Washington Post reporter Hamil Harris reported today that the Obama family attended Easter church services at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is located in Ward 8 and near the Skyland Shopping Center.
The headline, "Obama celebrates Easter service near site of D.C. shootings," makes it sound like the church is very close to the site of the shootings that happened March 30. I don't want to delve too deeply into what is considered "near" and what isn't within the context of Washington, DC, but let's take the headline and story for their word and assume that we can define the distance between these two happenings as "nearby."
View Easter service in a larger map
Look at the map above. The straight-line distance between the church on Alabama Avenue SE and the site of the shootings on South Capitol Street is approximately 2.7 miles. Anyone who's familiar with the District knows that's a long distance to consider close. DC is not a suburban or rural area. For comparison, I noted the distance from my block to the White House. It also happens to be 2.7 miles. So, if anything happens at the White House, should I assume that the events are meant to be symbolically tied to Trinidad? Of course not.
The point here I believe is one of familiarity. If one lives in Cleveland Park, they likely think of the National Cathedral as "nearby," but not Petworth. Yet the two neighborhoods are just as close as Allen Chapel AME and South Capitol Street running through Bellevue and Washington Highlands.
In a great guest post at Congress Heights on the Rise, author Ambergris writes about the problem that comes from unfamiliarity with the neighborhoods in Southeast DC. I would recommend that all local news organizations read this open letter. While the Washington Post appears to be doing a better job of identifying neighborhoods around the city instead of simply falling into the lazy trap of only identifying a city quadrant, there is still a long way to go.