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Posted May 7, 2014 by Editorial Staff in News
 
 

Reader Response to “Oakland: Brooklyn by the Bay” (NY Times)

Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 2.26.03 PM
Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 2.26.03 PM

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[Original NYT Article]

May 5, 2014

Interesting tale of two cities… but conspicuously missing from this piece are the real negative effects of gentrification… its more than a “growing concern”in cities like Oakland, Brooklyn, Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, etc. As an Oakland resident and former Brooklynite who still invests time and money in BK, the comparison has more to do with the US economy and class privilege than with foodie culture, bridges, festivals, hip barbershops and restaurants. Oakland and Brooklyn are very different, starting w/the fact that one is a borough with more than 2.6 million people and the other is a small town with barely 400k. The comparisons are mostly offered up (like the article itself) as fodder to feed / drive new markets and whet developers’ appetites.

I’m all for improving local economies as long as local lives improve in the doing. Authenticity (soul) of a city is measured not by its buildings but by its people, how they’ve reacted over time to the social movements of their times. And not the quizzically-dressed newcomers (though they have a role to play) but by the folk who PUT IT DOWN 2 or 3 or… 20 generations ago (shout out to Native Americans)… Ask folk in BK about the West Indian Day Parade or African Street Festival or Oaklanders about Festival at the Lake or Carijama or Dia De Los Muertos in the 90s compared to those events today (if they even still exist)… Of course, what happens when “settler culture” replaces “more recently indigenous” culture is a never-ending debate in every city worldwide since the beg of time… but maybe if we figure out a way to reframe the conversation that offers just as much space in changing cityscapes to indigenous culture as it does to creating hip playgrounds that can magically erase anesthetized, inoculated suburban childhoods… then maybe, just maybe we can all deconstruct this national “growing concern” in a productive way… much dap to Chinaka Hodge for rep’in the unheard voices of Oakland in the article!

Gentrification is not an evil in and of itself — a remix can give you something new to dance to — but if you can’t hear that original baseline or feel the original groove that got the party started, its time to send the DJ packing.


Cheo Tyehimba Taylor
cheo[at]forwardevermedia.com