Three months after the trial of Fuller’s murderers, people in this Northeast Washington community speak of fear and the invisible scars of the tragedy, and real estate agents say people do not want to buy in the neighborhood.
Yet there is excitement about a new merchants association and talk of entrepreneurs who view the H Street corridor as a place of economic promise.
Residents welcome that future. But for now, they say, unemployment and crime are still high and there are no recreation facilities for teen-agers in the area. Most residents agree there have been no visible changes in the community since the day Fuller was killed.
“We need to go back to the word of God! We’re gonna leave here one day!” an evangelist on the southeast corner of Eighth and H streets NE called through a bullhorn to passers-by one recent afternoon.
Across the street a young man in a knit cap asked the same passers-by: “Want to buy a gold chain today?” Standing in front of Murry’s Steaks, a woman slipped her tank top to her waist to reveal her breasts. A little girl walked by on her way from school, a violin case strapped to her shoulder.
The children who walk on H Street see a lot. Some people have known that for a long time; now everyone knows. This is the street with the infamous corner, the street with the alley where the 48-year-old Fuller, a mother of six, was brutally beaten to death, an area of the city that was mentioned on the news almost nightly during the six-week trial of nine young men and one woman charged with her murder.
Residents, many of whom have lived in the working class neighborhood for two decades, live with the notoriety that a single brutal act by some of their young people has brought upon their neighborhood.
“I’ve talked to real estate agents who say they’ve had people who don’t want to go north beyond H Street,” said Barbara Thomas, special projects manager for the H Street Community Development Corp. “On the other hand, we are still getting calls from business people interested in coming into the area.”
Thomas said she believes that an economic upswing is on the way for the community, and she points to the formation of a new Eighth Street Merchants Association, which she said includes black, white and Korean business persons.
Residential streets south of the H Street corridor have been gentrified. Once-decaying row houses, scooped up at bargain prices, stand freshly painted with bars at their doors and windows. North of the corridor is a mixed neighborhood of run-down and well-kept houses, new and longtime residents, middle-class families and families who run out of food before the next check comes.