The Hood Liaison
When I walked into the office this morning, my coworker, Katherine, turned around in her office chair and said, “Kai, can you help me out with something?” I put my briefcase down at my desk and walked over to her, thinking that she needed assistance with some formatting, data analysis or how to get her paper clip friend back onto her screen.
When I took a look at her computer screen, I saw a map of what seemed to look like my part of town. She looked at me and said,
“My husband and I are moving closer to the city. I remembered that you live near the west side of town and I heard that that area was…changing a little bit.”
I see what’s going on here.
You see, my “changing” neighborhood is going through something called gentrification. It’s when wealthy, and generally White people acquire the property of low-income, generally Black people. But times have been changing, and now educated, wealthier Black people are also benefiting from condos taking the place of public housing. So I’ve had a bit of cognitive dissonance in regard to my stance on gentrification. Just wanted to get that out of the way before I end up in an argument in the comments section.
Katherine pointed at a red star on the map and said, “This is one of the properties we’re looking at.” Then she pointed at a wide road, coded in yellow, and said, “I heard that the other side of this street is where it can get a little sketchy. Do you think we’ll be okay?”
Okay, so now I’ve got to think about all of the different blocks in my neighborhood. Gentrification doesn’t happen smoothly. It happens in spontaneous patches. There are crack heads and White people walking their dogs at night. A farmer’s market and a Church’s Chicken across the street from a Popeyes. One block be like,
And the next block be like,
So I understood Katherine’s concern. It just felt awkward acting as the hood liaison for my White coworker to know whether or not she can jog through the park in the morning. It kind of felt like I was hitting a new level of boujee; pointing at the map, essentially telling my White coworker where the niggas be at.
But then I realized that Katherine wasn’t looking at the neighborhood with some sort of grandiose sense-of-self. She wanted to move to the area, knowing that it was populated by Black people from a diverse array of backgrounds. I see the understanding of the diversity within our community as a positive. Yes, often times city planners will raise housing prices in an area just to throw some of our most vulnerable citizens into states of residential purgatory. But, the price of property will inevitably go up along with the expansion and economic growth of a given city. So when Katherine takes advantage of an opportunity to grow with a growing area, I can’t really judge, because I’m doing the same shit. And so are a whole bunch of other Black people. I see gentrification as a term that will eventually die out, what with Black Flight and all, but the important thing is too keep other Black people from being at the bottom of the economic totem pole. If those of us who have been fortunate enough to develop and grow professionally and academically strive to better the social, economic and educational status of our communities, we won’t have to worry about Black people being victims of gentrification. When an area is developing, we will be the ones sitting in the new coffee shop or co-op. So if you want me to be your Hood Liaison, I’m taking all clients… especially if you’re Black.
Glad to be of service.