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.”