[Expo Park – Los Angeles, CA] Last Thursday the California African-American Museum hosted the final symposium series on gentrification. The event was created by Karen Mack of L.A. Commons. “Evolution of View Park: Making Sense of Gentrification” featured great audience participation, some solid questions and an excellent presentation.
As mentioned in previous articles on this series; the gentrification topic is very complex and one that can be quite emotional in discussing, particularly from the brave souls in attendance who offered compelling anecdotal commentary. These types of events are eye-openers as the commentary offered by the audience oftentimes transforms into a venting session which is necessary to put the topic front and center. However, it can be precarious as the venting can go on and on…….leaving very little room for solutions based strategies to be communicated.
“This series has been so successful Karen should take it on the road” Robert Lee Johnson, Community Author
The event started at 2pm and once again the venue was packed to the brim. As predicted due to the primary area of discussion; View Park, the majority of those in attendance were African-American.
Crack epidemic in the 80’s
The civil rights movement of the 1960’s as well as the dismantling of racial covenants which previously kept African-Americans from moving into certain communities was critical as there was an increase in the movement towards achieving middle class status through home ownership.
Families grew at an impressive clip. What gets lost in the whole gentrification discussion, particularly trying to answer the question of if certain neighborhoods or property was hard to achieve why did some of those same families leave and flee to the suburbs and other areas? For those who cherish Ronald Reagan as an icon of growth while perpetuating the “American dream,” those from the African-American communities have a different perspective. It is well documented funds needed to fight the Nicaraguan war as well as other conflicts in Central and South America came from the purchase of the readily supply of cocaine. The product found haven in urban centers across America. The result was turf battles, killings and other negative consequences which dismantled neighborhoods that were once beacons of progress and hope. As those areas decayed, it became ripe for reinvestment to replace current occupants.
Legacy and affordability
A key theme or issue which many were seen nodding their heads in agreement was the notion that offspring of those who purchased property in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond have great difficulty in being able to purchase their own home, today! While that is a statement many seem to affirm, it raises many questions. Did those parents who originally purchased home not do an adequate job in helping their offspring achieve financial literacy? Due to their successes, did they seem to project a road that their offspring would not have to work or sacrifice like they did? Why do they assume their offspring cannot qualify for financing, while admitting their incomes are perhaps higher based on the age they first purchased? It is more complex then assessing those who grew up in the area cannot afford the very area they grew up in.
The interest in the symposium topic was obvious based on packed crowds at each event. There was a strong sentiment of how homeownership was achieved and how it was critical for them to create a legacy for their heirs. More important was the need for African-Americans to maintain those neighborhoods.
United States history is ripe with laws, regulations, discrimination and other tactics to deprive groups such as African-Americans from owning property or relegating them to specific communities. Some in attendance were quick to point out their pleas to keep neighborhoods in the hand of African-American should not be construed as defining them as racist. Technically that would be impossible as racism is using race to oppress other ethnic groups. African-Americans are not creating any laws or systemic maneuvers to keep any out.
As mentioned due to the venting there was more assessment of the problem versus solution. However, that is to be expected as what Karen Mack organized was a starting point to discuss the issue and that is crucial for stakeholders to speak to their issues.
One important theme offered by those presenting possible solutions was the need to become organized and take a more active role in legitimate organizations.
Due to time the event had to conclude but many in attendance committed to taking this discussion offline and continue to address issues to combat the negative reality of gentrification.
Readers are encouraged to educate themselves on this topic. Karen Mack may or may not agree to a road show, in the meantime those interested must stay engaged in community platforms such as the one which brought folk together for this series.