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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Banners & Shiloh: The good, the bad, & the bad & ugly.


Banners on telephone poles generally enliven the street scene, market a community to itself and to others, and serve as a visual accent to the otherwise banal structure that is a telephone pole. In the downtown district, there are a series of colorful banners with "Downtown =" on one banner and a different amenity or attraction offered downtown (e.g., culture or dining) on the opposing banner. Though not the most clever or unique banners, they get the point across and make the street scene more colorful. I actually like them.


Even the banners along 14th and U Streets, which are pretty uninspiring and uninformative, improve the streets’ collective ambiance:



In the blocks surrounding Shiloh Baptist Church, the Church is spreading the gospel via some of these telephone pole banners. Their banners are rather plain (white with purple lettering and/or outlines of doves), so only marginally add to the streetscape, and many convey an overtly Christian message (e.g., "God is Love"). Here's a bad photo of two of their banners across from the Shiloh-owned, abandoned structures on 9th Street:



Given Shiloh's past relations with our changing neighborhood, I wonder about their intention behind these banners: were they put up with the intention of enlivening the streetscape or as flags showing perseverence in enemy-occupied territory? Are these appropriate in our public space? Are they offensive to non-Christians in the neighborhood? Are the banners helping market our communitiy in a positive light or simply self-serving? Should Shiloh be spending money on these banners instead of being good stewards of and good neighbors regarding the several boarded-up properties they own? Legally, did they jump through the right hoops to hang these banners?

If I were Shiloh and I wanted to post banners around the neighborhood, I would have done things differently. First of all, I would have made banners with more visual appeal (sorry to whoever designed these things, but they're really boring looking). Second, I would not have been so overt with the banners' messages, which all tend to alienate. Third, I would have tried to market the church's history/place in the neighborhood rather than just throwing the Church's name up everywhere (the JCC on 16th Street posted banners in front of it which do this well; I'll try to follow up with the content and a picture of their banners).

Any thoughts?

14/U DISTRICT PHOTO CREDIT: MidCity Business Association, available here.

10 comments:

Yt said...

We gotta similar problem with a couple of churches over here on 5th St. I do a little, what I can, and I'd like to hook them up with better signage and shit but some church folks are just paranoid and suspect of anyone from the outside community offering to lend their talents in neighborly support. ... It doesn't help that some of their "core beliefs" are just plain offensive. It's like you gotta buy into every contradictory thing every written in the Bible before they think you are narrow or illiterate enough to trust to work for them -- even for free. I do what I can, it's an uphill battle.

Anonymous said...

Other than directly in front of the church (maybe), these banners should not be displayed on publicly-owned fixtures...although the church is part of the community, I find their "claim" on the neighborhood offensive and as a taxpayer don't believe my public utility fixtures should be used to spread the word according to Shiloh...why aren't they spending the money to fix up their buildings??? I won't even get into the fact that more than 50% of their parishoners reside in Maryland...

Anonymous said...

It's tough. I understand that an evangelical wouldn't mind offending as long as it's offending with Biblical Truth. Toning a sign down to make it more pleasing to the neighborhood undermines the point of the sign.

If the signs weren't put up with the permission of the pole owner (which would be just perfect considering how they held Vegetate to the letter of the law), then we have a case for the signs' removal. If that's the case, then we should have more leeway to help design future signs.

If the signs were put up with the permission of the poles' owner, then we should lobby that owner for a say in what's an acceptable sign to us and what isn't. Most likely the pole is owned by DC or Pepco--either way, the restidents of Shaw (rather than the mostly suburban population of Shiloh and the churches) have a strong voice for change.

Shaw Rez said...

oops--comment 3 was from me, Shaw Rez.

Anonymous said...

As the author and artiste of the Slum Historique, I am offended by the Shiloh in-your-face signs on public property. How do I get rid of them?

Need your help: Ray Milefsky

Anonymous said...

I hate those obnoxious banners and I would love nothing more than to see them come down. Shiloh thinks they are above the law and I am sure they didn't follow any legal procedures to hang their religious message throughout shaw..."building god's village". I remember reading on their website under the pastor's pen column that they were fighting to build god's village and that Vegetate didn't fit in to their plan of "god's village". See for yourself shilohbaptist.org under the paster's pen section.

Shaw Rez said...

Ray - First of all, I've been wondering who I should be giving credit to for the "Slum historique" moniker. I realized after the fact that I should have used "la" instead of "le," but oh well...

Second, I will do some more research and make a subsequent post about the propriety of Shaw's signs.

Anonymous said...

Come stop on by to the "Smelly Whore" Cafe for a cuppa and a chat. We really need to be organizing rather than impotently typing anonymously away in blogs. The bigger fish to fry is Shiloh (see my post in the "Off Seventh" blog).

Shaw Rez said...

Anon - I agree about the need to organize (on many levels: from neighborhood watches to oversight of the ANC to assisting with Shaw Main Streets etc.) and I don't mean to come across as a passive aggressive anonymous blogger. I wrote about the banners to see if others are annoyed by them as well; I intend to follow-up regarding their propriety and will report again. Before jumping to action, I want to make sure I know the facts at play here.

si said...

to me it seems a violation of seperation of church & state as they are on public property promoting a religious message.