What Is Gentrification?
There are several different posts on our blog alone about the health effects of gentrification, various towns that've experienced it, and historical impacts, but we've never actually broken it down more simply. Likely, because it truly is a topic that has many items to unpack, but we intend to do our best here.
"Gentrification: a process of neighborhood change that includes economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood —by means of real estate investment and new higher-income residents moving in - as well as demographic change - not only in terms of income level, but also in terms of changes in the education level or racial make-up of residents."
Here's a scenario:
An old oak tree, rooted in the ground, has been dropping acorns in the same yard over decades for the local squirrels. It stands tall and proud of its strong roots and deep attachment to the surrounding soil, living with a sense of joy and belonging. Then one day, a man with a briefcase walks over and sees the area around the tree would be a great place for him to dig and plant new trees for squirrels he can bring in from many yards over. The new squirrels decided to bring in their own acrons that are bigger and grow faster from years of useful resources made easily accessible to them, eventually pushing out the local squirrels to make room for their own needs and comforts.
Nobody used the old oak tree anymore, it just couldn't keep up with them, so it eventually started to deteriorate from lack of care. The man with the briefcase walked by his glorious creation one day, viewing his accomplishments with great pride at how beautiful and perfect he had made things for the new squirrels. His eyes land on the withering oak in the center of it all, and noticed the condition of the neglected tree, which he had nothing but disdain for. It was making all of his beautiful shiny new trees look bad. Instead of nurturing the big tree and helping it gain it's root strength back, he had it ripped clean out of the ground and tossed it into the wood chipper.
This is gentrification.
This is what is does to small businesses in our communities and it's been going on for decades. It lowers moral of it's current residents, it erases history, it demolishes character, it targets POC owned-businesses after years of redlining from banks, and it's a "throw-away" mentality.
It impacts everyone in so many ways, like a butterfly effect. A lot of us hear these things and don't really know what can be done to help. Obvisously, preventing growth of cities is not the answer nor what the message is, which is why we can't stress it enough, "development without displacement". There are ways to grow as a community, as a city, to welcome new residents and business owners without completely cutting down the old oak trees that have been rooting their lives there for years.
Here's a video that greatly executes how gentrification works by the Urban Displacment Project:
Things can be done to help. Here's a few-
1. Promoting local small businesses in gentrified neighborhoods, especially if you are new to an area and want to help is a good start.
2. If you are a new local business owner, help the ones that were there before you by spreading the word about their services and shop their shop.
3. Supporting non-profits (eh-hem, cough* Urban Biz) that are working to provide free resources to these communities to help them improve their chances of survival. Your support can be anywhere from donating, to sharing their information on social media with others, to partnering with them to join forces.
4. Talk to your community and ask how you can help, volunteer, and educate yourself on the history of your city, especially your POC owned businesses that likely, if they've been around for awhile have faced many, many hurdles in allocating financial assistance.
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