Gentrification and the Cyclical Nature of Poverty: "Gentrification" by Deniro Farrar
“Whole Foods in the hood now the rent got raised,
But I’m still living off minimum wage.
Nigga can’t even afford to stay.
Next thing you know they gon’ own the block,
Shit too high for the mom and pop.”
WHERE’S THE MEANING?
In “Gentrification,” Deniro Farrar highlights the cyclical nature of poverty and how the restructuring of local economies can be harmful to resident communities. Farrar begins with a simple definition of the problem: rich business men allow property values to fall, buy up land, convert it into a desirable neighborhood, and make a profit by selling it back at raised prices. As a result of this restructuring, poor residents are displaced, cultural hubs disintegrated, and increased police presence criminalizes communities - to name just a few of the accompanying problems. Better facilities, sustainable developments, and an onslaught of new businesses help the area and its new inhabitants, but not the previous residents who are pushed to “the side of the city, full of liquor stores and the water’s shitty, [where the] School fucked up; they don’t teach the kids ‘bout who they is or what we did.” Recent thought asks, “so who are these developments really for?” Farrar does not hesitate - they’re not meant for him or his community.
Most poignant in Farrar’s case is that gentrification, despite recent media attention, is not a new phenomenon. “Gentrification in our ghetto, this nation is ours. We built this shit,” he repeats over again as he reminds us that America was built on the backs of slaves and continues to weigh on the black community. From cotton fields to the Bronx, modern rap and R&B, beauty trends, and everything in between, America has profited off of black lives while steadily holding them down as second-class citizens. Informed by Malcom X’s famous The Ballot or the Bullet speech, “Gentrification” sounds the sirens for the social, political, and economic empowerment of black communities.
How can we improve the quality of life of a community without displacing its current residents? What changes in mindsets, legislation, or programs need to happen?
While gentrification is a local issue that is often combated by grassroots efforts, there are national organizations committed to giving resources and guidance to low-income and minority communities. Right to The City Alliance (RTC) came together “as a unified response to gentrification and a call to halt the displacement of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods.” The alliance recognizes the interwoven social, economic, environmental, and political that contribute to and exacerbate gentrification and are dedicated to battling it on all fronts. Their platform uplifts at-risk communities and asserts them in their own space. RTC wants to ensure that the right to land and housing serves the interests of community building, sustainable economies, and cultural and political space - not corporate profit. The believe that healthy, safe, productive neighborhoods should be built to help the current community, not displace them. Through research, community engagement, and a variety of campaigns for affordable housing and ecological justice, RTC is mobilizing communities and their supporters.
Does RTC’s goals resonate with you? Get involved by donating here or signing up as a volunteer.