Eleven men and women were named Washingtonians of the Year in 2022, according to Washingtonian Magazine, among them DMV native Ian Callender.
“It really didn’t dawn on me that I made such an impact,” Callender said. “You really want to focus on just doing something positive in your neighborhood and doing something that you’re passionate about.”
Callender’s preferred title is a cultural architect.
“You really want to focus on just doing something positive in your neighborhood and doing something that you’re passionate about,” he said.
He’s one of the founders of Sandlot DC, an idea that started in 2019, in Southwest.
“It’s definitely kind of like the movie,” he said. “It was really just about a collective of people that lived in a specific neighborhood that were from different genres, different walks of life, and they always met and assembled at the Sandlot and all of their troubles and worries went away.”
The idea later expanded to multiple locations, including Georgetown, Tysons, and Navy Yard.
“When we moved from Southwest to Southeast, we realized that Navy Yard only had five Black-owned businesses out of 120, and that was probably one of the biggest metrics that we honed in on,” he said.
In the Spring, he’s scheduled to open another location in Southeast.
“Anacostia, of course, is going to be a huge, a huge lift for us,” he said. “And to have the mayor’s support around that and being able to focus on ward eight being a food desert and providing funds from the food access fund to help us build Sandlot Anacostia.”
The Sandlots allow restaurant owners to make money, with little overhead fees, turning empty lots into vibrant spaces, with food and music.
“What is the number one thing that a lot of Black businesses restaurant tours specifically spend their money on? And it’s their kitchen build-out,” he said.
“So when we realized, we said well let’s give folks an opportunity to activate and have access to our customers and our consumers. And now let’s give them these culinary assets where they can pop in and generate as much revenue as possible and retain the proceeds.”
He’s also one of the founders of the Arena Social Arts Club. Arena Social Arts Club
“When we launched the nonprofit, we said, let’s just focus on a way or a route for people to access the art, but then let’s give the artists 100% of the proceeds. Because there really isn’t a program like that,” he said.
“Being from D.C., there are so many vacant spaces, so many dilapidated buildings that either the property owners don’t really care for, because their money’s just locked in until the market changes.”
It may seem like he has a lot on his plate, but he says it doesn’t feel like work.
“One of my biggest you know, accomplishments is to be able to say 1,000% that the area where I’m from I’m giving my all to ensure that the city succeeds and the people that live there are able to succeed right along with it,” he said.