Empowerment, gentrification and how these ideas relate to community

In Chapter 6 of “Urban Bush Women,” author Nadine Georges-Graves speaks largely of the effects of community on the spirituality of the individual.  When I think about the concept of clubs and inclusiveness, I realize that people who feel like an important part of a group have a greater sense of self-worth. Also, change to broken systems are applied through organization. As Jacqueline Grant wrote, “The connectedness of people is the only hope of the oppressed” (pg. 170). Change would never occur in society if those who are wronged did not act against the imposed social order.

At the end of Chapter 6, Georges-Graves speaks of how empowerment of low-income areas often leads to gentrification. “Starbucks moves in, and the older residents and artists get pushed out” (pg. 193). I was particularly affected by this section because as a resident of Bushwick, Brooklyn, I am currently witnessing the impending gentrification of my own neighborhood. I may also dare to say that I am part of this gentrification. I’m a young college student, supported largely by my parents, and my personal style and sense of community is charged toward a modern youth agenda. I am by no means Puerto Rican, which is the dominant culture of Bushwick (excluding the gentrifying presence). I think of how Williamsburg has gentrified greatly in the past five years. Thankfully, there still has been no Starbucks. I have a feeling that Williamsburgers are too local-business oriented to allow a Starbucks in the neighborhood, although a Whole Foods is soon to be opened on Kent Avenue.

As much as gentrification is part of my everyday life and a topic that I ponder often, it never occurred to me that it could be caused by empowerment of the underprivileged. I see the connection now. By empowering themselves to create a more pleasant neighborhood with quality of living, they are also unwillingly inviting outsiders to reap the benefits of their empowerment. Enough entitled people move into an area, and then landlords want to pressure leases for families to end, so that they can renovate apartments and jack up the prices. Gentrification saddens me, but it seems to be an unavoidable force that is out of any single person’s control.