Gentrification Causes Urban De-negrofication

by Bishop James D. Adams, pastor, St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church

Historic African-American neighborhoods in big cities are in decline. Miami’s historic Overtown, formerly know as Colored Town during segregation, and Liberty City — urban communities that were once swollen with Black people and sweltering with Black culture — are losing residents and the political clout that goes with it. Currently these neighborhoods are overrun with wanderers on cell phones scheduling rendezvous with street dealers, which take place commonly in broad daylight. Developers cruise the decimated crime-ridden streets looking for properties to add to their ghetto portfolios.

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Gentrification, combined with assimilation, is causing urban de-negrofication, what I call a Black-out. These days, the goal of every major city is to effect gentrification: The process of bringing middle and upper-class residents into a city to colonize blighted neighborhoods. Elected officials have historically given away land and money to sports franchises, and encouraged others to bring their education, money and business to the inner city, to play the role of “savior” to the neighborhood. The key is that they do it in droves: as a collective. One white guy can’t move into a Black neighborhood to change the character and culture of the community.
It seems to be a win-win situation as the city gets more TIF (tax monies) from the new residents, and cleans up sections of town that are Black and blighted. Resistance exasperates long-time, die-hard residents who have advocated for the preservation of the history of these neighborhoods. Many feel betrayed by their own elected representatives, as residents are being forced out by eminent domain, or bought out by savvy speculators or developers. Whether in the city or in the suburbs, the bitter reality is that our new neighbors still handle Black people like their laundry: they never mix the colored with the white.
Some Black people are now able to migrate to suburbia from the inner city to integrate and assimilate into white communities. I predict Overtown, Liberty City, and other minority neighborhoods across America will be gentrified by developers who have no respect for the rich culture and historicity of these coveted enclaves.
The expansion of Black people to the suburbs is inevitable. In some states the demographic shift has caused the emergence of new prosperous and progressive Black suburbs where there is a collective political benefit for Black people, who influence and even hold crucial offices consistent with their majority status in those jurisdictions. In those exceptional cases, gentrification is not always negative. Still, this does not require that we surrender the clout and culture our forefathers spent a century to build in

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America’s powerful cities. There is a need for an African-American, middle-class presence in the historic neighborhoods of Overtown and Liberty City with disposable incomes, who can support local business. Political and social leaders must ally to create power structures and economic empowerment opportunities that deliver and not “promise” prosperity for urban communities. If African-A

mericans cannot maintain significant numbers in cities, we will continue to lose politically, and more importantly, the powerful incubators of Black culture: Black businesses and houses of faith. Miami World Center is well under way. All Aboard Florida nears completion and the ML soccer stadium looms, the question must be raised, “What about the people of these historic neighborhoods?”