Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This S**t is in my Dreaaamsss

"But Ms., how do you know when gentrification has come?" "When you see a Starbucks children, when you see a Starbucks..."

That's how one of my lessons went this year. I work with high school students in the Bronx, teaching art/photography and generally encouraging critical thought (very unpatriotic of me). One day in January, right after the Christmas Season may lay, I'd gone into corporate involvement in the media - which fits right in with a photography curriculum - and ended up discussing big business and government. It was one of those moments where you don't realize you've been going on for 10 minutes, until you see the blank stares of your audience. I stopped. "Any questions?" And that, is where this blog began.

You may be asking, 'But Ash...you're not really going into a gentrification blog now, are you? It's old news. We get it...' My response to you is, yes I am, because I just woke up from a dream in which one of my good friends led me all around Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, from artist loft to creative space filled with awkward art kids (no worries, I'm one of them) in funny clothes, smoking Cloves. And she kept referring to it as "One of the most progressive gated communities in New York."

What's scary about this all is, that shit could actually happen. That tour could take place today.

I like Starbucks. I drink Starbucks, sometimes, while discussing art...I'm not judging. What upsets me are all of the double standards that go into turning a community into an "up-and coming-community". Case in point, the "Green the Ghetto" campaign going on in the Bronx right now. Yeah, I love it. There are some really amazing, progressive things happening in the borough that will benefit not only Bronx residents, but the human race. But, even as I watch these things going down I can't help but consider the other events taking place.

Harlem residents are being priced out of their homes, and gentrification has a way of seeping. It's funny like that. When you have a city of however many billion, people flock to where there's space, and things are affordable. But the isle of Manhattan, feels like it's almost to capacity with people smart enough to look for "affordable housing" although they could afford to pay the premium. Generally, they don't move in with malice; but the presence of the up-and-coming middle-class, causes developers to dismiss the I've-been-here-my-whole life class. And then, enter stage right, the Starbucks'.

- Ashleigh Rae

P.S. I was going to write about this. I'm intrigued. There's lots to say, but it's mostly been said in the article. The photo at the beginning is what really got me. Everyone looks so serene (from the backs of their heads...), watching the fire burn. The image hardly goes with the word riot. Also, I'm moved by the people's resolve.


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