Someone just blew up my neighborhood with an AK57 etched with these letters- g e n t r i f i c a t i o n.
My layman’s definition of the word is “moving Black folks, so white folks can move in.”
Black folks are not alone in this war. Our Native American brothers and sisters are way too familiar with this strategy of disestablishing a race—historically it was simply called “colonialism.”
These movers come in and go through your stuff. Rummaging through your items that carry worth and history -like cornrows, hip-hop and fried chicken-they take out the soul and make profit on the shell of what it was supposed to be.
The assault to my neighborhood accentuated investments over community, boutiques over basketball hoops, and pubs over porches. We’ve been chased out of our homes, churches, and salons. Decimated by food trucks, 20 feet apartments-nobody seems to care.
We’re hemorrhaging from more loss as gentrification comes for us and while we bleed out again and again we have to ask, why us? How can they do this to us again? And there are those among us still wounded and raw reaching for arms to hold off the siege, arming themselves with F-bombs and protesting loudly, “We were here first.”
From my Christian roots I sought out training courses to stem the damage, loading my lips with buzzwords like equity and justice and kingdom love, No matter how I armed myself with laser-focused scriptures, it didn’t work.
The casualties are too great.
I was lamented and Christian-ed out-until I got the call.
“Hey Babe, CNN contacted me and they want us to share our story.”
I chuckled to myself out loud. My father is equal parts preacher and comedian.
“Daddy, quit playing!”
“Honey, I promise. I’m not joking. You know all those conversations we’ve been having about how fast gentrification has been eating up our community? Well, it turns out we’re not the only ones that have taken notice. Portland is leading the country in new developers, hipster flight, and bike lanes. I hear this Brotha is really cool, and I need your help in telling our story.”
Daddy went on to tell me that Kamua Bell, a comedian and reporter, had been asking around in our city who is still here from the original community. He went on to share that his show United Shades of America has been engaging in racial issues of our current day in a fresh, direct, and unapologetic way.
“I got you, Daddy. I’ll be there.”
In the weeks to come, I begin to reflect and prepare for our time with Kamua. My senses became heightened to every coffee shop, bearded man, and kale salad that replaced the places, people, and palate of my community.
Kennedy Elementary School where I attended as a girl, was now Kennedy “McMennamins,” a popular and well known upscale bar and grill. Walking through the transformed halls and classrooms that were now soaking rooms, party rooms, and theater, I felt like a stranger in my own home. In my own memories.
I finally saw a representation of “us”—but she was not real—she was a mural on the wall.
It hit hard we had become the artifact—not a people.
We were now pieces left to be dusted and removed.
What do you do when the dominant culture decides to move you again-and again-and again?
We never asked to be here.
We never wanted to stay.
And we went into the deep soul work of turning ashes into beauty, whips and lashes into trails and degrees.
We survived. We worked hard. We saved our quarters and our dollars. We bought homes.
And then you came back again.
As gentrification jungles continue to swing and expand on Williams, Vancouver, and Martin Luther King Blvd- I will my mind to remember Sis. Ranson’s dry-cleaners and Walnut Park Fred Meyers. I will hum the songs that filled the streets with soulful blues from record players and gospel hymns sung from turquoise pews. I will open my window and fill the air with Granny’s greens and Aunt Jean’s pound cake. I will lay my table with Granddaddy’s sliced tomatoes and Sis. Henderson’s tea cakes.
And I will remember…remember…remember…
This “struggle” is real and I refuse to seal all this damage with a Christian tape slapped on this moving box.
Instead, I’m gonna rip open this ugly wound of gentrification and let the world take a peek on the pain inside.
Gentrification kills communities.
Gentrification robs identity.
Gentrification erases a peoples pride.