Photo: Penn-North, West Baltimore
(BALTIMORE – August 28, 2017) – Well, folks, gentrification is here. It is real. It is in effect. This is not a game.
We’ve seen it happen in Harlem when former President Bill Clinton initially shifted his operation there.
Harlem’s own Marc Polite, publisher of www.PoliteOnSociety.com, told Bmorenews, “We have a Whole Foods shop in Harlem now.”
When asked what that means, he replied, “It signals that the old Harlem is really on the wane. The sad part about it is that while Harlem does need quality food, it took new residents – i.e. white people – for it to happen. It’s a will problem. Now, quality foods appear. There wasn’t the will to do this until newer people started coming up here. The unfortunate thing is that gentrification happened on the watch of these black elected officials up here.”
He added that “redistricting plays a serious role in all of this.” Every ten years, the US Census happens. As a result, political lines are redrawn. Historically, such lines have worked against black communities. For instance, I’ll never forget when my district elected a white councilman after decades of having only black elected officials. Interestingly, a black Congressman helped to make it happen.
Polite said that gentrification is also very apparent in the South Bronx and in Brooklyn, including Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Slide down to the nation’s capital, and one finds that “Chocolate City” is not as chocolate as it was in previous years. There was a time when a white person had to be absolutely off his rocker to show up at 14th & U. Not today!
According to Marcus Murchison, a DC-based political adviser, “It absolutely is true. It was an effort by former Mayor Anthony Williams to attract or recruit 100,000 new residents to the city.”
He continued, “That target number was bumped up to 150,000. These were mostly millennials – diverse, but majority white. In the process, in neighborhoods that were income-restricted – many of the housing projects were condemned and closed down. NOMA (Northern Mass, a new community created just north of Union Station, formerly dubbed NW1. It had a lot of condemned and vacated houses. They were replaced with high-end hi-rises, costing anywhere from $2,500-4,000 or upward – on average – for a one-bedroom unit.”
When asked how it feels, he replied, “It feels like the city is no longer affordable to live in. It feels like you’re being priced out of the market. The stock of affordable housing units is depleted. Poor people will no longer be here. If you’re in that middle class, there are not many options for you. Income-restricted options are very limited. All that’s available are at market rates which are some of the highest in the country.”
Similarly, Baltimore – even with its high percentage of black elected officials – is undergoing the same. Here in Sandtown, what appears to be the last bastion of blackness, white addicts no longer pull up in cars and pay a runner to go and get the dope. Today, white addicts cop drugs with no thought of being pulled-up by a cop who clearly knows this white guy is not from here. Actually, we have white addicts living side by side black addicts in some instances in these same abandoned houses.
Last winter, I found a white couple – clearly addicted to illegal drugs – living in an abandoned house on North Carrollton Avenue. Several times I’d see them in my alley. One morning, the woman was shooting dope on the back steps next door.
The thought on the streets is that the first white people are the addicts and the prostitutes.
Next, however, are other telltale signs, like a renovated Western District Police Station.
What’s most disconcerting is the black people who are a part of the gentrification effort. Typically, such black bureaucrats work for a white institution in some way, shape or form and their main job is to convince other blacks, for instance, of the need for a newly renovated police station. They do not come to us about a new recreation center or a new community center. No! They come to us on behalf of the agents of gentrification to convince us that black people actually have a future in the midst of this change. And we do not, especially renters.
We have seen hundreds of black families lured out of East Baltimore. Who was the beneficiary? Johns Hopkins Hospital has bought a lot of property there and the black families who used to live there do not anymore.
We have seen it on the Westside where the University of Maryland has bought a lot of land in formerly black communities.
So, gentrification is here and any nostalgia one has of the good ol’ days better be tempered by the fact that those days are long gone.
White people are moving into formerly tough black neighborhoods – possibly for the sake of some “street cred” – with the intention of pushing black people somewhere else.
I should note that these efforts come with 20 and 30-year plans. And in Baltimore, one could even say that gentrification efforts have been on the minds of white power brokers since before the Civil War when Baltimore had the largest population of freed blacks. I discuss that in my autobiography, “Unapologetically Black”.
My conclusion for black folks, a heavily Democratic lot: Politics is not working for us, so build your economic network, get a viable business and buy property. What used to be … ain’t no more!
‘Til next time …