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From Chocolate City to Latte Wasteland

Gentrification… A curse word to some, a blessing to others. This is pretty much going on all across the country in the big cities. The problem being that the improved retail, educational, business, and living accommodations are not equally distributed, with the previous residents being forced out, priced out, or legislated out.

From Chocolate City to Latte City: Being black in the new D.C.

It made news a few years back when we learned that Chocolate City, as majority-black Washington had long been known, wasn’t so chocolate anymore.

And the news today? Not only is the city’s African American population shrinking — almost half of the District’s 650,000 residents are white — but it’s getting harder to be black in the nation’s capital.

The city that had long been a beacon for the nation’s African American population — where slavery was outlawed nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, where segregated public schools were the first in the nation to be integrated after Brown v. Board of Education — has gone through more than just a huge demographic shift.

It is a change in the attitude of the city, the culture, the way we view and treat one another.

This week, Jason Goolsby, a student at the University of the District of Columbia, stopped at a bank on Capitol Hill with a couple of friends. The 18-year-old was pondering whether to withdraw money from the ATM when he held the door open for a mom with a stroller, then left after deciding not to get cash.

The woman called 911 to report a possible robbery and told the dispatcher that “we just left but we felt like if we had taken money out we might’ve gotten robbed,” according to a transcript of the call.

But didn’t she do the same thing: go to the ATM, then leave?

And how about those shopkeepers in Georgetown who — as my colleague, Terrence McCoy, discovered — alert one another about “suspicious shoppers” on an app they share.

Is it a coincidence that about 90 percent of the photos they took and posted of shoppers they thought to be “suspicious” were black?

This in Georgetown, which was nearly 40 percent black back in the 1800s. Now, the African American population in that part of the city is about 3 percent. It’s so white, folks have a hard time figuring out what black people are doing when they go there. Um, shopping?

In the new Latte City, it’s hard to shop while black. Or decide not to get cash at the ATM while black. Or how about staying in your home town while black?

The disappearance of affordable housing is making it increasingly difficult for the poor, who are overwhelmingly African American, to remain in the District.

Now developers want to turn a complex of low-income, rent-controlled housing in Congress Heights into one of those insta-villages — you know, the gleaming new condos, a chain restaurant with $12 salads, a fitness studio, a CVS, an (organic) dry cleaner — that seem to pop up, out of nowhere.

And, yes, that part of town — Southeast Washington — has been starving for investment and development. But it will come at the expense of the residents who have been rooted there for decades. They’ve put up with landlords who have neglected the property so horribly in an effort to drive the old-timers out.

Abandoned, trash-filled apartments, lack of working toilets, vermin. The owners of the properties are just letting the apartments rot, waiting for folks who didn’t take a payout to leave.

Across town, at a rent-controlled apartment building on Kalorama Road in Northwest Washington, we see a renter success story. A new owner bought the building, but there was no move to demolish it and build something hotter. Instead the mostly white tenants — many elderly and fixed-income types — banded together to form a tenants organization, used the laws put in place to protect them and secured their controlled rent.

Even when the economics are similar, the results are totally different, depending on your skin color.…More…

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Why Charter Schools Won’t Die

While at one of the downtown festivals a few weeks ago the subject of Charter Schools came up in casual conversation with a white friend who is involved in local politics. Over the past several years, the Charter School movement has been a disaster in DC, with one school after another either failing, or failing to provide the same level of education for the City’s bad Public Schools. My friend responded that the Charter School movement was now being driven by Gentrification. That the young, hipster white parents moving into the old neighborhoods didn’t want any part of the failing DC Public School System, and as such were the force behind continuing Charters.

This article sums up what is happening…

Burroughs School in NE Washington, DC in 1955

Why White Parents Won’t Choose Black Schools

Last year when I attempted to pick my daughter up from school, the volunteers in the carpool line tried to put a fourth grader in my car, not the four year old I was attempting to retrieve. Both of us were vehemently shaking our heads, both of us looked totally confused, but the man with the radio would not be deterred. There are only a handful of white kids at my daughter’s school, and only two of them are car-riders. One of them gets picked up by her mom, the other, her dad. This white girl went with the white mom, and I was a white mom. This must be the right van.

This slightly awkward, but hilarious interaction strikes at the heart of the change in our neighborhood. While we were once one of the only white people in the neighborhood, most of the abandoned houses are now snapped up and fixed up by young white couples, often with kids. Those kids don’t go to our school.

Though my daughter is not the only white kindergartner in my neighborhood, she is the only white kindergartner in her class. My new neighbors, ones who come into the neighborhood raving about how much they love it, do not send their kids to the school. While they love my neighborhood, they do not love my school.

A friend and I were recently chatting about her move to the neighborhood next to mine. I was surprised that she didn’t even look across the dividing line road we live about two blocks from. She shrugged her shoulders, “yeah, I really like your house but our real estate agent said we shouldn’t even look there because of the schools.” Because of the schools. The school I send my daughter to. She did not look at the houses with more square footage and a smaller price tag because someone who has never been in the school doesn’t find it suitable.

This summer, when I told the other moms at the pool where my kids went to school. I was repeatedly told to move them. This from women who had never ever set foot in my school. They had not had contact with our deeply passionate, and very responsive principal, had not met the pre-k teachers who my daughter loves more than Santa. They had not toured the various science labs, or listened as their child talked incessantly about robotics. They don’t know that every Tuesday Juliet comes home with a new Spanish song to sing and bothers me until I look up the colors in Spanish if I can’t remember them from High school. Juliet loves her school. Her mother, a teacher at a suburban school, and her father, a PhD candidate at the state university, both find the school completely acceptable, more than acceptable. We love it too.

But my neighbors will not send their kids there and my friends won’t even move into the neighborhood. They will whisper about it. They will tell their friends not to go there. They will even tell a stranger that she should move her kids immediately as they both wait for their children to come down the water slide. But they will not give the neighborhood school a chance. They will even go to great lengths to avoid the neighborhood school.

In July, through the neighborhood list serve I got invited to attend the charter school exploration meeting. A group of parents were attempting to start a charter school to center on diversity. They wanted a Spanish program and a principal that was very invested in the neighborhood. After inquiring I discovered the local elementary school had not even been contacted. The one with a principal who left his high profile high school job and came back to his neighborhood to an elementary school where he immediately implemented a Spanish language program. Before starting their own charter school, not one person had bothered even contacting the school already in existence. The school that has made huge strides, and could do even better with some parents who had this kind of time and know how. No one was interested in the school of the neighborhood.

The same people who were questioning the school I picked for my girls and starting their own charter school, wanted to talk to me about the This American Life Podcast about segregated schools. They wanted to talk to me about things I already knew. Our schools are more segregated than they have ever been. Our educational system is deeply inequitable. Things are only getting worse. They shook their concerned liberal head in sadness wondering what they could do. Then they made sure their child got into the very white, pretty affluent charter school that is not representative of their neighborhood. When one didn’t exist, they took their resources and began creating one.

When I am able to move past the anger, the frustration that people are talking about a school they know nothing about, I listen to what they say. Behind all the test score talk, the opportunity mumbo jumbo that people lead with, I feel like what is actually being said, and what is never being said is this: That school is too black. …The rest here…

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in The New Jim Crow, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Singing While Black – Oakland, Ca City Council Fines Black Church…For Singing

This is the Pleasant Grove Church Choir in Oakland, Ca…

Now, I don’t know about you – but the joyful noise coming out of Pleasant Grove isn’t any different than the black Baptist Church I grew up in, other than perhaps the drums (the Rev didn’t allow no drums in the old days!). As an aficionado of Gospel Choir music, who has been known to attend a Gospel competition or two (hoping the Preacher has the wisdom to STF up and let the Choir sing) – I can comfortably say what is going on in Pleasant Grove isn’t any different than what goes on in tens of thousands of black churches every Sunday. And I guess the new non-black neighbors had better be thankful they didn’t move next door to one of the larger churches with sizeable choir. To me at least, buying a house next to a Church and complaining about the Sunday traffic or choir noise is like buying a house at the end of a runway of an Airport and whining about the jet noise. You know what, and where you bought when you bought it, and it was there first.

Gentrification in this case…Being the New Jim Crow.

Singing while black: Oakland choir threatened with ‘nuisance’ fines after tech workers enter neighborhood

Members of a black church choir are blaming an influx of affluent tech workers for their group facing thousands of dollars in fines.

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in West Oakland received a cease-and-desist letter from the city threatening them with $500 a day in fines plus a $3,500 nuisance fee, CBS San Francisco reports. Church members believe the sudden complaints about the choir are due to the fact the area is becoming gentrified.

“Kind of hard to believe because we’ve been here about 65 years in the community and all of a sudden we get some concerns about the noise,” Thomas A Harris III, the pastor at Pleasant Grove, told the local CBS station.

The church just happens to be in a neighborhood full of the Victorian homes that characterize the Bay Area, and they’re being snapped up by wealthy tech industry workers, church officials told CBS.

“Those persons who are just new arrivals should not come and try to change the culture that existed before they arrived here,” George Holland, president of the local NAACP branch, told CBS. “We cannot have people come attack churches about music.”

The NAACP is also criticizing the way the city is handling the matter by simply slapping the long-standing church with threats instead of seeking a dialogue between the church and people making the complaints for a resolution.

“There should have been discussions between the community and those people who are saying the church is making too much noise,” Holland told CBS.

The Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition on Wednesday night addressed the complaints and said they’d work to protect the local churches at a meeting.

“We’re being bought out. We’re being moved out. We are being priced out of our own neighborhood,” Lawrence Van Hook, pastor at Community Church, told CBS.

Pastors at local black churches are considering holding outdoor services so everyone can enjoy the gospel music and said they plan to fight the city’s action, which they called a threat to all churches.

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church still plans to rehearse, as usual, on Thursday night.

 

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Poverty in America… No Longer an Urban Thing.

A Brookings infographic on the reasons for rising poverty in the Suburbs.

The rest of this study can be found here.

One of the popular beliefs of the American ignorati (AKA conservatives, and their racist co-conspirators) is that poverty in America is confined to the “ghetto”. Not really surprising that they should be so far out of step with reality, when much of their belief system is based on a book written by Patrick Moynahan over half a century ago about conditions in the mid 1960’s.

With the collapse of American manufacturing, and it’s relocation to China – urban areas have undergone wholesale change as people have moved out to find jobs. This has resulted in a reversal of the “Great Migration” of the 1920’s and 30’s, where black folks moved wholesale out of the South to the North urban centers for better jobs building Fords and Chryslers. The segregation of the time stratifying the neighborhoods into urban clusters.

Creating a very convenient Pinata for the racist right.

Unfortunately for the right’s favorite talking point, twin forces are conspiring to destroy the urban ghetto. Gentrification, and the residents desire to seek employment. Tashwaniankia has moved to the ‘burbs!

Suburbs and the New American Poverty

More people with low incomes now live outside of cities, and some areas are ill-equipped to deal with the influx of the poor.

NORCROSS, Ga.—Every weekday around 3:15 p.m., a big, yellow school bus stops on Pelican Drive outside Norcross Extended Stay, near the intersection with Best Friend Drive.

Dozens of children file out, carrying their heavy backpacks away from the Wendy’s and the AutoZone, towards the cluster of aging three-story yellow buildings where they live. Some are met by waiting parents, others trek by themselves to the shabby motel rooms, marching past broken-down cars, their tires flat, scattered around the parking lot, and discarded mattresses piled next to some of the residences.

That families are living in extended-stay motels like this one may seem surprising in a town like Norcross, founded in 1870 and named one of the best places to livein Georgia by Movoto, a real estate blog, last year. Gwinnett County, where Norcross is located, is, in parts, a collection of well-off towns like Duluth, home to NeNe Leaks, of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame. Its unemployment rate is just 5.7 percent and one of its schools, the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, was recently named one of the best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

But the suburbs of Atlanta no longer hold just the promise of good schools, clean streets, and whitewashed homes with manicured lawns proudly displaying American flags. They are increasingly home to the very poor, who find themselves stranded in suburbs without the kind of transit or assistance that they might once have found in cities’ urban cores. They are stuck in places like Norcross Extended Stay, that see the same type of crime that families might have once seen in metro Atlanta. (A few years back, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department had to order 20 sex offenders to leave the motel, because it was located near a public pool.)

Joanna Watkins stays at home with her grandkids in one of the tiny rooms in Norcross Extended Stay while her daughter borrows her car to work as a waitress nearby. On the day I met them, Watkins’ granddaughters lounged on the motel’s polyester, flowered bedspreads watching TV while Watkins peered nervously out of the motel room’s first-floor window.

“We don’t let the kids go outside,” Watkins told me, explaining that the family is looking for something better. She moved from Texas in September to help out with childcare, but with her daughter’s low wages, they’re still looking for a more suitable place to live.Fully 88 percent of Atlanta’s poor live in the suburbs, according to Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution. Between 2000 and 2011, Atlanta’s suburban poor population grew by 159 percent, while the city’s poor population remained essentially flat.

 It’s not just Atlanta—across much of the country, poverty is increasingly a problem found in the suburbs. The number of poor in the suburbs surpassed the number of poor in the cities in the 2000s, and by 2011, almost 16.4 million suburban residents lived below the poverty line, according to Kneebone and Berube.

 

Poor Residents in Cities and Suburbs, 1970-2012

The fact that more poor people live in the suburbs doesn’t have to be a bad thing, Kneebone told me. If low-income residents have access to good job opportunities, affordable housing, low crime rates, and good schools, then the suburbs can provide a path out of poverty.

But poverty has increased so quickly in some suburbs that these areas are ill-equipped to deal with it, she said.

“Many of these communities lack the infrastructure, safety-net supports, and resources to address the needs of a growing poor population, which can make it that much harder for poor residents to connect to the kinds of opportunities that can help them get out of poverty in the long run,” she said.

The problem speaks to a different kind of erosion of the American Dream, in which families strive to get to the much-vaunted suburbs, only to find out there’s nothing for them there. And as suburbs see more and more poverty, they become the same traps that impoverished, urban neighborhoods once were, where someone born there has few chances to improve his economic standing.

There are more tangible problems that arise when poverty grows in the suburbs. Often, government structures change more slowly than the population at large, and residents find themselves represented—and policed—by people who don’t understand their needs or concerns. The unrest in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, over the past year, reflects this conflict.

Suburbs also have less transit than urban areas, making it difficult for low-income residents to get to jobs or buy groceries. And social services have been slow to follow the poor to the suburbs, so many suburban poor find themselves isolated and without a safety net, hidden from those who might be able to help.

 This all became extremely clear to the Reverend Harriet Bradley, who lives in an extended-stay motel in Gwinnett County, where a neon sign advertises rooms for $169 a week. She has no car, and depends on public transit to get around. It can take her three hours to get to church some days, and the public transit in the county doesn’t run on the weekends.

She says she was called by God to talk to other public-transit riders about the need to expand the bus system, and recently decided to attend a public hearing of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners to ask them to divert more support to public transit in the county. After two long bus rides, she waited through hours of dull zoning appeals and then, right before the meeting ended, was given a few minutes to speak.

The crowd was diverse, but the commissioners were all white. Over the last decade, Gwinnett has become the most racially-diverse county in Atlanta. Between the 2000 and 2010 census, the county’s African American populationadded 112,000 residents, growing 143 percent, while the county’s Asian population doubled, adding 43,000 residents. The white population grew by a mere 1,680 residents. Still, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners is all white, as is the county school board, and all of the judges elected to county’s state and superior courts.

Bradley, who is African American, cleared her throat and stood in front of a round table of white elected officials and staff, and asked for more transit funding.”The bus schedules don’t start early or run late enough,” she said. “I’ve often heard people around me say, ‘They don’t realize that I can’t get to work.'”

A person without a car who wanted to attend that very meeting would not have been able to get home afterward because the bus doesn’t run late enough, she said (she’d arranged for a ride home). Gwinnett County residents without cars can’t get jobs at the mall or local warehouses, or at Atlanta’s airport south of the city—the busiest airport in the world—because the buses don’t allow them to get to work on time.

 “Many people have had to turn down jobs because they couldn’t get there,” she said, ending her speech.

Afterwards, she spoke individually to a few commissioners but felt mostly ignored. “The commissioners—they don’t really want public transportation out here,” she told me afterwards. “They wouldn’t use it anyway.” (…More…)

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