Since graduating college, I went back down memory lane to visit my old high school. Kenwood Academy is located in Hyde Park, an area on the southside of Chicago. Hyde Park is beautiful, adjacent to the lakefront;there are art galleries, great eateries, and of course the home of the first African-American presidential family.
When I was in high school, however, there was one place that my friends and I visited frequently. “The Village” was a plaza located across the street from Kenwood. In “The Village,”there was a local grocery store where students could buy Minute Maid juice by the gallon, snacks, and other goods. In this plaza, there was also a pizza joint. Needless to say, “The Village” made Kenwood a lot more like home.
It is gone now.
“The Village” has turned into a 15 story high rise apartment complimented with a Whole Foods, Marshalls, a gym, a pool and other luxuries. Hyde Park has a movie theatre, Akira, Chipotle, 16 story Apartment complexes and more! I hardly recognize it. Hyde Park has always been a diverse, affluent neighborhood. Now, all of these places are great- I mean who doesn’t love Chipotle?
But I find myself thinking, where did all the residents go? The people who are from the Hyde Park area. The people who cannot afford the new apartments. According to the Census Bureau Chicago, Hyde Park in 1990, there were only 14,440 white residents in the area. In the 2010 Census Bureau, that number has since doubled making whites the majority in the Hyde Park area.
Hyde Park is not the only neighborhood either. There are alarming statistics for Pilsen as well. According to DNA Info article written by Stephanie Lulay, Pilsen is getting ‘whiter’ as more than 10,000 hispanics are being displaced.
Chicago is not alone in this growing epidemic in major cities known as gentrification. Gentrification is a term used to describe, generally, when wealthier families move to deteriorated areas in urban cities. These residents bring higher rent charges, tax increases, new businesses and often the displacement of minority families. It is a complex issue, with even more complex solutions. According to Benjamin Grant of PBS in his feature “Flag Wars” film that focuses on a gentrified Columbus, Ohio, neighborhood gentrification can be characterized by the following:
Demographics: An increase in median income, a decline in the proportion of racial minorities, and a reduction in household size, as low-income families are replaced by young singles and couples.
Real Estate Markets: Large increases in rents and home prices, increases in the number of evictions, conversion of rental units to ownership (condos) and new development of luxury housing.
Land Use: A decline in industrial uses, an increase in office or multimedia uses, the development of live-work “lofts” and high-end housing, retail, and restaurants.
Culture and Character: New ideas about what is desirable and attractive, including standards (either informal or legal) for architecture, landscaping, public behavior, noise, and nuisance
Gentrification happens like a ripple effect. There is a growing attraction to a low income neighborhood. For example, Hyde Park got the attention of billions when Barack Obama became President. We all saw more “Obama” teas, and now Valois has “The Obama” special. However, behind the scenes, more and more people starting moving into Hyde Park. There was pressure to take advantage of the financial fortitude. This is where the high rises come into play. Hyde Park had to start appealing to the wealthier audience, that is why there are gyms, pools, and more places for affluent families to socialize.
Gentrification is happening all around us. However, here is a guide on ways that we can help prevent rapid gentrification.
1. Use your privilege
You have this exclusive, oppressing, powerful, superpower use it! Talk to your politicians and aldermen about what you are witnessing. Moreover, use your social media to attract attention to this issue.
2. Go outside, and get to know your neighborhood. Respect the history
It may be hard to believe, but this neighborhood was thriving before you moved there. Research your area, it is not as deserted or deteriorated as the media makes it seem.
3.Talk to your black and brown neighbors not ABOUT them.
Make new friends with the residents. They are nice, I promise. No need to act as if you know everything about 2000’s Hip Hop, the latest on #BlackTwitter, or anything with Beyonce. Be yourself.
4.We may be magic, but we are real people.
Black womyn have feelings. More importantly, we have feelings about our neighborhoods being gentrified. You would be helping us if you just took the time to listen to how we feel. Yes, feel free to bring a notepad.
5. Forget Jamba Juice, go to the corner store.
Shop at places that reflect the neighborhood you live in. You can get a smoothie or a taco from anywhere. Support businesses that support us.
6.Yes, corners are safe.
America is obsessed with disaster porn. We love sensationalizing violence. Don’t believe the hype. The neighborhoods you are living in are a lot more safe than you think.
7. Invite your friends over for some pumpkin spice latte and privilege sesh.
Talking about systemic racism, oppression and classism is never fun but it is helpful. Educate your friends and get them to help you defeat this growing epidemic.