Saturday, March 8, 2014


Gentrification is probably the dirtiest word that most people have never heard. The subject has sparked debate, and the mere mention of it sent Spike Lee on a passionate rant a few weeks ago at a speaking engagement. It seems that spike is vehemently opposed to the idea. His father's house in the Fort Green section of Brooklyn, which happens to be one of the more gentrified neighborhoods in New York, was vandalized just a few days later. Probably by people who oppose Spike being opposed to gentrification.

So what exactly is gentrification, and why does the idea of it cause such visceral reactions from people?

The buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

In most cases well-to-do white folks decide that it would be a great move economically to by property and move into neighborhoods that they would not have set foot in 20 years ago. As a result,  there is an increase in Police presence driving the crime rate down significantly, the area's public schools are better staffed and funded, which allows for a quality education, and minorities who have been living in the community for decades are "priced out" of their homes. Simply because the rent in these areas becomes so high that long time resident's cannot afford to pay market value. Project apartments are being co-opted, luxury condominiums are being built in place of slums, and the hood is being made beautiful again. It seems the new residents of these urban enclaves have little or no regard for those that they displace. Often vehemently citing their right to live where they please.

But as is always the case with blame, and fault finding, there are subtle, or in this case, not so subtle nuances that can change the scope of the conversation.
I grew up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York, and today the area that I grew up in is probably as gentrified if not more than Fort Greene. It's been more than 20 years since I've lived there and my parents have since retired and moved South. But they weren't priced out. Because they own their property. No matter who moves into the neighborhood   It doesn't matter, nor did it ever effect them. At least not adversely. Gentrification drove their property value up.

With that being said, it seems as if the same residents who have found themselves displaced have been infected by one of the worst diseases ever to effect minorities in America, and especially the African-American community, complacency. Far too many of us were content to pay rent for decades on end without making and effort to purchase property. Lulled to sleep by false security, indifference, and apathy, some of us have watched the world pass us by and have survived only to be crushed by the weight of it. The average rent in Brooklyn, New York in 1984 was $625. Over the course of 20 years $625 a month comes to approximately $150,000. Money that could have gone toward a mortgage.

Gentrification is of little or no consequence to those if us who are home owners. Those of us who sought out and seized the opportunity to take part in the American dream and are more stable and secure for it. 
Now is the time for revolutionary thinking. Also known as common sense. But as it turns out common sense is not so common anymore. We must become a forward thinking people who are in a constant state of preparation. Yes, I am aware that we live in a society that is not designed for African-American prosperity. But at some point we must realize that in order for achievement to take place, there must be an effort to achieve.
Gentrification would not be as big a problem as it is if they who are adversely affected owned property.


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