EVENT: DC Central Kitchen Sound Bites Festival of Local Music, Food, and Change

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I had been in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in the morning.  Living there ten years ago, to leave the area and now return, this area of Washington, DC is a tapestry in contrasts.  Gentrification has changed whole blocks from undesirable to high rent.  Some types of faces are new to my memories of the neighborhood.  Young urban couples push a baby in a stroller down the street, two lesbians pass me holding hands and speaking quietly, a bike path and several bikers pass me as I walk south on 11th Street—my old, “hood”—past Cardozo Senior High School.

My first time out of the metro station a few weeks ago, I lost my bearings because a Target and Giant now occupy the corner where I used to come up to abandoned structures and a gang war that left bodies on the sidewalk during my two block walk home.

But some sights, are still present.  A man, avoiding eye contact, asked me for change as I walked past.  In a city where so much is booming, and so many are doing well, there are still those in need.  People are homeless, under or unemployed, struggling to find work, and to feed themselves and their families.

And then there is an organization like DC Central Kitchen, whose goal is to provide culinary food training, healthy meals and food sources to the community, and nutrition awareness to some of our capital’s most food poor areas and individuals.


Walking down Sherman Street from Columbia Heights, I heard and smelled the event before I saw it.  The Sound Bites Event inside and in front of the 9:30 Club was a Food and Music event to benefit DC Central Kitchen.  Featuring more than twenty-five different restaurants and food or beverage vendors and six local bands as well as a DJ, the festival and fundraising event lasted from early afternoon until the early evening on Sunday, May 19, 2013.  DJ Will Eastman, the Mixology Competition, and food and drink vendors were all set up outside with the stage inside featuring the local bands who were scheduled to play.


With the smell of a giant dish of paella prepared by people in the Job Training program wafting through the air, or the sounds of the womyn drummers from Batala mimicking—or directing, perhaps—you’re heartbeat, one could forget that this is not just a block party.  It is a fundraiser to support an organization that is helping individuals in our city to rebuild and improve their lives.  That many of the event staff are former or current clients, and that many of the restaurants and bars present employ people who have been trained through DC Central Kitchen’s Job Training program.  The money you pay for admission will help to provide high quality, locally sourced food to some of the schools and communities that were previously without access to high quality, nutritionally rich food.

– The mozzarella being made by hand and served from H & Pizza;

– The carefully constructed bite of seafood and avocado tapas from the mind and menu of Jose Andreas of Jaleo;

– The Maple Bacon and Crème Brulee doughnuts from Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken;

– The mounds of oysters being shucked and served by Rappahanock Oyster Company;

– The talent in  drink crafting, and entertaining skills of the bartenders from Birch and Barley, the GibsonBlack Jack, and Bar Pilar, as well as the judging of the contest by local food celebrities, Todd Thrasher, Fritz Hahn, and Chef Tony Lombardo;

– The crafted spirits of Bloomery SweetShine used in the mixology competition;

– The seemingly endless supply of loaded to overflowing selection of finger sandwiches, empanadas, savory bites, and sweet treats;

– The venue space inside and outside of the 9:30 Club;

– The crooning voice of Lee Fields backed up by the Expressions and the other bands

…were all donated.


Because every vendor, performer, and entertainer there believed that food and the shared culture of our city and community are worth the investment.  Because event attendees were spending their money to ensure that children and the elderly have access to nutritional food, that food deserts can cease to exist in a city with so much, and that people can find a path of hope out of circumstances stacked against them.

The restaurants and bars present make their living in food services.  They feed those of us who have disposable income, fickle palates, and choices when it comes to eating.  There are many who live not that far from the 800 block of V Street who do not have those options.


But food is a universal.  We must all eat to survive.  The vendors [I cannot tag them all, but here they are listed on the Sound Bites website] recognize that to thrive, as individuals, and also as businesses, we must feed our community.   We eat, and laugh, and sing, and dance together, so that we can all eat.  We must support the vendors and we must support the work of the DC Central Kitchen.  Check out their webpages and patronize them.

 Find opportunities to volunteer your time, or donate your money to help the Central Kitchen.  Be on the lookout for their other events: Capital Food Fight this fall and Sips and Suppers this winter, where you can again sample some of the tastiest cuisine in the greater Washington, DC area—and also support a most worthy cause, “food as a tool to strengthen our community.”


A great thank you to DC Central Kitchen for the work they do, to the vendors, entertainers, and attendees who supported the event this year.  And for those of you who are reading this review now, who will be in attendance next year.  Not just for the barbeque, brownies, and beer, but for the good feeling you get making your community a better place for all of us.