Sunday, September 14, 2008
Gentrification Blocks Black Folks' Blessings
Sisterdoc hates gentrification. Here’s why:
I was born and raised in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. Homewood is one of the ‘Burgh’s predominately Black neighborhoods housing the (hard) working-class. Black influx and White flight began as early as 1860. By the 1950s, any lingering Italians (as well as a few Irish and German immigrants) were packing their bags for all-White communities like Bloomfield and Polish Hill.
Homewood has the best homes (huge and brick with wide porches) and the best streets (wide, many are brick and pothole free) and the best location (easily accessible to all parts of the city). So, I guess it was us Black folks that weren’t liked.
Given its wonderful structural qualities, it is no surprise that Homewood is being transformed again, this time by gentrification. The predominately White, middle-class gentrifiers have done a land-grab and renamed their little slice of Homewood heaven “North Point Breeze”—thereby associating themselves with the neighboring, wealthy, predominately White neighborhood “Point Breeze.” And, disassociating themselves with the poorer, predominately Black “Homewood.”
Of course, home prices have skyrocketed in “North Point Breeze.”
The North Point Breezers don’t interact much with folks who live in Homewood proper. Rather, they like to call the cops on Homewood denizens to complain of drugs and drunkenness.
Interestingly, these gentrifiers did nothing when a 22,000 square-foot Beer World (rather than a desperately needed grocery store) opened up on the border between Homewood and the newly defined North Point Breeze. Instead, they made Beer World their one-stop shop for booze and snacks. Oh, and they called the cops even more to complain of (Black) drunkenness.
With Homewood light on medical/social services to improve the lives of Black folks, and subsequently to improve the neighborhood, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center decided to take over the Beer World building. In it, they want to open up a health and mental health crisis center. Yeah! Homewood is finally getting some help! Or are they….
The North Point Breeze folks are protesting, picketing, and suing to stop the deal. They don’t want their “property values jeopardized.” They don’t want their kids who are enrolled in the pricey Shady Lane private preschool to have to see—what, Black folks getting care and treatment??? Perhaps they don’t want 135 to 150 jobs being made available to the Homewood community.
For their part, UPMC is trying to convince these gentrifiers to stop thinking about Homewooders as “thems” and start thinking about Homewood/North Point Breeze as a community of “us.”
Sisterdoc can only hope.
(Image: Gentrifiers' beloved Beer World)