Change is good…Black Americans have tried. We have succeeded. We have been stopped in the tracks of progress.
Members of Black Lives Matter Sacramento attended the Community Dinner held in McClatchy Park on Wednesday April 13, in response to a shooting in the park the night before- during, and nearby, a Little League game. The description for the event was:
Let's all have dinner together WEDNEDAY, APRIL 13th at McClatchy Park. Let's come together as a community to state that this is OUR park and violence has NO PLACE THERE. Let's get the media there, police there, government officials there supporting us. Bring your dinner, a picnic blanket and a lot of community building goodwill. Invite all your friends. Ready, set, go!
Commenter: "Now let's take our park back"
The mood among the mostly white- and therefore, mostly new- residents of Oak Park who convened and attended this Community Dinner, was that this shooting was the result of an ongoing "bad element" in the park. While the details about the shooting are still being investigated, most likely it was a reckless incident between two people and had nothing to do with the long time-- mostly black-- residents who enjoy, and have always enjoyed, this park... but their presence now makes the newer residents uncomfortable.
And that is the beginning of an old, old story: the new people move in and they want the old "element" out. This is the bigger context that brought about this Community Dinner, as well as the sign posted in the orange tree pictured above.
But whose neighborhood is it?
There were a great many neighborhoods that rose from the ashes of oppression; Rosewood (1923), LeDroit Park (1919), Knoxville Tennessee (1919), Chicago, Atlanta (1906), Greenwood (1921), and Rosewood (1923). But do you know why these cities and townships no longer exist as they once did?
“Throughout the mid-twentieth century, the federal government subsidize white home ownership in newly built, appreciating areas through mortgage insurance and infrastructure grants.”None of this should be new to anyone. We are now dealing with the after effects of this process and the result is a population living in neighborhoods that are ownership, opportunity, and housing security deserts.
Housing, like the economy, is cyclical. What comes around goes around. Whites were provided opportunity for prosperity and minorities were forced to the leftover areas of their cities where subsidized housing provided “rentership” for the displaced without even a commercial district to call their own. Crime rates rose, job numbers fell along with income levels, educational opportunities were a wasteland, and hope died.
But you can’t stop change. With the degradation of the area, property values made it possible for neighborhoods to be inhabited again by those who previously ran in a “white flight.” The only difference is the influx of new residents (though primarily white) is peppered with other non black persons of color (NBPOC) as well. Hardly visible on this list is the Black homeowner. That is not to say you don’t see Black people everywhere. We are in subsidized homes and rentals.
We see you; we cool.
That is until our culture starts to clash with the progress of change in the neighborhood. We start to be the major topic of unnecessary calls to law enforcement. We begin to populate the safety tab on NextDoor. We get stared down oftentimes just for looking out of place. Sometimes we may own a home on your block and we surprised you; you had no idea when we moved in. We just want to exist, but we cant’ because we are not going along with the change. Question: if you cannot afford to be a part of the change, how can you be asked to accept it without complaint?
Originally, there is no anger with positive change. Since the growth occurring has not been for everyone, there is disappointment. When the voices of the disappointed are not heard, there is hurt. When the hurt is not eased there is depression. When the depression is not lifted, there is anger.
Many of our neighbors in Oak Park are part of the disenfranchised public. We want affordable places to live, places to work, quality schools for our children, and a sense of community where we can be ourselves. Many thought they had it here. Many who are here did not ask to come here. Many are here because of “redlining and racially restrictive covenants which excluded Black Americans from the post-war housing boom and drove investment away from Black communities.”
“We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls ‘de-facto’ — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight,”
“It was not the unintended effect of benign policies,” he says. “It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that’s the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies.” - Richard Rothstein
Some still believe there is a chance. The perspective of many ideas from your neighbors should give one time to pause, not react.
Sometimes the solution is to take time and listen to one another while we move about our world safely.
This would help considerably in conversations from what lot to beautify, what law enforcement calls to make, where to get the best chai tea, and who or what is or is not a blight to the neighborhood (which really belongs to everyone but no one in particular).
Still, change is the answer. The type of change has to be looked at from the perspective of those oppressed and those appearing as the oppressor who may not be aware of that fact. The answer may lie in a different type of neighborhood revitalization. One that allows for new local homeowners to enjoy the spoils of their hard work along with transplants from other areas.
First, Do No Harm: All residents should have an opportunity to benefit from investment in their neighborhood. People who live through a neighborhood’s disinvestment and blight should not be forced to move when living conditions finally improve.
Increase Access to Opportunity: Affordable housing should be located in areas with good access to public transportation, jobs, and high-quality schools. Residents who want to move to high-opportunity areas should be supported in that choice.
Increase Resident Incomes: Low income residents should have the support they need to improve their economic situation. This includes child care, skills development and job linkage services.
Support Resident Ownership of Housing: African-Americans should have the same ability as European-Americans to own the housing in their neighborhood and to build wealth as property values appreciate.
Support Resident Ownership of Businesses: Locally-owned business build wealth and help put residents in charge of their own economic fortunes. They are often the cultural landmarks that define who “belongs” in a community.Ensure Long-Term Housing Security: Renters are particularly vulnerable to displacement as property values increase. While displacement and gentrification may produce a mixed-income, mixed-race community for a period of time, maintaining that diversity requires long-term affordability controls.
NEXT WEEK: Don't forget, The Whole System is Guilty, an event co-sponsored by BLM Sacramento and ANSWER Sacramento at the Capitol, Tuesday April 26 at 3:00. RSVP here.