Thursday, May 24, 2012

Portrait of Gentrification

In 1996, my family was fortunate to move into a home that we built through Habitat for Humanity. Our house, which my mother now owns outright, is in the Woodlawn neighborhood of NE Portland. In the past 16 years, I've watched the neighborhood change drastically.
Earlier this evening, I had a conversation with my mother. About a year ago, they made one of the cross streets into a bike path and in the name of safety, they painted a mural in the middle of our intersection to grab drivers' attention and slow traffic. She told me they were having a block party to touch up the mural and that someone may be coming by to get supplies from her. Upon hearing how excited she was about it, I simply said, "I refuse to help these white folks in their gentrification of my neighborhood."
Of course she got upset with me for disagreeing with her. I wasn't trying to argue, just stating that I wanted nothing to do with the white people who were changing this community unless it involved uplifting our people. And we all know the only kind of uplifting they want for us is to lift our asses up out of here and send  us towards the outskirts of town.
At first my mother somewhat denied the fact that this area was being gentrified. And then I reminded her that when we moved in there were only 3 white families on the block and now there are only 4 Black families. Looking at the census, in 1990 58% of the Woodlawn neighborhood was Black, in 2000 32%, and in 2010 26%. Even the neighborhood schools have always been the "Black schools" like Jefferson, Woodlawn, Tubman, Whitaker, and King. What used to be a predominately minority neighborhood is now teeming with white hipsters, their bikes, Subarus, band practices, and hemp products.
We've all seen the city being gentrified over the years. They come in, raise rent, increase taxes, take away street parking, move us out, take over and then rename our streets after our historical figures. Union became MLK, Portland became Rosa Parks, 39th became Caesar Chavez. (If they ever do get a hold of Jefferson High School, I wouldn't be surprised if they renamed it after Malcom X.)
I'm just tired of it. I'm tired of acting like its not happening. I'm tired of these bastards smiling my face every morning knowing they just can't wait for our Black asses to leave and raise their property value. Im tired of my mother receiving letters and phone calls for the white couple begging to buy and repair the house that we literally built with our own hands. I'm just tired.
But unfortunately, my fatigue means nothing.