Last year, it took me roughly six weeks to earn $5,800.
This is significant because during the late
eighties and early nineties my mother received
public assistance, subsequently she and I lived off of
$5,800 for an entire year.
Yes, $5,800 per year.
Given these facts, last year, I thought a lot about the ways
in which I could personally serve as a gentrifying
factor in my hometown of Oakland, California.
Often times, in popular media, there is very little talk of
gentrification, or if there is, it is discussed in vague terms,
such as"those hipsters are moving in" or "those
white people are moving in" or "this area is becoming nicer."
Gentrification has very little to do with white hipsters
moving into the 'hood and everything to do with process of people
who earn higher incomes moving into neighborhoods
where folks reside who are earning comparatively lower incomes.
If I am a Black women, in Bed-stuy, East Oakland or the South
Side of Chicago, and I earn $60K per year and I am willing to
pay $1000 for an apartment that everyone else, who earns
between $10-15K/year, pays $500 per month, then I am
serving as a force of gentrification in this neighborhood. It bears
being stated that I in may ways I am a gentrifying force in the
same way that a white person earning $60K who moves into
the same community.
What becomes pivotal is my willingness to be engaged with the community
that I have moved into.
A more sustainable, honest and
comprehensive conversation about gentrification would
involve a discussion of the income of the gentrifiers
and not just the race of the gentrifiers.
Wikipedia defines gentrification as,
...the change in an urban area associated with the movement of more affluent individuals into a lower-class area. The area experiences demographic shifts, including an increase in the median income, a reduction in household size, and often a decline in the proportion of racial minorities (if such minorities are present). More households with higher incomes result in increased real estate values with higher associated rent, home prices, and property taxes. Industrial land use can decline with redevelopment bringing more commercial and residential use. Such changes often result in transformation of the neighborhood's character and culture.Most of what I understand about gentrification is derived
from brilliant scholar and professor at City University New York,
Professor's Smith scholarship is meaningful because he discusses
gentrification not only as it pertains to urban communities
but also on a global scale. In an interview with Jens Sambale,
Volker Eick of Policing Crowds, Smith writes,
Early examples of gentrification might include the Islington area of London or Greenwich Village in Manhattan but by the 1970s there were many recorded cases of gentrification in Europe, North America and Australia. In Berlin, early examples of gentrification were recorded in Schöneberg and Kreuzberg, among other neighbourhoods, but the fall of the Berlin Wall released a huge stock of housing that had undergone considerable disinvestment, leading to a widespread gentrification of Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte.Professor Smith's general premise is that gentrification is a natural
feature of capitalism. If the goal capitalism is both the endless accumulation
of capital and the extraction of all possible profit from a piece of property,
then it makes sense that once a neighborhood becomes more desirable
it will then be sold to the highest bidder.
Smith goes on to explain the nuances of gentrification when he writes,
Gentrification occurs in urban areas where prior disinvestment in the urban infrastructure creates urban neighborhoods that can be profitably redeveloped. In its earliest form, gentrification affected decaying working class neighbourhoods close to urban centers where middle and upper middle class people colonized or re-colonized the area, leading to the displacement and eviction of existing residents. The central mechanism behind gentrification can be thought of as a 'rent gap'. When neighborhoods experience disinvestment, the ground rent that can be extracted from the area declines meaning lower land prices. As this disinvestment continues, the gap between the actual ground rent in the area and the ground rent that could be extracted were the area to undergo reinvestment becomes wide enough to allow that reinvestment to take place. This rent gap may arise largely through the operation of markets, most notably in the United States, but state policies can also be central in encouraging disinvestment and reinvestment associated with gentrification. But only wealthier people are able to afford the costs of this renewed investment. Integral with these economic shifts are social and cultural shifts that change the kinds of shops, facilities and public spaces in a neighbourhood.After reading this, I thought word? Gentrification in West Oakland
and East Germany? Rent Gaps? All of this brought me back to San
Francisco and the film Medicine for Melancholy.
The process of gentrification and the impact that it is having on African
Americans is a central aspect of the film Medicine of Melancholy.
In some ways, Jo, one of the main character's in the movie, has
a sense of entitlement with regard to living in San Francisco.
San Francisco is the largest urban city with the smallest Black population.
Jo's rationale is that he shouldn't have to be middle class to live in
San Francisco. There is nothing wrong with a sense of entitlement.
Entitlement compels people to act , to change the world. However,
given the systematic removal of African Americans from San Francisco, I was
curious about the intersection of entitlement and the history
of African Americans in this city.
In the book, Black San Francisco, Albert Broussard describes
how San Francisco has always resisted the presence of African
Americans, how historically San Francisco has upheld racist policies
towards African Americans.
By an large, African Americans came to the Bay Area during
WWII to work in the shipping yards and other war time jobs, however they
found that after the war, the game changed. Broussard writes,
The question of whether blacks were qualified was not an issue,According to Broussard, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors knew
but whether or not private business and industry would break long-standing
precedent and integrate their work forces in the absence of statutory
pressure or coercion from the local, state, or federal government. Fearing
low employee morale and adverse public opinion, many companies were reluctant to integrate. Others were satisfied to hire black workers only for menial labor.
that the businesses were practicing open and aggressive
employment discrimination. Civil Rights leaders sought to implement
a local Fair Employment Practices ordinance in 1950. This ordinance
was met with resistance on both the state and the local
level from the California State Assembly and the agricultural lobby.
There were an intense effort to ensure that there was legal recourse
for African Americans who were discriminated against by employers.
...there were attempts in 1945, 1946, 1949 to create a commissionThis was an incredible amount of power, to say the least,
whose most controversial feature was its "broad sweeping
power over employment discrimination, including the
authority to receive, investigate, act in, and render decisions" on
complaints that alleged discrimination in employment.
and it wasn't going to be obtained without a protracted fight.
There was also open and aggressive housing discrimination
in San Francisco. Broussard writes,
Seaton Manning was so distressed over his personal housingBlack leaders thought that the housing shortage could be addressed
situation that he threatened to resign as executive director of the Urban
League and return to Boston. "After two full years," Manning wrote
Lester Granger, " we have been unable to find a house or apartment
in San Francisco. The housing shortage is acute ...Anything good
with a permanent low income housing unit. They soon learned differently.
Broussard describes how the San Francisco Housing Authority
allowed African Americans to live in only one of six newly constructed
housing projects. He writes,
The housing authority adopted a resolution in 1942 by unanimous voteNo commingling of races in "liberal" San Francisco? Who knew?
which stated.....In the selection of tenants for this project, this Authority
shall ac with references to the established usages, customs and traditions
of the community." Nor would the Housing Authority "insofar as possible
enforce the commingling of races, but shall insofar possible maintain and
preserve the same racial composition which exists in the neighborhood
where a project is located.
The state of 2009 Black San Francisco can only be examined
in the context of its history. Given the discrimination that African
Americans faced historically, the fact that San Francisco's African American
population grew from 43,460 in 1940, to 55,000 in 1951, and the restrictive
covenants that kept working class, middle class and prominent
African Americans from moving out the 'hood, the fact that African
Americans are leaving San Francisco in droves isn't that surprising.
At the end of the day, when we look at shifting demographics,
it is important for us to turn to history and to what is going
on in the world at large in order to understand how our economic
system and legal policies affect our lives.
If we do this, I think we will be on the road to having a meaningful
conversation about the sustainability of our communities.
Tania Ketenjian conducted an interview with Medicine for
Melancholy director Barry Jenkins.
Tom Wetzel's essay, What is Gentrification? is informative.
Experience any gentrification lately?
Can you afford to buy a house in the neighborhood where you grew up?
Why do people hate hipsters?
Was this post informative? Is there anything you wish I would have discussed?
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Call in number, (347) 843-4723.