Making of A Remnant Keeper

DaddyCNN

Someone just blew up my neighborhood with an AK57 etched with these letters- g e n e 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 suppose to be.

The assault to my neighborhood accentuated investments over community, boutiques over basketball hoops, and pubs over porches. Weve been chased out of our homes, churches, and salons. Decimated by food trucks, 20 feet apartments-nobody seems to care.

Were 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 loud, We were here first.

From my Christian roots I sought out training courses to stem the damage, loading my lips with buzz words 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. Im not joking. You know all those conversations weve been having about how fast gentrification has been eating up our community? Well it turns out were 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. Ill 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. Ransons 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 Grannys greens and Aunt Jeans poundcake. I will lay my table with Granddaddys sliced tomatoes and Sis. Hendersons tea cakes.

And I will rememberrememberremember

This struggleis real and I refuse to seal all this damage with a Christian tape slapped on this moving box.

Instead Im 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.

Thanks Brotha Kamua for being one of the first to send aid.

Velynn Brown

Velynn Brown

Writer at Quenched
My heart beats for the underdog, underprivileged and underloved—because that is the backdrop of my own story. I am a Jesus-following, redeemed Church Girl who wakes up every morning in desperate need of a touch by the One who keeps me thirsting for more.

Quenched is the place where I jump deep into real life, redemption and community. I love being my husband's girlfriend and Momma to our three amazing children, I call my Brown Sugar Babies. I also love big hair, big dreams, my big God and the big family and community I come from. I am currently working on publishing my memoir, Gospel Song in the Rain.
Velynn Brown

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  • Lisha Epperson

    I wish I didn’t understand the truth you tell in this post Velynn. But I do. I’m a remnant keeper too. I’m watching my community suffer in similar ways. Its hard to see new (white) families move into the luxury hi rises and it’s hard to see the cute little yoga studios and floral arrangement shops popping up in what we lovingly call the ‘hood – especially when you know these things werent designed with you in mind. In fact the new picture, as you so aptly put, doesn’t include you. You’ll be relegated to a cool depiction of “urban” art on the side of a building – in a community you can no longer afford to live in. It’s heart breaking. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ll click over to watch the video now.

    • Velynn

      Lisha-Sis! It is so hard to see. I was talking to another “remnant keeper” the other day and he said that it is like being the caregiver of the person you love the most slowly dying. You cherish each full, rich day you have knowing in the very near future all that you’ve ever known about them will no longer be accessible.The mural will be painted over, yoga studios will replace community centers-and then what Sis?

      Where will we go?

      Will we still gather on the porch? at the park? at the center?

      Where will my children see a reflection of who they’ve been and what they can aspire to be in real time?

      These are the questions I’m trying to answer-this is the place where I’m asking God to ease the pain. I know you understand and for right now that is bringing a little more comfort to this broken heart of mine. Bless you.

    • I don’t know what to say, Lisha, except that I love you and consider you my sister even though we haven’t met in person yet. May God bless, comfort and give wisdom and peace. xo

  • Velynn

    Lisha-Sis! It is so hard to see. I was talking to another “remnant keeper” the other day and he said that it is like being the caregiver of the person you love slowly die. You cherish each full, rich day you have knowing in the very near future all that you’ve ever known about them will no longer be accessible.The mural will be painted over, yoga studios will replace community centers-and then what Sis?
    Where will we go?
    Will we still gather..on the porch? at the park? at the center?
    Where will my children see a reflection of who they’ve been and what they can aspire to be in real time?

    These are the questions I’m trying to answer-this is the place where I’m asking God to ease the pain. I know you understand and for right now that is bringing a little more comfort to this broken heart of mine. Bless you Sis.

  • I wish I knew what to say, Velynn. My heart breaks when I read about all this. I know that there is no way I can truly understand the suffering your people have been through and are still going through. It sure isn’t pleasing to God. I don’t know how to help except to be here to listen to your stories and try to feel your pain and to help others know. One thing I know to do is to pray, to fall on my knees before God asking forgiveness for my ignorance and for the wrong ways that these issues have been handled. God will give wisdom. He is still on the throne, and I want to be a part of the change for good showing His love wherever I go. I love all my black brothers and sisters and I know God’s love is even greater. May He give wisdom and peace and bring about His purposes in this world and in our lives. Hugs to you and many blessings!