“The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks” is the new exhibit at The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), and the title makes you wonder what will the elephant say? Because it isn’t just what’s called gentrification that is troubling, after all, communities transition from one ethnic group to another for various reasons.
Whether it’s Irish to Italian or Jewish, the group that was being displaced, left because they didn’t want to be around the newcomers, and went on to form new communities at higher economic levels. What is troubling about the gentrification that is taking place now in the African-American community in Brooklyn, is it’s fitting the pattern of the gentrification of Native American neighborhoods some time ago.
“People are not just moving out, going down South or taking off for the suburbs. They are being stopped and frisked by the police at every opportunity, shipped off to prison warehouse facilities for years of ill-training, killed by whoever has a gun and a reason, killed by AIDS and the malevolent “good health living with AIDS” marketing of the pharmaceutical companies, killed by obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, killed by poor judgment born of poor judgment, killed by unemployment double the Great Depression levels, killed by hundreds of years of miseducation and economic disenfranchisement, both enabled by the original crime, the theft of language and nationhood during slavery. Killed by the constant stress on the masses of Black people just to go about day-to-day survival.
African-American residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant, confronted by the multiplying and organized Hasidim to the north in Williamsburg and priced out east of Classon Avenue, are faced with seeing their community going the way of Harlem with white folks able to pick off the opportunities as they come up. If ever there was a time to come together and follow the example of Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad and our Hasidic brothers, organizing people around common economic goals, it is now.
You can call it gentrification if you’d like, but a slow genocide is what it is, a claiming of territory by victorious people. It’s nothing personal, everyone is quite civil about it, tsk, tsking about the unfortunate, but unchangeable, state of affairs. Just go quietly and don’t make a scene. For further clarification, ask a Native American, if you can find one.