perfect destination for families or couples.

With word-of-mouth advertising, the restaurant stands the test of time on account of its high quality food, affordability and its aura of friendliness. Besides food, the restaurant provides free WiFi, and the spacious dining area is surrounded with a number of oriental paintings on the wall, making it a great cultural venue for customers to hang out or hold social events like parties or birthday celebrations.

Situated in a beautifully-landscaped neighborhood lined with well-groomed trees that conjure up images of peace and tranquility, the restaurant is a perfect spot for employees on the run, families or visitors who want to have a break and enjoy an affordable delicious meal.

Students also get a discount as per the official menu. The restaurant was bustling with families and students who came to have lunch and make optimal use of the special daily buffet.

“All what you can eat for $7.99” is the most popular offer the restaurant is best known for.

“$7.99 is reasonable and you cannot find it anywhere. We are economical. We haven’t raised the price for customers for quite a while,” said Mr. Mohammad Javaid, the restaurant co-owner, originally from Pakistan.

Just unleash the hungry person inside you and enjoy the different options provided at the buffet. Eat and refill as many times as you want. Nothing could be more delicious than chunks of lamb and chicken kebab marinated in special herbs and spices served with salad, garlic sauce and naan bread. If you are a vegetarian, there are also some dishes and sandwiches from which to choose.

Once you are there, it will be hard for you to walk away before trying all what the place has to offer.

As the name Food Factory suggests, the restaurant is like a factory that provides dine-in, take-out, catering services and food options that satisfy all tastes. Appetizers, kebabs, side orders, weekend specials, wraps, gyros and drinks are just some of the options on the menu.

Their signature dish is South Asian Kebab, which is not very different from the Mediterranean/Levantine one. The recipe and the Middle Eastern spices and herbs are almost the same, but the bread they have is different.

“We are known for our Persian or Afghan kebab and naan bread,” Mr. Javaid explained.

Kebab is a staple diet in the Muslim world and naan is flat leavened South Asian bread, made of white flour and baked in a clay oven. A visit to the food factory is not complete without trying their delicious desserts, especially for anyone with a sweet tooth. The baklava is not only the most popular dessert, but the most affordable as well.

With profits in mind, the restaurant still has a sublime mission.

“We want to make it affordable for everyone,” Mr. Javaid maintained.

As such, a meal at Food Factory could cost something between 6 to 12 dollars. Yet, be ready for a farm-to-fork dining experience and healthy meal, for all ingredients are fresh, and all kebabs are cooked or broiled on a skewer over charcoal.

“We provide healthy natural food. Whatever we have is fresh. Kebab is charbroiled, not fried,” Mr. Javaid pinpointed, “Our motto is fresh, affordable and healthy Asian cuisine.”

Although the food is more Asian, many customers think of it is Middle Eastern. Interestingly enough, more Middle Easterners dine at the restaurant than any other ethnicity according to Mr. Javaid.  This made the place a cultural melting pot where you can meet people of different backgrounds.

For instance, Ahmed Hassan, an Egyptian graduate student at George Washington University, is an avid foodie.

After his first visit, he put it as such, “I must visit this place again – the food is out of this world and the people are super friendly. For me, the place is a miniature of Middle Eastern restaurants. Honestly, it feels like home.”

Abdullah Al-Hammadi, a Kuwaiti sophomore at American University majoring in economics, echoed the same impression.

“I have been to many kebab restaurants in DC and beyond but this one is the cheapest and the best. And the food is halal, too.”

On another level, John Leo, a junior at American University, has been a regular customer there.

“I first knew the place when I was working in a job nearby. My colleagues were Persians and they recommended me to try this place. Since then, it has become my favorite spot for lunch,” said John, “I usually go to Food Factory because of the quality of the food which is rich in flavor and Middle Eastern pulse. It is also near to where I live.”

Accordingly, it is safe to say that if you try their food once, you will be a regular customer.

Food factory is a must-go lunch and dinner spot for locals, students, employees or families. With its wide variety of dishes and reasonable prices, Food Factory is here to stay. So, next time you want to try a new cuisine, go there, satisfy your hunger, feed your appetite and have the meal of a lifetime. But be warned: it is addicting!

The Salad Days Will Never Die

On January 30th, a little past 9 p.m, a line streamed alongside a trendy taqueria and falafel shop waiting to enter The Black Cat, a staple concert venue in Washington, D.C’s U Street Corridor. The crowd seemed dissimilar as people in cable knit sweaters stood next to some clad in studded and patched denim jackets, but all seamlessly shuffled in. On the venue’s second floor, the stage was retrofitted to become a movie theatre, with over sixteen rows of chairs set in front of a simple projector and screen. Within minutes, all of the seats filled up. Viewers waited while perusing drinks at the bar as lagging attendees happily hopped onto bar stools and pinned themselves to the walls.

“I’m here with a buddy from Arlington who worked at Dischord. He’s been a punk for a long time,” says Dave, 39, originally from Kentucky who moved to Petsworth, D.C. “This stuff was earlier than my time, but its fun to see footage of what I learned about after it happened.”

Dave, along with about two hundred others, came to see “Salad Days: The DC Punk Revolution, at its fifth screening in Washington, and its second at the Black Cat. The film focuses on the Washington punk scene in the late 1970’s through 80’s. Among personal concert tapings, the film features interviews with “scensters” from Fugazi, SOA, Minor Threats, and those who were inspired from it, such as Dave Grohl from Nirvana and the Foo Fighters.

Washington’s punk youth came from a different childhood than its punk contemporaries in other cities such as New York and London, which were working class and a result of long music scene lineage. Washington was, and still is, a white collar town, where government is the industry, and its educated children were of lawyers, politicians, and lobbyists.

“In D.C, there is no rock and roll industry to speak of,” says Ian Mackaye of Minor Threats, Fugazi, and a creator of Dischord Records, a label that released most of the time’s local emerging talents, in the film. “In this town, the canopy is Government.” Soon, a class of youth culminated from a deprivation of an established music scene. Individuals grabbed their friends, started bands, labels, and began playing shows in Georgetown, themselves.

“These kids came from a city that had no music industry and just started to create things,” says Scott Crawford, the film’s director. Since D.C is a smaller city, and by default its underground scene even smaller, bands shared similar styles, sounds, and some musicians even rotated between bands. The sentiment that quality of musicianship didn’t matter, but the act of playing is more important, wove throughout the movement, and made creating art less intimidating for new comers.

The Washington punk scene, at it’s fundamental form, really only existed for a couple of years with few members. Soon pivotal bands like Bad Brains fused punk spirit with soul, and a new genre, emotional-punk rock surfaced, changing how the scene phonically sounded. However the do-it-yourself ethos persisted. The punk scene’s founders set a stage that inspired other artists to not wait for an art culture, but to make art themselves. The nature of DIY is transient, and the punk scene’s music was just as transient as its surrounding culture.

Music will always change, and the film finely balances sepia toned nostalgia and broader themes of the punk scene’s influence, not just how great the time was. The film allows some to reminisce and others to appreciate a transformative era. Also, of course the film jams so music produced in the scene, which the crowd deeply appreciated. (So much so, that the Black Cat simultaneously hosted a punk rock karaoke night on the first floor while the film showed.) Crawford, didn’t want the film to come across as an homage of a scene too steeped in its own connotation. “I didn’t want this to be a bunch of people looking back as if the glory days had already happened…as if talking to a bunch of people in their forties talking about their high school football career. I wanted to steer clear of that line of questioning.”

Just like the movement’s legacy itself, the film makes the punk movement tangible, but doesn’t induce a feeling that viewers missed out on something that will never exist again. There is a huge nod to the future, and the youth that existed forty years ago, still exist today. Monumental D.C music clubs that are featured in the film such as the 9:30 Club, are extremely different now, and others such as d.c space have since closed, but out of necessity, the new generation has created their own places.

“There are a lot of house concerts…there are bunch of clubs, but if you’re just starting out, there aren’t that many,” Crawford mentions. “That really has the same spirit of ‘fuck it we will create our own network’ and that’s what is happening right now in D.C. People are still starting labels and their own music.”

Salad Days, is an important reminder of Washington’s original spirit and the powerful strength that lays in youth. It is a film that doesn’t encourage further lamenting on days past, but to explore and find your own underground scenes. Clearly this message has resonated way passed the immediate Washington D.C community. Scott, and his partner Jim Saah, set up a Kickstarter to raise $32,000 to aid production costs. They reached their goal in six days from over 980 backers spanning from Germany, Russia, Brazil, and all over the U.S who understand the importance of documenting this movement. The film will venture off to various theatres domestically in places such as Oakland, New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, six more festivals globally, and more music festivals this summer. “Then I can sleep,” Crawford says.