From Bushwick to Wynwood and Back
Having heard about the art scene in Wynwood, the housing rights activist in me was intrigued to learn about the history of gentrified neighborhoods in Miami. I began by touring Wynwood Walls. While I was ecstatic to notice the difference between Bushwick’s erasure of native artists and Wynwood’s responsibility to feature works from those raised in Miami, I was uncomfortable at the nonchalance exhibited from gallery and store owners.
Wynwood was predominantly empty buildings and lots. There weren’t many artists here before we began development. We are helping the community.
I’m not even from here and I can smell this decaying white lie. This rhetoric plagues low income communities of color. It doesn’t require much insight to comprehend the pattern of rent in regards to arts-induced mass displacement. Wynwood was originally named OverTown. The title was born during an era when Billie Holiday and other revolutionary music makers were invited to perform in South Beach, however they were not permitted to spend the night there. So they went over the town.
It is unfortunate, exhausting, and oddly exhilarating to uncover the ties between Bushwick and Wynwood. Before exiting the gallery, I spoke to the receptionist of Wynwood Walls. I mentioned my appreciation for the subway sign they had hanging. She asked if I was from NYC. With pride I let her know I was born and raised in Bushwick, which widened her eyes. I acknowledged my gratitude in witnessing Tatianas Suarez’s work inside the gallery and on the exterior walls. This comment encouraged her to switch the conversation’s gears. She sought justification from me when noting that people visit the gallery and shame it because it is a gentrifying space. She laid out all the reasons why their gallery was not an example of gentrification. I corrected her:
“The gentrifier is not good or bad. The actions of gentrifiers produce good or bad gentrification. When people move to a new city and invest in the local businesses, as well as cultivate relationships that preserve the culture: Good Gentrification. People who seek the cultural capital of recording their walk to the local Bodega on Instagram, while they work and shop outside the community without regard for the community’s culture: Bad Gentrification.”
This did not sit with her well. Basic human instinct: resist the truth because it hurts too much. If only she understood that following the pain of truth is freedom.
Thereafter I attended the Art Walk. Passing manicured bike, clothing, and candle shops I couldn’t help but imagine what I would see if I kept walking south. So I did. I passed a vendor’s booth where I met native artists selling their work. As God would have it, we dove into neocolonialism and the ways it exploits us artists. Event coordinators offer vending space for free due to their outlandish prices and then on the day of the event request payment. This was one of many of the ties that bind Wynwood and Bushwick. Wynwood, like Bushwick, has moved on to Colonialism Phase 3.
Neighboring community is fully gentrified. Real Estate leeches buy the cheapest properties and sit on them. Artists “discover” neighborhood.
Artists gentrify, displacing natives. White bodies boom real estate. Policing of non white peoples increases.
Young business professionals gentrify, displacing artists and remaining natives. Rents rise higher. Policing of non white peoples dramatically heightens. Drum circles and other traditional practices are thwarted by newcomers uncomfortable with the volume, so they call the police.
Middle class and wealthy families gentrify, displacing remaining artists, natives, and local businesses. Policing of non white peoples has successfully resulted in people of color having a fear of disturbing white neighbors, which erases the community’s culture.
Predominantly white community where culture exists only within the few areas that still house people of color, otherwise the neighborhood looks like every other polished Williamsburg, San Francisco, DC, or South Beach.
Neighborhood is fully gentrified. Real Estate leeches buy the cheapest properties within the neighboring community and sit on them. Artists “discover” neighboring community. Rinse & Repeat.
These phases of colonialism do not change shape, regardless of location. What stays the same is that non white low income families will be moved across the United States destroying their families and cultures, in order to make space for the descendants of colonizers who want to experience the cultures my ancestors worked so hard to preserve. Once they experience it, they call the cops on it because it is playing drums too loudly to the Moon at this time of night.
I walked south west on 2nd avenue. I was jolted by the one hundred eighty degree shift in energy, wealth, and architecture. It was painfully obvious, the difference between Wynwood and the neighborhood directly south. I walked to 14th street and 2nd avenue, filled with memories of Hartford, CT. Walking in the Black and Brown community of central Hartford, once you cross the threshold into downtown the streets are paved with perfection; lawns are trimmed evenly; cars are in mint condition; this part of the city is remembered (and funded). Walking, I was reminded of Brownsville as well.
Maybe it is my youth. Maybe it is my sensitivity. However, how can we suffer so similarly in places so far from one another? How do people colonize a neighborhood without regret, or research into its cultural history? Will I feel this way for the rest of my life?
This pang in my sternum has lived with me since I graduated Trinity College expecting to return to my hometown paying cheap rent and surrounded by fellow Boricuas. I was excited to leave that WASPy enclave. Little did I know I would be (not slapped in the face, worse) punched in the throat at the recognition of rent hikes and familiar faces from my alma mater in Bushwick.
What can I do to calm it’s effect on my anxiety and depression?
Returning to North Miami at Shawnee’s Paradise, I relaxed on a hammock pondering my findings on my laptop. Shawnee was meeting with men from the state to review alleged code violations. Her paradise contains a swimming area, mini beach, multiple hammocks, an array of tall trees, and her treehouse. Although an oak tree fell during Hurricane Irma, her tree house did not. Even though the men know this to be fact, they are still adamant about ordering her to obtain a permit. The permit costs anywhere between $60,000 and $70,000. She’s is literally just trying to live and raise her daughter.
I escaped NYC for a break from the hallmarks of colonialism, only to realize that the residue of manifest destiny thickly covers these un-united states of America. While I arrived to align myself and find the answers I need, I ended up cultivating more questions:
Have we devolved as a species due to our subversion into eurocentric ideals and practices?
What forms of intersectional healing do we need to save cultures being erased from gentrified neighborhoods?
What are the benefits of intersectional passion regarding matters that do not affect us directly?
How do we ensure culture makers are not devastated by gentrification’s devouring effect?
How do we ensure we are part of the legislative changes that happen within our communities?
This is not an article for you to read and consider. This is a conversation starter:
What concerns, questions, and solutions do you have?
Open Letter to Editor of Bushwick Daily, Katarina Hybenova
In effort to relay the inherent racism in census data and its statistical usage, especially in research refuting the oppression of Black and Non Black People of Color, I will expose much of my interactions with Bushwick Daily, its editor, and its influence on white gentrifying residents of Bushwick.
“Tell me, when fingers are directed towards you in accusation, is the act irresponsible?”
-Devin Morris, 3dotzine
As preface, the audacity for any publication to post an article that uses census data to dismantle notions that white gentrifiers are not responsible for negative effects of gentrification is so dangerous that it produces justified apathy. This can and will result in the entitlement for white peoples to post articles encourages white tears, like Matt Bevilacqua's. Responding to statistical data of the white population increase in gentrified neighborhoods between 2000 and 2010, he denies the notion that whiteness negatively affects non-white and native residents and business owners. Published in Next City, Bevilacqua asks, “…Why slap on the ‘gentrification’ label in the first place? Undoubtedly, race and class in the U.S. are linked in a complex and pretty irretrievable way. Nonetheless, they’re not one in the same.”
To deny race as an issue concerning gentrification when conversing so formally on a matter that will not negatively afflict you is to present toxic symptoms of entitlement. Scholars who present opinions on systematic issues in the United States of America rarely do so because s/he has experienced harmful side effects of said systematic issues, s/he does so because she has received ample resources for education in and understanding values of written responses to popular drama.
My family’s experiences in light of gentrification are dwindled to popular drama because now everyone wants a piece of Gentrification Pie. This pie is intangible, yet it allots the person who takes a piece the ability to reap benefits from simply presenting a lens on the matter.
When said lens has never experienced negative effects of the systematic issue at hand, we are all met with glorified novels documenting Black and Non Black POC experience and HIStory, written by white men and women.
“The structure itself evacuates peoples’ power.”
As an editor of a publication that influences members of Bushwick’s community whose experiences, finances, and race affect the residential values, popularity, and policing in Bushwick, it is up to you Katarina to choose articles that show your willingness to be with us. However, you prove to be a gentrifying visitor. You would rather post an article about an 81$ candle instead of one that encourages white and non-white folk to acknowledge the effects white bodies have on real estate.
Because of this Katarina, I will expose you as the leech you are: one who clings onto the idea of Bushwick, sucking its native culture dry for the sake of your own popularity. As a white leader new to the Bushwick community, you are catalyst to the negative effects of gentrification. These negative effects affect my family.
When you come for my family, I come for you. No one will come in the way of my family’s life & liberty & pursuit of happiness. Know this: whether they are my blood relative or the Black and Non Black Youth of Color who will be the next generation dealing with the faults of your actions, they are all my family.
Katarina, you posted an article by Evangelos Frigis that was incredibly racist. Its inherent racism lies in the history of census data. It takes one with access to google to simply unveil the truth: the census was culminated for the categorization and monitoring of non-white peoples:
“When the census began in 1790, the racial categories for the household population were ‘free white’ persons, other ‘free persons’ by color, and ‘slaves.’ Census-takers did not use standard forms in the early censuses.
From 1850-1880, the codes for enumerators were generally white (W), black (B) and mulatto (M). Beginning in 1850, the data item was labeled ‘color.’ In 1870, Chinese (C) and Indian (I) were added. In 1880, the data item was not labeled; it was ‘whether this person is…’ In 1890, ‘Japanese,’ ‘Quadroon’ and ‘Octoroon’ were added.
In 1900, there were no specified categories on the census listing form, but the instructions called for enumerators to list ‘W’ for white, ‘B’ for ‘black (or negro or negro descent)’, ‘Ch’ for Chinese, ‘Jp’ for Japanese, or ‘In’ for Indian ‘as the case may be.’ … This appears to be the first appearance of ‘negro’ (lower case) in the instructions but it was not listed on the form itself.
For 2010, the categories are the same as in 2000 but examples are given separately for ‘Other Asian’ and ‘Other Pacific Islander.’ The form also has an instruction (in bold) appearing before the Hispanic-origin data item that says ‘NOTE: Please answer BOTH Question 5 about Hispanic origin and Question 6 about race. For this survey, Hispanic origins are not races.’”
D’Vera Cohn, “Race and the Census: ‘Negro’ Controversy,” http://www.pewsocialtrends.org, (January 21, 2010)
Katarina, your ability to allot Frigis the space to use census data from 2010 to influence predominantly white gentrifying readers hallmarks your place in the Bushwick community as a promoter of white supremacy. As you can see, to be Black or African-American is to also be Negro. Without say, a Black person completing the census is once again reminded of the racism that built the railroads, factories, and streets you occupy.
Your decision to publish affirms your belief that Black is Negro. This is word you wish to spread to your avid white gentrifying readers.
Now, don’t be confused, Katarina. To promote white supremacy does not imply your necessity to wear a white hoodie with the inscription KKK on the side. However, it does allude to your production of written materials that erase emotional and physical pain caused by the emotional, physical, and cultural displacement gentrification leads to. Especially when mostly white bodies that affect the process most are apathetic and ignorant (willingly and blindly) to all that does not negatively affect them.
Need I repeat the fact that white bodies boom real estate, causing food and rent prices to rise while families are evicted?
Black or Non Black POC gentrifiers can not negatively affect gentrified communities in the same way white bodies do, even though they too are held accountable for meeting community-oriented responsibilities as residents.
To give readers a more transparent sense of who you are, here are our emails concerning Frigis’ article:
NOVEMBER 30 2015
Since you all have close ties to important publications, I ask for your help in posting and/or spreading word on themes presented in the attached article. The article is in response to the link below:
Feel free to let me know how this article makes you feel.
I hope you can see the importance in the publication of my article.
With Love, Anthony.
DECEMBER 1 2015
I read quickly your piece yesterday. I'm glad you sat down and wrote your opinion. I appreciate that. I have crazy personal stuff going on today, so I will send you feedback by the end of the week.
I have a questions: is this a submission? Do you want Bushwick Daily to publish this, or is it just a response to Evagelos? I have forwarded it to him btw. If you want this to be published as an article, we will have to work on the structure and on highlighting facts and your arguments, so that this works as a piece of journalistic writing. Would you be willing to work on the piece with me and accept some feedback? (I routinely work with writers so that their work achieves our standards - actually I worked quite a bit with Evangelos before that one was publishable). BTW I am not looking to change your opinions. I am more than happy to provide space for your voice--we are in dire need of those but it has to be well-written, well-argued. I can't publish a personal attack on a writer - this has a potential to be a lot more universally valid than that if you understand what I mean.
Let me know,
DECEMBER 1 2015
It is incredibly necessary for Bushwick Daily to show that it is apologetic for publishing such a racist article. The census data you published via Evangelos is not only offensive, it is a slap in the face to natives. You are new here. You should understand that the depletion of my community's Latinx & Black peoples are real.
Yes, publish this piece. Also, please write an open apology to Black & Latinx peoples of Bushwick. What you allowed to be posted has surged rage in the community. It will harm your publication if you solely publish my article and say nothing. This is advice for the betterment of your publication.
Finally, If you choose not to publish the piece as is then I will resort to writing an other article about this interaction between you and I. When Black and Non Black POC peoples speak up against white cis men who slander their names via bogus/racist census date we have to be politically correct and formal. I will not hold my passions back. I will not change anything. It is a well formatted and structured publication.
So, will you publish it as is? Or will you deny my publication because you do not approve of Latinx Passionate Speech?
Will you write an apology to members of the community for publishing his article? Or will you stand by the sidelines obtaining white privilege and leeching onto the cool pose culture of the idea of what you think Buhswick is?
My article IS universally valid. Go on my facebook page and see how many people have reposted it: white, black, latinx, native, and non native to Bushwick. That seems pretty universal. While I am offended by your statement, I will forgive you and give you the chance to redeem your publication.
Let me know as soon as possible.
DECEMBER 1 2015
My article is a letter to the editor of Bushwick Daily. So it needs to be published as is.
What do you say?
DECEMBER 2 2015
I will pass on the opportunity to publish your article because it's been published already, and as I said without edits I am not comfortable with it, and as you said with edits you are not comfortable with it.
However, despite our differences I think you made a couple of valid points and I respect your work for the community. I made this public statement on Bushwick Daily a couple of minutes ago: http://bushwickdaily.com/2015/12/note-from-the-editor-apology-for-problematic-use-of-census-data-in-our-article/
I hope we can talk about our mutual collaboration for the betterment of Bushwick soon over coffee/tea.
Thank you for understanding,
Katarina, I am nothing but honest with you so please be honest with me. Your declination of my article is disrespect. To say you respect me is to use words for the true reason they were invented: to lie.
You do not respect me.
You do not respect the Bushwick community.
You respect the idea of Bushwick, whose cool pose culture you so readily reap benefits from.
You wrote a note. It was “from the editor”. Not to Bushwick residents, nor Black and Non Black POC. The use of census data is not problematic. Racism is a disease, and can not be reduced to a simple word like “problem”. Call it what it was and is (since you refuse to remove Frigis’ article): racist use of census data to promote white apathy and deplete white guilt.
In your first line you say that since gentrification is “complex”, you want to speak without emotions clouding your judgment. Emotions are what make judgments transparent. In my family the more passionate the argument, the more love is shown.
The process of gentrification in Bushwick conjures many emotions within me. Show me and Bushwick love by showing us your emotions. If you haven’t any, are you really equipped to continue publishing for any publication in Bushwick?
You later say that you invite conversation on gentrification. You admitted Frigis’ article, with understanding that if anyone refuted his findings then “it would be good news for everyone.” In my article, white Bodies are Gentrifying Bushwick: A Look at white Statistics to Evade the Truth of NeoColonialism, I provide an exceptional amount of evidence to disprove all of Frigis’ claims.
So what happened?
In your first response to my article, you said you can’t “…publish a personal attack on a writer.”
Have I attacked Evangelos Frigis? If I have, show me the proof.
You wanted enough proof to support claims against accusations made by Frigits (which I supplied), so show me proof that I attacked him. Is he physically harmed? Emotionally scared? Or did his ego crash into his white privilege revealing his racism?
I quote James Baldwin again,
“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see.”
Katarina, in your letter you wrote “[Evangelos Frigis’] article will remain on Bushwick Daily despite any mistaken conclusions drawn from the data used, and this note will be linked to in the beginning of the post. I will not take it down because I believe that the discussion sparked by it has been valuable; without the original source it would lose its meaning for future reference.”
So my article has no value?
By keeping his article published and refusing to publish my own, you are contradicting the “…compassion for and the strongest sense of solidarity with people who lost, or are at the verge of losing, their homes.” This compassion looks nice on paper.
Words always look nice when read.
Actions are far more substantial and sustainable than words.
Katarina, you concluded with “From an editorial standpoint, it made little sense to re-publish an article that was not an original piece of writing and that had appeared on other websites already. Anthony also requested that I publish the piece as is, without any edits whatsoever. This is not standard editorial practice and I didn’t feel comfortable publishing a piece of writing that, in my opinion, was problematic in several parts. However, Anthony makes several valid points and I encourage you to read it.”
Katarina, you never told me what was problematic about it. Aren’t you an editor? Isn’t editing standard procedure for an editor; that you edit and read all potential publications? As editor, it sounds like you are "quickly" picking and choosing what needs to be edited and what does not need to be edited.
My article was only problematic because it tears down the façade of your publication.
Bushwick Daily is poison to Bushwick. It appeals to white gentrifiers and encourages their dismissal of community-oriented responsibilities all residents need to have, especially newcomers.
Katarina, please do not lie any more. I have love for you and will never ask you to leave.
I will, however, encourage you to consider your place here:
Have you and your publication done more harm than good for the entirety of Bushwick’s community (not just white gentrifiers)?
Love & Good Karma,
white Bodies are Gentrifying Bushwick:
A Look at white Use of Statistics to Evade the Truth of NeoColonialism
This article is in response to an article by writer Evangelos Frigis. Please read his article in effort to comprehend the dire need for more Black and Non Black POC writers to document these times. When predominantly white bodies document our experiences, our experiences are defined for us and inevitably whitewashed.
“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
-Zora Neale Hurston
As preface to ways I will dismantle the claims made by Frigis, remember that statistics have been HIStorically used to benefit the lens of the person using said statistics. In this case, a white cis-gender man uses census data between 2000-2010. I will use the same data to prove that statistics are able to be skewed depending on perspective.
As we know, the rapidity of gentrification produces a boom in white businesses and whitewashing at a rate too fast to consider any census data prior to 2011. Within two weeks in 2015 you will see a building full of native Latinx & Black residents go from having a tattered front to refurbished living quarters “developed” for bodies that have boomed real estate prices in the United States of America: whites.
The claim that gentrification is now a socio economic issue because Black and Non Black POC bodies are also moving into Bushwick and other gentrified neighborhoods is false. Black and Non Black bodies do NOT boom real estate prices; do NOT whitewash communities; do NOT gentrify communities in ways white bodies do.
The conscious white person who is considerate of the neighborhood s/he moves into understands the necessity of supporting Black & Non Black POC representation, business, existence, and can answer without hesitation:
I am highly disappointed by your data and claims. I will present each claim you made one by one to disprove statements that will cause white people in Bushwick to further ignore their duties as community members.
“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see.”
Since you have lived here for a year, after gentrifying San Francisco, you have not seen the changes that I have seen since my youth as a native. I live off the Wilson stop on the L line, which used to be called the Dark Side. I saw this section of Bushwick transition from government led crack infestation, to a place calmed by the hard work of Donas and Bodega owners who have cared for addicts without requesting payment, to a community experiencing an erasure of Black & Latinx bodies & businesses. A black owned affordable furniture store has been replaced by an eatery that sells one banana for one dollar, which steals customers from the Mexicana whose fruit stand outside of the Wilson station sells three bananas for one dollar.
It is important that you consider experiences that effect bodies directly, instead of data that shows you numbers on a screen.
Evangelos, you said “During such a volatile national atmosphere in the face of race and ethnic relations, my biggest worry is blame being placed on a single demographic for the woes caused by gentrification in Bushwick.” It is just as dangerous to claim that the legacy of EuroWhite invasion in the Americas have not trickled to 2015. During this volatile national atmosphere in the face of race and ethnic relations, Black and Non Black POC bodies are policed heavily by officers for years before you moved to Bushwick, so that you feel comfortable enough to step foot in the Dark Side and they are forced to move out.
These are not woes. These are bags under tired eyes and sore backs; these are aching necks and cramped sleeping conditions; these are rapid breathing caused by an increase in rent and consistently low income.
Do not deplete my community’s physicalized experiences to a word Drake has popularized.
The first three graphs you use as evidence that white bodies are not whitewashing are below. Now let me use these statistics in a way that does not coddle white tears:
These years were the years white artists began to move to Bushwick. Why are white bodies not considered in this graph?
Because they did not rebuild Bushwick after the Italian Fires*; after government funded crack planting. These top five ethnicities stabilized Bushwick as a community forgotten by white money, but glorified by Black and Latinx bodies.
Now that we consider residence, 2.8% to 8.5% of an increase of bodies that boom real estate in less than ten years produces resources for “developers” to latch onto the cool pose culture Bushwick experienced between 2000 and 2010. There is a 10% drop in Black bodies.
Real estate gains rapidity by the month, so imagine a new bar in this graph that reflects Latinx, Black, & white residents in 2015. You will see a third bar in the section reflecting the increase in white bodies soar.
As the police force erases Black bodies in the United States of America via genocide and corporate funded mass incarceration, is it really a shock to you that Black bodies in Bushwick (and New York City) have decreased in numbers?
Evangelos, you say “The near consistent percentage of Hispanic residents indicates that the Hispanic demographic has grown nearly at the same rate as the total population growth of Bushwick. As the entire pie becomes larger every year, the percentage of the pie that the Hispanic group has dibs on stays the same, but their portion of the pie nonetheless is bigger in terms of physical size.”
In a nation that ever glorifies white bodies and their HIStory, Black and Non Black POC folk seek home with one another. We are not valuable in the eyes of the judicial, education, and economic systems of this nation. So we rebuild tattered neighborhoods, until of course a cool pose culture is bred from the gentrifying white eyes’ appreciation for cracked streets and Bodegas.
You use one report to claim “… that the Hispanic community in Bushwick didn’t experience a decrease in their numbers during the economic crisis.”
This is wrong.
You look at numbers.
I have seen my grandmother’s children, ten of thirteen, gentrified out of Bushwick. I have seen schools have to close down because their populations decreased too rapidly due to families seeking cheaper rent elsewhere. I have witnessed Bushwick become infested with white bodies and white spaces that aesthetically appeal to whiteness. I see white privilege decide the fate of mi communidad.
Photo by Native Bushwick Photographer, Danielle De Jesus
The most offensive statement you made was “The obvious question is where all of our Black/African American children are? I can only speculate, but the evidence seems to suggest that on a state and national scale, Black and African Americans are having fewer children, even though the reasons seem unclear as to why.”
Our Black/African American children? Black children are not yours because you hypocritically feel entitled to suggest in a whitewashing publication that Black folk are having fewer children…
Did you grow up in a Black family?
Do you currently live with a Black family?
Do you spend time with Black families (across Bushwick)?
Instead of considering the obvious relevance of a police state enforcing genocide on Black bodies, you victimize Black bodies by claiming that their depletion is due to their lack of child rearing.
This is absurd and you should openly apologize to all Black peoples of Bushwick.
Mural by Native Bushwick Muralist, Robert “TMO” Plater
You encourage readers to switch gears from blaming the influx of white bodies, to landlords and regulations. Landlord terrorism and racist regulations are to blame, as well as the white bodies that act as catalysts to said terrorism and enforcement of said regulations.
Evangelos, know your positionality. As a white cis gender man gentrifying one Latinx & Black community and then an other, you do not have a position to speak so adamantly against the truth of whitewashing.
“Gentrification is NeoColonialism and whitewashing.”
NeoColonialist “developers” plan for years ahead. So if are using statistics from five years ago, they are now insufficient since luxury condos were planned in 2005 for white bodies to occupy in 2015.
Finally, We are not HIS-Spanic. Even though we have Spanish blood in us due to raped ancestors, we are Latinx.
Black and Non Black POC peoples are not minorities. In 2050 we will prove to be the majority, so watch your words.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace & Love,
*Italian Fires - Before Bushwick was populated by Latinx & Black peoples, Italian families were the majority. When Black & Latinx bodies moved to Bushwick, real estate dropped too quickly for Italian familes to make profit from selling their homes. So, block by block, Italian families burned their homes for insurance, leaving rubble and crack for Latinx & Black families to clean up and rebuild upon. My ancestors did so successfully, for my generation and me.
An Open Letter to Gentrifying
Residents & Business Owners
Dear Gentrifiees & Gentrifiers,
As gentrification benefits an accelerating art boom for gentrifiees tricked into rent hikes, the rapidly dwindling Black community is experiencing an erasure so intense it culturally displaces Latinx and Black bodies still living in Bushwick.
As a native resident struggling to afford gentrification-induced rent hikes, there is an impending feeling of living in my home on borrowed time.
Walking around the neighborhood I was born, raised, and am based in, I am no longer comforted by the large population of Latinxs; the sounds of Spanish intertwining with Spanglish; the booming of the base from speakers that fill trunks of all my tios' cars to the brim; the sights of abuelas resting at their window to drink the world below instead of the television; the feeling of the strong Latinx culture.
Inclusion and invitation are at the forefront of the issues native Bushwick residents deal with when interacting with the booming art community. Division is apparent. New cafes and restaurants are exclusively marketed to those who pass for Gentrifiee. Native residents express on countless occasions the isolation felt when in a café that was once the corner bodega and in a gallery whose owner colonialistically kept the “99 Cent Store” sign of the establishment it bought out.
While gentrification justifies itself via arts institutions bringing a blinding light to a community that was already invested in art making, the reality is said institutions and audiences are predominantly white.
Vogue names Bushwick the 7th of 15 “Coolest Places to go in the World”. When one visits Bushwick, they will not see a Latinx & Black community engaging in the new businesses and arts institutions. They will see an overwhelming amount of white and hipster peoples occupying most of Bushwick. They will see repaved streets, fixed subway stations, heavier policing, and, yes, art decorating walls upon walls.
-Whose voice is present in these arts events?
-Who is invited to said events?
-What amount of work is put into outreach for those unable to access social media?
-How much of the remaining native population is represented in these arts event?
Exposure to art is necessary and healing for all. The maintenance and progression of resources arts institutions have developed in Bushwick are dependant on the cool, new perception the media-trusting world has of Bushwick, even though it was built on the backs of my mother's and grandmother's generations.
The capitalization of a predominantly Latinx community sounds too similar to the ways gentrification has completely changed the lower east side and Williamsburg. Both neighborhoods are assumed to be what they are seen as now. Truth is, Willamsburg and Alphabet City had heavy, beautiful Boriken and Dominican cultures thriving in poverty, until the area’s resources became a glint on the eyes of gentrifiees seeking exciting lives and opportunities in New York City. This encouraged gentrifiers, landlords & residential companies piggybacking on Buy Outs, to terrorize hundreds of families in Bushwick. This terrorism presents itself in unmet household repairs, unheated winters, missing boilers, and unrelenting attempts at eviction.
When you wake up tomorrow. Ask yourself these questions:
-Do I make efforts to engage with and learn from the community already here?
-Do I support small native businesses in Bushwick that are still standing?
-Are there clear examples of cultural erasure around me?
-Does my existence hurt more than help the Bushwick community?
I was born in Woodhull Hopsital. I was raised on Wyckoff & Greene.
I later attended I.S. 291 and lived Putnam & Wilson. My family was gentrified from Putnam & Wilson, seeking dependance on the Shelter system. They moved us to the South Bronx, then Brownsville.
I became a drama major at Talent Unlimited HS for the Performing arts on the upper east side. I graduated Trinity College in Hartford, CT with a Bachelors of the Arts degree in Theatre & Dance.
I moved back to Bushwick. Therefore, I am a gentrifiee able to skim by rent hikes.
As a conscious gentrifiee who cares more about my community than ways I can benefit from it, I develop relationships with neighbors and native businesses. I spread awareness that we should not develop more business, but invest in what is already here.
I fight so strongly because the effects of gentrification are not just some ethereal sadness, these effects rest in bodies and affect people for the rest of their lives. Although I have overcome & flourished and forgiven, I was stained in my high school years seeing my family struggle to find homes after losing the homes we had. Who lives in the homes my family used to occupy? I’m not sure.
I see the tension in my aunt’s back as we fight to get her back onto Section 8. I see the affect unto her eyes, her physical face, after crying for days not knowing if she and her three children will have a home to live in instead of one room in my abuela’s narrow rail road style home. I openly tell this story to remind you that oppression is not solely emotional, it is physical. And as you know, if you wake up with a knot in your back, it affects your day.
Now imagine the knots in one’s body when they wake up on a crowded, small bed or floor…
THIS IS WHAT GENTRIFICATION IS.
I present performances in informal spaces in Bushwick. I curate series with Black performance & visual artists. I am seeking new ways to increase the depleted Black representation in Bushwick-based arts institutions. I will engage with Bushwick high schools in effort to encourage conversation and art making that undo feelings of invalidation felt by students who, like me, are constantly reminded of white value. It is no stretch of truth that white people in the "United" States of America are born with an innate understanding that they will succeed:
We change channels to more and more white faces on television. We admire beautiful white men and womyn in magazines. We are constantly exposed to white representation in mass advertisement on subways and tourist areas of NYC. We have white teachers and are taught a white "American" HIStory praising white scientists & white artists & white revolutionaries. We see performances and the performers, creator(s), stage hand, light designer, sound technician, photographer, videographer, artistic director, and administrative staff are predominantly (if not, completely) white.
As the #BlackLivesMatter Movement swells in light of Black men, womyn, and trans genocide daily, I ask myself:
-How are our future Black generations to feel their inherent value?
-How do I disconnect gentrification and the erasure of my Latinx & Black community?
-What can I do to stop a gentrification that separates & physically relocates my family in effort to lure in youthful artists from across the country & around the world?
In effort to gain cultural capital, I see arts institutions using the phrase: “Bushwick is a Movement!”
Is Bushwick a Movement?
Who is at the forefront?
Who will it aid?
What does it intend to fix or dismantle?
Who is represented?
Questions induce conversation. Discussion brings understanding. Revelation ignites change. Change is revolution.
So ask yourself more often than not, for the sake of a community you live in and next to and with:
-Does my existence hurt more than help the Bushwick community?
Bushwick Community Map
‘t the fuck?!
I remember standing on Putnam and Wilson next to a tire as tall as I.
I would spin its rim if it slowed down, I i.
do you remember when couches were mountains?
and parents not yet people?
I roam looking genty* as fuck, to those who know me not.
Get to. I’m nice.
iI want my home back.
iI want the packs of latin@s on Knickerbocker and Wilson and Wyckoff vibing on the
.June of Sunday first
Why did they have to leave?
Where’d they dipset to?
Why did Columbus rape me again?
cause, to be real,
that new grey and
lime green building on
Schaefer and Central looks like shit.
because it’s always poetic to be cliché
Why do I keep on keeping on?
Why do I live for an idea of intangible commerce?
Why do you?
when they holler, ‘t the fuck?!, keep walking, and breathe.
you’re from here.
you have nothing to prove.
Now, how else can I do for my community as aesthetic prowess plagues my Bushwick with East-Williamsburg-itis?
*genty – gentrifier-lik