Monday, July 31, 2006

No Shelter from Raining Words

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) An umbrella provides little protection against a blaring amplifier at the H and 8th Streets NE bus stops Saturday. The broken D.C. noise law, which permits unlimited decibels of amplified noncommercial speech anywhere in the city from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., is much like forcing people without protection to stand in the rain. The neighborhood--including residents, business owners and customers, as well as Metro Transit bus patrons--were forced to learn new phrases during the weekend, such as “faggoty faggotism,” which the yellers claim was the cause of child molestation. The city council must fix this leaky roof when they return from recess in September. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Preaching Is Part of H Street’s Character

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Rev. Dallas Williams of Baltimore, Md., gains satisfaction from ministering on the street, which he admits is most effective without an amplifier. Residents of 8th Street NE support street preaching in the H Street NE corridor’s free marketplace of ideas—just not with a blaring, peace-disturbing amplifier. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

H Street NE enjoys a rich history of street preaching, a legacy confirmed by 80-year-old Rev. Dallas Williams of Baltimore, Md. I encountered him as he preached from 3-5 p.m. at the southwest corner of H and 8th Street NE on Sunday, July 9. I remember Williams at the same spot several years ago, but I hadn’t seen him since.

His use of an amplifier on a quiet Sunday afternoon first rousted me from my studies at home. Williams was very approachable and polite. He put down the microphone as I introduced myself.

His amplifier pointed northeast toward H Street. I explained how the community is disturbed by the amplified sound. Williams apologized for the noise, and added that it’s more effective to talk to people without using the amplifier. “I want to first get the attention of people exiting the buses,” he said. His amplifier was quiet for the rest of the afternoon.

Williams said he is drawn to the intersection by the four busy bus stops at the H and 8th Streets NE. In the 1960s, he frequently preached on H Street. He rotated from one corner to the next—from 4th to 15th Street NE.

He continues to derive satisfaction from ministering on the street, but said it’s much more challenging these days. “People need to be entertained,” said Williams. “You have to have the gift of gab.”

Williams said he was greatly influenced by a book called “The Cross and the Switchblade,” by David Wilkerson. It’s a story about Wilkerson’s first five years in New York City, ministering to gang members during the early 1960s. “I highly recommend you read that book,” said Williams.

When he was younger, Williams and several other preachers traveled between Baltimore, Washington, New York, Chicago and Atlanta. At one time they owned three buildings in northwest D.C. and three buildings in Baltimore, he added. Together they spread God’s word to faraway places like India and Africa.

Williams said his wife died several years ago. He tries to keep busy by preaching when he can scrape enough money together to buy gas for his car. I gave him my phone number and asked him to lunch or dinner during his next visit to H Street.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Knob Adjustment

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Instead of adjusting his uncooperative attitude toward northeast D.C. residents and businesses, a member of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) adjusts a knob on his group’s blaring 13 pound Fender Amp Can on Saturday, July 8. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

The city council may be on its summer recess, but that doesn’t spell relief from hours of amplified noise for the residents and businesses at H and 8th Streets NE.

Saturday, July 22 marked yet another afternoon of obnoxious amplified ranting by the usual noisemaking group. It spent nearly five hours blasting the busy bus stop as well as the homes and businesses surrounding it. The fellows packed up their van and headed out of town only minutes before an evening downpour soaked the area.

Upon the city council’s return, area voters hope a fix to the D.C. noise law tops their list.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Against All Amplified Intimidation

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Abraham Britford (right) uses his unaided voice to try and make a point against a squawking amplifier and nine members of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge at the southeast corner of H and 8th Street on Saturday, July 15. As usual, the group employed an amplifier for more than four hours to pound its message into the ears of Mr. Britford and others. The amplifier also projects the speech into the surrounding businesses and residential homes, rendering the occupants involuntary recipients of the weekly tirades. A broken D.C. law permits this activity between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. anywhere in the city. The city council now must remedy the law. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) As the noisemaking group prepared to leave around 7:45 p.m., Yahanah (left) packed up the microphone and unwittingly illustrates that cookies and quiet conversation are perhaps a better way to engage in a dialogue with people, including Mr. Britford. Each is speaking and listening, and the H & 8th Street residents and businesses are not disturbed by hours of amplified speech. While I wasn’t offered a cookie, I nonetheless realized the potential for a proverbial “win-win” situation--the nine ISUPK fellows should put down the sticks and microphones and pick up cookies! Walk around. Listen. Actually get to know the people in community. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Noisemakers Respond in Hill Newspaper

The July 13 edition of the Voice of the Hill newspaper carries an interview with one of the noisemaking fellows who regularly blasts the H & 8th Street NE businesses and residents with more than four hours of amplified speech nearly every Saturday.

Predictably, his answers attempt to veer the debate from the real issue: noise. It’s important to note that while his long-winded group most consistently disturbs the peace, several others also use amplifiers--some of which are much more powerful--at that intersection.

You can read the interview by downloading the pdf version (2.7 mb) of VOH.

To reiterate, the residents and small business people--of all shapes, sizes and colors living and working near H and Eighth streets NE--support the rights to free speech, religion and assembly. We also believe in the community’s right to enjoy peace and quiet in one’s own home or business. We understand people living in a city must expect a certain amount of urban noise. We desire all groups simply turn down their amplifiers so the sound is within safe and reasonable decibel levels for everyone, as measured by a decibel meter.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Love and Redemption Disturbs at High Volume

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) A man who calls himself Evangelist Woodward of the “Do You Know What Time It Is” Ministries gets extremely loud at the southwest corner of H and 8th Streets NE on Saturday, June 24, 2006. His noisemaker of choice is a Peavey guitar amplifier powered by a car battery. (Submitted photo used with permission. Copyright © 2006. Quest for Quiet neighbor)

If you think speech content matters to the residents living in the 700 block of 8th Street NE, think again.

At first, she thought it was the annual H Street Festival gearing up during the early Saturday afternoon. No, that event happens in the Fall, she thought to herself, as the amplified voice boomed against her closed windows and vibrated the glass. It was close to noon. She slipped on her shoes and peered out the door. In the distance, nearly a block away, she spied a lone figure in a bright red shirt, hand to his mouth, and a big black box at his feet—an amplifier.

His name was Evangelist Woodward, according to his business card. He belongs to the “Do You Know What Time It Is” Ministries. It identifies him as a “Youth Vice President, National Evangelist, and Youth Counsel.” He’s available for hospital calls, funerals and to coach.

His amplifier was a Peavey guitar amp with double loudspeakers. A car battery powered the monster, which was louder than most anything the neighbors can. And he had it cranked.

His message was one of love and redemption. But the neighbors said Woodward's amplifier was so loud it frightened away any souls in need of saving. The residents only wanted to save their hearing. They also wanted to savor the remaining quiet afternoon before the next batch of noisemakers showed up for their usual 3-7 p.m. time slot.

Speech content is not relevant. What is disturbing to the neighborhood is unregulated decibel levels of noncommercial speech. And the broken D.C. noise law makes this absurd activity legal anywhere in the city.

One of the neighbors asked Woodward to turn down his amplifier, which he did momentarily. Out of view, it sounded like he slowly ratcheted up the volume, according to another neighbor. He blasted the neighborhood for a little more than an hour.

The city council must repair the law to protect residences and businesses from absurd activities from unreasonable people.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Front Row Seats for H Street NoiseAPaLooza

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Two women created their own front row for Saturday's hours-long blasting by one group's amplifier—as if they really needed it. Had the decibel levels been lower, perhaps the front row would have been closer to the assembled stage and blaring amplifier. The seated audience cheered when the ISUPK speaker said he celebrated with a bottle of wine the deaths of people at the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

And we're back.

I vacated the city last weekend as a break from the H and 8th noise issue—the first this year. According to neighbors, the usual noisemaking fellows who blast the northeast neighborhood for hours nearly every Saturday also were absent. I can only surmise that these proud Americans were celebrating the country's freedoms of speech, assembly and religion as part of the Independence holiday.

But they were back in force on July 8 and as amplified as ever.

Twelve men strong, the cammo-clad fellows stretched out along the H Street sidewalk. I noticed a few new recruits among their ranks—one of whom previously was a bystander and now proudly sported the group's insignia and stood guard with a stick.

In the meantime, the residents in and around the 700 block of 8th Street NE support freedom of speech, assembly and religion. It's on our list to check in with the City Council to see if any progress has been made on fixing D.C.'s broken noise law which permits UNLIMITED decibel levels of amplified, non-commercial speech between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.—ANYWHERE in the city.