What To Call Gentrification By Non-Whites: Does Race Matter?

Gentrification takes place when middle and upper-income people move into low-income communities, which ushers in economic change, reinvestment and development. Jumping back a few weeks ago, a discussion took place on DCentric when we pondered a more specific kind of gentrification: gentefication, which is when low-income, immigrant Latino neighborhoods are gentrified by second-generation, well-to-do Latinos.

So we wondered: is gentrification much different when gentrifiers aren’t white, so much so that it requires its own term?

Alex Baca tweeted that having a separate word for this kind of gentrification is unnecessary:

It's class-based. Don't need fancy names. RT @ On gentrification & rhetoric when non-whites are gentrifiers

But others argued that gentrification by non-whites does have different implications for neighborhoods. Commenter Gente Negra, wrote:

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Touring Shaw’s Gentrification

Daniel Lobo / Flickr

D.C. is a city full of tours, from riding around on Segways to learning about ghosts. But it’s also a city divided over issues of race and class — and whether what’s happening is gentrification or revitalization — so why not have some tours on that, too?

Enter ONE DC “Shaw Gentrification & Resistance Tour,” which takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday. Participants will walk around Shaw and learn about the neighborhood’s history. They will also hear the organization’s perspective on D.C.’s changes: that development has negatively impacted longtime residents. The self-described progressive group aims to address the “structural causes of poverty and injustice” with a “deep analysis of race, power, and the economic, political, and social forces at work in Shaw and the District.” Anyone wanting to participate in the tour is asked to contribute $10, with the proceeds going to the Asian/Pacific-Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project.

This isn’t the first such tour on gentrification in D.C. Does anyone know of a revitalization tour focused on the flip side?

Changing D.C: Shaw Highlighted

The Shaw neighborhood gave birth to Black Broadway said Rebecca Sheir in her exploration of Shaw’s past as a hub of black culture and history on Metro Connection. Sheir spoke with Alex Padro, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, who said:

The neighborhood from its earliest days was very strongly African-American, as a result of a number of Union army camps that were located here to accommodate what were called “contraband,” or escaped slaves, or former slaves that had managed to make their way to the District of Columbia.

… We had schools, churches, hospitals, a university, all established and constructed in close proximity to be able to serve that large African-American population.

Courtesy of: Rebecca Sheir

This historic building in Shaw is among many that are being renovated and reconstructed in the neighborhood.

Listen to the entire segment, as Padro and others explain what happened to Shaw after housing laws changed, the 1968 riots and the new convention center was built where parking lots and dilapidated buildings once sat. In the latest Census, the U Street corridor reported no longer having a majority black population, and Shaw now has a number of luxury housing options.

Now add this to the mix: a major development at 9th and O Streets, NW just cleared a major hurdle. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently approved a $117 million loan for CityMarket at O, a major retail and housing project featuring a Giant, luxury and market rate housing and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.

How much more will Shaw change?

Welcome, United Negro College Fund

Flickr: crazysanman.history

Historical marker for the UNCF in Virginia.

Look who’s moving to D.C., and when I say D.C., I mean it and not a suburb:

Seeking to expand its support of education for Americans of color, UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) will move its national headquarters from Fairfax, Virginia into Washington, D.C. in 2012. UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization has begun construction on a 50,000 square-foot office at Progression Place, located at 1805 7th Street, NW, in D.C.’s surging Shaw neighborhood…

“UNCF has become one of the country’s most prominent advocates for the importance of students getting the preschool-through-high school education they need to succeed in college, and Washington is the hub of the national conversation about how to make sure they get that preparation for college,” said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., UNCF president and CEO. “UNCF also wants to be able to provide college-focused information and services directly to DC-area students and the hundreds of thousands of students who visit DC each year. To be an effective advocate for education reform, and to help children of color prepare for college UNCF has to be in D.C.

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Shaw, Gentrification and Youth Violence, via People’s District

Flickr: Justin DC

Rainbow over Shaw.

I’ve mentioned People’s District on DCentric before, but I want to point you towards that excellent project again, because of their Friday post, from a D.C. citizen named Willette, who lives in Shaw:

“My eyes have seen so many changes in the neighborhood. All of the buildings and people done changed. Now, they make us think that Shaw is going to be the next Georgetown. I guess that means that a lot of us will be pushed out. That may help the neighborhood, but it won’t really help all of kids on the corners who don’t have nothing. Don’t matter it they are in Shaw or you move ‘em somewhere else, they are still going to be hanging out on the corner with no opportunities.

“Because I work, live, and raise my kids in this community, I see this stuff everyday. Kids should feel like they can do anything in the world, but many of these kids can’t read or write. Some kids will only get one meal a day at school. Some kids get caught up and become offenders. Then, they find themselves on the street as teenagers and no one wants to give them a chance. All the time, kids be coming to me saying, ‘Ms. Willette, I just want a chance.’ Many of them won’t get it because of a mistake.

“When we talk about violence in our communities, a lot of it comes from these kids with no hope or opportunities…Some people here want to just give up and let that stuff take over. Seniors will stay in the house and parents won’t let their kids out to play. That is not a way to live. We can’t let violence destroy our communities. I decided to give back in my own way by organizing a project called Safe Streets. I took some of the kids in the community and gave them a back pack, notebook, school uniform, and a pair of shoes. Many of these kids had nothing and no one to take care of them. Giving them these little things gave them some hope. I did it three times, and got people like the mayor and police chief involved. It was really successful and I want to keep doing it because people in the community keep asking me to.

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Five More Questions for Bread for the City’s George Jones


Yesterday, I published a slideshow from Bread for the City’s January 7 grand opening. I also posted the first part of an interview with the non-profit’s Executive Director, George A. Jones. More of my conversation with Jones is below; in it, he discusses how the expansion of the group’s Shaw location will facilitate an expansion in their services–as well as how you can help.

What if people want to get involved?

There are two major ways: volunteer or give. We accept cash contributions and in-kind contributions of donated food and clothing. When it comes to people’s cash donations 90% of every dollar goes to our five core services.

A lot of people like to have tangible connections to our programs so we encourage them to do food drives. We have 5-10 volunteers on a given day; there are scores of people looking to do community service, including kids or teens for school. They can develop food drives right at their schools or boys club, girl scouts…I encourage parents to have their children do these food drives remotely and bring the food to us. We give kids a menu to try and generate certain foods, including items that are low in sodium, vegetables or non-perishable stuff, because we provide supplemental groceries designed to last three days to families whose incomes are very low–less than $7,000. They may not be on food stamps, even if they run a great risk of running out of food.

These are families who are food insecure, who are at the risk of running out before the end of the month. Our food pantry was designed to support such people.

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Interview: Bread for the City’s George A. Jones


Earlier, I posted a slideshow filled with pictures taken on Friday, when local nonprofit Bread for the City celebrated the grand opening of their new building in Shaw. The expansion doesn’t just mean more room– it means more services for the city’s most vulnerable citizens. Last week, I spoke to Bread for the City’s Executive Director, George A. Jones about the expansion, the work his agency does and more. Part of the interview is below; look for the rest, tomorrow morning.

First, some history for those of you who may not be familiar with this group:

Started in 1974, Bread for the City is a front line agency serving Washington’s poor. The agency began as two organizations; Zacchaeus Free Clinic began in 1974 as a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and Bread for the City was created in 1976 by a coalition of downtown churches to feed and clothe the poor. The two entities merged in 1995. Today, we operate two Centers in the District of Columbia and provide direct services to low-income residents of Washington, DC. All of our services are free. Our mission is to provide comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services to low-income Washington, DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

I asked Jones about the expansion:

We’ve been around for 36 years; this expansion represents our commitment to providing even more services to folks living in poverty in D.C. It’s the culmination of a dream.

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“Yet another warehouse of concentrated poverty”

Flickr: M. V. Jantzen

Shaw Metro station, at 8th & R Streets, NW

So I was reading this post from the City Paper about new, affordable housing coming to Shaw:

It’s a tentative plan, but a plan nonetheless: Lincoln Westmoreland Housing Inc. is moving forward with a 50-unit apartment complex on 7th and R Street NW, right next to the 10-story behemoth constructed right after the 1968 riots.

The new building, designed by Shalom Baranes architects, could not be more ideally located: It sits directly above the Shaw metro station (part of the land will be purchased from WMATA), and across the street from the new Shaw library. It will replace a decked-over parking lot, have retail on the ground floor, and still leave some green space for a sculpture installation.

“Affordable” is the key word here, because as Lydia DePillis reported, the units would be accessible “for people making 60 percent of the area median income”. Sounds great, right? I love neighborhoods that have a range of people from all backgrounds–it’s my favorite thing about Columbia Heights, where there is everything from affordable housing to $3,000 converted condos. The readers who commented on her piece had a different, more bitter take:

Building looks nice and hopefully they will balance income levels. 60% AMI residents will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood and attract civil servants, firefighters, police, teachers etc. But if they decide to concentrate the extremely low income/AMI residents in this building, well they might as well hand over the building to the local thugs so they can have a nice shiny new HQ from which to terrorize the rest of the neighborhood from. [wcp]

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It’s easy to be a critic, when English is your first language.

Santa Fe Nachos, Dos Coyotes, Davis, California

One of the things I miss most about Northern California is the Southwestern restaurant, Dos Coyotes. Please note: I did not say “Mexican” food. I fully admit I want some sort of “inauthentic” dish which contains spicy salsa, black beans and an obscene amount of cheese. That’s a pretty basic want, but it’s difficult to fulfill here in D.C. When I worked near K Street, I’d go to Pedro and Vinnie’s burrito cart and 80% of the time, I’d be satisfied; unfortunately, it’s not open for dinner or on the weekends. So I often end up at…Chipotle. I know. It’s not real, ethnic food. I know.

But it’s spicy and across from my house, so I go. When I do, the staff switches to Spanish while asking for my order. Years ago, I was fluent in it, so my accent is decent and I can bust out these impressive sentences every so often…but I’m much more likely to be left staring at the ceiling, agonizing over a verb I can’t remember. The 14th Street crew doesn’t mind this, in fact they exhort me to keep practicing. I do, because it’s kind of them to help me, but also because it is a potent reminder of how privileged I am.

I speak English.

It’s not my first language, but I speak it as if it were and I don’t take that for granted. When some dolt on the street compliments me by telling me something like, “You’re Indian? You speak good English for an immigrant!”,  I smile a wan smile and reply that I was born to immigrant parents in California, where English is often spoken.
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