The end of the oldest Black-owned store on Harlem's 125th Street?




photo by Orhan* via Flickr

From metafilter this morning:
Harlem's commercial and cultural backbone, 125th Street, has been gentrifying fast; many of its Black-owned businesses have been forced out by high rents and replaced by branches of white-owned national chain stores. The street's best-known cultural centers remain (notably the Apollo Theater and the Studio Museum in Harlem), but now, its oldest surviving Black-owned store, The Record Shack, is facing eviction. Owner Shikulu Shange, along with other Harlem residents, will lead a town meeting next week to discuss strategies for keeping Black economic development alive in Harlem and in NYC (as of the 2000 U.S. Census, NYC's five boroughs were home to more than 98,000 of about 129,000 Black-owned businesses in all of New York State).

In almost every city I visit, the story is the same, "development" brings in better roads and schools but doesn't benefit the original inhabitants because they can no longer afford to live (or operate businesses) there. It's true in DC (U street??), Chicago (Humboldt Park), San Francisco (Mission) and even Des Moines, IA?

The most famous act of gentrification, of course, was the move of America's "first black president" into Harlem in 2001. His homecoming seems to have gone a bit rough, according to an article in the UK Independent a year ago (why do the Brits cover us so well?)
Bill Clinton's decision to site his office in the largely black Manhattan neighbourhood of Harlem, as a gesture of solidarity with African-Americans, appears to have backfired.

Dozens of angry blacks demonstrated last week outside the building that houses the former president's staff, claiming that his move had led to the gentrification of the area and increased the price of homes beyond their reach.

If you're in NYC, check out the meeting and report back. For the rest of you across the nation, how have your hoods dealt with gentrification? Is a balance possible?

(cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics)




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