For decades, the concept of gentrification has become increasingly frequent in conversations surrounding community and development. Gentrification is defined as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” In other words, gentrification is responsible for the displacement of thousands of residents yearly while wealthy companies and tenants move in and convert a once low-income area into a neighborhood with high property value and shiny new buildings.
“A 2006 study estimated that about 10,000 households were displaced by gentrification each year in New York City. Follow-up interviews found that among those displaced, many ended up living in overcrowded apartments, shelters or even became homeless. Further, there may be long-term political consequences for low-income residents of gentrified neighborhoods — a 2014 study found poor neighborhoods with rich enclaves spent less on public programs, for example.”
Los Angeles, Tampa, Portland, and Chicago are amongst the top cities in America that have experienced gentrification over the years. In Atlanta, a large part of gentrification is attributed to the 1996 Summer Olympics. Areas such as the Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, and Edgewood became the starting point for Atlanta’s gentrification wave, first becoming affordable, hip but edgy neighborhoods attracting young people. By 2000, these areas became relatively affluent areas attracting people from across Metro Atlanta to their upscale shops and restaurants.
From the south of Atlanta up to areas like Smyrna and Marietta, where in 2013, thousands of families were given only a few months to find new housing as they were notified that several apartment complexes were set to be demolished on Franklin Road. Many of these residents were forced to find new employment, as they were unable to afford housing in nearby neighborhoods or could no longer access public transportation to get to work. As these stories come full circle, it’s apparent that gentrification isn’t only about the business and homes; it is also a way to reconstruct the culture of nearby schools in order to move out low-income students and create a student population of wealthy, Caucasian families in hopes to raise test scores and interest in an area.
The narrative continues. Cities and neighborhoods around the United States are being invaded by high-level investors who move the current residents out, clean the area, build new buildings and homes, and even change the name of the streets and neighborhoods. In 2016, the question remains: How do we stop this from happening to our neighborhoods? How do we go from being displaced to bringing the improvement that our communities deserve?
African Americans and other minority demographics must begin to seek and master these three areas to combat gentrification in their neighborhoods. From a young age, these concepts are often taught and prioritized in the homes of Caucasian children. On the contrary, our children are not taught how to invest and obtain ownership, thus we become adults, spending our entire lives working for others. Those who are educated are in a better position to invest. Those who invest, have a greater ability to thrive in the system that has been created for them. Those who control ownership, control the narrative. Those who have ownership, control their destiny. Aside from the educating, investing, and ownership of businesses and land, there is a great necessity for the black community to educate each other, invest in each other, and fearlessly take ownership of the responsibility to uplift each other towards the life that is rarely presented as possible.
We would be remiss if we were to ignore that many of the foundational solutions to the problems that hinder black ownership run deep. Many of the ways in which our children are excluded from quality education have been systematically established for decades. However, our present day reality proves that there are African Americans that have overcome the obstacles set before them.
“In 2007, there were 1.9 million black-owned businesses, up 60.5 percent from 2002. Receipts of these businesses totaled $137.4 billion, up 55.1 percent from 2002.”
With professionals with expertise in investments and ownership, our communities should not be subject to its current levels of displacement and corruption. Bringing those expertise back into black, low-income communities will help transform those communities for the benefit of its residents. Our communities need investment and transformational programs that not only educate, but actually take our people through a process of becoming owners and high-level policy influencers.
Bringing black dollars into black businesses provides wealth not only for those businesses but for our communities. Wealth will amplify the power of the black voice as well as the black dollar. Our experts and those who have ‘made it’ have a lingering responsibility to return to the communities that are in constant need of education, investment and ownership.