“Someday I’ll wish upon a star / Wake up where the clouds are far behind me / Where trouble melts like lemon drops / High above the chimney top / That’s where you’ll find me.” – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” written by Harold Arlen & E Harburg
My husband is currently starring in his first film called the The Public, which is being filmed in Cincinnati. He had to relocate to the City from Chicago for a couple of months in order to film. Cincinnati is just a short 4.5 hour drive, so I have had the pleasure of visiting him twice.
Anytime I go to a place I’ve never been I like to get lost as well as to see the “touristy” places. In Cincinnati, there is a lot of buzz about the Over The Rhine area. There are restaurants, boutiques, music stores, etc. and the area is perfect for pedestrians. You see different races of people, dogs, baby strollers, etc. It is pretty vibrant. Like most cities experiencing gentrification, there is a point where the foot traffic, and the carefully designed wall displays turns into broken glass on the concrete, littered streets, and unsanctioned street art.
Today, my husband I walked beyond the invisible border. This community used to be over 80% African American, and at one point was deemed the nation’s most dangerous neighborhood. “It’s a transformation that’s happened in a blink of an eye, turning a neighborhood that in 2009 topped Compton in Los Angeles for the “most dangerous” title into something that looks and feels like Greenwich Village. And it didn’t happen by accident. Virtually everything that’s occurred in Over-the-Rhine—from the placement of the trees in the park to the curation of ground floor businesses—has been meticulously planned and engineered by a single, corporate-funded and decidedly non-governmental entity.” Read more about the neighborhood in this Politico article.
What we imagined, was that whatever was happening on the other side, would soon make it’s way and in 5 years we wouldn’t see what we saw today. The black kids playing in the park. The old men in small groups laughing and drinking. The scene that could easily be copied and pasted from Kansas City where I grew up, or from Chicago where I now call home. I wished there was a way that I could warn the people to hold on to their property. To open up a business. To buy a building, because “THEY” are coming because “IT” is here.
Don’t we want our communities to be better?
Don’t we want access to small businesses and restaurants?
Don’t we want new parks?
We want all of those things, but at what cost?
This poem by Cathy Arellano describes the issue of gentrification perfectly:
Gentrification is When
my land has more value
when you own it
you’re invited to the neighborhood association
i’ve never seen the welcome mat
you move to my neighborhood for diversity
don’t do a damn thing to diversify your hometown
you stroll carefree through my neighborhood
i’m arrested while driving through yours
you buy your house
evict me from my dream home
you move in and Bi-Rite stops stocking
my Nana’s #1 ingredient: affordable
bike lanes go up where there always were bikes
just brown riders
hundreds of you are never a mob
two of us is always a gang
the city installs new lights at Dolores Park for you
builds a new jail at 17th and Valencia for me
you think this poem is a joke
i don’t care what you think
but i have to
My hope is that we can figure out how to develop community in a way that doesn’t displace people by pricing them out or leaving them out. My hope is that we can teach people of all ages to start businesses so that they can financially benefit from the new development taking place. My desire is that we can honor the history, the culture and the people that came before by making space for them in the form of museums & signs to acknowledge their humanity and their contributions to a place.
We are witnessing reverse migration for blacks and reverse white flight and in that we miss the beauty of the color spectrum.