How Gentrification Is Undermining the Notion of Black Community and Destroying Black Businesses

Bedstuybrownstone1-300x225Bedstuy is one of the communities that have been significantly changed by gentrification. (Courtesy: Wikimedia)

20 June 2017 | Frederick Reese | Atlanta Black Star

Lori Shepherd is an African-American small-business owner in Oakland, Calif. Shepherd’s story is becoming an increasingly familiar one for urban Blacks.

“Due to Uber’s decision to move within two blocks of my shared office space, and the construction and limited parking, I’ve had to change up significantly how I work,” Shepherd said. “Instead of always working at my shared space, I have switched to working at a local Black-owned cafe. Unfortunately, last month, they were given an eviction notice from outside contractors, and now even that space is gone.

“The impact for me has been profound in terms of how I work and where.”

For decades, Oakland has been the fount of Black culture in the West. The founding hub of the Black Panther Party and the hometown of Celtics great Bill Russell, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and the Pointer Sisters, the once-majority-Black city has lost nearly 25 percent of its Black residents from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

While this is, in part, due to the relaxing of previous barriers to integration in other areas and to class promotion within the Black community, this phenomenon can also be blamed on gentrification, or the intentional or unintentional pushing out of residents in a community through improvements to the infrastructure.

The sum of this is the slow decay of the urban African-American community as it is known today.

“In terms of gentrification, this occurrence has been fierce with the vast loss of the African-American population, businesses and presence,” Shepherd added. “It is more than disheartening. To put this in perspective, imagine Atlanta losing 60 percent or more of its Black population to white newcomers who have no respect for the existing culture or Black presence.”

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