D.C. residents and businesses are pledging allegiance to the stars and bars

Graphic artist Kendra Kuliga touches up a mural on the wall at the 3 Stars Brewing Co.
in Washington, which incorporates the District’s flag into its sugar skull logo.
(Photo: Ricky Carioti/TWP)

By , Published: March 4, 2013

On a windy Thursday night, a Chevy minivan covered with giant images of young people wearing D.C. flag T-shirts rolled slowly down 11th Street in Columbia Heights. It was almost as if the van were a Good Humor truck — people talked excitedly and pointed and a few spilled onto the street from a bar, curious about buying the shirts.Turns out the driver was just in the neighborhood to eat dinner. (And show one of the T-shirt models on his van — a bartender at the Meridian Pint — his likeness.) “But, maybe, I should sell them out here,” joked Derek S. Kennedy, who hawks the shirts online and every Sunday at Eastern Market.The District of Columbia flag flies outside of the Mayflower Hote in Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia flag flies outside of the Mayflower Hote in Washington, D.C.

“I feel like anything with the D.C. flag these days is a total gold mine.”The flag — three red stars above two red bars — is already a symbol of protest for the D.C. statehood movement. Now it has been adopted as an all-purpose symbol of identity and pride by young District residents and business owners. The flag’s clean white-and-red design appears in logos for several new businesses — everything from Yoga District and its newly opened District Tea Lodge to the Three Stars Brewing facility and Sticky Fingers bakery, which substitutes two rolling pins for the two bars.The flag has also inspired a local cottage industry. Items bearing its image range from kitchen tools to wedding-cake toppers to necklaces, notecards and oil paintings. New York has its “I heart New York” logo. New Orleans has its fleur-de-lis. And now D.C. has its stars and bars.“There was a time when nobody or any businesses would have used the D.C. flag,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), referring to the city’s troubled past. Norton is known to wear a tattoo of the flag — albeit a temporary and washable one — on her wrist.But is using the flag to hawk cupcakes or beer selling out this longtime symbol of D.C. statehood? “Just the opposite,” she said. “I think it’s a great thing.”Just last year, Norton got a bill passed requiring the armed services to display the D.C. and territorial flags whenever the flags of the 50 states are displayed. Returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq had complained that the District wasn’t represented during national homecoming celebrations and military graduation ceremonies.“What it really says is that a lot of young businesses want to use it and say ‘I’m real D.C.,’ and ‘real D.C.’ today means being hip,” she said.

Dave Coleman, 36, moved here from Cleveland in 2002 and loved the energy of the city with all its new businesses, farmers markets, bike lanes and restored rowhouses. Unlike lots of people who moved to the city in the 1990s, he never looked over his shoulder, wondering how soon he could move to New York.

He was so committed to the District that he had the D.C. flag inked on the underside of his right arm. He named his new business, the Three Stars Brewing, after the flag.

“I met my wife here. I bought a home in Columbia Heights. My career hit its stride here,” he said, standing in his cavernous brewery in the District’s Takoma neighborhood that features two giant murals of the flag. “It’s become such a symbol of pride for people who put down roots here and think that Washington — official Washington — is that place over on the Hill. But D.C. is our neighborhoods, our own culture, totally separate from that.”