Gentrification in America

Topics: Harlem Renaissance, Gentrification, Langston Hughes Pages: 5 (1803 words) Published: October 17, 2011

Gentrification is affecting the African American community in Harlem negatively because it is slowly wiping out black owned businesses. A lot believe it negatively changes the culture of neighborhoods. People might argue that it creates more jobs and brings in a more educated and wealthier population to the area being gentrified, which can improve the community in the long run. Gentrification is the enemy of the poor, and does little to aid those who are forced to move out. Those who support it are only interested in profits rather than improving communities. Gentrification forces middle and low-income residents out of Harlem, ruins their small businesses and changes life.

Harlem’s culture and population was mostly influenced by the Great Migration. The Great Migration was a massive movement of African Americans who migrated north in search of a better life. In the article The African American Great Migration reconsidered, Sarah Jane Mathaieu states that African Americans migrated north “as a politicized response to their region's social, economic, and political climate. Simultaneously domestic and international migrants, African Americans used relocation as a measure of their freedom, as an exercise of their civil rights” (19). African Americans wanted to escape racism and avoid being lynched in the south, the bee weevil attacked cotton crops so there was a large decline in agricultural work. The North promised higher wages, more industries, jobs, and variety. The north offered African Americans the opportunity they needed to make up for years of slavery. They wanted a new start, “during the great migration two million African Americans abandoned hope for a better life in the south and headed for points north” (Mathaieu 20). A large amount of these immigrants settled in Harlem and made it their new home. When African Americans settled in a cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance or the New Negro movement began. Jazz and literature grew in popularity. Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters and Billy Holiday where very popular just to name a few. The Great migration to Harlem has been the home to many African American, but people in the community are starting to see their culture being whipped out as a new wave of gentrifies enters Harlem.

Elizabeth Kirkland, a research associate at the Race Relations Institute of Fisk University, defines gentrification as “the process by which central urban neighborhoods that have undergone disinvestment and economic decline experience a reversal, reinvestment, and the in-migration of a relatively well-off, middle- and upper-middle-class population” (19). In my opinion, Kirkland’s definition is incomplete because she does not present the negative effects that come with the gentrification process. More and more land is being bought in Harlem and is being replaced with commercial areas or condos, stores that have been around for many years are being forced to sell. Owners of small businesses can no longer afford to dish out rent.

A negative effect of gentrification is that it forces the people who live in the neighborhoods to move to an area that is more affordable. The first sign of gentrification is when big developers, investment bankers, and real estate brokers begin to look into property in a neighborhood. The article The Gentrification of Harlem, Schaffer and Smith talks about how In Harlem there is now a real-estate boom. Their neighborhood's magnificent 19th-century town houses are being snapped up at a rapid rate. “Harlem hit bottom in the 1980s when poverty, neglected housing and drug-related crime took their toll”( Schaffer and Smith 2). The increase of crime in the area dropped the price of property value . Investors and developers quickly took advantage of the more affordable land and are buying out huge portions of Harlem.

In the article “Gentrification and Displacement,” Freeman and Braconi...
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