Favorite Young Adult Novels

  • November Blues
  • Beast
  • My Life As a Rhombus
  • Slam
  • Mother Love
  • Night Watch
  • The Way a Door Closes
  • Last Part First
  • PUSH
  • Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963
  • The Skin I'm In
  • Dope Sick
  • Who Am I Without Him
  • Harlem Hustle
  • Tyrell
  • Bang
  • Tears of a Tiger
  • Forged by Fire

Friday, July 9, 2010

Neighborhood Gentrification

"Gentrification" from the word "Gentrify"... according to my computer dictionary means...

gentrify |ˈjentrəˌ|
verb ( -fies, -fied) [ trans. ]
renovate and improve (esp. a house or district) so that it conforms to middle-class taste.
• [usu. as adj. ] ( gentrified) make (someone or their way of life) more refined or dignified

My neighborhood in Detroit's North End, between Holbrook and Caniff, is being gentrified in an interesting way. Everything I have read about gentrification in other major urban areas has focused on increased property value, displacement of those unable to afford rising costs and most recently housing with "mixed" cost space. The upper and middle class with live together in harmony. Before the market went on its roller coaster ride, it seems every urban area considered a "blight" was being gentrified. I remember taking a group of middle school kids on a field trip to NYC and while in Harlem on 125th ST. there was a group protesting gentrification. I had to explain to the word to them and tried make a parallel description to some place in Detroit. Kind of hard to do until recently. Downtown post Super Bowl Detroit is experiencing gentrification in small pockets, largely young college age students. Not so in my neighborhood!

A month ago I walking out and saw an EA jogging down Delmar. It was strange because I'd never seen anyone jog south on Delmar unless he/she was running from one the many dogs that roam aimlessly in the area. The words were in my head "Well, there goes the neighborhood." Then I realized I was angry. I can't jog down my own street, but he can. It just felt right to him. I'm not a jogger, I'm just saying, if I wanted to jog to Holbrook and around the service drive, I would not be comfortable doing that. That was the first sighting. Then there were others. A young EA was walking with a young girl headed north on Delmar. The child was chattering away, with no engagement from he adult female. "Going to school at Loving" I thought to myself. Interesting. Then there were more such sitings. Several thin, scraggly looking men justa strolling up and down the sidewalk, all headed north on Delmar.

Our neighborhood church had several air conditioners stolen from the roof. These were not your typical itty bitty cool air blower! I was not pleased to resort to having to use the funeral home church fan when I was trying to get my praise on! The conditioners were replaced, only to have them stolen again! Well, the third time is a charm!

It was the wee hours of the morning, the bewitching hour, when one of the church sisters sitting on her upstairs porch noticed movement of the church's roof. It was someone trying to take the new air conditioner! She called the deacon who lived next door. He called another one who was able to arrive in enough time to try to apprehend the culprit, an EA man in OUR neighborhood stealing the air conditioners that our members donated their money to buy! Now, the burglary business is moving in. It was four years before we had our first home invasion, and now thieves were running rampant! It did not take long for other businesses to develop.

Just when I had reconciled myself to the reality that these were my neighbors or people who liked to walk their children in the neighbors, an EA female "propped" up shop on the corner! Each morning between 7:00 and 8:00, there she was on the street corner, next to the stop sign by the church advertising her goods. Who shops that early in the morning? One sister questioned her choice of places to sell her wares. It seems the only likely customers were the men on their way to work at the plant at the north end of Delmar.

The sitings have grown and with it more concerns. It is clear that these individuals are seeking "product" and the sadness comes when they literally drag small children with them. These new neighbors are not bring new ideas, or suggestions for a garden club, sharing neighborhood beautification plans or planning ways to improve the play areas for children. There are no discussions about turning the brown fields into green fields. They just blindly walk north on Delmar, unfocused eyes, deaf ears...with one agenda in mind...the same thing that has a choke hold on so many communities, families, children, lives, sense of dignity, humanity. The harder this desire squeezes, the more life drains out of the richness that once was.

This type of gentrification does not match what other communities are writing and talking about. I remain on Delmar trying to make sense of this phenomena and wonder, why our neighborhood? Maybe the definition needs to be expanded, trying to define what I see creates discontinuity for me. My middle class neighborhood was becoming "refined" or "dignified", but now I experience Tom Feelings "mutuality of consciousness". My spirit grieves when these shadows of change move against the backdrop of beautiful home, manicured lawns and happy child laughter. Welcome to the North End.

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