D.C. Natives Day Founders Encourage the Community at Broccoli Talk

May 22, 2019
Tony Lewis Jr. and Angel Gregorio talked the importance of preserving the D.C. native.

Photo by Cameron Jenkins

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By Cameron Jenkins

As Happy Hour began to wind down Tuesday night at Broccoli Bar in Northeast Washington, D.C., the usual carefree atmosphere was replaced by a more serious tone.

Locals and natives alike slowly trickled into the establishment to enjoy &pizza, a good drink and a side of community impact. 

At around 8 p.m.. Broccoli Talk, a series of talks hosted by Brittany Johnson with the purpose of educating and empowering the community, welcomed the founders of D.C. Natives Day, Tony Lewis Jr. and Angel Gregorio, as its latest guests.

Related: D.C. Natives Day Will Celebrate the Culture and the People

The interview-style talk opened up by addressing the impact of an idea that snowballed from Joe Clair tagging Lewis in a Washingtonian instagram post -- that was part of a larger social media campaign that did not feature one black person -- into a recognized holiday and movement.

"When you get angry, when you get frustrated, when you feel some type of way, do something," Gregorio emplored the audience.

And that's just what they did. Their quick acting, they told the audience, resulted in a meeting with the editor of the Washingtonian, an increase in native stories being represented within the magazine and a platform to address social injustice within the city.

 Related: Here's How to Celebrate D.C. Natives Day

"This is not anti anybody," Lewis said. "[Natives] are the only ones not thriving. Ultimately this affects all of us."

They hope to use D.C. Natives Day as leverage with legislators and expressed the need to advocate for rent control and to work with local business owners in the area.

"You don't have to have all of the answers. Just align with the right people." Gregorio said.

They discussed the next steps past natives day, including taking action by sharing experiences, allowing the youth to see outside of their circumstances, providing them the tools to excel and bring the neighborhood up with them and encouraging people to participate in the political process.

"What I take pride from is there's young people all around the city that can look to us and say 'they're just like me', " Lewis said.

Questions were taken from the audience on how to buy back the block, advocate for more resources, and include non-natives in the solution.

"D.C. Natives Day is really about what you're saying," Lewis told an audience member. "That you have value and that the city is responsible to provide certain resources and services to you just like everybody else."

He explained how growing up disenfranchised becomes engrained in people, resulting in them not demanding more of their local government or not being aware of the process to do so.

Another audience member, who is not from D.C., expressed her desire for new residents to involve themselves in the communites they are entering.

"My challenge is people that's not from D.C., don't separate yourself from the movement," she said. "What Angel and Tony is doing is really setting a precident for all major cities around the U.S. Yeah we may not have the capital but we have a voice."

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