A Response to Gentrification
Posted on Saturday, January 02 2016 12:00:00 AM in News by Michael Hamlett
Gentrification is rooted in the idea that areas can be "discovered" and then "made safe", through investment in infrastructure, for other people groups. Now, this isn't primarily about race, although race does play a part in the gentrification process. The reason why I don't want to highlight the racial aspect of Gentrification is because it perpetuates a couple of toxic ideas. The first is that only white people have money, or achieved a certain economic status. This encourages people who are not white to believe they are below white people in value, authority, or have to own certain brands (created by white designers) to feel as if they've made it. To live in a white neighborhood also means you've made it, and that the cops have to pay attention to crime rates in that area.
The next idea I don't want to perpetuate is the idea that minorities are limited to Blacks and Latinos. As a Latino, I think that constantly depicting Latinos as disadvantaged and impoverished teaches young Latinos that their fate is sealed. I'd much rather inspire my people to do great things, to be ambitious, to work hard for themselves, their family and their community. Also, minorities include Asians, people from the Middle East and India and basically any people group that isn't white America. It also simply means minor in numbers, not in position. We've associated the word "minority" with "inferiority" - in economic opportunities, schooling statistics, crime rates and other negative connotations. I want to stay away from those things relating to race and Gentrification, although I know that race does play a role in the process, I don't want to continue to broadcast a negative concept of what it means to be Latino, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, and yes even White.
Gentrification is about class. As in "I have enough money to live wherever I want, and pay any price" kind of class. This is the type of class that pays extra to sit in first class, to sit front row, to have the life of luxury. Let me be clear, in and of itself, a life of luxury isn't evil or something to be coveted. It's simply an option for some people, and not others. Now when the pursuit of a life of luxury means the displacement of people groups, the outright exclusion of those in need, and the lack of investment in communities until we can cater to those in the upper class - we have a problem.
Gentrification is also characterized by a disrespect of the culture and communities that already exist. It's not an improvement of areas in most cases. It's usually the replacement of local for corporate. This, to me, is the most grievous of what Gentrification does. The essence of what makes a great neighborhood - and what attracts these transplants in the first place - is lost with every mom and pop closing, with every family being priced out, and with every new development catered to the new transplant group. New investment should be made in communities for the simple fact that communities need to be invested in - not because it's the next real estate hot spot.
As a Bronxite, I've unfortunately grown accustomed to having my borough overlooked, ridiculed, and forgotten. But now we've been "discovered". Since the rest of NYC has become unaffordable, I fear that the grip of Gentrification will continue to tighten on my beloved borough. Which is why I've created The Bronx Brand.
The purpose of the Bronx Brand is to promote Bronx creativity. Creative expression takes many forms such as fashion, graphic art, music, literature, and videos. Creativity also changes things. Think of the most creative movement to develop and be exported by America - Hip Hop. It's changed fashion, art, music, videos and now literature. And where did it start? No other place than my beloved borough, the Boogie Down Bronx. The Bronx not only oozes creativity. We have the power to change things, and I fear that as Gentrification continues to creep in, we could lose what makes us The Bronx. I'm fighting back. I want to give creative people from the Bronx an outlet to share create and make an income off of the hard work of creating culture. I want you to be able to stay in the Bronx and create what you love. I'm a Bronxite, just like you, and I'm fighting for my borough.
Please share with your friends, tell anyone who creates to submit their work on the platform and support each other! We can go much further together.
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