This year, I have been to over 10 cities celebrating the union between friends, birthdays, bridal showers, or bachelorette parties. As it is still a pandemic and traveling is a bit freaky, I used to pop into cities, attend the event, and then go home. Lately, I have been finding myself exploring more and more of the new towns I’m in to get a sense of their history and character. Although I’ve enjoyed amazing local cuisine and learned intriguing facts about landmarks and other unexpected stories, I’ve also seen a lot of pain and strife between locals and transplants.
As a transplant (Los Angeles to New York City in 2017) and person of color, I find gentrification to be an extremely sensitive topic, but one that should be discussed.
What is gentrification?
When I looked up the definition of the word for this piece, I found two that struck a chord: “The process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process,” and “the process of making someone or something refined, polite, or respectable.”
In some ways, gentrification is inevitable and vital for a community to grow efficiently. But in all ways, it takes away someone’s home, and that doesn’t sit well with me.
Why it happens
Throughout my travels, I’ve spoken to locals and natives who grew up and spent more than 40+ years in their towns, all to be kicked out by someone that has more money than them. I saw it during my 4-year stint in Bushwick. Located at the last stop on the train, the neighborhood of myself and other Black people, one pizza shop, coffee shop, and laundromat, quickly started overflowing with hipsters, coffee-addicts, and all the colors of the rainbow.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in harmony and the merging of cultures and ethnicities—it’s what makes New York, New York. However, if gentrification is going to be inevitable, I want to do as little as possible to not further add to it, and as much as I possibly can to support the businesses and folks that started the communities.
How to not support gentrification
I do this by continuing to shop local, no matter how cool other stores coming in are. I volunteer my time and money at the local childcare centers so the neighborhood kids have a familiar face. And I attend my local church to find out other ways I can support these communities.
When big corporations come in and change entire cities, they always say it’s just business, nothing personal. But in all gentrification situations, it’s always personal. Ripping someone away from their home and everything they know, is probably at the top of the list of personal things.
And if you’re suffering from travel fatigue, here’s how to get over it.