Category Archives: gentrification

Meanwhile, On TumblR: Bed-Stuy, Tupac, And Azealia Banks

By Andrea Plaid

Usually, this review spotlights an item or two that the R’s Tumblizens have been checking out/liked/reblogged during the week.

This week, though? Let’s just say that folks were feeling quite a few of the posts, starting with one about some mystery posters appearing in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood.

Racism Still Exists poster, via Colorlines.

Racism Still Exists poster, via Colorlines.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week, Facing Race Edition: Yvonne Yen Liu

By Andrea Plaid

Yvonne Yen Liu. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.

Like I mentioned at the Facing Race roundtable yesterday, the “No Justice, No Peas” panel left a deep impression on me because it addresses what otherwise great food-movement documentaries like Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives sometimes touch on but tend to erase entirely: the food workers of color who do the incredible work of bringing the food–both organic and non-organic–to USians’ palettes and gullets and how deeply economic exploitation and racial injustice not only affects their lives but the lives of their families and neighborhoods. (The Storified version of the panel is here.)

Pretty prescient and very relevant, considering the current fast-food workers strikes.

I just had to vibe with the panel’s brilliant and passionate facilitator, Yvonne Yen Liu, who’s the outgoing Senior Research Associate at the Applied Research Center (the people who bring you the Facing Race conference and Colorlines) and the incoming Director of the Global Movements at WhyHunger. We chatted about not only how she found her way to food justice but also how that issue intertwines with race, racism, sexism, and labor justice, and how one journalist cluelessly said that the food movement isn’t a social justice issue.

I know. I know. Read on…

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PSY’s “Gangnam Style” And “Gangnam Oppa” In “Architecture 101″ (1)

By Guest Contributor Jea Kim (aka Onsemiro), cross-posted from My Dear Korea

  1. What the Heck Is Gangnam Style?

PSY finally set the world on fire with a song, Gangnam Seutail (강남스타일, “Gangnam Style”), written and performed by himself. The song is the title track of his sixth studio album, Yukgap (육갑), which can be interpreted two ways: (i) the word originally  means “the sexagenary cycle;” but (ii) it is mostly used in a derogatory way as meaning “a total retard.”  However, PSY chose this word to express his hope that his sixth (육(六), “six”) album would be the best (갑(甲), “best”). He made a wish and his wish came true.  In fact, the song turned out to be a greater success than he had hoped; it became an instant YouTube, and iTunes hit upon its release and also has immediately become a worldwide phenom.  And people are beginning to wonder what the heck is “Gangnam style.”

Generally speaking, “Gangnam” is the south of the Han River in Seoul while “Gangbuk” is the north of the river, in which gang means “river” (that is, the Han River); nam is “south,” and buk is north.  More specifically, though, it refers to the areas that include Gangnam-gu and Seocho-gu districts as seen below.  (Note that Songpa-gu can be considered to be part of Gangnam in a broader sense.)
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Reflections On “The Rise Of Asian Americans,” Or, Don’t Believe Hype

By Guest Contributor Esther Wang, cross-posted from her Facebook page

Courtesy: multiculturalfamilia.com

Thirty years ago in June of 1982, a Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by two men who were angry and fearful about the decline of the US auto industry and the economic rise of Japan, and 20,000 Chinatown garment factory workers in New York City–almost all Chinese immigrant women–went on strike, after factory owners refused to budge over cuts in benefits and services.

These were seminal moments for Asian Americans, and galvanized a wave of organizing and activism in the US by and for working-class Asian Americans that continues to this very day.

A few months later in 1982, I was born in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, to two Chinese immigrant parents who had come to the US as part of the Taiwanese “brain drain” that accelerated in the 1970s, after the US government loosened its nativist immigration laws in 1965 and prioritized students and other educated workers.

And just this past week, on two separate occasions, I was asked, “How long have you lived in this country?” and told, “Go back to China.”

All of this (which is to say, the personal that is political and the political that is personal) was on my mind as I read the Pew Center’s new report, “The Rise of Asian Americans.” In it, the Pew Center details the growth of Asian communities over the past forty years, focusing on the six largest Asian ethnic communities; their median incomes, educational attainment levels, and immigration status; and the social mores that Pew deemed were most relevant when trying to understand Asian communities.

Like many commentators have already written (see here and here), the report grossly simplifies a diverse and complicated community and, more destructively, feeds into the myth that Asians in the US succeed by dint of hard work and cultural values brought over from our homelands (despite Pew’s own research, buried in the last chapter of the report, that showed Asians overwhelmingly favor a larger government that provides more services).

This is not to say there weren’t some interesting nuggets in the report, or that many of their facts were incorrect–what concerns me and others are the conclusions that were drawn by the writers and researchers at Pew, and how those ideas can and unfortunately will be used by others in the service of their own political projects. What is troubling is how reports like these feed into the dominant lens of how all of us, including Asian Americans ourselves, view our communities, and understand the politics of race – and therefore how power operates – in the US.

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Gentrification and City Planning

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak in front of an international group of city planners on gentrification in DC and surrounding areas. Many thanks to Frank Justice for the invite – this is an amazing and exciting opportunity. Here is my slide deck:

The idea behind this presentations was to start framing the conversation around gentrification differently, and start this thinking at the inception of the planning process. How do we create a more just and equitable living environment? How do we design with intention? How do we ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the benefit of increased prosperity in a given area? I co-paneled with Peter Taitan of the Urban Institute, who provided stats about historical changes in the DC population – and had the fun job of explaining the concept of “white flight” after looking at the dramatic fall in DC’s white population from 1960-1980.

The coolest part were the countries represented: Bhutan, Cambodia, Egypt, Finland, India, Lesotho, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Trinadad and Tobago, Turkey, and Vietnam.

The questions were insightful and fascinating, as all of the attendees tried to understand how American governments allowed gentrification and displacement to happen. There was also a conversation (though all too short) on gentrification’s unintended consequences, since it has a very positive connotation in some fields. I learned that Egypt is staring down the barrel of a housing crisis that mirrors issues with long-time residents and property taxes, and that DC could probably learn a lot from India’s ideas on making the law match social will. I also learned that America’s regionalism is really puzzling to other nations – I never had to think through things like WHY every state and local government has different policies around housing and urban development and quite a few of the questions (like what are the national needs around housing) had me stumped. So all in all, an excellent conversation.

One thing I wish I had time to go into more was the Kirwan Institute’s discussion on opportunity mapping. The paper/presentation looks at neighborhoods as more than just residential or commercial use, and into the idea that neighborhoods are clusters of opportunity. I’ll try to do a full write up on this next week, as I’ve alluded to the report a few times over the past year, but never committed to a full write up.

Strongly Recommended Reading: The Kirwan Institute’s Paper on “Opportunity Mapping: Mapping the Geography of Opportunity for Public Interest Advocacy

Selected Conversations on Gentrification:

On The Rapid Gentrification of DC
The Gentrification Shuffle
The Gentrification Shuffle, Redux: Rebranding Anacostia
Gentrification has Nothing to Do with White Hipsters
More Notes on Gentrification
Another Perspective on Gentrification
I Colonize

And our full archive on gentrification is here.

The Effects of Gentrification on Food Availability

By Guest Contributor Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss

It’s hard to navigate New York City with someone who lived his whole life there, without them mentioning “gentrification” at least once.

Lucky me, I didn’t get it once. I got it at least once… a day.

While my time in Cleveland as a kid was spent in areas that could’ve seriously benefit from the privilege that the gentry (those who do the gentrifying) brings with it, my home in Indiana? Let’s just say that it’s highly unlikely that it’d ever need more money to come in. Needless to say, my experiences with gentrification are pretty non-existent.

But what is gentrification? It is, in a nutshell, when money (or perceived money, which is more important than the actual money, to me) moves in. I used to assume that it was about race, much like this guy:

“I used to think it was about race — when white people moved into a black neighborhood,” said lawyer Charles Wilson, 35, who lost to Marion Barry in the 2008 Ward 8 D.C. Council race. “Then, I looked up the word. It’s when a middle-class person moves into a poor neighborhood. And I realized: I am a gentrifier. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t like that word. It makes so many people uncomfortable.”

“Actually, I thought it was if you see a white guy in Anacostia, listening to an iPod, jogging or walking a dog!” joked Sariane Leigh, 33, who writes a blog called Anacostia Yogi, putting her hand on her hip and waving a sweet-potato fry for emphasis.

The friends fold into laughter. They agree not to use the G-word, at least for one night.

Gentrification is always a delicate topic, especially in a city where it usually has meant well-to-do whites buying up affordable houses in predominantly black neighborhoods. The trend is reflected in recent census figures that show that the District is no longer a majority-black city and by ever-whiter neighborhoods such as Shaw and H Street Northeast.

But black gentrification is increasingly redefining the G-word and changing the economics of places like Anacostia. [source]

Why am I bringing this up? After leaving Bar Sepia one night, we passed by one of the mister’s old standard bodegas (basically, a convenient store), but he did a double take… and eventually, a full stop.

“Wow, man,” was all I heard. “Gentrification is real.”

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On The Rapid Gentrification of DC

Ben's Next DoorThe New York Times recently published another take on gentrification in DC, focusing on the U and H street corridors:

[R]ace and class issues often overlap, and as the city’s demographics shift — the white population jumped by 31 percent in the past decade, while the black population declined by 11 percent — many less affluent blacks say they are feeling left out of the city’s improving fortunes. In April, the Census Bureau reported that Ward 8, in the city’s mostly poor and black southeast, had the highest jobless rate in the country.

“Change is good, but it kind of kicks some of us to the back of the bus,” said Shirley Parnell, a Department of Motor Vehicles worker who recently inherited her mother’s house near H Street, which came with $11,000 in back taxes. [...]

The Rev. Cheryl J. Sanders, the pastor at the Third Street Church of God, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, argues that race is important, particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods like hers. Her plan to raze buildings on church property to make room for more parking was blocked by her local neighborhood council in a vote that was divided evenly along racial lines. Blacks voted in favor of the church, long the social heart of the black community, and whites, concerned with preservation, opposed it. City preservation authorities later struck a compromise.

At stake, Ms. Sanders said, is the face of the nation’s capital and who gets to shape it. That privilege has special meaning here in Washington, whose black-majority government has given jobs to African-Americans and a way into a middle class that they had long been shut out of.

“It’s a question of who has the power to determine what this community is going to look like,” she said. “I want to have a voice in that. I don’t want to be told to ‘sit down and shut up while we cast the vision for the city.’ ”

Sanders hit the nail on the head. The vision of the city is essentially being dictated to longtime residents from outside interests – or, worse, from the folks who have settled here while Obama is in office, and don’t see DC as home. The newer visions for the city are heavily cosmetic and heavily skewed to a younger, moneyed class – which is causing tensions. As we’ve spoken about gentrification many times before (see the links at the bottom of the article) and that tough bridge dividing long time residents and the new development.

It’s easier to like things like new establishments, nicer streets, rising property values and many lifers understand why it’s important to woo a larger tax base. But it’s hard to like changes that just feel straight up exclusionary. Continue reading

Why Do I Hate Steve Zahn’s Davis in ‘Treme’?

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual


HBO’s Treme is growing into an intricate and well-written show! While it lacks the political pizazz of The Wire, it makes up for it by giving us characters we instantly care about — or at least I care about. I think it might yet be a great drama, despite my reservations!

But I have one problem: Davis McAlary (played by Steve Zahn). I hate this guy. I realized why this week.

GET THOSE GENTRIFYING GAYS!

First, let me recount a situation from the last episode, which made me realize my feelings.

Davis has been blasting music from his apartment window into his neighbors’ house, mostly jazz and hip hop. This week, the gay yuppie neighbors confront him about it. “Why are you being so nasty about this? You have a problem with gay people?” Davis says no, he loves gays (see, we’re supposed to like Davis). Why does Davis hate the guppies? It’s a really original argument**: “You moved into the Treme. You tear the place up. You put in your birdcage, your flower gardens and you don’ t have a fucking clue as to where the fuck you are living.”

See, the gays are sill gentrifiers who want to “historically preserve” homes but don’t know anything about the neighborhood whose property rates their raising! “It’s called gentrification. This is the Treme dude! The most musically important black neighborhood in America,” says Davis, as he starts listing artists that lived in the block. He asks the gays: “did you know that?”

“I know all about the Treme,” older gay insists. Wait, is this a different breed of gentrifying gay?

But Davis keeps on listing artists. Finally the gay person rattles off the name of a jazz great too. See, the guppies grew up in New Orleans. “We’re as much New Orleans as you are.” Nuance?

Caught off guard, Davis goes on to accuse the gays of complaining to the cops about his stereo and other music in the ‘hood being too loud.

The gays says they’re innocent: “We have never once called the cops,” the older gay says, believably — and inexplicably — I think.

Davis goes on, he doesn’t believe them. “You live in the Treme. Gotta deal with that shit.” Continue reading