To a lot of people, the word Gentrification, signifies the revitalization of forgotten and neglected neighborhoods. It has been portrayed, largely, as a positive phenomenon in urban cores. On the face of Gentrification it is a positive reincarnation of neighborhoods that have had a steady decline and the triumph of creativity and civic awareness.
There is an ugly underbelly to this movement that has already taken over large urban cores and is now working its way down to 2nd tier cities around the U.S. It has become for natives of these neighborhoods, yet another symbol of privilege and has come to resemble cultural genocide as waves of young moneyed professionals invade historically black and Hispanic neighborhoods, take them over and colonize them into something akin to a suburban feel in the city.
As a bike messenger through the 1990’s out of necessity, I often moved into marginal and struggling neighborhoods around the country because it was what I could afford. The bike messenger community, largely ethnically diverse, made it less of a psychological leap for a white suburban girl to join inner city black and Hispanic communities because so many people in the bike messenger community, in fact, the guys I looked up to and emulated, were African American and Hispanic.
I didn’t know back then, that my very presence in these neighborhoods would embolden other white people to follow. Clearly though, city after city, I saw this happening. Over the years I watched as my friends described the changes in neighborhoods I used to live in with them. Usually the hipsters would follow us, then the artists. After the artists, the gay community would come with money and start buying properties and fixing them up. Close on the gay community’s heels were Starbucks, Jamba Juice and Whole Foods. By the time Whole Foods set up shop in the neighborhood,the original inhabitants were just hanging on. Lucky ones could keep up with the increased values of their properties and subsequent increase in taxes. Mostly though, they started leaving, neighborhoods farther away, to the suburbs.
That doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Actually it had far reaching implications. Communities were shattered and individuals’ lives get exponentially more difficult. What is even more damaging to the economy is the carnage caused by the mass migration of whole classes of people from urban cores.
As the first post in my new blog, I hope to reveal more of a 360 degree view of current issues in the public space while encouraging readers to contribute to a vision of what the future could look like. In the next post I will explore the wide-ranging economic implications of “gentrificide” (my word) and some new ways of framing the issue so more people can benefit from gentrification with a conscience. Stay tuned.