A LIFESTYLE + ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE JUNE 2020
D.C. LOOKS AHEAD
LGBTQ LUMINARIES FEMME FATALE DC STAYS CONNECTED PRIDE GOES VIRTUAL
OUTDOOR REC ETIQUETTE AT-HOME WINE SCHOOL BABIES OR BREAK-UPS ACCESSIBLE ARTS PANTRY PICKS
SHOP LOCAL CLEAN GREENER SAVE OUR STAGES
CONNECT WITH FRIENDS AND MAKE NEW ONES. We are on a mission to make fun possible. Join us at DCFRAY.COM/VIRTUALCOMMUNITY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
RADAR 4 Homespun 6 Calendar: Stir-Crazy Edition
CULTURE 31 Femme Fatale DC’s Cee Smith + Adriana Mendoza 34 Virtual Pride in D.C. 40 Fine Arts Patronage
9 DIY Oyster Roasts 14 Local Pantry Picks 16 Reconnecting the Food Supply Chain
DRINK 21 Sommelier Support 23 At-Home Wine School 25 Booze Free in DC
MUSIC 27 Save Our Stages
43 Performing Arts Plan Ahead
LIFE 45 Babies or Break-ups 47 Parenting Resources 50 Green Cleaning 59 In Other Words
ROBERT KINSLER Publisher MONICA ALFORD Editor-in-Chief TRENT JOHNSON Deputy Editor M.K. KOSZYCKI Assistant Editor JULIA GOLDBERG Editorial Designer TOM ROTH Key Account Manager
53 Outdoor Etiquette 55 Washington Spirit’s Ashley Sanchez
Photo of Femme Fatale DC’s Adriana Mendoza + Cee Smith. Photo by Monica Alford.
WRITERS Kelsey Cochran Lani Furbank Keith Loria Courtney Sexton
56 Crossword Puzzle 58 Chuck Brown Connect the Dots
ARTISTS E$ // Eric Dolgas James Coreas COVER SUBJECTS Femme Fatale DC’s Cee Smith + Adriana Mendoza COVER PHOTOGRAPHER Tony Powell www.tony-powell.com MAKEUP ARTIST Carola Myers www.carolamyers.com
| JUNE 2020
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
D.C. LOOKS AHEAD. While we begin to wrap our heads around what life in the DMV looks like as restrictions are lifted and we cautiously enter the next phase of our new normal, we remain acutely aware of the challenges ahead. At a time when the District, and our nation as a whole, is reeling not only from the pandemic but from rampant racial injustice, it feels fitting to focus on safe, inclusive spaces in the city in our June issue. Now is the time to stand in solidarity as a community, and highlight the local luminaries creating platforms that allow us to stand together and support those who need us most. When I entered Femme Fatale DC’s current location downtown in May for our first social distancing cover shoot, I immediately felt at home. CEO Cee Smith and COO Adriana Mendoza opened their doors to my team, and as we explored the space and navigated how to communicate effectively with our masks on, I had the overwhelming sense that we were among friends. With each nook that our visionary photographer Tony Powell picked for the dynamic pair to sit or stand in, we heard more of their story and why they crafted this platform for women creatives and entrepreneurs. I also had the chance to sit down with them again several days later to ask more in-depth questions about what brought them together, how they’re pivoting during Covid, and the responsibility they feel as leaders in the LGBTQ community to act as a voice for all women and tap into the right resources to help those they serve. Smith and Mendoza are just two of many locals we spoke with for our June issue to take their temperature on what’s next for our city and the ways we can work together to rebuild. Trent Johnson spoke with many members of the LGBTQ community about how they’re celebrating Pride virtually during the pandemic. He picked the brains of Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, Queer Artist Collective Founder and TRADE Manager Aaron Riggins, Makers Lab Director of Programming Patience Rowe, and SMYAL Director of Youth Housing and Programming Jorge Membreño, among others including drag queens, DJs and business owners. Behind the scenes at our June cover shoot at Femme Fatale DC. Photo by Monica Alford.
We also chatted with City Kids Program Director Monique Dailey, up-and-coming rapper Dayon Greene, Booze Free in DC Founder Laura Silverman, Washington Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez and other D.C. area notables making an impact and finding creative ways to stay connected. Our team also took some deeper dives into how our lives have changed over the past few months. Courtney Sexton interviewed locals about sex (or lack thereof) and relationships during the pandemic, how to support the fine arts community, and Tail Up Goat’s at-home wine school. Kelsey Cochran tackled the subject of outdoor etiquette and spoke with sommeliers about their plans for the future. M.K. Koszycki wrote about saving our independent music venues and resources for parents striving to keep their kids engaged, and Keith Loria reported on how performing arts institutions are planning their next season. Lani Furbank covered everything from DIY oyster roasts and reconnecting the food supply chain to local grocery delivery options and ways to reduce waste in your cleaning routine. Plus, illustrator E$’s creative interpretation of how we all feel like bustin’ loose, another music-themed crossword from our friends at I.M.P. and our latest roundup of virtaul events to keep you from going stircrazy. As always, thank you for reading.
MONICA ALFORD EDITOR-IN-CHIEF DISTRICT FRAY |
HOMESPUN | STIR-CRAZY
WORDS BY TRENT JOHNSON
HOMESPUN | RADAR
“WHO AM I?” I’m not asking, Dayon Greene is. Not in real life, because you haven’t met him. No one’s really meeting anyone right now, aside from the exchanges of pleasantries via Zoom or through chats on Instagram Live. But even those interactions are captured on a series of screens. Greene asks “Who am I?” on his Instagram account’s tagline. It’s not a query so much as an invitation to get to know him. The answer would have been different this time last year, at least professionally. He used to be known as The Experience, a flashy moniker that promised exactly what you’d expect: an experience. In 2019, he had no issues delivering, whether through catchy hiphop married with R&B and funk on his L.A.-inspired EP All For You? or on his more aggro, rhyme-heavy two-song EXP Pack 1. Musical stylings come naturally for the almost 26-year-old, as he grew up singing in church choirs and attending his dad’s go-go concerts. It’s personal, ingrained in his DNA. The phrase “The Experience,” however, is impersonal. Greene’s latest project no longer leads with this promise. Instead, his new album, out on June 24, is simply titled Me. With no other words or nicknames to hide behind, he isn’t promising anything but himself: Dayon Greene. “It’s a fully thought-out representation of who I am as a person, how much I’ve grown from The Experience to me now. I think it’s just a body of work that speaks to what I’ve been through, personal stories about ups and downs. You hear me talk about family. I’m a pretty private person, but there’s [depth] there. I no longer want to be pigeonholed by a name. I want to be who I am.”
SO, WHO IS HE? Greene is a DMV native who grew up exploring the respective scenes of D.C. proper and Prince George’s County, Maryland. His dad, who he calls “Pops” throughout the interview, played with a number of go-go bands in the area and also owns a local barber shop. There, Greene heard hip-hop music and go-go covers of rap songs, which piqued his interest. However, the genre fully grabbed him while away from D.C. on a trip to Atlanta, sitting in a tinted minivan complete with rims and a PlayStation setup in the backseat. “My godfather was the manager for [‘90s rap group] Section 8 Mob. I was always around them, and one day, we drove to Atlanta down to a big mansion [where] they had a studio in the basement. There were probably 20 people in there smoking weed and drinking. I probably shouldn’t have been there. I was there for a couple of seconds, and there was a Jamaican guy in the booth just rapping. I’ll never forget it. I loved the music and seeing the lifestyle. These guys had full-scale basketball courts and Range Rovers, [and they were] just a group from D.C.” In middle school, Greene tried his young hands at go-go but gravitated toward athletics, particularly soccer and basketball. Even on teams, he was known as “the music guy.” Playlists for friends over here, mix CDs for friends over there. People who knew him then look at him now and simply say, “Makes sense.” Dayon Greene. Photo by Hasnain Bhatti // @hasnainbhattistudios.
I WANT TO
SHOWCASE WHY THE DMV IS SO TIGHT. As the region is in his blood, it overtly represents a heavy undercurrent throughout his catalog. From track to track, fellow locals each play a part in shaping and molding the final sounds – from producers to engineers to featured artists. Greene isn’t shy about enlisting the help of other locals for his songs, often on the lookout for collaborators with the mindset of a hungry talent agent. He wants the DMV to shine in his music. It’s a prerequisite. “I always talk about this: I feel like you have to win your city,” he says with a mix of hope and pride. “Your city has to be behind you wholeheartedly. You look at Drake, he has all of Toronto behind him. You look at Kendrick [Lamar], he has all of L.A. behind him. Look at Nipsey [Hussle], how big of a legend he was because L.A. rocked so hard for [him]. I want to showcase why the DMV is so tight. We’re getting a mainstream push, but at the same time, it’s still not where I would like it to be. It’s organic. That’s what comes out.” Greene says the bulk of Me began bubbling to the surface six to eight months ago, before quarantine and his stage name change, at a time when he began to dig internally toward subject matter and material he felt compelled to pen. Some lyrics reflect moments of insecurity, despair and melancholy, but this record does more than beat you up and wring you out. “I went through a breakup at the beginning stages of making this record,” Greene says. “For a long time, I was in a really dark place, and I talk about that in the intro of the project. I think a huge part of my music is to give you a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not trying to put you there and keep you there. You’re going to make it through this.” This checks out. Greene is a positive and thoughtful guy. When I ask him about social distancing, he brushes it off. “Quarantine is cool.” Instead of dwelling on music video cancellations, tour delays and being forced to complete his album remotely, he busies his mind with cooking, exercise and his weekly “Creating Through the Quarantine” series on Instagram Live, where he interviews other creatives, makes beats and tries anything else that feels right in the moment. “I’ve picked up that a lot of us are in the same mental space. I ask [interviewees] how they are staying creative. They all miss the human aspects of being around people, and utilizing different senses that we might not use as much from the house.” Maybe there’s no better time to rebrand than while stuck in quarantine, to focus inward in an attempt to shed the layers of a past moniker and emerge as an artist completely anew. He’s confident his new record will prove “life-changing.” When you see his tagline “Who am I?” on June 24, you’ll get your answer. “I think this is the album that is going to propel me to different levels as an artist,” he says. Follow Greene on Instagram @dayon.greene and Twitter @dayongreene. For more information about his music, check out www.linktr.ee/dayongreene. DISTRICT FRAY |
RADAR | STIR-CRAZY
As we enter yet another month of social distancing regulations, many social events once enjoyed in the real world have made the migration to online. Artist showcases, concerts, museum tours and even Pride events are coming to you live this month on your couch. Check out the latest iteration of Stir-Crazy Radar. WORDS BY KELSEY COCHRAN
6.1-7.30 Stretching Arms
Print and digital publication A Women’s Thing is featuring four female artists in the virtual exhibition “Stretching Arms.” This exhibition highlights artworks that provide reflection, empathy and self-compassion to viewers while establishing a community that transcends the isolation we are all currently faced with. Free to attend. www.awomensthing.org // @awomensthing
Our Time is Now
Stacey Abrams, who rose to national recognition during the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, joins Joy Reid for a virtual conversation via Sixth & I. Tune in to educate yourself on how to end voter suppression laws and empower yourself and community to take back the vote. A link to the program will be sent two hours before it begins at 7 p.m. Tickets $10. Receive a signed copy of Abram’s book Our Time is Now with your ticket for $33. www.sixthandi.org // @sixthandi
In honor of their annual campout Domefest, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will stream a unique digital music festival cleverly dubbed “Homefest.” Enjoy live music virtually by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and other artists still to be announced. Tickets start at $34.99. www.domefestival.com // @domefestofficial
| JUNE 2020
Ilana Glazer. Photo from www.sixthandi.org.
Covert Couch Challenge
The International Spy Museum is invading your home for family game night. Play with just your household, or invite friends and family to join from their own homes as you race to complete missions packed with code cracking, spy gadgets and disguises. The challenge takes place from 5-6 p.m. Tickets are $10 per household. www.spymuseum.org // @spymuseum
6.12 & 6.19 Union Market Drive-In
The drive-in at Union Market is back for its eighth season. Watch great films from the convenience of your car. There is a $15 parking fee per car, and advance purchase is highly recommended. For social distancing reasons, no walk-ups, bike-ups or picnickers are allowed. All guests must be in their vehicle at all times. All films are shown with open captions. Friday, June 5 film TBD, The Secret Life of Pets on Friday, June 12 and Men in Black on Friday, June 19. Lot opens 7:30 p.m. and closes promptly at 8:30 p.m., film begins 8:45 p.m. www.unionmarketdc.com // @unionmarketdc
gold home to you! Participate in teams of two to four players to conquer a quarantine scavenger hunt, flip cup, a brainiac trivia challenge and pong relay. Teams of two cost $30 to register, three players cost $36 and four players cost $40. Games begin at 12 p.m. www.dcfray.com // @dcfray
6.13 & 6.20 Porch Fest
Rhode Island Avenue Main Street is bringing the annual Porch Fest indoors. Livestream the two mini-festivals straight to your living room from 12-4 p.m. Everyone who joins is encouraged to donate to their Small Business Relief Fund. www.riamainstreet.org // @riamainstreet
Democracy with David Litt and Ilana Glazer
American political speechwriter and author of the comedic memoir Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years David Litt is joining Broad City star Ilana Glazer for a virtual conversation on the evolution of our democracy and what that means for you. A link to the program will be sent two hours before it begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Receive a signed copy of Litt’s new book Democracy: In One Book or Less with your ticket for $34. www.sixthandi.org // @sixthandi
DC Fray knows you’re bummed about the cancellation of the 2020 Olympics, and they are too. So, they’ve decided to bring the
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DISTRICT FRAY |
RADAR | STIR-CRAZY
Live from the Living Room
Be Steadwell joins a multitude of other artists for Strathmore’s Live from the Living Room series. This D.C.-based singer-songwriter recontextualizes the modern love song throug jazz, folk and acapella. Mark your calendar for this free online concert at 7:30 p.m. www.strathmore.org // @strathmorearts
Creative Writing Workshop
Strathmore’s final iteration of its creative writing workshop series, “Drafting the Personal Essay”will be hosted by Seema Reza. Author of the poetry collection A Constellation of HalfLives and memoir When the World Breaks Open, Reza encourages the use of the arts as a tool for reflection, self-care and communication, particularly among the military population struggling with emotional and physical trauma. A Zoom link will be emailed to participants prior to the event, registration closes 30 minutes before the session begins at 7 p.m. Free to attend. www.strathmore.org // @strathmorearts
Overflow Wine and Music Festival
The Overflow Wine and Music Festival has moved online. The inaugural event will have a lineup of local musicians and talks from local wineries and distilleries. Wine sellers, restaurants and crafters originally slated to be at the in-person event will be linked to the festival website so that patrons may still have access to their goods. Donations to support local charities through this event are appreciated but not required. www.stmarysnaacp.org // @overflowwinefestival
Guided Chocolate Tasting
This Father’s Day, join River-Sea Chocolates for a virtual guided tasting session pairing River-Sea chocolate with your favorite spirits. Participants will receive a tasting kit that includes individually wrapped mini chocolate bars and palate cleansing crackers. Choose from the 11 a.m., 2 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. slot. Tickets from $25.99. www.riverseachocolates.com // @riverseachocolates
Live from the Living Room
The Billboard-charting string player and vocalist Chelsey Green fuses traditional techniques with R&B, pop, soul, hip-hop, jazz and more. Don’t miss her Live from the Living Room concert, starting at 7:30 p.m. www.strathmore.org // @strathmorearts
Playwriting: Nuts and Bolts with Craig Lucas
Arena Stage is hosting a variety of masterclasses online focused on playwriting, acting, stage management and design scheduled through August. This month’s masterclass is taught by the award-winning playwright Craig Lucas. Lucas will provide 8
| JUNE 2020
the nuts and bolts of conceiving a new play and strategies for mapping your work. This class will be hosted on Zoom, and runs from 5-8 p.m. Free to attend. www.arenastage.org // @arenastage
ONGOING Art in Progress
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is highlighting different artists with an interview and demonstration in “Art in Progress.” Episodes air every Thursday at 7 p.m. on the Torpedo Factory Facebook page. www.torpedofactory.org // @torpedofactory
Capital Pride Reimagined
As all in-person gatherings are still unsafe to hold, Capital Pride is hosting Pride 2020 Reimagined. The new lineup includes ongoing monthly programs, such as virtual talks and dance parties, and potential events scheduled for the fall depending on social distancing requirements in the future. www.capitalpride.org // @capitalpridedc
DC Fray’s Virtual Community
Social distancing is hard, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Beat the struggles of isolation by connecting with others through shared experiences and fun virtual community events every day of the week with DC Fray. Check out their Monday Power Hour Socials, Tuesday Trivia, Wednesday Bingo, Thursday Book Club, Friday Quick Hits Trivia and more. Prices and times vary. www.dcfray.com // @dcfray
Every Saturday, DC Drag Brunch and DJ India will be hosting a virtual brunch starting at 11 a.m. Bring your drink of choice and your favorite brunch foods and join the party. Tickets $10. www.dragshowbrunch.com // @dcdragbrunch
Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today
As we spend more time alone, we might learn more about ourselves. One way people have always expressed themselves is through self-portraits. The exhibit Eye to I was on display at the National Portrait Gallery through August 2019, and now lives online on Google Arts and Culture. www.artsandculture.google.com // @googleartsandculture
Giant Panda Cam
In our absence, animals at the zoo are living their best lives. The news is full of penguins touring exhibits and eels video calling patrons. The National Zoo has live Panda Cams, where you can watch giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang as they play and run around. www.nationalzoo.si.edu // @smithsonianzoo
Rise, Rhyme and Read Online
Everyone’s favorite restaurant-bookstore-stage hybrid has gone virtual to host music, movement and storytelling activities on their Facebook Live. “Culture Queen” will lead the program promising to bring joy and inspiration to families. 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Free to attend. www.busboysandpoets.com // @busboysandpoets
SHUCKING DELICIOUS: HOW TO HOST AN OYSTER ROAST AT HOME Cope with the meat shortage. Boost your immune system. Reduce your carbon footprint. Support small local businesses. Can you name one thing you can do right now to accomplish all four of these admirable goals? I can. And it’s shucking delicious. WORDS BY LANI FURBANK DISTRICT FRAY |
EAT Oyster farming in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is a growing industry that creates jobs and plays a critical role in improving local water quality. “A single healthy adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons a day,” says Audrey Swanenberg, Chesapeake Oyster Alliance Manager with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). “They’re also incredibly important in terms of creating habitat for different types of fin fish, blue crabs.” The majority of these oysters are going to restaurants. When restaurants closed and pivoted to takeout due to Covid-19, oyster businesses saw their sales drop to zero and were left sitting on thousands of ready-to-eat oysters without a market. Swanenberg says this poses a number of challenges. Logistically, oysters left in the water for too long will grow past the ideal half shell size (making them less marketable) and can get stuck in cages. Financially, a lack of income prevents farmers from investing in oyster seed to start the next generation of oysters. Plus, if they can’t sell their inventory, there’s nowhere to put baby oysters, even if they do buy them. “There’s potential that there will be ramifications in years to come,” Swanenberg says. That’s where we come in. Many oyster farmers are turning directly to consumers to keep their businesses afloat. “They’ve had to pivot and come up with really creative delivery and shipping options,” Swanenberg says. “I really love this as an opportunity for people to begin to eat oysters at home again.” Now is your chance to be a hero and have a phenomenal meal: Host an oyster roast. You may not be able to gather a crowd, but you can still have a boatload of fun with a couple of close companions and a whole lot of oysters. Plus, it’s a sustainable and nutritious choice: “Oysters are the most climate beneficial meat that you can eat. They’re a lot less intensive than say, beef, or anything like that,” Swanenberg says. “They have a super high level of zinc... It’s a really high protein, low fat meat.” Hosting a roast is simpler than you think, and I’ve consulted bivalve buff Rob Rubba, of the forthcoming sustainabilityfocused restaurant Oyster Oyster, to break it down for you. Here’s everything you need to know to throw a shellfish shindig.
There’s never been a better opportunity to buy fresh oysters directly from the source, which is always Rubba’s preference. “That’s the option that people have right now. An average consumer can get directly from an oyster farm,” he says. Many oyster farmers are offering pickup, delivery and shipping options. Rappahannock Oyster Company in Virginia sells its oysters via their website and ships them to your door. Or, get them through ProFish (pickup and delivery) or Number 1 Sons (delivery). You can also pick up oysters at The Salt Line or other various locations around the DMV from Sapidus Farms. Visit www.cbf.org and search “oyster businesses” for a more comprehensive list of Virginia and Maryland oyster farms. Of course, if you’re planning to shuck raw oysters at home, you’ll need the proper equipment, namely a shucking knife, a thick kitchen towel and, for added protection, a shucking glove made of cutresistant material like rubber or chain mail. “I think they give people a lot of confidence, security,” Rubba says. “It’s like armor, literally.” Rubba is partnering with local oyster farms to offer an Oyster Oyster Home Shuck Kit complete with a dozen oysters, ramp 10 | JUNE 2020
GRILLED OYSTER SSAM
• 2 cups high-quality short grain rice • 2 heads butterhead lettuce (such as Bibb) • Ssamjang sauce (recipe follows) • Ginger-scallion sauce (recipe follows) • Sweet pickled daikon radish or other vegetables (homemade or store-bought) • 50 oysters, cleaned
Prepare ssamjang and ginger scallion sauces. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Separate the leaves of lettuce and wash thoroughly. Let dry in a colander. Arrange on a platter. Rinse and cook the short grain rice according to directions on the package or your rice cooker. Keep warm. Grill oysters according to the instructions in the “COOKING” section. Serve the lettuce, rice, sauces, pickled vegetables and grilled oysters (in the shell). Guests can pry open the oysters themselves (according to the directions in the “COOKING” section) and assemble the wraps with a leaf of lettuce, a few tablespoons of rice, a drizzle of one of the sauces, some pickled vegetables and one to two oysters.
For raw oysters on the half shell • 3 tablespoons soy sauce • 3 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar • 3 to 4 small shallots, minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve in a small ramekin alongside shucked oysters on the half shell over a platter of ice. SSAMJANG • 1/4 cup doenjang (soybean paste) • 2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean red chili paste) • 1 teaspoon honey • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar • 2 tablespoons avocado oil • 1 garlic clove, minced • 1 scallion, thinly sliced • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and adjust seasonings to taste. GINGER SCALLION • 2 tablespoons soy sauce • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar • 1/4 cup avocado oil • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil • 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and adjust seasonings to taste.
mignonette, a shucking knife, a kitchen towel and an instructional shucking printout. It’s available for pickup via Rubba’s pop-up, Scrappy’s Bagels, at Estadio. Rappahannock, Number 1 Sons, Sapidus Farms and The Salt Line also offer kits and shucking knives.
If you’re buying oysters in the shell, they’re alive, and they’re good as long as they are kept alive. Rappahannock’s FAQs say a week is a safe bet, but that they could live for up to a month if stored properly. A tightly closed shell is good, while an open shell is not. When you open the shell, there should be a briny liquid inside, known as liquor. If you find one that is dry when opened, toss it. Live oysters should be kept cold in the fridge or on ice (but not in standing water). To extend their life, store them cup-side down. Rappahannock says this takes the stress off the muscle that holds the shell together. Before storing and eating your oysters, you’ll want to clean off mud or debris by spraying them with a hose or running them under cold water in the sink. This is to prevent any unwanted particles from getting pushed into the shell as you shuck – especially for beginner shuckers. “It’s just cleaning the exterior,” Rubba says. “It’s not something like a clam where you need to worry about purging sand out of it.” Then, pop them in the fridge. The storage method that worked best for me is as follows: Clear out the crisper drawer. Line it with a brown paper bag. Place the cleaned oysters cup-side down on the paper. Dampen a thin kitchen towel and drape it over the oysters. (It should just be damp, not dripping.)
Now for the most intimidating part. I learned to shuck a few years ago, and I can say that while it's gotten easier for me, it's much harder than it looks. The part that’s easy – getting the oyster open. The part that’s much harder – getting the oyster open while leaving the meat intact without getting shell inside. After disfiguring my first oyster, my respect for professional shuckers increased 1,000-fold. The good news? We’re not being held to professional standards. “If you happen to stab it and it’s a little mangled or whatever, it’s going to taste the same,” Rubba assures me. “It doesn’t change the flavor.” So go ahead. Shuck it. The easiest method for a beginner is to go in through the hinge (the point). Rubba and The Salt Line also have how-to videos available online. Fold up a kitchen towel and place the oyster on
it, cup-side down, with the pointed end facing your dominant hand. Fold the towel over the curved side. Place your (gloved) non-dominant hand on the towel to hold the oyster in place and then use your dominant hand to insert the tip of the shucking knife into the crevice in the hinge. Push and wiggle using gentle pressure until the knife is stuck in the oyster – you could let go of the knife handle and it would stay suspended in place. Then, like turning a key, twist or rotate the knife until the shell halves separate slightly. “It’s a combination of pushing down and twisting at the same time,” Rubba says. “You’re trying to just pop and twist in one motion; not a lot of force is needed.” Once the oyster has cracked open, continue to pry the shells apart around the edges. Then, wipe your knife off on the towel and slide it along the inside of the flat top shell, keeping the blade as level and as close to the top shell as possible. This will slice the adductor muscle, causing the oyster to release the shell, and you can then pull the top shell off easily. Wipe your knife again and scoop the blade under the oyster to sever it from the bottom shell. If all of this just seems too difficult or scary, there’s another option that doesn’t require a shucking knife. Cooking the oysters slightly will coax the shell open, and all you have to do is help it along.
Oysters are delicious raw on the half shell, but they are also great when gently cooked. The traditional method for a Southern oyster roast involves a fire, a piece of sheet metal and a burlap sack, but Rubba says there are plenty of simpler methods – like steaming, oven-roasting and grilling – that work just as well. Cook time will vary based on the size of the oyster, but you’ll know when they’re ready because they will pop open slightly (about 1/16th of an inch) and release a little steam (and maybe a hissing sound). In most cases, the pop and hiss will occur after two to five minutes. “You want to keep your eye on it,” Rubba says. “To get that sweet little perfect moment when it’s just popped and it’s cooked, but it’s still really fresh.” Steaming: Steam oysters in a bamboo or metal steamer basket until they pop open slightly (not nearly as much as a mussel or clam would open when steamed). Oven-Roasting: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange oysters on a roasting pan with a flat rack or a sheet pan with tinfoil crumpled to form pockets. DISTRICT FRAY | 11
You want to make sure the oysters are sitting up and level so the liquor won’t spill out when they pop open. Add a bit of water under the oysters so there’s moisture in the oven when cooking. Cook until they pop open slightly. Using tongs, transfer the opened oysters to a platter, cup-side down, being careful not to lose any of the liquor. Grilling: Preheat your grill to high. Once it reaches temperature, turn it down to medium. If the grill is too hot, the oysters may crack or explode. Using a thick heatproof glove or grill tongs and working in batches, place the oysters directly on the grate, cup-side down. Cook until they pop open slightly. Watch the oysters carefully, but keep your distance in case they spit. Using tongs, transfer the opened oysters to a platter, cupside down, being careful not to lose any of the liquor. Opening the Oysters: After cooking, let the oysters cool until safe to handle. Then use a butter knife to gently pry open the oysters and run the blade along the underside of the flat top shell to separate. Use the knife or a fork to remove the oyster meat. You can also use a kitchen towel or glove to do this when the oysters are still hot.
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for a list of businesses www.cbf.org
Rob Rubba @robrubba on Instagram
Number 1 Sons www.number1sons.com Oyster Oyster www.exploretock.com/oysteroyster @oysteroysterdc on Instagram ProFish www.profish.com Rappahannock Oyster Company www.rroysters.com The Salt Line www.thesaltline.com
The Salt Line www.thesaltline.com
RECYCLE CBF (search shell recycling for a list of sites) www.cbf.org Oyster Recovery Partnership (search public shell drop-off locations) www.oysterrecovery.org
Sapidus Farms www.happyoystersva.com
Whether you’re eating oysters raw on the half shell or gently cooked, the seasoning and pairing options are limitless. You could go classic for raw oysters with saltines, lemon wedges, mignonette and cocktail or hot sauce. Or, for cooked oysters, just spoon a little melted butter mixed with herbs and garlic on top and pair with crudité and fresh grilled bread. Many gravitate toward Southern, Charleston-style accompaniments for oysters. Rubba advocates for creativity. “The cliché is ‘the world’s your oyster,’ right?” he says. “Don’t feel too stuck on a flavor profile, because anywhere in the world, people are passionate about oysters and they put their own cultural influence on oysters.” When I asked him to dream up his ideal summer oyster feast, his mind went to ssam – the traditional Korean dish involving lettuce wrapped around rice and meat with a sweetspicy sauce (ssamjang). I decided to take his advice and lean on Asian flavors for my own oyster feast. We started with a few oysters on the half shell (as many as I could shuck before giving up) with a soy-mirin sauce. Rubba inspired this concoction when he told me his young daughters dig raw oysters with a little splash of soy sauce and mirin. “It adds a little more salinity, some umami roundness,” he says. We also devoured a spread of grilled oyster ssam, featuring my variations on ssamjang and a ginger scallion sauce. Recipes for the soy-mirin sauce and the ssam spread accompany this story, so you can recreate this Asian-inspired oyster roast. The ingredients should be readily available at your local Asian grocery store, but feel free to improvise if there’s something you can’t find.
Oyster shells are a precious natural resource, so after your feast, don’t toss them in the garbage. CBF and the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) both have programs that facilitate shell recycling in the watershed to build oyster reefs and support restoration efforts. While Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in operations, most of the public drop sites are still open. ORP says their county sites are open, but to call to check on the status of each private site.
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Photos courtesy of Rappahannock Oyster Company.
M I X PA C K
1 2 X 1 2 OZ C A N S | B O L D R O C K .CO M / H A R D - S E LTZ E R | 4 % A LC BY VO L
Local Groceries & Delivered Provisions Weâ€™re Loving Right Now WORDS BY LANI FURBANK
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EAT Pre-Covid, a grocery delivery was a luxury, or perhaps an act of laziness. Now, it’s a responsible social distancing option. Like so many, I’ve been looking for alternatives to braving the grocery store, which can bring risk and anxiety. Of course, there are big box options like Amazon Pantry and delivery services like Instacart, which will bring you the goods from almost any store. But with questionable records on workers’ rights from big business and a pressing need to support small business, I instead went searching for creative local companies that could meet my needs. I ended up with a complementary collection of businesses where I can get dry goods, produce, meat, dairy, seafood and even flowers. Some have always been offering these services, while others have pivoted to meet the need during the pandemic. Even as states begin to slowly reopen, these four grocery delivery options plan to continue their in-demand services.
Neighborhood Provisions Already beloved for their vast umbrella of restaurants from Iron Gate to Hazel, Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) is now coming in clutch with Neighborhood Provisions. This new business was born out of a need to help serve customers while providing employment to their restaurant staff. Their selections are a hybrid of prepared foods and grocery items, with a wide variety of fan-favorite dishes and baked goods from various NRG menus as well as pantry essentials like sauces, stocks, pasta, and hard-to-find flour and yeast, plus dairy, eggs, meats, beer, wine, cocktails, spirits and quarantine must-haves like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. They offer pickup from three NRG restaurant locations and delivery with a wide radius in Northern Virginia and the District.
4P Foods When folks heard the first whisper of grocery shortages, 4P Foods’ business began growing exponentially. They are a food hub with a purpose – hence the 4 Ps, stand in the name. These stand for Purpose, People, Planet and Profit, taking the idea of the triple bottom line one step further with a mission to create a just and equitable food system. They source produce, meat and dairy from environmentally responsible family
farmers in the mid-Atlantic, with a slightly larger network outside of peak harvest season to allow for more variety. They also donate a bag of food to one of their food bank partners for every 10 bags they deliver. Unlike a traditional Community Supported Agriculture, 4P’s model is ultra flexible, allowing you to customize your weekly delivery via a points system and stop or skip deliveries at any time. Choose to pick up at a drop site or get your bag delivered to your door, with service around the DMV.
ProFish If you’ve eaten seafood at a restaurant in the DMV, then you’ve likely tasted ProFish seafood. This sustainability-focused wholesaler began selling to the public when restaurant business dropped off. Now you can cook with high-quality, fresh, traceable seafood at home, just like the pros. Their offerings change based on what’s being caught, but typically include anything from fillets of salmon, flounder and monkfish to shrimp, live lobsters and oysters. They also have gourmet pastas and an array of smoked fish from their restaurant and market, Ivy City Smokehouse. Home delivery is limited to certain zip codes, but if you’re not within range, you can meet the truck at 20 different locations around the region on select days.
Number 1 Sons Popular at farmers markets and local retailers, this pickle company is now a de-facto local food hub. They’ve partnered with more than 20 artisan growers and producers in the mid-Atlantic to offer delivery of produce, pantry items, prepared foods and celebratory splurges. You can choose from various boxes of mixed veggies from a few different farms, treat yourself to fresh breads and pastries, brighten up your home with a gorgeous bouquet of local seasonal florals, or stock up on goods like cheese, grains, vinegars, eggs and of course, anything pickled or fermented (kimchi, sauerkraut, giardiniera, kombucha, you name it). Everything is locally grown or made. Delivery is available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays within 15 miles of the zip code 20002. Neighborhood Provisions: www.nrgprovisions.com 4P Foods: www.4pfoods.com ProFish: www.profish.com Number 1 Sons: www.number1sons.com
L TO R. Number 1 Sons offerings. Photo by Anna Meyer. Produce. Photo courtesy of 4P. Neighborhood Provisions offerings. Photo by Stacey Windsor.
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Repairing Broken Links in the Regional Food Supply Chain WORDS BY LANI FURBANK
Our food system today is a textbook paradox. We see thousands of gallons of milk dumped away, tons of produce left to rot and millions of animals euthanized. Yet miles-long lines form at food banks and grocery stores have spotty inventory. Consumers have been rightfully outraged at the food waste and flummoxed by the incongruities. How can these two realities be so incompatible, yet exist side by side? The simple answer is the food system wasn’t built for this. For decades, our supply chain has been methodically consolidated and streamlined to make cheap food fast – from fields to grocery shelves. The result is a massive, centralized system with little room for error. Add a global pandemic, and the whole thing starts to crumble. The little cracks that have always existed widen and reach a breaking point, and the operations in motion are too big and too rigid to quickly pivot. “A large ship is hard to turn around,” says Dena Leibman, 16 | JUNE 2020
executive director of Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. The disconnects we see in the headlines are a result of broken links in the supply chain at various points, namely packaging, distribution and labor. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 30 percent of daily calories for the average American are consumed outside of the home – at restaurants, schools, universities, hotels and other institutions. When these settings abruptly closed, demand shifted heavily to grocery stores. Producers who supply large-scale institutions were then stuck with mountains of inventory and costly obstacles in reaching direct-to-consumer markets. Automated packaging plants would require millions of dollars in investment to change from half-pints of milk for school lunches to gallon containers for the grocery store, for instance. Then there’s the issue of sheer volume – people don’t consume potatoes and onions in the
EAT same capacity at home as they would french fries and onion rings at ball parks and restaurants. Plus, when the major meat processing plants closed because of Covid cases, farmers were left with growing animals but nowhere to take them and no income to feed them. With all these challenges, size matters. For local and regional food systems, we’re seeing a different story. “It’s just much more nimble a system,” Leibman says. Small farmers have pivoted, collaborated, and gone into overdrive to adapt to market changes and get their food to people who need it. Nonprofit organizations have also stepped up to help.
Economies of Collaboration Many organizations have united as part of a new coalition designed to address these supply chain disruptions. The Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition (MAFRAC) was a mere idea before this crisis began, but it launched exactly when needed most. “Food systems are more resilient if they’re distributed,” says Tom McDougall, founder and CEO of 4P Foods, a founding partner of MAFRAC. Instead of economies of scale, MAFRAC seeks to build smaller economies of collaboration, a term coined by Farm Fare, a food hub software platform. “You can achieve efficiencies if you work together across the regional network and decentralize,” McDougall says. “You can achieve price savings and you can achieve some of those things that economies of scale and big industrial agriculture are going for by being vertically integrated, by being much more cooperative.” MAFRAC focuses on connecting the dots between producers, distributors, emergency feeding operations and consumers in the region. “The regional level, which is slightly larger than the local level, seems to be the right mid-size opportunity to gain some of those economies of collaboration,” he adds. “This unit of scale seems to be the sweet spot that’s big enough to realize some efficiencies but not too big to be replicating the industrial system that is too big.” Their work began with asset mapping and gap analysis. “Do you have food, but you need bodies to help put it into boxes and you need vehicles to get it to a place?" McDougall asks. "Do you need cold storage because you got a bunch of food donated to you, but it’s going to go bad because you don’t have a refrigerator? We thought that MAFRAC could be essentially that infrastructure, that coordination backbone to help think and strategize regionally to allow partners on the ground to execute hyper-locally.”
Finding New Markets In this role, MAFRAC has numerous big wins. They connected the Nationals Park World Central Kitchen site to people in need in Prince George’s County. They helped a Virginia farm get high-protein peanuts into shelf-stable emergency food boxes sponsored by the D.C. government. Michael King, the co-owner of Twin Springs Fruit Farm in Pennsylvania, reached out to MAFRAC when he found himself with 16 tons of apples without a market. At the outset of the crisis, his operation quickly pivoted to offer preorders for pickup at their numerous farmers market locations around the DMV. They were still seeing sales of produce, but not all of their inventory was moving. “Everything changed and our cider sales dropped way down,” King says. “As we grade our fresh number one apples to sell to the customers at market, we take the number twos and put them in a bin, and then we take them to the cider press and they make cider with it. Those started piling up. We just weren’t using very many of them.”
MAFRAC helped King find a home for those apples, in the form of applesauce being packed into D.C. government-funded food boxes for residents in need. King said without that connection, he would have had to sell the apples for 13 cents a pound to another cider processor that makes cider for grocery stores, which would have netted around $3,800. Instead, he made $13,000 for the same quantity of apples. Now, King has found new outlets for his imperfect apples, which are perfectly good to eat but may be slightly blemished, undercolored or the wrong size. He’s been contacted about produce sales by church emergency feeding programs. So far, he’s sold more than 1,000 pounds of apples to one church and plans to fill produce boxes with greens, potatoes and apples for another. “I expect another one any day now, someone saying ‘Hey, we’re trying to feed people that are in need, and do you have anything?’ And I think I might have to say no to the next one,” he says. “I’m at the point where I’m going to go crazy if I have any more details to work on, any more things pulling at me in my life.” Though King says he doesn’t think he’ll make a profit on the reduced-price produce boxes, at least he’s breaking even. The farmers markets are much more lucrative, and he’s even started buying produce from other farmers with excess inventory. “We have a following,” King says of his farm’s 10,000+ newsletter reach. They can easily sell to consumers, whereas farmers who were working exclusively with restaurants may have a harder time building a new customer base. Kenneth Martin of Earth N Eats Farm in Pennsylvania is one of the farmers who King has bought from. Previously, Martin sold his greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggs to D.C.-area restaurants via his brother Josiah Martin’s business, Earth N Eats LLC, a co-op that encompasses about 15 farms in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. “When the restaurants closed we [lost] 90 percent of our sales.” Kenneth says. We stayed like that about one week. We dumped around $5,000 worth of greens and lettuce to our chickens.” Josiah said his restaurant sales are currently 30 to 40 percent of normal levels. The Martins quickly looked into other options, from door-to-door delivery to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models. With the help of chefs and volunteers, they were able to pivot to sell CSA boxes via restaurants, including The Red Hen, All Purpose and Acqua Al 2. They also have several neighborhood drop sites, set up in partnership with the chef at Via Sophia. “Now we have to pack everything in smaller amounts. It is more labor intensive,” Kenneth explains. He estimates about 10 percent of their product goes to Twin Springs, with the rest being sold via CSA boxes. “This might have [led] us to a new market. We will just have to wait and see how the demand is after everything opens back up. We have a lot to be thankful for. It could have went much worse.” Jimmie Robinson of My Sunshine Farm in Virginia also saw an immediate drop in sales when restaurants closed. His farm is only in its second year of operations, and he had two primary customers for the eggs from his 350 chickens – a gourmet pasta maker and a restaurant. At first, he was able to sell directly to customers who were searching for a source for eggs. “I made a tent, kind of like a farm stand of my own,” he says. “That only lasted a couple weeks, and then eventually the eggs caught up, and I was stuck.” His chickens lay 140 dozen eggs per week, and he stores them in four refrigerators in his house.
FROM FIRST PAGE. Rory Chipman. Photo courtesy of Willowsford Farm. Emma Jagoz at Moon Valley Farm. Photo by Jason James. Earth N Eats Greenhouse. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Martin.
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“Chickens keep eating and they keep laying, and I only have so much space,” he says. “After one week, it’s full.” He contacted MAFRAC for help, and they connected him with Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s (NRG) new grocery service, Neighborhood Provisions. “They saved the farm,” he says. They gave him a fair price for his pasture-raised eggs, which Robinson was struggling to sell to the public. “They have the marketing niche,” he says. “That’s the hardest thing. The labels, the hours on a website, and that’s what this company’s able to do. My dozen eggs, they’re able to package it. They put the polish on it.” If he hadn’t found a market for his eggs, Robinson said he would have had to donate them, but he wouldn’t have been able to sustain that for long. “The chickens are still eating, so I’d be going into the hole every week on both ends,” he says. “I’d lose on the profit and I’d have to still buy more feed. That’s coming out of my pocket.” He estimates he could have kept that up for a month before getting into serious financial trouble. As a new farm, Robinson says he is working to grow his operation to include heritage-breed pigs and turkeys, milking goats and produce. These all require up-front investment and take time to raise and grow before they can be sold. The regular flow of income from selling eggs is what allows him to pay for animals, seed and equipment. “It’s a balance between the chickens and whatever debt I can handle,” he says. “If I had to get rid of the chickens, I’d be done.” In cases where a farmer does have to take a loss on products or euthanize animals, consumers wonder why they can’t just donate it, as Robinson said he might. It’s not always that simple. There are costs involved with the labor and materials needed to harvest, package, process and transport the food. If a farmer is already in the hole, they can’t afford to spend more money just to give the food away and gain nothing in return.
Raising Funds to Back Donations Leibman and her team at Future Harvest saw this dilemma and wanted to do something about it. “There was just this huge cry for farmers to donate to food banks,” she says. “We felt that they should be paid to do so as much as possible, 18 | JUNE 2020
because they’re also suffering.” Thus, the Feed the Need campaign was born. “We actually pay farmers to divert an equivalent portion of their harvest to people in need,” Leibman explains. The campaign aims to raise $30,000 and will be distributed in grants ranging from $500 to $5,000. How the farmer donates their food is ultimately up to them – it could be a delivery to a food bank or a sliding scale CSA program. Future Harvest has partnered with 15 food banks that could receive the donations. “They just have to report to us what they did, how much produce was donated for the amount that they got,” Leibman says. “They have to document the point of delivery with a photograph so that we can continually raise money for this.” Bread for the City is one of the partner organizations that could stand to benefit. “During the early days of the pandemic in D.C., we immediately began to struggle to source as much food as we needed for the 5,000 households we typically served each month,” says CEO George Jones.“The convergence of stay-at-home orders and increased demand for food across the Metro area made accessing the huge quantities of food we needed to serve our community members incredibly difficult. Our staff reached out to any sources for purchased or donated food we could secure.” They connected with local farms, large producers like Mars and Beyond Meat, wholesalers like Costco and Sam’s Club, and the Capital Area Food Bank. “Over the past four or five weeks, we have been able to get enough to once again provide food to the 300 to 400 families per day we were serving before the pandemic,” Jones says. “In fact, over the past two weeks or so, we are probably serving between 400 and 500 families per day.” They have seen a total of 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of donated produce from farms, while they have paid for more than 20,000 pounds. “There was a time, pre-Covid-19, when we were getting 2,000 pounds of produce donated a week,” he adds. This had been coming from farmers markets. The receiving end of donations poses another challenge – not all food banks have the capacity to store huge quantities of food long term.
“Our storage is relatively limited,” Jones explains. “We have to get a day or two’s worth [of food] every day.” In another effort to buy food from farmers, chef Edward Lee has focused the second phase of his charitable response to the crisis on reconnecting the link between farmers and restaurants. The LEE Initiative’s Restaurant Reboot Relief Program will purchase at least $1 million of food from sustainable farms in 17 regions around the country, including the DMV, and donate the food to restaurants in those regions that have a track record of supporting sustainable farms. “For me personally, these are the farms where I get my products from,” Lee says. “When you don’t have access to them, if they go out of business, who will we buy our meat and chicken and produce from? For an independent restaurant, that’s what defines us.” The money will be spent via six- to nine-month contracts with farms. “Regardless of demand, they know that they can grow at least a certain amount of product, and they know they have a guaranteed sale of a certain amount of product,” Lee says. “So they can figure out what the next growing season or livestock season looks like for them. “They have to plan ahead. We can’t just say to the farms, ‘We don’t need your products anymore.' Six months from now, I can’t call you and say , ‘Oh by the way, I need 400 pounds of chicken.’ That’s just not how farms work. If they don’t have a steady consistent supply of cash coming in, they can’t reinvest for the next crop.” In addition to supporting farmers, these funds will help restaurants get back on their feet as they reopen. “It’s really important that we support these restaurants in the opening stage because that’s when you’re going to see restaurants really go under. “For a small restaurant to restock everything they need to be open for service, it can be anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000. That’s a huge expense when you’re basically already in debt now,” Lee says. “We’re trying to alleviate some of that. If we can give a restaurant $7,000 [or] $8,000 worth of product, that’s a huge weight lifted off them, and maybe they can use that money to make their first payroll.” MAFRAC is also putting dollars into the local food system. They have been raising money to support locally grown food being utilized in emergency feeding operations. Their funds will cover what McDougall calls the delta – the cost difference between 20 | JUNE 2020
industrial commodity products versus local. They have already begun financing initiatives like swapping local produce into NRG’s donation of food boxes to individuals in need.
Right-Sizing the Supply Chain Leibman sees the agile adaptations of the local food system as a ringing endorsement for keeping things closer to home. “We have seen in this pandemic how important a robust regional, local food system is and how vulnerable and frazzled this global supply chain is,” she says. “We need to right-size the local and regional supply chains.” The crisis has shone a spotlight on the inequities and flaws in the food system, and many people are noticing them for the first time. McDougall sees that as a silver lining, “When this is all over and we walk into a new normal, don’t go back to forgetting,” he says. “These systemic failures, these systemic inequities have been here all along and people have turned a blind eye to it… Do not shut your eyes again.” Instead, he hopes this is a chance to start fresh with the food system and bolster local and regional networks. “I think there’s an opportunity to do that with an equity lens and specifically a racial justice equity lens as the primary North Star,” he says. “I think it’s a real opportunity to come out the other end of it with something that looks much better than it did before.” Visit the following websites to learn more. Bread for the City: www.breadforthecity.org Earth N Eats: form.jotform.com/200929344215149 Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture: www.futureharvestcasa.org The LEE Initiative: www.leeinitiative.org The Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition: www.mafrac.com My Sunshine Farm: www.mysunshinefarm.com Neighborhood Restaurant Group: www.neighborhoodrestaurantgroup.com Twin Springs Fruit Farm: www.twinspringsfruitfarm.com
WORDS BY KELSEY COCHRAN
DRINK On May 19, the United Sommeliers Foundation announced its official launch. The nonprofit organization was created in response to the financial crisis faced by sommeliers around the country during the current pandemic. “We exist because sommeliers are often the first to be laid off and the last to be hired back,” says Erik Segelbaum, vice president of the United Sommeliers Foundation. “Most somms are paid hourly, have little to no benefits and live pretty close to paycheck to paycheck. When a situation occurs where they lose their ability to make money, it’s pretty critical in terms of the financial situation it puts them in.” The United Sommeliers Foundation raises funds to be immediately put into the pockets of those in the industry who have lost their jobs. At the time of writing this article, over $300,000 had been donated to their fund by wine lovers and industry names alike. On May 25, the foundation opened an auction of some rare and wonderful wines to raise more money for sommeliers out of work. Not every wine is a “unicorn” wine as Segelbaum puts it, but every dollar raised directly impacts someone in need. Those in the industry who have lost their jobs can apply for monetary aid directly on the foundation website, and will receive a check as soon as possible from the foundation. Segelbaum says that so far, the applications have been heartwrenching accounts of the reality of many people’s situations and the difficulty of admitting they need money. “Honestly, this has been such an emotional rollercoaster,” he confesses. “It’s equally heartwarming to hear that we’re making a difference in people’s lives and devastating to read the applications.” Though “sommelier” is not a title in everyone’s lexicon, they are an essential component of the restaurant industry, which, as we all know, is experiencing extreme hardship due to the nature of the pandemic. Sommeliers wear many different hats. Not only are they experts in the field of wine, but they are often the face you see at the front of the restaurant, helping to run food to your table and assisting in any other necessary operational capacities. Sommeliers are seen as a creative and therefore can be seen as disposable rather than essential. And like all other restaurant workers right now, sommeliers don’t know if they will have a job to return to as the country begins to reopen. “The numbers and percentage of restaurants that will shutter from this are anywhere between grim and bleak,” states Segelbaum. “If we had a vaccine tomorrow, the amount of restaurants that would be shuttered means that there would be way more sommeliers looking for work than jobs available.” The current reality for sommeliers is just as desolate. According to Brent Kroll of Maxwell Park, three quarters of those in the industry that he has spoken to have been furloughed or let go. Kroll posits that this is reflective of the creative role sommeliers play in the restaurant. And, like Segelbaum, Kroll believes that sommeliers will be some of the last people to be able to return to their position due to this. “If you bring back servers and bartenders, they’re generally very low hourly [waged workers],” Kroll states. “But unless you’re a sommelier who knows operations, you’re not going to be the first to be brought back.” Sommeliers will have to adjust how they present themselves to employers, and prove that they are an indispensable team member. Segelbaum believes that this means not only increasing their wine education, but their business management skills. Being a sommelier will no longer mean just selecting wine for the menu, but working closely with the owners and chef to plan 22 | JUNE 2020
how to conduct business in a profitable manner. John Filkins, beverage director of Masseria, echoes these thoughts. “For most sommeliers in the city, it’s been hard,” Filkins begins. “It’s definitely changed how we do business as a whole, so [we at Masseria] kind of had to reinvent some of our sommeliers to fill different roles and help drive our programs.” For sommeliers entering the field, simply having experience may no longer be enough. As Segelbaum, Kroll and Filkins have all outlined, the industry will now have a level of competitiveness not seen before. Even sommeliers who are a part of the management team in a restaurant will have to prove themselves in their role to stay ahead of the competition. A local sommelier working at the Michelin-starred Gravitas has already begun to do so for herself. As part of the management team, Rebecca Cagle has been an essential player in planning Gravitas’ reopening strategy and keeping their workers paid in the meantime. Moving forward, Cagle plans on attending an accelerated course of study to receive her Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma starting this year if possible. She suggests others in the industry look to do the same.
“Being a sommelier will no longer mean just selecting wine for the menu, but working closely with the owners and chef to plan how to conduct business in a profitable manner.” “If I could offer any advice to any other somms in the industry, it would be to take this time to further your education if you are financially able,” Cagle says. “The industry will be that much more competitive when we come back because there won’t be as many restaurants. People who have 15 to 20 years in the industry but aren’t master [sommeliers] have built their reputation and experience. For young somms who are just starting their careers, the education is going to be more important if only to give you that little bit of a competitive edge.” Despite the current circumstances, there is hope for sommeliers yet. It is clear to see that the community will continue to support one another in their darkest times. Though the future of the sommelier community may seem dismal, Segelbaum and the United Sommeliers Foundation will carry on their fundraising efforts and lift the industry up even as it moves past the pandemic. On a final note of hope, Segelbaum states that there will always be a spot for somms at the table, no matter how they must adapt. “Nothing can erase the personalized experience of a sommelier. No digital app in the world can do it the way a somm can. It doesn’t work that way. Now more than ever, somms are going to really need to prove their ultimate value to the business.” If you would like to donate to the United Sommeliers Foundation, visit www.unitedsommeliersfoundation.org and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @unitedsomms. Gravitas: www.gravitasdc.com // @gravitasdc Masseria: www.masseria-dc.com // @masseriadc Maxwell Park: www.maxwellparkdc.com // @maxwellpark_navyyard + @maxwellpark_shaw
Erik Segelbaum. Photo courtesy of subject.
Stay at Home with Ta i l U p G o a t ’ s W i n e S c h o o l WORDS BY COURTNEY SEXTON In the before, right now I would have been vacationing with my best friend – sitting on the terracotta patio of a Tuscan villa sipping on lucious Barolos and Brunellos. As it stands, there’s (obviously) been a change of plans and instead I’m sitting on my porch having finished a virtual wine lesson, led by Tail Up Goat co-owner Bill Jensen. While nothing can quite match a Sienese sunset, the lesson was delicious, entertaining and, for now, the closest I’m going to get to the tasting room in a vineyard. Tail Up Goat ceased operations completely on March 16, after the owners prepared and sent food home with all employees. Employee and guest safety were the owners’ primary concern. They estimated it would be at least two months before doors opened again, but to a very different kind of business – one including a wine market. Stay at Home Wine School was Jensen’s gut response to living in the “upside down,” a way for the team at Tail Up Goat (this writer included) to stay in contact and an option to spend one hour a week focused on something we all love – wine – rather than on the peril at our doorsteps. “The idea for class initially was a way for staff to connect,” Jensen says. He has used his role as beverage director at both Tail Up Goat and its sister restaurant, Reveler’s Hour, to consistently Bill Jensen. Photo courtesy of subject.
provide learning opportunities for employees. “I thought about all the wine training we do at both restaurants and thought about trying to keep people engaged throughout this process and keep everyone connected. Wine education seemed like a natural fit.” Jensen says his wife suggested opening the Zoom lessons to the public, a decision that was met with immediate fanfare from loyal regulars. As the quarantine weeks turned to months, the Wine School gained structure and participants. One of the things guests love about Jensen’s method to wine and pairing is that it’s approachable. The same energy translates to his Wine School sessions, which are now attended by more than 200 participants, including people from the DMV all the way to Austria. Initial sessions included suggestions on wines to purchase, but are also flexible enough to feature “whatever people had on the shelf.” For the first few lessons, Jensen explored varietals, starting with chardonnay, until gradually switching to styles of wine. Mother’s Day had a #RoseAllDay theme (complete with chugging Sutter Home straight from the bottle), while another session focused on wines of the Virginia region, with vintners from local wineries like Early Mountain Vineyards and Walsh Family Wine joining as guest panelists. DISTRICT FRAY | 23
DRINK “It has been a really fun audience,” Jensen says. “Some of the people are new to wine and are seriously studying. Others are in the trade. It’s a wide spread and I try to structure accordingly. It’s a topic I love, so there is no shortage of ideas for class. It’s also been fun to see how interactive it has become, with people rooting for particular topics.” Lessons commence with the reading of a poem (a tradition Jensen also invokes for special dinners in the restaurant, his version of a “secular grace”) and involve a mix of history, geography, tasting notes and tall tales. The chat box is full of both convivial banter and serious questions from attendees. Extensive notes and a full recording are sent to all after the session. In addition to keeping the Tail Up Goat team connected to their guests during the Covid-19 quarantine, donations contributed by attendees to the free Wine School bolstered an employee relief fund for the restaurant’s laid-off workers. In a recent email to Wine School participants, Jensen thanked patrons for their generous contributions and noted the support has “sustained and uplifted our staff in the midst of this unprecedented disruption to our industry.” Moving forward, any donations to the program will benefit Miriam’s Kitchen, a local organization that helps fight homelessness and food insecurity. With some estimating that 20 percent of D.C.’s restaurants and small businesses are likely to remain permanently closed in the post-Covid world, those that reopen are doing so under an entirely new set of constraints and to a vastly different landscape. As Tail Up Goat emerged from closure in mid-May, it was indeed with an entirely new model. In addition to take-home dinner kits and to-go cocktails, options from the wine school are
also available. A Wine School starter kit, for example, includes a unique bottle of wine for the week’s lesson and pairing snack (like marcona almonds) for $25. “Wine class will always be free, but we’re shifting emphasis,” Jensen says. “For one, we’re now running it out of the restaurant, instead of my living room. Things will get a little more specific because we’ll be a little less constrained by what retailers have available, but my hope is that it will remain relatable to people wherever they may be joining from.” Local liquor laws are relaxed amid the pandemic, allowing restaurants to also serve as liquor purveyors, which Jensen says could turn into a long-term opportunity for struggling restaurants. With people like Jensen who have spent their lives learning about wines from all over the world able to share both the knowledge and the product with consumers in an accessible way, we just may begin to see burgeoning wine regions and unrecognized producers come to the forefront of consumers’ minds, stimulating the economy in unforeseen ways. “Retailers aren’t super inventive about the kinds of things they stock, so hopefully this will get people to take more chances and restaurants can drive that diversification.” If the laws remain liberal, Jensen is hopeful that in a year or two this new model “could create a stronger set of businesses than existed prior to this crisis.” For now, the summer of riesling is coming, and patrons can keep sipping from a safe social distance during Stay at Home Wine School. Learn more about Tail Up Goat’s Wine School at www.tailupgoat.com and follow them on Instagram @tailupgoat.
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Booze Free in DC’s
WORDS BY M.K. KOSZYCKI
Take a quick glance at Laura Silverman’s Instagram account, and the photos aren’t unlike any other D.C. denizen with a vibrant life: images of friends, drinks, still life scenes of her adopted hometown, smiling selfies. Look a little closer – and at her handle, @boozefreeindc – and you’ll notice something that sets her apart from others sharing their lives on the web. As someone who’s been sober since 2007, Silverman uses her Instagram, and her blog of the same name, to show that life in D.C. can be spirited when you’re spirit-free. Booze Free in DC is one of the many iterations of Silverman’s personal journey, and just as importantly, another way her desire to help those around her through her own experiences has manifested. “Fast forward many years of sobriety and doing my own thing,” Silverman says, “And I was ready to level up my life. At almost eight years of sobriety, I formed a digital community called The Sobriety Collective, which was a way to showcase people who were sober, in recovery or however they wanted to describe themselves. It was especially for creative types – writers, musicians, photographers, comedians, entrepreneurs, people who have some sort of creative output – that were very much sober, recovering out loud and non-anonymous.” Laura Silverman. Photo courtesy of subject. Recipe by Karina Carlson @thisiswellread.
Fast forward a bit more, and Silverman explains that though The Sobriety Collective was rewarding, and showcasing that you can still have a dynamic and creative life while sober is very much possible, she began to feel stuck. She worked to “retool her energy” into something new, but still aligned with her mission. She thought about relocating, starting something in a new place, but when that didn’t pan out as planned, she had an epiphany of sorts. “It wasn’t D.C. that was the problem. It was just that I was feeling stuck in my life,” she explains. “So this is where the idea for Booze Free in DC came from: Let me focus my attention back into my adopted hometown and see what I can do. I had this vision of creating a guidebook for the D.C. area from a wellness, and especially from a zero-proof, booze-free perspective.” And thus, Booze Free in DC was born. Silverman notes that the guidebook idea came from the trend of so many travel guides leaning heavily on bars, distilleries, wineries and breweries as local attractions. While well and good for people who drink, that approach can silo people like Silverman, or anyone limiting or stopping their alcohol consumption for any reason. She thought about her blog initially as a true book, but at the encouragement of a mentor, turned it into a website. The blog format allows the content to be fluid and relevant to all, and gave Silverman the opportunity to dive right into her passion. Chock full of resources, there’s much to be gleaned from Booze Free in DC – sober or not. Relying on pillars like play, renew, support, learn and of course, drink, Silverman keeps the site full of places to find the best zeroproof cocktails, outdoor activities, and ways to connect with other like-minded people.
Ginger Basil Grapefruit Spritzer 1 grapefruit (plus additional grapefruit for garnish) 2 cups of ice 3 (12-ounce) cans of ginger soda Handful of fresh basil 1/4 cup of basil simple syrup
Directions: Juice one large grapefruit and segment additional grapefruit for garnish if desired. Fill a pitcher halfway with ice. Pour soda, fresh grapefruit juice and simple syrup. Mix well. Garnish with grapefruit slices and fresh basil.
DISTRICT FRAY | 25
DRINK As with everything, Covid-19 put a pin in some of Silverman’s plans. But, that didn’t stop her from once again getting creative and keeping up with the times and needs of her community. “I thought, ‘Well, how can I pivot in this new environment? How can I give back to the D.C. area and how can I show that my web presence, and the person behind it, is still relevant in this new environment?,’” she explains of this change. “So I wanted to put together a guide to exploring the D.C. area from a booze-free perspective while in quarantine.” Keeping the same pillars and adding some new, it’s a onestop shop for everything from practical government guides, ways to support the community and receive support if needed, zero-proof drink delivery options, and so much more. On Cinco De Mayo, Silverman and Booze Free in DC hosted a virtual happy hour to teach easy and fun zero-proof, seasonal drinks alongside some other food and beverage professionals as a way of connecting with others in a time of disconnection. “It felt really fun and intimate,” she recalls. “I wanted there to be some master teachers that were representative of the D.C. area, guiding us through drinks that were easy and accessible, and that people could do like in their kitchens.” “I also wanted to feature other D.C. entrepreneurs, bartenders, restaurateurs, in a recipe book that would go along with the ticket price. Half of the proceeds went to this new nonprofit in D.C. called In This Together that is partnering with Hook Hall Helps to provide meals to those facing food insecurity, especially because of Covid-19.” In the short time Booze Free in DC has been around, Silverman has surely created a lasting impact for those seeking resources both before and during our current pandemic. As Zoom happy hours, alcohol deliveries and time spent alone in boredom all multiply, this begs the question: What if you don’t identify as sober, but want a reprieve from drinking with friends via video chat? What if you’re considering sobriety but don’t know where to start? What if you’re just on a break from booze for a week or so? Is this a space for you, too? Silverman says she’s glad I asked, as her point of view has evolved greatly through her years of being sober. Once understandably feeling protective of her sobriety journey and what it took for her to get there, she’s still proud of all she has accomplished, and welcomes all into this community, whatever their journey and relationship with sobriety looks like at the time. “If you ask me now, I think there’s a wide sobriety spectrum with anyone from a pregnant woman needing different options, to people who abstain for religious and medical reasons to people who are mindful drinkers and trying this sober curious thing out. So who am I to judge someone for where they are on that spectrum? I love people coming from all over, who may drink and want some healthy options, [and] those who don’t drink and just want to learn more about things like booze-free culture and lifestyle.” A devoted mental health advocate, too, Silverman is cognizant of the challenges our current reality can have on people sober or not, and hopes to provide resources on overall mental health and wellness through her site. “Quarantine is either exacerbating issues, or allowing the issues that formerly were there to kind of trickle away and give birth to a new way of being,” she explains of why this is a focus at the heart of her current work. “And so people can 26 | JUNE 2020
either drink less and feel healthier, or fall further into habits that they already had. With isolation, there are people who have baseline depression anyway, and this will exacerbate whatever they’re feeling. It’s super important to be able to support people’s mental health and journeys in sobriety, or just simply trying on sobriety.” No matter where you are on the sobriety spectrum, Booze Free in DC will welcome you with open arms. It goes without saying that we have some of the best bars, restaurants and things to do here, and if you choose to stay sober in D.C., life will be just as fun and exciting as it was before, and maybe even more balanced. For Silverman’s Covid-19 guide, visit www.boozefreeindc.com. Keep up with Silverman @boozefreeindc on Instagram and @wearesober on Twitter.
LOVES... Bartenders with Booze-Free Options Chef Ashish Alfred Duck Duck Goose www.ddgbethesda.com www.ddgbaltimore.com Derek Brown Columbia Room www.columbiaroomdc.com Nick Farrell Neighborhood Restaurant Group Hazel www.hazelrestaurant.com Iron Gate www.irongaterestaurantdc.com The Partisan www.thepartisandc.com Visit www.nrgprovisions.com for more information.
Booze-Free Brands Native to the DMV Capital Kombucha www.capitalkombucha.com Cultured Kombucha @theculturedkombucha www.theculturedkombucha.com Element Shrub @elementshrub www.elementshrub.com Mad Magic Kombucha @madmagickombucha www.madmagickombucha.com Mocktail Club @mocktailclub www.mocktailclub.com Sunōmi Switchel @drinksunomi www.drinksunomi.com Wild Kombucha @wild_kombucha www.mobtownfermentation.com
Coffee Choices Compass Coffee @compasscoffeedc www.compasscoffee.com Java Nation @javanationmd www.java-nation.com Slipstream @slipstreamdc www.slipstreamdc.com
WORDS BY M.K. KOSZYCKI
First to close, last to open. This has become a reality for many independent venues amid the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic. It makes sense: Venues are an amalgamation of everything opposite of social distancing, with large crowds, bars, food, merchandise purchases and general congregation. As shutdowns extend or even wane in states and regions, one thing that’s clear is independent venues face a unique hill to climb when it comes to reopening safely. That’s where the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) comes in. You may have seen the phrase or hashtag “Save Our Stages” circulating – it’s become the easiest way to sum up the simple goal of this national group. “This organization has no other agenda or goal beyond just seeing our members through this crisis, so that we can emerge on the other end of it still in business,” says Will Eastman, DJ and owner of U Street Music Hall, a member of NIVA. According to NIVA’s website, the association currently has more than 1,000 charter members in all 50 states. “It’s a dire situation for the concert industry right now, especially for us as indies,” Eastman continues. “We have personal guarantees on our leases, we don’t have corporate bond offerings or stock that we can fall back on. This is a life or death situation for us right now.” For Jon Weiss, a talent buyer who books 28 | JUNE 2020
Jammin Java, Miracle Theatre, Pie Shop, Pearl Street Warehouse and calls his home base Union Stage, involvement with NIVA meant a team in his corner, locally and nationally, as he and other staff members try to navigate ways to secure their existence through the pandemic. Union Stage, whose owners also count Jammin Java as their venue, has also joined NIVA. “It’s definitely the power [in] numbers sort of thing,” Weiss says. “By working with NIVA, it’s not just us five venues trying to get support. It’s almost all independent venues, and a lot of independent promoters who don’t exactly own a venue but promote a lot of shows around their city. With something like LiveNation or AEG, they’re such big organizations that have such power behind them that they can move mountains. Small indies have to band together.” Logistically speaking, Weiss explains that NIVA is calling for changes to Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans to make sure the money lasts through the end of the year, and to advocate for mortgage and rent forbearance and business recovery funds. This is increasingly crucial as reopening plans are released around the country with standards that are confounding to the way a venue operates. “Saying that you can have five people for every 1,000 square feet totally screws over music venues,” Mayor Bowser’s phase three of the reopening plan, in which venues would be allowed to open
under those rules. Pie Shop, one of the venues Weiss books, is around 1,000 square feet in total. “You can’t pay the sound person, let alone the door person, off [having] five people in a music venue. Or the bartenders who are showing up for tips,” he says. “It just feels like music venues are kind of left in the dust here to fend for themselves.” U Street Music Hall’s Eastman faces a similar challenge in the looming deadline of phase three, which begins at an unknown date as of now, but still presents a real challenge on the horizon. “[Phase three] would put U Street Music Hall’s capacity at 25 people, which is completely untenable,” he says. “I’m not trying to disparage anybody’s effort here. I think by putting that into the reopening guidelines, it was to give us something to say, ‘We’re trying to figure out a way where, if you’re being responsible, you can have some patrons in.’ But for our industry, unlike restaurants where you can socially distance people, you can’t socially distance a general admission venue. Even at 25 or 50 percent capacity it simply doesn’t work and is losing money, so there needs to be another plan for us. Otherwise, this entire sector is going to be decimated.” While NIVA works with venues across America facing different reopening guidelines but similar challenges, there are ways individuals can support their work.
FIRST PAGE. Shallou at U Street Music Hall. Photo by Troy Gerhardt. SECOND + THIRD PAGES. Union Stage photos by Nick Ghobashi.
MUSIC The board is made up of music industry professionals from some of the best loved, most successful venues in the country, who tell lawmakers what they need to continue, all backed by the success of their businesses pre-coronavirus. One of the simplest ways to support NIVA is through signing the online petition. It’s simple and painless, requiring little personal information and autofilling the contact information of local lawmakers along with a pre-written letter around the support independent venues need now. Weiss and Eastman both encourage all who want to see independent venues make a comeback – and in turn, support the local economy – to take a few minutes to sign. For U Street Music Hall, individual support has come in the form of T-shirt sales, which has been successful but of course cannot stand as a long-term solution. At Union Stage and Jammin Java, promotions like ordering $75 worth of tickets to future shows come with a T- shirt emblazoned with the phrase, “I helped save live music in D.C., and all it took was getting tickets.” Union Stage also offers takeout of their pizza, Union Pie, and Eastman says U Street Music Hall is hard at work planning a livestreaming TV channel that’s been in development since March. “We need to continue our core work of presenting live band and
DJ performances to crowds, and we wanted to do it in the U Hall way, which means that the sound, production and programming has to be great,” Eastman says. “We want to add something rather than just more noise to the signal that’s going on with live streams. We’re hoping that once we have this quality live programming up, we’ll have a way where viewers can donate, not just us but to various causes.” In a similar vein, the first month U Street Music Hall sold its T-shirts, they donated 20 percent of their proceeds to We Are Family, a local nonprofit that provides food to the elderly. According to Eastman, it resulted in a donation of $4,100, one of the biggest single contributions the organization has received. As Eastman, Weiss and NIVA member venues and promoters across the region and country fight for their work, livelihoods and communities, it’s clear that though NIVA exists to help an industry in a particularly tough spot, its message is one of hope and perseverance. “Everyone I work with at NIVA is all on the same page that nobody’s going anywhere,” Eastman concludes. “We’re going to be here on the other end of this, we just need some support to get through it. Our goal is that we’re better off. We’re going to have better, healthier facilities where people are going to be mindful of touchless hand washing stations,
cashless transactions – there’ll be a lot of things that will change in our industry for the better.” One additional, simple signal of hope for individuals, venues and the industry as a whole that Weiss suggests is, “Find a show that’s the farthest out that you feel comfortable going to. And buy a ticket to support the venue and to show that you look forward to going there sometime soon.” While many eagerly await the day venues safely open their doors, there are many ways to support them as they work through what that looks like. Simple, tangible steps – like signing the petition on NIVA’s site – can make all the difference in keeping music and jobs going strong in the District and beyond. To show support for NIVA, write to your local lawmakers by visiting www.nivassoc.org and share the hashtag #SaveOurStages. To support U Street Music Hall and find out more about their upcoming livestream TV sessions or to buy a T-shirt, visit www.ustreetmusichall.com. For more on ticket purchases from Union Stage, Jammin Java and other associated venues or to purchase Union Pie, visit www.unionstage.com.
BY WOMEN, FOR ALL
THE LGBTQ LUMINARIES BEHIND FEMME FATALE DC FORGE AHEAD WORDS BY MONICA ALFORD
THE CORE ETHOS OF FEMME FATALE DC CAN BE DRILLED DOWN TO ONE SIMPLE WORD: ENERGY. “You have to tap into your feminine energy to be in our space, and if you’re willing to do that, everything flows fine,” explains CEO Cee Smith. “But there’s people who walk into this space and feel that energy and don’t want any part. It protects itself. It protects that energy.” This resilient haven of inclusivity is what has allowed Femme Fatale DC to grow exponentially since its inception four years ago, attracting an eclectic audience by being accepting of everyone. The collective invites women and non-binary entrepreneurs and creatives to rent a portion of its pop-up retail space and sell their works. Smith, along with COO Adriana Mendoza and their team, has hosted more than 700 events and provided a home to the works of up to 134 entrepreneurs at five temporary brick-and-mortar spots, most recently downtown on Massachusetts Avenue. Smith remains firm in her belief that the platform’s strong base of both women and LGBTQ community members is a reflection of its openness. When you walk through Femme Fatale DC’s doors, she wants you to see your reflection. She and Mendoza take their collective role 32 | JUNE 2020
as female LGBTQ leaders in D.C. seriously, but also don’t ever want to make anyone feel excluded. Though Femme Fatale DC’s ideology has remained consistent, Mendoza mentions that its motto has changed over the years. “There is an energy created when there is all this feminine energy in one space, so we held strong to that for many years,” she says. “Our motto at that time was, ‘By women, for women,’ but we’ve evolved in understanding that actually, anybody who embraces the feminine doesn’t have to necessarily be just female gender or male gender. If you embrace the feminine, we are open to that and you are invited into the space. Now our motto is, ‘By women, for all.’” The pair is a natural fit for running the space. Each brings her own skill set, and though their professional backgrounds could not be more different, Smith and Mendoza complement one another and share the mindset necessary to accomplish their mission. As D.C. natives who actually grew up within District lines and now reside in Brookland, they also know the city and its burgeoning creative community intimately. Mendoza, an artist and jewelry designer with a penchant for connecting all things creative, embraced the first iteration of Femme Fatale DC in 2016. Soon after, she joined forces with Smith, who brought her business savvy to the table after years of working in the entertainment industry, where she established the first queer record label in the country. While Femme Fatale DC was first gaining momentum, Smith was also forming her own media group to support LGBTQ entrepreneurs and creatives of color. Color Wheel Capital, which has launched nine LGBTQ businesses in the District, runs in tandem with their shared project in addition to several other LGBTQ-focused ventures Smith is at the helm of. “I saw a necessity that had not been filled: targeting LGBTQ people directly who are interested in building and developing businesses,” she says. “It was pretty much untouched. With my experience, it makes sense. It’s my passion: all things LGBTQ growth and development, to further the cause and our personal lives as well.” Smith’s impressive commitment carried over to Femme Fatale DC, as she was drawn to the platform’s innovative business model. “I saw [Femme Fatale DC] as an avenue to show people how they could build their business more [effectively] than just hoping they figure it out once they have the money.” Mendoza says she’s glad Smith enjoys the business side of their platform, but she feels like she has the best gig because she gets to flex her creative muscle. She spends each day wearing many hats as creative director, managing their core staff of seven and acting as the mastermind behind strategies to encourage the community to interact in their space. She’s also face-to-face with their current group of 70 entrepreneurs while always scouting new ones. “It’s been rewarding in the sense that we can put our energy in different places and continue to build this foundation,” she says. Femme Fatale DC’s walls and shelves are filled to the brim with everything from works of fine art to handmade jewelry, accessories and clothing. Each piece has a story Mendoza can share about the artist or entrepreneur and what creating that work meant to them. Everything is intentional, everything has meaning. This extends to the platform’s myriad of events, which run the gamut from goddess clapping sessions to entrepreneur education segments. Mendoza elaborated on the aforementioned goddess clapping event, one of her favorites: a women-only party embracing feminine energy, including hardcore dancing to go-go music with short breaks for meditations and consumption of vegan hors d’oeuvres and natural juices. The grand finale? A sound bath from a longtime Femme Fatale DC collaborator.
Both women speak tenderly of a recent installation, a breathtaking chandelier made of strips of denim, that acts as the focal point of their current space. In a matter of days, the Femme Fatale DC team activated their community to donate pieces of denim and help cut them up, and over several Saturdays, they joined to help with each step of building the massive centerpiece. “The chandelier is a culmination of what we stand for after all these years,” Mendoza explains. “When one of us says, ‘I can’t do this,’ there’s another woman saying, ‘Yes, you can.’ And that’s what this was, because I’m in here stressing about this and I’m like, ‘We have to activate this, but I don’t know how.’ But it happened. When we have interactions that bring the community together, that is what fulfills me and makes everything worth it.” Their current space resonates with them on multiple levels, after stints on H Street and in NOMA, Tenleytown and Columbia Heights. They normally only occupy a building for three to six months before searching for a new neighborhood to build a sense of community in, but Covid-19 put a wrench in their plans. They’ve only been located downtown since November, with just a few short months to accomplish their goals. “I can’t let this space go,” Mendoza says adamantly. “We have too much to do. Too much love has been put into this, and we need to fully utilize that.” They’ve put in a proposal to extend their lease through the end of December, a significant extension from the original end date of May 31. Though they closed their location in March as a result of the pandemic, they’ve remained connected behind the scenes with their entrepreneurs to create what Mendoza calls a therapy session, coming together to support each other through this harrowing time for our city. “The more we learn from entrepreneurs and how they’re pivoting, it’s almost like we’re this library,” she says. “We have people coming to us and we store all this information we gather from so many different women, that we can then help make those connections. We begin to become those liaisons of, ‘We have this resource over here for you. Let us connect you.’” Smith agrees, describing their platform as a voice for women entrepreneurs in D.C. “We can’t stop. As leaders in the entrepreneur [space], there’s people looking for guidance: ‘What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to feel?’ It’s important to us to keep that [line of communication] open so we can help the best we can and know the right resources for the community we serve.” Both women have found a silver lining in quarantine. They’ve been able to launch their online shop, which has been up and running since late May. Smith says they’re also hoping to start hosting small, niche events with 10 to 15 people later this summer once current restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, they are supportive of virtual events, but don’t necessarily view hosting them as the right avenue for Femme Fatale DC. “We have created a brand by bringing people together in this space, and we went through so much to make that happen in brick-and-mortar that it kind of would go against what our brand is to try to do too much virtually,” Smith explains. Adriana Mendoza + Cee Smith. Photos by Tony Powell.
Mendoza finishes her thought, saying the pandemic has challenged them to really understand who they are as a platform. She has a few notyet-ready to announce collaborations in the works featuring different women in the D.C. community that will potentially live online, but still confirms their shared intention to remain an avenue for tactile experiences rather than virtual ones. She says online shopping and “engaging with us and providing feedback on what people want and need through our Instagram or email” are the best ways to support Femme Fatale DC as the District returns to some sense of normalcy this summer. Smith adds that they’re always looking for brick-and-mortar spaces that need to be activated and are interested in finding a permanent space. She encourages locals to reach out with any leads for available locations. In the meantime, the ever business-minded CEO says she’s enjoying having time to relax, and also to restructure business plans and build new ones that she previously didn’t have time to focus on. Mendoza, on the other hand, says she’s practicing what it’s like to be a kid: playing with different art forms and being curious. “When is the next time, honestly, that we will ever be able to do this and explore those sides of us? I’ve been allowing myself to be secluded and enjoy this time to have mental space to myself. As leaders of the community, we don’t get that. There’s so much energy that we have to put out and receive, so this is a time to take that space and recharge. We need it.” Learn more about Femme Fatale DC at www.femmefataledc.com and follow them on Instagram @femmefataledc. Check out Smith’s LGBTQ-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem Color Wheel Capital at www.colorwheelcapital.com and on Instagram @colorwheelcapital. DISTRICT FRAY | 33
Pride During the Pandemic WORDS BY TRENT JOHNSON What will D.C.’s Pride celebration look like this month? This is the million dollar question as the festivities, both official and not, have all been forced to adapt, hit pause or cancel altogether. This June offers no large gatherings in the form of parades and music festivals. There won’t be hours-long dance parties or panels with live audiences in any auditoriums. The in-person aspect of Pride is at the mercy of the pandemic, as people stay home to protect one another. However, D.C. residents on both the creative and planning side don’t intend to pause the spirit of the celebration. The LGBTQ community still has ample opportunities to embrace June as Pride Month with a score of virtual offerings, whether they’re intended to entertain, advocate or educate. “I advise people not to let this diminish your Pride,” says Anderson Wells, better known as The Vagenesis. “Don’t go out and celebrate and do the most, but allow this to be a time where you’re more connected to your community. Educate yourself, connect to people. Whatever it is, try to be who you are and do what you do.”
Wells, who has still been performing as The Vagenesis from the comfort of his home since the pandemic hit in March, has already been stretching his artistry. Though the differences are obvious – no live audience and thus, no crowd interaction – the drag queen says it’s been an exciting challenge to adapt and push boundaries within the limited space of an apartment. “What’s great about it is the ability to get more creative,” Wells says. “I’m doing songs and looks 34 | JUNE 2020
and performances I couldn’t have done outside of this situation. You see that from a lot of the performers these days. They’re taking risks and trying new stuff. I’m excited to see how that develops and people push their boundaries.” Wells isn’t alone. In the wake of cancellations, Aaron Riggins sought to help LGBTQ performers and artists via the Queer Artist Collective. Riggins, also a curator and programmer for D.C. bar TRADE, says the collective was meant to help ease the effects of closures and cancellations. “It was an instant need to help and take care of them, and [to] immediately start brainstorming ways to raise funds for creative people who are part of our family,” Riggins says of the collective. “We did live and prerecorded shows, and assembled episodes from these artists. Each of those efforts were a vehicle to funnel gifts from our audience directly to these performers.” Both Riggins and Wells speak of an overwhelming sense of community among performers as a diamond in the rough, forged through the pandemic. And because both have been a part of larger events and curated performances, they are hopeful that Pride’s celebration will still be engaging and thoughtprovoking, despite the absence of physical gatherings. “I think previously, Pride was a reason to celebrate and express yourself,” Riggins says. “The sense I get is that the community understands the need to postpone the physical celebrations of Pride. We value the safety of each other and we’re taking care of each other. I think you’ll see some very creative efforts Anderson Wells. Photo courtesy of The Vagenesis.
CULTURE to capture that dynamic in safer, digital ways.” Even before the calendar flipped to June, Makers Lab had already held its own virtual party in space to celebrate the Black LGBTQ community with Black in Space from May 21-25. Makers Lab is a creative collective that supports LGBTQ communities by creating zero-proof experiences that celebrate life, art and LGBTQ culture. The festivities in “space” included performances by DJs and musicians, workout classes, a movie night, and more. “Oh man, I’m ready to go back to space right now,” Makers Lab Program Director Patience Rowe says, in light of recent protests caused by police brutality throughout the nation. “[With] June Pride in D.C., a lot of monetization happens and there’s a lot of space for white folks, [but] we definitely acknowledge and appreciate what June Pride means.” Rowe says Makers Lab is taking a much-needed break after moving their entire lineup to virtual, but hopes to have programming this fall. As for Pride forcing people to be innovative in their approaches to celebrations throughout June, she hopes to see more diversity than in years prior. “I hope that’s the plan, to make more Black LGBTQ folks visible and uplift us and the work we want to do,” Rowe says. “The virtual shift brings a whole lot of opportunity, and they have to see that and be on board. It feels like a very revolutionary time to work and create space for Black and queer folks.” All three will make virtual appearances throughout the month: Wells will perform several times across basically all social platforms, Rowe is slated to participate in a Sofar Sounds panel
on LGBTQ musicians, and Riggins will produce events at both TRADE and through the Queer Arts Collective.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS?
While Capital Pride and other organizers curate virtual events, the physical spaces that played host are encountering challenges in their respective industries as well. With restaurants, bars and music venues either completely closed or severely hampered by occupancy restrictions, locations that previously provided space for celebration are also being forced to alter expectations. The Dirty Goose Co-owner Justin Parker says the weekend of the Pride parade and festival was often his storefront’s biggest of the year. And though the bar is open during D.C.’s phase 1 of its reopening plan, he knows this year’s Pride will be radically different than in the past. “What we’re trying to do now is figure out a way to celebrate within the guidelines of the city,” Parker says. “We’re planning to open the storefront to get cocktails to-go, but we also want to see the familiar faces of the community.” Parker notes that the bar recently expanded its rooftop and hopes to have patrons, with safety and precaution, in to enjoy parts of the month there. Despite the limitations on gatherings and in-person programming, he believes the celebration is uniquely important for the LGBTQ community for reasons beyond partying.
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“I think it’s paramount,” Parker says. “The biggest message is that nothing can kill Pride. You might be celebrating it differently because our priority is safety. It’s important for us to have events, and for people in the community to see its members. You’re supporting them and they’re supporting you.” One way The Dirty Goose will celebrate is by having resident DJ Farrah Flosscett perform two bookend sets on June 7 and 13 onsite. Flosscett has been a mainstay performer during Pride for the past few years and will once again take part in the celebration, even though her contribution will look different this year. “From a DJ perspective, it’s obviously a dream come true,” Flosscett says, reminiscing on years prior. “Pride is literally the most fun [you can have] with your set. I couldn’t even put into words how amazing it was.” Flosscett has been keeping busy with live streams on Instagram and Twitch, but is excited for the opportunity to perform at The Dirty Goose again. As for those larger events, she’s still holding out hope for future dates in the fall. As a mainstay in the community, Parker hopes people use this year’s version of Pride as a chance to shine a light and focus on important conversations. While the celebration itself will always be part of Pride, the month as a whole represents a chance to reflect on ways society can improve and grow. “There have been conversations in the community about how [Pride] became much more of a celebration, and that cuts both ways,” Parker says. “It means you’ve gotten further, and instead of protesting, you’re celebrating. But on the other side of that, there are still parts of the community – the trans community and the Black LBGTQ community – that aren’t as represented. I think by having more of a raw celebration, you’ll be able to bring parts of the community that have been left behind to the forefront.”
CAPITAL PRIDE RECONFIGURES
In March, the Capital Pride Alliance, responsible for the aforementioned tentpole events such as the Capital Pride Parade and Festival, canceled all the larger get-togethers that normally come with June (last year’s parade and festival attracted more than 400,000 people). Executive director Ryan Bos says the changes were made swiftly as the pandemic worsened. “Fairly quickly, we realized that even if things calm down, we would not be able to gather in the same way,” Bos says. “So, we immediately began to take this opportunity to rethink what we do, and that involved creating a variety of virtual and actionoriented programs for June. We’re also relooking at Pride 365, and have begun planning for September.” Bos says the goal is to be creative and innovate with programming. So far, that includes virtual Pride Talks on June 8, the Sunset Dance Party on June 14 and Capital Pride in the City on June 28. Capital Pride is also launching its first iteration of the Capital Pridemobile Rainbow Blast on June 13, which involves a mobile party vehicle to be driven to all eight wards of D.C., featuring performances by local drag queens and kings, DJs, and an interactive livestream. “This is a way for us to take Pride to all eight wards of the city,” Bos says. “We will be documenting our city and how we have painted the town in Pride. And on June 13, we’ll be taking Pride to our community.” The objective of the organization and its partners is to learn how 36 | JUNE 2020
to push forward, Bos says. “With all the upheaval and violence in our community, it’s really shedding a light on some systemic problems that have been around for a while,” Bos says. “[With] things like the Pridemobile, the reflection there was, ‘How do we bring Pride and experience Pride in all areas of our community?’” One organization featured heavily on the Capital Pride events calendar is Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, also known as SMYAL, a D.C. organization that supports local LGBTQ youth. SMYAL Director of Youth Housing and Clinical Services Jorge Membreño says the festivities are normally a huge cause of joy in their community. “We march in the parade every year, and the youth members build the float,” Membreño says. “It’s been an interesting restructuring, just thinking about how to capture that same spirit and excitement we had before.” Membreño says SMYAL has gone into planning mode in regards to cultivating an intimate but safe experience for the teens they serve. When youth enter the program, they find a sense of belonging, and it’s important to reinforce that while also celebrating who they are as individuals. “We don’t want to paint the picture of: ‘Everything sucks right now,’” Membreño says. “Right now, let’s celebrate who you are, as people and youth and as a part of the LGBTQ community.” Capital Pride didn’t plan on adjusting for the pandemic when they announced the slogan for this year’s festival, but couldn’t have landed on one more apt than #StillWe. According to the website, #StillWe acknowledges the struggles and celebrations that exist simultaneously within the LGBTQ community, stating “#StillWe must come together to support, love, honor, resist, vote, protest, and #StillWe must stand up to strive for peace and equality.” “All of us feel a responsibility to figure this out and not go silent, and to be flexible and malleable,” Bos says. “We have to prepare to navigate this in the best way possible. Traditionally, June has been a month where people have a sense of safety or excitement, and we can’t let that go. Especially in this time, people need an opportunity to be inspired and gain some hope.” For more information on the individuals and organizations mentioned in this story, visit these websites. Capital Pride Alliance: www.capitalpride.org DJ Farrah Flosscett: www.farrahflosscett.com The Dirty Goose: www.thedirtygoosedc.com Makers Lab: www.makerslabdc.co Queer Artist Collective: www.aaronriggins.wixsite.com/donateqac SMYAL: www.smyal.org TRADE: www.tradebardc.com The Vagenesis: @the_vagenesis on Instagram
ENGAGE + CELEBRATE: PRIDE EVENTS DURING THE PANDEMIC Even though it may feel like Pride is another casualty during the pandemic, you can always have Pride. Instead of in-person parades and events, this year’s Pride will be celebrated online all around the world.
Leaders from LGBTQ organizations will join the first Pride Talk webinar to discuss how the community will recover and move forward from the pandemic. This event will also be livestreamed on social media. Join the conversation from 7 to 8 p.m. Free to attend. www.capitalpride.org
DC Fray is social distancing, but still socializing. It’s tough being stuck inside so they’re bringing the world to you through a 40-minute trivia game, Pride-style. Join DC Fray online at 6 p.m. Sponsored by Parc Riverside Apartments. Registration $7. www.dcfray.com
Story District’s annual Pride show focuses on stories about the LGBTQ experience. This year is the 10th anniversary of Story District’s storytelling series. The performance will be livestreamed on YouTube starting at 7:30 p.m. This show is paywhat-you-can, donations are critical to help Story District retain staff and continue serving the community. https://storydistrict.org
ONLINE TRIVIA, PRIDE EDITION
All eight D.C. wards will get to experience the inaugural Capital Pridemobile Rainbow Blast, intended to bring entertainment to each neighborhood and document how businesses and residents show their Pride. The most prideful storefronts and residences have the chance to win a prize from the Pridemobile. Catch the Pridemobile in your ward anytime between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. www.capitalpride.org
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PRIDE FUNDRAISER FOR HIPS
HIPS promotes the health, rights and dignity of individuals and communities engaged in sex work and drug use by providing harmreduction services, advocacy and community engagement. Join the Pride fundraiser to support the HIPS at 7 p.m. on their various social media platforms. www.hips.org // @hipsdc or @the_vagenesis
CAPITAL PRIDE CONCERT & SUNSET DANCE PARTY
Pride in the capital usually ends with a dance in the middle of Penn Avenue as the sun sets on the celebration weekend. This year, the Sunset Dance Party is going online and will be hosted by international and Grammy award-winning DJ Tracy Young. Dance from 8-10 p.m. Free to attend. www.capitalpride.org
ONLINE BINGO, PRIDE EDITION
Join DC Fray for an hour of Pride bingo fun to take your mind off the craziness of the world and for a chance to snag some swag, prizes and Fray Player Credits. Hop online at 6 p.m to join the party. Sponsored by Corona Premier and Corona Hard Seltzer. www.capitalpride.org
Drag shows are going online. Blended is a virtual drag experience hosted by a number of local entertainers. Blended will be live streamed on Twitch at 8 p.m. www.twitch.tv/misswhimsythrift
LGBTQ SPEED DATING
DC Fray will provide the ice breakers and a great host to help the conversation flow if you provide the charm. Join the LGBTQ online speed dating at 6 p.m. Co-hosted with Stonewall Kickball, sponsored by Republic Restoratives. Registration $10. www.dcfray.com
BLACK LABEL: JUNETEENTH SPECTACULAR TRADE is gathering some of the best drag stars in the DMV for their Black Label series. The Juneteenth Spectacular celebrates unapologetic blackness. Tune into any of TRADE’s social media accounts at 9 p.m. for the show. www.tradebardc.com
BEARDED DRAG ARTISTS SHOWCASE
Watch some of the District’s baddest drag queens rock their beards at 10 p.m. on Twitch. www.twitch.tv/club_surge
SWEAT WITH PRIDE
Get up and sweat with Pride from the comfort of your own home. Join DC Fray and Balance Gym for a special Pride workout to keep your weekend moving, followed by a virtual happy hour. Workout begins at 11 a.m. Sponsored by Corona Premier + Corona Hard Seltzer. www.dcfray.com 38 | JUNE 2020
BROADWAY BRUNCH: THE QUARANTINE CABARET
Grab your OJ and pop some bottles, it’s time to brunch. The Vagenesis and a number of other great singers from the metro area are giving you their best Broadway performances. Singing, dancing, costumes: the whole nine yards. Tune into The Vagenesis’ YouTube page at 12 p.m. www.youtube.com
DC ARTS MARKET, PRIDE EDITION
Enjoy a fun and informative evening of culture and pride. Join the DC Arts Market for personal discussion with artists and an artsbased panel discussion with several high-profile D.C. LGBTQ figures. Event starts at 7 p.m. Sponsored by Union Place Apartments, Corona Premier and Corona Hard Seltzer. www.dcfray.com
Pride organizations from around the world are coming together to celebrate Global Pride 2020. Enjoy musical and artistic performances, speeches from activists and addresses by public figures in this 24-hour stream. Celebrate LGBTQ people everywhere, and watch anywhere. Sign up on Facebook for updates. www.globalpride2020.org
DC CENTER DIGITAL DRAG BRUNCH
The DC Center for the LGBT Community works to educate, empower, celebrate and connect all parts of the LGBTQ community. Join at 12 p.m on Facebook Live for a fun-filled drag brunch. www.thedccenter.org
CAPITAL PRIDE IN THE CITY
Some familiar faces and places from around the Dstrict will be featured in the first #StillWe Entertain video series to be posted on Facebook and YouTube. This series will celebrate D.C.’s diverse talent, showcasing pre-filmed performances by local LGBTQ singers, dancers, drag performers and more. 7-8 p.m. Free to attend. www.capitalpride.org
district fray magazine stands with the black community. learn more at blacklivesmatterdmv.org. Photo from blacklivesmatter.com.
ART PATRONAGE DURING A PANDEMIC WORDS BY COURTNEY SEXTON
40 | JUNE 2020
CULTURE History tells us that while creative inspiration may be rife, funding for said inspiration is often the first to evaporate in depressed economies like the one we now face. Creative communities are responsible for both cultural and economic stimulation in D.C. According to 2018 data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the D.C. arts industries contributes at least $10.2 billion in value to the city’s economy and employ 52,096 arts workers – and those substantial numbers are just what we have on record. Despite these contributions, there are limited resources available to working artists, many of whom also rely on additional jobs in the service industry to stay afloat. Today this presents a real conundrum. Even with some restrictions on business operations lifting, we’re still a long way off from being able to comfortably host exhibition openings, gallery shows and festivals that would normally attract visitors with dollars to spend in local communities, and provide visual artists with much-needed exposure to sell works and sustain a living. The bright side? As always, D.C.’s creatives are rallying together, for each other and for others in need around their city. Even from home, artists and adjacent creative industry workers are finding ways to promote and provide outlets for public engagement in the arts, and there are plenty of opportunities to support them.
ATTEND EVENTS & ART TALKS We all need a break from the endless Zoom calls that now seem to dominate daily life, but there is valuable screen time. Many galleries and museums around the world have opened up their white walled rooms to the World Wide Web, creating stunning, realistic virtual tours of halls filled with masterpieces. Here in D.C., large institutions and small showrooms alike are doing the same, or offering other new ways to explore visual art and meet creators. And some of the most innovative programs have managed to convene unique partnerships that may not have existed had circumstances been “normal.” “Not (yet) futura free,” for example, is curated by Nathalie von Veh, presented by STABLE, and in partnership with the Maryland Institute College of Art’s MFA Curatorial Practice Program. The digital, online project is brought to life by boutique D.C. graphic design firm Composite Co. The exhibit is a compilation of 10 multidisciplinary projects aimed at documenting and processing what the curators call, “This moment of collective transformation [that] exists as an in-between space to connect us while we are apart.” In addition to an interactive website where you can view images and read artist notes and accompanying prose centered around language and healing from a dozen artists, the project includes a robust series of virtual live programming. Events through June 15 include artist talks, screenings, workshops and performances, all free or by donation. In another truly collaborative approach, International Arts & Artists at Hillyer (IA&A) has fully embraced the idea of artists working together from afar. Creative energy can cross channels and that is made readily apparent via IA&A’s Cross Connect initiative. “Now, more than ever, we are seeing the power and importance of an international online creative community,” the site page reads. As such, Hillyer has paired up duos of artists, curators and other creatives from D.C. with their creative counterparts Hug packets. Photo courtesy of Amy Wike.
around the world. In a series of real-time videos, these individuals share their thoughts and processes with each other and all of us. In a recent episode, Halcyon Arts Lab resident artist Nicole Salimbene met Magdolene Dykstra from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada via Zoom for the very first time, and discussed on camera their artistic practice, social engagement and the sublime. For more information, visit www.notyetfuturafree.org and www.athillyer.org/cross-connect.
START YOUR COLLECTION Marta Staudinger’s grandmother didn’t come from money – she started her art collection during the Great Depression, saving spare change and dollars at a time to put toward purchasing art and decor for her home. Staudinger herself, founder of D.C.’s Latela Curatorial, told that story when she launched her latest initiative (named for her grandmother), the GLB Memorial Fund for the Arts, which provides financial support to womenidentifying artists and curators who reside in the DMV. In addition to offering funding for artists, Staudinger and her 10 program partners especially seek to engage collectors. “We’re trying to utilize [my grandmother’s example] and break the mystique on what collecting is,” she says. “For example, if you have a job where you’re working from home, you have a privilege that a lot of creators do not have right now – artists are entertainers and people love watching what they do. Squirrel a little money away to put toward an artist [whose work] you love. Reach out and say, ‘Hi, I’ve loved you and watched your Instagram.’ Maybe you can’t afford it right away, but you can save up.” If you are ready to invest in a piece or two, there are plenty of opportunities to snatch up some work from local artists, and these days, Instagram indeed seems the place to do it. STABLE’s Pay It Forward Fund (PIFF) is a virtual auction featuring artwork from STABLE artists. Money raised through the auction is put toward a grand fund to assist STABLE artists. Each week through July 2 a new STABLE artist and their story will be introduced on Instagram, with a piece of art that can be bid on (starting at $100) via the comments section. And speaking of auctions, street art is hot right now. Anonymous street artist known by the moniker Absurdly Well (you might be familiar with their “WEAR A MASK” wheat pasted posters) partnered with the Washington Informer Bridge and PR firm InTheRough to feature 20 visual artists in a “Bid to Fight COVID” live Instagram broadcast auction on May 29, with a portion of proceeds donated to Martha’s Table. If you missed it, it’s still worth checking the site for unsold items, T-shirts and posters available through June 12. Finally, you can start investing – and spread some much-needed love – for just $20. D.C. artist Amy Wike has teamed up with 24 other local artists who’ve each created original “hug-inspired” artworks to give the world with “A Hug or Something Like It.” The $20 Hug Packets include five miniature, postcard-sized reproductions of the works that can be just as easily hung on the wall as mailed to friends. Proceeds are split evenly among the participating artists. Follow on Instagram @bid2fightcovid. Learn more at www.glbmemorialfund.org, www.stablearts.org/piff and www.amywikeillustration.com/hug. DISTRICT FRAY | 41
JOIN A SESSION OR TAKE A CLASS The DC Art Model Collective (D.C. AMC) has kicked into full gear, offering a schedule of virtual sessions with professional figure models multiple times a week. While providing a service for artists, the collective works to support models by creating industry standards for the virtual sessions, offers “how-tos” and guidance on setting up virtual studios, and advice on fees for private sessions and image rights. Jalene Januze, a longtime model and one of the D.C. AMC organizers, says, “For us, it was within a week or so that we basically lost all of our modeling jobs. My calendar was suddenly blank. We had a lot of artists reaching out saying, ‘We know you’ve lost your jobs, how can we help?’ They asked if we wanted a GoFundMe and we said we’d like to to work!” Understanding that finances are tight for most, the models have kept virtual sessions (which are clothed) affordable at $5 per hour to drop in and try to accommodate hardships. Some artists have even reached out to offer to sponsor other artists in need to attend. “The more we do, the more we get responses like this and it has been so good for our mental health. It feels really good to know both sides are helping each other,” says Januze, who also notes that the process has been an eye-opener in terms of making sessions accessible for other reasons like mobility issues. In addition to models, many working artists in D.C. are employed by local art centers, universities and school programs, all of which have been closed since March. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) continues to host classes and more for the community via their #artathome campaign. CHAW artists are being featured weekly via takeovers of the organization’s Instagram handle. Every Monday, Ms. Mariana leads a new kids’ art activity via Facebook Live and some of the regular weekly instruction classes are still taking place online. Ellen Cornett finished out her spring session of a life drawing class virtually. 42 | JUNE 2020
“Teaching an online life drawing class posed challenges,” says Cornett, who shares detailed and personal critiques with her students via email. “Laptop and tablet monitors are too small to comfortably view the whole figure, and so I decided to focus this session on drawing feet, hands and the head. I have noticed that most life drawing students find these parts of the figure daunting, and I thought more intensive study of them might pay off when we are able to meet again in the classroom with a live model.” She will be offering an eight-week portrait class through CHAW beginning in June. Learn more at www.fb.com/DCArtModelCollective and www.capitolhillartsworkshop.org. Bid to Fight Covid works. Photos courtesy of Maxwell Young.
THINKING AHEAD Performing Arts Leaders Reveal Plans for Next Season WORDS BY KEITH LORIA The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc for many industries, and those in the arts community have been impacted substantially: shows cancelled, seasons ended and highly anticipated performances scrapped. As summer begins, there are more questions than answers about the coronavirus, making it difficult for arts leaders in the D.C. area to plan for their upcoming season. Since artists need to be locked in and shows need to be arranged, everyone is doing their best to plan a season that can happen in the current environment. The Washington Chorus had to cancel four major concerts from March to May of 2020 in response to Covid-19, losing more than $100,000 in ticket revenue. Additionally, its planned collaboration with the National Symphony Orchestra for performing and live recording Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 has
been postponed from June 2020 to a future NSO season. Still, this is an exciting time for the chorus, especially as it welcomes Dr. Eugene Rogers this season as its new artistic director. “We are avidly engaged in conversations with community, education and artistic partners to develop programs and opportunities to share, learn, perform, create and grow in the months and years ahead,” executive director Stephen Marc Beaudoin says. “We believe that innovation and a commitment to inclusive excellence will guide some exciting programs including online masterclasses and at-home open singws, film and music collaborations, livestreaming concerts, house parties when it’s safe to begin gathering in small groups, and much more.”
Washington Performing Arts President and CEO Jenny Bilfield at home desk. Photo courtesy of Bilfield.
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CULTURE With that in mind, the group will be producing art and creating connections online in many creative ways, and in-person as it becomes safe to do so. “Digital platforms are a powerful way to produce art and create connections, and The Washington Chorus eagerly invites the community to join us in experiencing music and sharing stories together online,” Beaudoin says. “Already, we have piloted a new talk-show format livestream show, called TWC TV, celebrating the joy and art of singing, which is available on our website at www.thewashingtonchorus.org.” The show includes illuminating and fun interviews, neverbefore-seen archival recording releases and live at-home performances. Additionally, the organization will be rolling out low-cost ticketed livestream events in the weeks ahead and viewers will be able to purchase tickets to unique online performances, gatherings and streaming shows on its website. In early March, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. were three days ahead of opening its show, Genderosity, when the decision was made to postpone. Its rehearsals, outreach performances and other chorus-related activities have also been cancelled for at least the duration of the season, which ends in June. “We are now in a holding pattern around planning next season,” says Dr. Thea Kano, artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus. “Scientific consensus says that it will not be safe to sing in groups until a vaccine and/or an effective treatment for Covid-19 is widely available. It is difficult to plan ahead when the future is so unknown and when the information coming out about the pandemic changes each day.” In the meantime, the group’s leaders are discussing presenting virtual concerts next season in lieu of live performances, knowing that it must adapt to survive. “We have begun producing virtual choir projects, where our singers record their own part at home and submit the video to be mixed among the other singers’ videos,” Kano says. “We are meeting with our singers virtually for social gatherings and for sectional rehearsals. Our small ensembles, including our GenOUT Youth Chorus, have also been meeting regularly via Zoom, both to sing, and to check in which each other.” Jenny Bilfield, president and CEO of Washington Performing Arts (WPA), says the organization is finalizing plans and will announce an update on 2020-2021 programming on June 15. One thing she knows for sure: It will be a schedule of events that can exist with or without an audience. “The concern we have on a micro-level is that no one can predict when we can gather again safely,” she says. “The timing is so unknown. We are cementing artist relationships and looking at a heavier reliance upon philanthropy than on ticket sales. We expect to have a heavier use of creative digital content to maintain a connection toward patrons and our artists.” WPA is also continuing to invest in its arts education programs, currently working with more than 100 public schools in the region. George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax and the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas had to cancel or postpone all performances and events through August 8, and as of May 21, both venues have postponed announcing the 20202021 seasons to wait for George Mason University’s decision regarding in-person events beyond that date. “Within two weeks, we launched Mason Arts at Home, a digital platform which featured livestreamed performances and conversations with guest artists, as well as releases of previously 44 | JUNE 2020
We are brainstorming creative ways we can continue to support artists who are willing to experiment together with us in this digital playground. recorded content and opportunities to experience work by our talented alumni, students and faculty,” says Adrienne Bryant Godwin, director of programming of both Mason’s Center for the Arts and the Hylton Performing Arts Center. “All professional artists were compensated for their participation.” Those in charge are already brainstorming ways to modify the Mason Arts at Home platform to continue to engage with the community for the 2020-2021 season. “While we are all busy creating contingency plans and multiple scenarios for how we can proceed in the fall, we are brainstorming creative ways we can continue to support artists who are willing to experiment together with us in this digital playground,” Godwin says. “Without artists, we lose our culture and our identity, and so it is our shared responsibility to do our part to ensure they can survive this pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the financial stability of our artistic landscape.” One thing that has been prevalent since the start of the stayat-home orders is artists have been performing on live streams regularly, be it concerts, readings or solo performances. “Artists have made themselves more available in their living rooms and studios, answering questions from people online, and that access connects audiences and artists more deeply,” Bilfield says. “But we have to figure out a way for artists to go back to work and not just share their work for free. For the record, Washington Performing Arts provides an honorarium to artists who create work online for us – we do not expect them to share their work for free, regardless of where they perform.” Music and art provide hope and a connection to humanity, and that connection is hard to come by in isolation. “Art often takes over where the words leave off, even if the art is a song where the lyrics say exactly what you are feeling or simply makes you feel connected,” Kano says. “It is also a nice distraction from the quarantine and inspiring to see what artists are creating in this unprecedented time in our lives.” George Mason’s Center for the Arts: 4373 Mason Pond Dr. Fairfax, VA; http://cfa.gmu.edu The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C.: 1140 3rd St. NE, DC; www.gmcw.org Hylton Performing Arts Center: 10960 George Mason Cir. Manassas, VA; www.hyltoncenter.org National Symphony Orchestra: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org/nso The Washington Chorus: 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.thewashingtonchorus.org Washington Performing Arts: 1400 K St. #500, NW, DC; www.washingtonperformingarts.org
WORDS BY COURTNEY SEXTON â€‡ DISTRICT FRAY | 45
LIFE In March, Tinder made its usually paid Passport feature available free to all users of the online dating app. As of April, Pornhub published user engagement insights showing traffic to the online pornography site has grown exponentially all over the world. Guidance issued from the Dutch government in May advised single people to find a quarantine “cuddle buddy” or “sex buddy,” provided both partners were free of illness. While it may seem that sex is on the brains of many, the collective stress, uncertainty and fear that has characterized the past three months of human existence is actually (shocker!) not so great for the libido. As for the increased viewing of porn, experts say this, coupled with masturbation, is unsurprising, but less related to sexual desire and more a mechanism for coping with anxiety, a temporary “release” from the overwhelming reality of the pandemic. “I can confirm that totally with my clients that even in the best case scenarios of people quarantined together and loving each other, they’re saying, ‘We’re not [having sex], but we want to. We’re stressed and we’re not’,” says Dr. Kimberly Pendleton, a D.C.-based women’s empowerment and sexuality coach. “Part of what is disrupting their sense of wanting to have sex is just not feeling safe in life in general and it’s hard for people to process that so they’re shutting down.” Indeed, for many Washingtonians, quarantine has quelled casual sex, stamped out burgeoning relationships and put the skids on having kids. Nonmonogamous pairs are experiencing monogamy with primary partners, singles are feeling like they may as well join a monastic order and many married couples are coping with new routines that leave little room for physical intimacy. One D.C. woman I spoke to anonymously had recently started dating someone prior to the city’s shutdown. When she left the city to go quarantine with her mother in Oregon, she says things with the new guy ended pretty quickly. Other singles have turned to apps for conversation and connection in the digital space that has come to dominate daily life, but are likewise afraid and even put-off if new acquaintances suggest meeting up in-person. If someone can’t respect my body during a crisis, they wonder, how could they ever? “The ‘random hookups’ were rare enough before and I’m not interested in breaking quarantine for something fleeting,” says D.C. resident Erik Moe, who instead of having sex has been spending a lot more time reading. Jenny Frank, a former D.C. resident, had been settling into a new life in Denver and was about a month into a relationship when Covid hit. “We decided to be responsible and not do anything because he works at a hospital. At first it was nice because it made us communicate more by talking on the phone, watching TV shows remotely, and having virtual sex... all things we were not doing before,” Frank says. “We were trying to keep things going by doing bike ride/park days but he would sit six feet away from me with a mask on and it just felt distant and somehow more lonely.” However, while people might not be spending all of their at-home time getting freaky, they’re being forced by quarantine to reevaluate what it is they want out of a partner or partners, and, for those coupled, to put some work into the intimate relationships they do have. Many agree that while their beds aren’t creaking, they also aren’t necessarily cold.
“Being with each other as much as we have during this time has definitely challenged our relationship,” creative writer Amy Howard says. “Our fuses are shorter with one another. We find ourselves needing alone time that we never really had to carve out before. Throw in a heap of disagreements about co-parenting and challenges with the kids and there are days that I’m not very happy and I feel very distant and disconnected from my husband. In certain ways though, it has forced us to have some serious and difficult conversations with one another. We’ve become better communicators by necessity; that has brought us closer. We’ve learned some hard and beautiful truths about one another, our commitment to our marriage and how we react when the going gets tough.” She and her husband are married, have been in an open relationship for more than three years and share custody of his children. Howard says quarantine has solidified their decision not to have more children of their own. Several other couples I spoke to anonymously have also noted new ways of connecting with and taking time to listen to one another, especially when children were involved. Cooking, exercising together, gardening and more of the day-to-day moments of domestic life are being shared. Understanding and addressing each other’s mental health struggles has come to the forefront. James Stokes, a D.C. restaurant industry worker, says his wife has had to see more of his agitated side. “I derive much of my happiness from work and function and making people happy,” Stokes says. “That’s been taken away so she has to see me cope.” Pendleton says she views these kinds of reflections as indicative of a broader trend in society toward people being more open to looking at their own traumas and seeing how they impact relationships. Unlike in other times of collective trauma that we can point to throughout history, 2020 has one advantage in that more people are familiar with a lexicon to articulate what is happening within and around them, even if they’re not sure what to do about it. Pendleton, who often helps clients with trauma, has seen a definitive uptick in interest in her sex programs. “I think many are thinking, ‘We can’t outrun these things anymore, so we may as well look at it.’ They’re realizing their day-to-day life schedule was set to keep them busy and now they’re delving into the deeper parts of their psyche.” She does anticipate some will realize that, without external structures in place, inequalities in relationships may surface, even for those who would have thought division of labor in their partnerships was equitable. She adds, “maybe it is hopeful because maybe the relationships we’re in and the ones we form when we come out of this are more deep and honest because we did some of that work.” Whether we emerge from the Covid-19 era with a spike in divorce rates or a post-WWII-style baby boom, it may still be too early to tell. One thing is certain for D.C. residents: We’re creating a new love language.
MANY AGREE THAT WHILE THEIR BEDS AREN’T CREAKING, THEY ALSO AREN’T NECESSARILY COLD.
46 | JUNE 2020
Learn more about Dr. Pendleton’s courses and private coaching at www.theuncoveredwoman.com. Illustration by James Coreas.
Local Educators + Nonprofits Make the Best of Learning WORDS BY M.K. KOSZYCKI
As a school year reliant on parents and guardians absorbing a bigger role in their children’s at-home education comes to a close, the looming summer raises many questions. With camps moving online and questions about future academic calendars unanswered, it’s daunting to think of how education will look in a post-pandemic world. Due in part to the connectivity of the internet and the innovation of educators everywhere, digital resources abound. From hands-on play to arts education, we spoke to local educators, organizations and businesses about their virtual work and how you and the children in your life can access and benefit from it.
ARTS ON the horIZON The Arts on the Horizon presents theater to their audience of children ages 6 and under using professional adult actors. They are the first theater company in the country to provide performances exclusively to this age range, and their non-verbal performances feature little to no major divide between the audience and performer. “It’s a very tactile, intimate experience for the audience,” says Michelle Kozlak, founder and producing artistic director. “As you can imagine it’s really challenging right now.” Despite challenges, Kozlak, her team and performers began a YouTube channel on March 16, immediately after they closed. Now boasting 30 videos, they’ve expanded from actors reading Photo courtesy of Arts on the Horizon.
books to more interactive experiences, all accessible via the theater’s website and their YouTube platform. “We also have at-home activities we started to send out,” Kozlak says. “All of these are free. Anyone who’s on our mailing list has been getting these lists of activities in addition to the videos. And we are preparing a coloring book and paper doll book based on our shows that’ll be coming out in June. It’s a way to do some screen-free activities but something that still connects everyone back to our shows.” The coloring book, available this month, serves as a fundraiser for the organization. To further help the organization employ artists and keep afloat while they are closed, donations are also being accepted through their Hope on the Horizon campaign. “Liking and sharing things, just getting the word out about things that we are doing, even our free activities, is amazing,” Kozlak says of other ways to help. “We’re still a young organization, so the more that people know what we’re doing, that’s great.” The Arts on the Horizon also offers virtual classes and their virtual summer camp launches this month. These camps come with supply kits to encourage learning after camp instruction and offer something to do without increasing screen time. “We just really want to make sure we’re keeping everyone safe,” she says. “We’re finding new ways that we can engage with parents and kids during the camp, so we’re doing an hour a day [everyday] instead of the normal three hours.” DISTRICT FRAY | 47
LIFE To sign up for The Arts on the Horizon’s summer camp, subscribe to their mailing list, check out videos, free resources and more, visit www.artsonthehorizon.org.
PLAY TO LEARN PRESCHOOL Play to Learn Preschool, a school for children ages 3 to 5 in Leesburg, also serves as an online resource for teachers and now to parents and guardians. On the school’s Facebook page, you’ll find videos, resources and images galore, all aimed at learning through play. They expanded their digital content even further in the wake of the pandemic-related school closures. “When schools were closed unexpectedly on March 12, we decided to offer a virtual circle time experience for our own students and any other preschoolers who wanted to participate on our Facebook page,” says Jamie White, founder and teacher. “We did not expect to have hundreds of thousands of students join each week.” White and Play to Learn also hosted a Virtual Preschool semester, with eight weeks of videos and printable enrichment packs. That content is still available for free on the preschool’s website. While Play to Learn’s summer Virtual Preschool ended on June 1, White is gearing up to offer a fall semester as well. “The Virtual Preschool experience is designed to give preschoolers a little bit of normal-ish school structure to their day,” White explains. “The videos are designed so that the kids can sing along, recite poems together and interact with the games.” White reads a related picture book to the class each day and teaches reading comprehension strategies. “We believe that children learn best when they are engaged in hands-on, messy, interactive, play. But since that is not possible for many children at this time, we hope the Virtual Preschool videos and related play ideas help to fill in some of the gaps.” Teachers, parents and students have all made huge adjustments during this time, and Play to Learn is no exception. As White mentioned, the digital nature of new teaching methods makes it harder for interactive learning, but she and her preschool strive to strike a balance through things like the play ideas offered in daily play packs that are provided each day. “It is a challenge to reconcile the knowledge that children should have limited screen time each day. They need a lot of movement, creativity and activity in order to learn. I hope the Virtual Preschool program offers families ideas for extending the learning at home through play.” White also has words of encouragement to parents as they do their best to keep educating and entertaining their young ones right now. “My best advice to parents is: Do not try to recreate the classroom experience at home,” she explains. “Young children need to know they are safe and loved. They need lots of free time to play and create. Do not stress about the academics or worry that your child is not going to be ready for school in the fall. “ White insists that your student will be ready when school starts up again, and the teachers will be ready to meet them and help them succeed. “‘Deep breaths, no stress,’ that’s my summer mantra for preschool parents!” For more on Play to Learn Preschool and to access numerous free resources, visit www.playtolearnpreschool.us and www.fb.com/PlayToLearnPS 48 | JUNE 2020
UPCYCLE CREATIVE REUSE CENTER UpCycle Creative Reuse Center in Alexandria is a nonprofit that, according to their website, “Rethink[s] the traditional notion of waste by collecting cast-offs from our community to serve as creative materials.” “We have been very busy during the pandemic,” says Lexi Keogh, UpCycle’s Executive Director. “We’ve been gathering supplies to donate to mask-making efforts both locally and nationally, putting together art kits for kids and adults for curbside pickup, as well as sharing ideas of how people can be engaged creatively while they are at home.” Pre-pandemic, their space in the Oswald Durant Center hosted classes for kids and adults, continuing education courses and individuals could shop through their diverse offerings of materials to use for all kinds of creative projects. While in-person classes, events and shopping have come to a halt for the time being, kids and adults can still engage with UpCycle through kits they offer for curbside pickup. “UpCycle really focuses on making art accessible to all ability levels, so the kits are really approachable for all ages, regardless of your skill level,” Keogh says of their 13 kits and two supply packs currently available for purchase. “Some kits are geared toward making particular projects, such as the Wine Cork Pin Board, while others are more open ended, such as our Create Your Own Watercolor Kit where you make watercolors out of dried up markers. Your imagination is the only limit to what you can make with those. Each kit is unique.” With such diverse offerings available, UpCycle provides great activities for kids and adults to do together, and to start a conversation about creativity, conservation and how the two go hand-in-hand. “UpCycle’s mission is to inspire all people to explore and create by engaging our community in art-making experiences with reused materials,” she says. “Our kits set the stage for people to see how they can use everyday objects for their own creative purposes – hopefully the kit is just the first step.” As far as adapting to current closures and providing kits for pickup, UpCycle also produces instructional videos that correspond to the kits. There’s a myriad of resources to click through on their website for ideas and inspiration to get hands and minds making crafts and creating art. “Our teachers are really shining in the instructional videos they have been putting together for some of the art kits – none of them had done those kinds of videos before. We have also converted one of our afterschool programs to an online format with kits and the kids seem to really enjoy it.” Normally, UpCycle takes material donations with requests from a wish list including items like beer bottle caps, craft paint and seashells. While Covid-19 placed that on hold, they hope to reopen donations on a limited basis as soon as possible. You can still donate to continue their efforts online and are encouraged to share what you make at home via social media in the meantime. To order a kit for curbside pickup, check out resources or make a donation, visit upcyclecrc.org. Learn more about these organizations below. Arts on the Horizon: www.artsonthehorizon.org Play to Learn Preschool: www.playtolearnpreschool.us UpCycle Creative Reuse Center: www.upcyclecrc.org
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CLEAN GREENER A Waste Audit for Your Cleaning Routine WORDS BY LANI FURBANK
I’ve always considered myself to be an extremely clean person. Then Covid-19 arrived and my obsession went off the charts. I expect many of you can relate to washing your hands 37 times a day, using sterile technique from that doctor’s YouTube video to disinfect groceries and wiping down surfaces every hour. Whether these precautions are necessary or overkill, they make me feel safer. My biggest concern is that the uptick in cleaning has also led to a serious increase in waste. Empty bottles of soap and cleaning solution and piles of crumpled disinfectant wipes haunt my dreams. Jokes aside, plastic waste is a major global problem. More than 8.3 billion metric tons have been produced over the last six decades and only 9 percent of it is recycled, according to a 2017 study published in Science Advances. The majority of it ends up in landfills or in the oceans, where it takes centuries to break down, killing wildlife and resulting in tiny, toxic particles called microplastics – truly the stuff of nightmares. This realization set me on a path to become a mean, green cleaning machine. You can also green your cleaning routine by making the following easy swaps. 50 | JUNE 2020
FIRST PAGE. Foaming hand soap. Photo courtesy of Blueland. SECOND PAGE. Dishwasher detergent pods. Photo courtesy of Dropps.
F R I D A Y F R O M
N I G H T S
C O N C E R T 06.12
S E R I E S TRAWICK
HAND SOAP SWAP PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR TABLETS Since the pandemic began, I’ve been going through hand soap at an alarming rate. I had already transitioned to buying bulksize refill bottles and pouring it into stylish reusable dispensers, but those bulk options are still made from plastic. So, I did a little more research and discovered Blueland. This woman-owned company was founded with a mission to eliminate single-use plastic bottles for cleaning products. They sell tiny concentrated tablets that are mixed with water in reusable “forever bottles” to create nontoxic cleaning sprays and hand soap. The hand soap starter set ($16) will replace your current sink-side sitch with an unobtrusive glass bottle and three foaming hand soap tablets in various fresh scents. Refill tablets start at $2 and take up less space than a bottle of soap. The products ship in cardboard packaging and the refill tablets come in compostable wrappers.
DISINFECTANT SWAP WIPES FOR A REUSABLE SPRAY BOTTLE AND CLOTHS Everyone is already rationing single-use disinfectant wipes because they’re even more precious and scarce than toilet paper right now. But the waste – plastic containers, shrink wrap and wipes themselves – should be a concern, too. Enter Force of Nature: This gadget turns a capsule of salt, water and vinegar into a non-toxic disinfectant (sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid, to be exact). If you’re skeptical, I get it. I was. But this solution is approved for hospital and ICU use. It kills 99.9 percent of germs. I was sold when I saw that it’s on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19. The starter kit is a bit of an investment ($56 with a web promo code), but the refill capsules are just 80 cents each, which is less than a bottle of spray or a container of wipes. Once you get your starter kit, making the solution is extremely simple. Just fill the electrolyzer with water, plug it in and add the contents. Turn it on, wait 10 minutes, pour it into the provided reusable bottle and spray away. The only downside is that the solution is for use on hard, nonporous surfaces and needs to stay on said surfaces for 10 minutes to disinfect them before you wipe it off. That means it’s great for counters, bathrooms and floors, but less convenient for doorknobs, and it definitely can’t be used on groceries unless they’re sold in a hard, completely sealed package. It’s recommended to wipe any food contact surfaces with water after wiping off the disinfectant. Each 12-ounce batch of the solution is only potent for two weeks, but given how much we’re disinfecting these days, that really shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll still need to rely on single-use wipes for some of those trickier uses, but Force of Nature can handle most disinfecting jobs. To take it a step further, I use rags and cloths for cleaning. I keep a bag of ripped up old T-shirts and towels in my laundry room and grab one whenever I think about reaching for a paper towel. I put the dirty rags in a trash bag in the laundry room until I reach a critical mass, and then dump them all in the washing machine and wash on the heavy duty setting (hot water, extra rinse) to make sure they’re fully clean. 52 | JUNE 2020
In the kitchen, I swear by Swedish dishcloths, which are nifty, compostable, sponge-like cloths made from cotton and cellulose. I use these to clean counters because you can use soap or disinfectant, and then just wash them and ring them out under running water like you would a dish sponge. Local culinary marketplace The Cookery sells Now Designs Swedish dishcloths ($6.99) in a variety of cute patterns.
DISHWASHER & LAUNDRY DETERGENT SWAP PLASTIC JUGS FOR PODS In an attempt to eliminate waste from plastic jugs of detergent, many folks may already be on the pod train (though hopefully you’re not eating them). The next thing to consider is: What kind of container are your pods coming in? Chances are, it’s a plastic tub. Dropps is covering all the bases with recyclable, repulpable and compostable packaging (no plastic!), non-toxic ingredients, and free carbon-neutral shipping (they offset 100 percent of carbon emissions from shipping). Their laundry and dishwasher detergent pods are compatible with all machines and come in a variety of formulas, from fabric softeners to scent boosters. Pods start at 19 cents per load if you buy in bulk. Learn more about these products below, and start cleaning greener. Blueland: www.blueland.com Dropps: www.dropps.com Force of Nature: www.forceofnatureclean.com The Cookery (offering shipping or curbside pickup): 4017 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.cookeryshops.com
PLAY WORDS BY KELSEY COCHRAN
PLAY By now, we’ve all learned that Covid-19 has hindered some of our favorite ways to play, including the closure of gyms, postponement of professional sports seasons and cancellation of club sports games. Active Washingtonians are itching to get back to their fitness routines, and as restrictions begin to loosen, there seems to be a light at the end of the quarantine tunnel. However, it is still important to practice safe play as experts continue to monitor the situation. How do you best ensure the safety of yourself and others while remaining active? Do you have to wear a mask while running or bicycling outside? Will gym sessions have to remain online for the rest of the year? When can you hit the track again?
OFFICIAL GUIDELINES < < <
For the answers to these questions, it is best to turn to resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and http://coronavirus.dc.gov for District-specific health and safety measures. Sometimes, though, government PDFs can feel overwhelming to read and hard to understand. We at District Fray decided to take the time to outline the best way for you to stay fit while maintaining social distancing rules. According to the D.C. government’s coronavirus resource website, it is recommended to wear face coverings and maintain a safe distance from others while on walking trails and fields, or in public parks and other outdoor recreation areas. Although you are outside, you should always follow these guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and others around you. Even as the District moves to the next phase of coronavirus protocols and more public spaces reopen, it is imperative to continue to follow these basic regulations until expert officials state otherwise. Per the CDC, it is best to visit parks and fields close to your home for recreational use. Traveling long ways may increase your exposure to the virus and the possible spread of the virus to others, as more traveling generally requires more stops along the way to your destination. In other words, you will be in closer proximity to other people and will be exposed to surfaces that may have been contaminated by the virus. If the park or field near you is crowded, the CDC recommends planning your visit for another, less busy timeframe. If you can stay at least six feet apart from others, you are safe to enter the area. State and local authorities are in charge of opening national and local parks, and do so on a park-by-park basis. Before you go, be sure to check if the park you are visiting is open and to what degree. The CDC recommends not participating in group activities or sports, as these generally require team members that are not from the same household. Keep washing your hands for at least 20 seconds regularly, bring hand sanitizer if you plan on going out, and wear protective face masks when visiting parks, beaches, fields or any other recreational area.
> > > WASHINGTONIANS IN ACTION
Carl Maynard, founder of the group Walk With Locals, has been trying to figure out how to keep his passion for exploring D.C. alive while safely following guidelines provided by the government. Walk With Locals is indefinitely on hold for inperson walks out of caution, but the group has moved online with Instagram Live, highlighting photographers and local businesses. “We want to see the city, and it’s a really hard decision to open back up,” Maynard says of the shutdown measures. “I support the city on that, but in the meantime, we wanted to find a way to help distract people [from current events] and brighten their day.” Maynard is also an avid runner, and has been taking precautionary measures to ensure he is following regulations 54 | JUNE 2020
provided by the CDC. Maynard has been running in less populated areas and during times that other runners are not out, per the guidelines previously mentioned. Despite social distancing laws, the running community is still able to show support for one another in little ways, according to Maynard. More people are finding time to run, but are respectful of one another’s space during this time and give a small nod or smile when out to instill some sort of camaraderie. Maynard says that these small acts of support are more important than ever during this weird time. “All we can do is help each other out and be supportive of one another.” Another group that had to pump the breaks on its activities due to the virus is the November Project, originally founded by Boston runners to encourage one another to push through the cold winter months and continue their training. Now a national movement, the November Project brings people of all backgrounds and fitness levels together in an effort to hold one another accountable in their workouts and make training enjoyable. The D.C. group regularly hosts outdoor workout activities multiple times a week, but has had to adapt to the realities of the virus. For the past several weeks, the group has moved its workouts to Zoom, allowing everyone in the group to stay safe, connected and motivated. According to local November Project leader Maria Randazzo, these at-home workouts are designed with constraints such as small living spaces in mind so that anyone can participate. “So much of our workout design is dependent on where we are physically, whether that’s the Lincoln Memorial running stairs on Wednesdays or Meridian Hill Park running hills on Mondays,” Randazzo says. “Having to shift that thinking and framework to ‘We’re all going indoors now,’ we can’t do an exercise that requires a lot of dynamic movement because we’re now cognizant of people having neighbors or roommates. We have to be so much more creative now.” One way the group has had to be creative is in how it connects with one another. There is now a “quarantine challenge” with over 150 people signed up to compete every Monday to have the most reps in a day of a myriad of exercises. These group challenges and Zoom calls provide the community that members are missing right now. At the end of the day, members of the November Project go to it for the camaraderie and friendship it provides, not just the workouts. Until restrictions are lifted, the November Project will continue to host its workouts from afar. Moving forward, the group activities will have to look different. Members will have to stop themselves from immediately hugging and high-fiving each other after a good workout, and the group may have to enforce mask wearing when working out together, per the CDC guidelines. The group is confident that they will be back, but not until they are assured that it’s safe for members to engage in in-person meetups. “We all are just trying to find as much joy as we can in the current situation,” concludes Emma Cowan-Young, another November Project leader. For up-to-date official recommendations and restrictions on how to safely enjoy the outdoors, visit www.cdc.gov or http://coronavirus.dc.gov. Follow Maynard on social media @carlnard and Walk With Locals @walkwithlocals for photos of D.C. and to join conversations with other locals. Get involved with the November Project @novemberprojectdc on Instagram and @nov_project_DCA on Twitter. James Majewski. Photo by Carl Maynard.
ASHLEY SANCHEZ Rolls With the Punches
WORDS BY M.K. KOSZYCKI
“I had no idea where I was going to go.” With all the uncertainty in the world, Ashley Sanchez could be talking about any number of things that have transpired over the past few months. Instead, the forward is referring to an event just as unpredictable but more positive: being drafted to the Washington Spirit in January. Though unexpected, Sanchez’s enthusiasm for the game brought out a hopeful excitement about joining the Spirit. “I knew it was a really young team, which excited me,” she recalls. “I knew the coach’s style of play was similar to mine, more possession-oriented. I actually knew a lot of the girls on the team already coming in. Knowing the majority of them [already] was really calming for me.” It seems Sanchez’s year has been marked by the unknown. She notes that in addition to not knowing which team she’d be drafted to, before that she was unsure if she would even come out of college to join a National Women’s Soccer League team. During her collegiate career at UCLA, she scored seven times and had 15 assists, among other accomplishments. “At first, I didn’t know if I was going to come out of college early or not, and then I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me. But obviously, going into the draft, I had no idea where I was going to go and had all these eyes [on me].” Since then, she’s moved in with two of her teammates, adding another layer of stability to Sanchez’s new life. This element proved especially important as she, her team and the whole world grapples with shutdowns and sports delays brought on by Covid-19. “Everyone’s pretty much in the same boat. I’m glad the people who I live with are able to come out with me and train, and we can make stuff fun sometimes. It’s been getting a little repetitive, which is what I struggle with most. But you’ve just got to roll with it.” Much like the rest of the world, Sanchez and her teammates Ashley Sanchez. Photo by Bernie Koelsch.
rely on Zoom to stay connected to each other and their coaches. Weekly virtual meetings allow them to catch up on the personal and professional. With most of the team residing within a 2-mile radius of each other, lifting equipment at home and a solid training schedule, they’ve created some semblance of normalcy for one another. Despite challenges, Sanchez remains upbeat about her future and the future of soccer. With many Americans displaying a vested interest in women’s soccer after two back-to-back World Cup championships and a number of thrilling players fighting for equality on and off the field, she says her timing with going pro couldn’t be better. “I’m entering at the perfect time. I’m really excited that everything for women’s sports in general is evolving and getting the recognition that [we] deserve.” The future of this season is unknown as of now, and a moratorium on training – outside of outdoor or home activities – remains in effect as the team follows federal, state and local regulations. Sanchez’s message to fans is to hold tight and be ready to cheer them on when they finally return to the pitch and fans return to the stands. “When we’re all allowed to come in and play, and [fans] are allowed to watch [live], I feel like it will all be worth it. And we’re going to try to win for them and just play the best we can for our fans, because they stuck with us through all of this.” As the Spirit and fans take things day by day, one thing’s for sure: Sanchez looks forward to seeing you from the field and showcasing her talents as one of the pros, hopefully sooner rather than later. For the latest on the Spirit, visit www.washingtonspirit.com. Keep up with Sanchez on Instagram @ashley.sanchez.
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LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL... “...I got books and records and crossword puzzles and movies made for TV.” Bonus points if you can name this song that shouts out the simple things we’re all doing to pass the time right now. In the meantime, test your music knowledge with this crossword puzzle from our friends at I.M.P. Check out our website for the answer key, and the name of the song from this intro. 1
13 14 15 17
26 27 29
37 38 39
Check www.districtfray.com for the answer key.
56 | JUNE 2020
ACROSS ACROSS ACROSS ACROSS 4.
22. “Long Tall Sally” singer, with Little
See 2 down
2019 album by The Black Keys
Frequent Method Man collaborator
“____ With Me” by Sam Smith
“Take My Breath Away” with this Top Gun soundtrack artist
The best seats in The Anthem’s house, for short
If you went bowling with Jeff Buckley, you might strike one of these
24. The Love Movement group, familiarly 25.
Band synonymous with the Garden State soundtrack
42. Him of She & Him
They went from being on Avery Island to in an aeroplane over the sea
43. Mr. Faith Hill 44. Maryland home of Maggie Rogers
28. “In the Lonely _____” (album containing 15 across)
30. Ludacris and Outkast’s hometown 31.
Mudhoney and Beach House label
Section closest to the stage
Adam, or Prince’s “Lady Cab _____”
20. This Hot Fuss band is throwing caution lately
Hozier will raise Jackie and this other child on rhythm and blues
46. Maggie Rogers song or Frank Lloyd Wright house, with “Falling” 47.
Early Ed Sheeran single, with “The”
DOWN DOWN DOWN DO
Box office pickup
Guitar god of Sleep and High On Fire
With 11 across, Ezra and Rostam’s band
Neil Young’s “Danger”- tagged avian creature
Claudio from Coheed and Cambria will “Welcome” you back to this place with a double-necked guitar
Baltimore’s Wasner and Stack
Chicago-based online music magazine
Katy Perry wants to hear this from our hummingbird buds
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation _______
James Patrick, the first and middle birth names of this dragon pants-wearer
Famed L.A. room formerly co-owned by Jonny Depp, among others
Boston-based music school
Fitter, happier, more ________
If you listen to Mellon Collie, you might see “Thru the Eyes of _____”
Liam’s post-Oasis project
Musk’s baby mama
Prass or Merchant
Sophmore album from 2 down
She first found fame with the Six Feet Under series finale
Her first single was about 43 across
Bob, Ziggy and Damien
Musgraves’ disco-country banger
Achievement of Whoopi Goldberg or John Legend
First rapper of Wu-Tang’s “Triumph” with Inspectah
DISTRICT FRAY | 57
ILLUSTRATION BY E$. Follow E$ on Instagram @theedollarsign.
IN OTHER WORDS
CITY KIDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
DAILEY WORDS BY KELSEY COCHRAN
Talk to D.C. native Monique Dailey for an hour, and you’ll find that she has endless stories to tell. She’s led a life chock-full of experiences, from volunteering with the Peace Corps to living in the Philippines. Now, she provides opportunities for D.C. youth to explore the outdoors through nonprofit City Kids Wilderness Project. She recently spoke with District Fray about her work, how she’s adjusted to life during the pandemic and what makes her tick via some rapid-fire questions. District Fray: What do you hope to achieve at City Kids? Monique Dailey: Our mission is to help D.C. youth build skills to be successful in life, and we do that through outdoor experiences and programming. We’re a long-term organization where youth start the program in sixth grade, and the overall goal is when they leave our program and graduate high school, they have leadership and teamwork skills, confidence and Monique Dailey. Photo courtesy of subject.
the ability to believe in themselves to do great things. That’s ultimately the end goal: to make sure they are resilient and proud of everything they have accomplished through the extensive array of programs we offer. As a D.C. native, do you wish there was an organization like this when you were growing up? I had this neighbor who introduced my friends and me to the outdoors. It was very unusual because I grew up in D.C. in a really rough neighborhood during the height of the crack epidemic. She was this older white lady who lived across the street from us walking her dog and we’d be like, “What is she doing?” We became curious and she started taking us on walks with her to Rock Creek Park. She decided to start this community organization called Neighbors United Community. In doing so, she founded the Student Conservation Association. DISTRICT FRAY | 59
IN OTHER WORDS I was a participant in that program from the age of about 10 and did camping trips all over the place: Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, the Shenandoah Mountains, Rehoboth Beach – places like that. What drew you to this occupation? I knew I wanted to be in youth development work. I knew I wanted to do outdoor work. My first job when I got back from the Peace Corps was actually with the Student Conservation Association. I had my dream job running programs with the youth. Because I was a participant in that program all throughout high school, I knew the value of organizations like City Kids, [which is] extremely unique given that it’s a sevenyear continuum program. Since many public parks and outdoor spaces have been shut down this spring, how have you been engaging with nature? I am fortunate enough that my home in D.C. and my partner’s home in Memphis – where I’m staying right now – have access to a fair amount of outdoor spaces including my backyard, patio and parks. [At City Kids], we realized we would have to pivot pretty significantly in order to serve our population and ensure we were meeting our mission, but also be realistic about the realities of a global epidemic and how priorities shift. We built a combination of programming that included outdoor virtual adventures like virtual canoe trips, and utilized a significant amount of resources we found online through the National Park Service.
How have you changed your day-to-day routine during Covid-19? I’ve very much enjoyed waking up at the very last minute right before I start working. You’re talking to me right now and I’m in my robe. So that’s been fantastic. In a lot of ways, my worklife balance has been good: being able to sleep in and not feeling rushed in the morning to do a ton of stuff before I head to the office. What parts of pre-pandemic life do you miss most? The thing I’ve struggled with most is not being able to see anyone. I haven’t seen my mom. My grandfather passed away during this pandemic, and we haven’t been able to have a funeral. A lot of people are dealing with grief in a very unique way. It’s been pretty difficult to shift how I communicate and connect with people, having to separate from people and adapt in a way that makes connection a challenge. Ultimately, I’m learning a lot of new ways to bring myself joy to deal with what the situation has brought. I think we are all collectively grieving something, whether it’s time with our friends or the death of family members. Having to deal with all of these things while being apart has been a shift. Learn more about Dailey’s work at www.citykidsdc.org and follow on Instagram at @citykidswildernessproject.
What are your favorite D.C. activities? One of my favorite places to be outside is Anacostia Park. When I’m not outside, I prefer to do social activities with friends and family. What does your ideal day look like? Time spent outside and socializing in whatever way that means now with the people I love. What do you hope to accomplish in the future? I want to have a family at some point, but when it comes to my career, my ultimate goal is to be an executive director of a youth development nonprofit by my mid-40s. What is your favorite part of your job? Engaging with youth who bring joy to my life. How do you hope to help shape the next generation through your work? It has always been my dream to be in position to do impactful work. I hope to give resources to our youth to be successful. What is your most treasured memory? When I was 17, I spent a few weeks in the national forest in Idaho GPS mapping invasive plant species with the Student Conservation Association. I was challenged a lot during that trip, but it let me know I was capable of anything. Who in your life has impacted you the most? It’s really hard to pick one person. There’s a couple from North Carolina I met during a program in Georgia when I was a teen, and I stayed with them often afterward during college breaks. My neighbor Julie who introduced me to the outdoors. Kima Price, my mentor to this day. My mom. Where do you go to take a breather? Malcolm X Park (Meridian Hill Park). It’s the best place to people-watch. What makes you happiest in life? Being around people and knowing I’ve built relationships that are impactful. Bringing joy to others. Hearing laughter. Having authentic connections. What is the best advice you could give to a young person living in D.C. right now? My advice to all youth is to explore. What was your biggest takeaway from your experience in the Peace Corps? I learned more about Americans while abroad than in America. Speaking with other volunteers helped me realize that life is so different for people from the same country. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Somewhere where there’s a beach. What makes you feel empowered? Feeling that people are listening to me to understand, not just to respond. What is the District’s best-kept secret? Anacostia Park. And Mama’s Pizza on MLK Avenue is the best pizza in D.C. 60 | JUNE 2020
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