The New D.C. From The Outside Looking In (Part 2)

Akil Watson

Written by Akil Watson……

Looking Back On a 2017 D.C. From Japan (part 2 of 2)

So, it has been about a few weeks since I have left America. As I mentioned before it had been 4 years since my previous visit and boy did I feel like a tourist. In my previous post, I expressed some concern about how a 2017 America would receive me (and vice versa), but I was pleased to find that the things that matter the most to me (the bond with friends and family) were exactly how I left them. 

I did find that there were many things that had changed about the area, some good and others not so much. To be honest, driving around the city I had to consciously focus on the road because everywhere I turned there was something new I hadn’t seen before. Washington DC has literally gotten a facelift. An example I mentioned in my previous post is Dunbar High School. The pristine building I gawked at from my rental car was a microcosm of what Washington D.C. It is a place that bears familiar names, but completely new sights, sounds….and construction.

As I mentioned previously there were several questions I had that got answered on this trip (and surprisingly, no unexpected ones):

What does a 2017 D.C. (and America) look like?

When I arrived I was met with “the new urban America” as I like to call it. As far as I can see, this change has taken place mainly along financial lines. I don’t mean to discredit racial inequality at all by saying this. However, I do see that the way America (and the rest of the world) is moving has changed. Money has moved back into the cities of America. I have heard and read about it for years, but this was my first time seeing it in all of its glory. 

How are my people finding their place in the new D.C. socially and economically?

It pains me to say this but I get the feeling that the middle is being squeezed out all across the developed world, not just in America. I wondered if working-class America as we know it is on its way out before my trip and I got the feeling that it is.

The good news is that the playing field has been leveled and the past barriers to entry are being left null in void by technology. This means that everyone has a fairly equal shot at success regardless or social or economic factors.

You might say “you don’t know the struggle Akil!”, but please think of it from a different perspective. I am an illiterate immigrant trying to get a business going halfway across the world. Technology has allowed me to get this far and I am just getting warmed up. I am just encouraging you to take advantage of the opportunity while it is here. The internet is still the Wild West. The difference is that now there is a digital infrastructure to help you get where you want to go. Mustering the courage to pursue my American dream here in Japan has taught me that the only excuses are in the mind, so I stopped thinking of them. With the power of tech, you can train yourself, execute, and promote your ideas without relying on any “gatekeepers”. I’ll quote a line from a conversation I had with my uncle “either you roll with change or get rolled over by it”. Now more than ever the choice is yours. 

Has the flavor of the city disappeared, been marginalized, or just relocated?

If Washington D.C. were a rich hot cocoa in the past, it now tastes more like a cafe mocha with lots of milk and a few chocolate shavings on the top. With that said I spend most of my time in N.E. and surrounding PG county, so take that with a grain of salt. 

What are the positive results of this change?

On a positive note, the city felt remixed and revitalized by all of the new construction and business. My father is in the construction industry and in my teenage years, I spent quite a few summers with my hands dirty and blistered. It felt good to see jobs prevalent in the industry that literally raised me. Of course, I would like to see the African American community take a larger part in this change at the highest levels, but I understand that is easier to say as an outside observer. 

Is D.C. still my home or has it become the place where I grew up?

After this trip, I can openly say that I’m from Washington D.C., but Tokyo is my home. That doesn’t mean that my feelings for the people that I grew up with and my family have changed at all. Actually, the love that I have for the Nation’s Capital and it’s people has grown stronger. However, strangely, those feelings have changed to appreciation and gratitude for them being who they are (not sure if that makes sense). On this trip, I definitely learned that love is love no matter where you lay your head, and home truly where the heart is. In that sense, I guess I now have two.

To wrap up, I was so pleased to feel the pulse of the city still thumping strongly. The rhythm is really different than what I remember, but it still flows in the hearts and minds of people who make Chocolate City what it is. I’m really interested to see what will happen as we move forward as a people and a city. 

On this trip, I also came to terms with the fact that helping shape the future of the city is out of my hands for the time being. My battle is being waged in the Far East. I wish you luck in making D.C. a better place, and I’m looking forward to what the future lies for my hometown.

Lastly, I’d like to pass on a few books that have helped me out immensely over the past few years. I was not a reader until recently, but a successful mentor of mine put me on to these books and others a while ago. Reading them (over and over) has really transformed me, and changed my surroundings and circles. I hope they can help you to transform D.C. into the new and improved Chocolate City:

The Magic of Thinking Big

The Law of Successes In 16 Lessons (the 1925 edition)

The Magic of Believing

The New Psycho-Cybernetics

How to Win Friends and Influence People

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie

Catch you all on my next trip to D.C. or your first trip to Japan,



You can follow Akil on:

Japan According To Akil Podcast

Instagram @akil.watson

Twitter @akil_watson_jp

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