By Arthur Delaney - 02/28/07 08:10 AM EST
All Shauna Anderson wants to do is sell pork offal. But the Maryland government, she says, is giving her beef.
Anderson, owner of the Chitlin Market in Hyattsville, Md., and self-anointed “Queen of Chitlins,” purchased ad space this month in the Washington City Paper and the Washington Informer to expose “a terrible miscarriage of justice” committed against her by various Maryland municipalities. The Informer ad alleges that a member of the Prince George’s County Council hired a “relentless and dangerous” stalker to run her chitlins out of town.
“I think I’m gonna die from this,” says Anderson, who claims to have moved back to Northeast D.C. out of fear for her life. “I’m on the verge of bankruptcy now.”
HillScape alerted Prince George’s County Councilmember Will Campos to the advertisement. It blew his mind.
“I’m the councilmember who approved that market!” says Campos, flabbergasted. Indeed, Campos’s name is on a February 2006 council document approving Anderson’s plans for a sit-down restaurant with incidental carryout — a second location where Chitlin Market customers could pick up orders online. Campos says he’s had no interaction with Anderson’s chitlin enterprise since that approval.
But in September, Anderson received a letter from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission informing her that the strip on which she’d been planning to set up shop had been re-zoned. It would be residential-only, meaning no chitlins.
Campos, who represents Hyattsville on the County Council, seems earnestly baffled by the claims in Anderson’s advertisements. He says the ruinous re-zoning might have been an oversight and his lawyers are looking into it.
“I wish she had brought this to my attention when it happened” instead of railing on the Maryland government in newspaper advertisements, Campos says.
Anderson sees the re-zoning not as a mistake, but as part of a sustained government conspiracy to evict chitlins from Prince George’s County.
Chitlins, formally known as “chitterlings,” are made from the large intestine of a pig. It’s a Southern thing. And it’s a cultural thing — Anderson says a key moment in the development of her conspiracy theory came last April, when Peter Shapiro, a former county councilmember, told the The Washington Post how outraged he was that ABC’s “Commander in Chief” had used a storefront advertising chitlins to depict poverty in Hyattsville, which actually is a wealthier part of the state.
The chitlins store became a prop for ABC’s “stereotype of a poor, dangerous black neighborhood,” Shapiro is quoted as saying. Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson denounced the show in a statement: “When the president [in] the show gets out of a car and is in front of a restaurant that advertises chitlins and pork chops in today’s America, what any right-thinking American knows is we are harking back to an age-old inability of this country to celebrate the leadership and achievement of African-Americans and other diverse people in this country.”
It’s true that ABC stooped to a stereotype. But you can’t blame Anderson for being unnerved by the official indignation, considering that her chitlin market is in Hyattsville, and that many people might consider her a successful African-American entrepreneur. Most of her business is conducted over the Internet.
“What they don’t realize is the power of the chitlin business,” Anderson says. “Did you know I have 10,000 worldwide customers?”
Federal City Shelter in midst of $6M upgrade
With all the massive government buildings surrounding the Federal City Shelter at 2nd and D streets N.W. — the largest homeless shelter in the United States — you’d think a lot of oversight and accountability would explain its long existence. And you’d be wrong!
The Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), a homelessness activist group that had set up soup kitchens and free clinics since 1972, moved into the Federal City building on a temporary basis after losing access to its nearby site in 1983. CCNV’s concept for the Federal City facility was novel and endearing: a shelter run by its own homeless residents.
Not wanting to lose the building after its temporary permit expired in 1984, CCNV’s Mitch Snyder starved himself for 51 days, forcing the Reagan administration to let them stay — a big-time coup.
The place has had its ups and downs since then. There have been major scandals, petty murders — and in 1990 Snyder committed suicide. Other homelessness-related service providers, such as Clean and Sober Streets and D.C. Central Kitchen, now occupy parts of the building.
This time last year, the place was badly in need of renovation, and CCNV was receiving no money whatsoever from the D.C. government. The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the non-profit responsible for doling out government money to CCNV for case management for CCNV residents, withheld funds as a series of non-resident board members resigned in disgust. It seemed the Mitch Snyder model of a shelter run by homeless people left an organization impervious to outside oversight. Anthony Norman, a non-resident board member, resigned in frustration, citing “professional homeless people” who’d been there for years. He called the place a homeless “hustle” and “fiefdom.”
But now there are signs that mainstream government involvement is on the way. The $6 million allotted for renovation have finally resulted in some actual renovation — entire wings are being redone. Three-hundred-dollar trashcans from the Department of Health line hallways with newly plastered walls.
And Mayor Adrian Fenty has visited the place twice in the last three weeks — the first mayoral visits in eight years, says CCNV’s executive director Abdul Nurriddin.
I dropped in on CCNV unannounced last week, and Nurriddin was kind enough to sit down with me. One of the less-stable residents was busting her chops, rambling about how she’d been raped and murdered. He told her they’d talk later. In the meantime he gave me a mini-tour of the place.
Nurriddin lived at CCNV for years when he was a member of the CCNV board in 2006. He’s since moved out and become the shelter’s first non-resident director. And for the first time the shelter has non-resident staff members. Though he welcomes the modest increase in outside oversight, Nurriddin still stands up for a basic tenet of the place’s original vision:
“The whole concept that a homeless person can’t do anything is completely crazy,” he said.
D.C. GOP: In to win
In the special election to fill D.C. Council chairman Vincent Gray’s vacated Ward 7 seat, the D.C. Republican Party finds itself in precisely the situation it needs for an against-all-odds victory. There are 19 other candidates besides Republican nominee Marcus Skelton. Normally a Republican would have no chance whatsoever in any ward election, but with such a wide field of candidates and a single man soaking up all the Republican votes, Skelton could conceivably eke out a victory with as little as 10 percent of the vote.
“It definitely helps,” Skelton says.
“It’s a good situation for us,” says D.C. Republican Party Chairman Bob Kabel. “It’s a race Marcus could possibly win.”
You may recall that the HillScape Crystal Ball foresaw this bizarro scenario back in December.