Where You Going West End? or Fuck Gentrification

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Soo, I haven’t posted in months. Three of them.

But I’m back in dis bih. And with new realizations, naturally. So, firstly, I need a stable home. Seems pretty reasonable, no? As a spirit consumed by wanderlust I’ve always thought I could just travel without any homebase and be content with that. That’s very Aries (one of my sun signs, I’ma Aries/Pisces)  behavior, just getting up and going and knowing everything will fall into place, and it always does. But now I’m realizing that my Cancer (my moon sign) is shining through and craves stability. It needs to know that after my travels I will return to a place that is familiar and that wraps me in warmth, joy and a feeling of innate knowingness. 

I haven’t had that, because I’ve been traveling, and moved into a place I’m only staying for a few months, so I haven’t created a consistent schedule/ routine (one that includes writing for my blog). Don’t get me wrong, where I’m staying is nice, but it’s not MY place. It’s not a place where I can cultivate the love, magic and healing that I need.  I’ve been feeling stifled about what kind of magic I can do.  It’s not a place I feel comfortable having folks from my community come over and cry and turn up and maybe pole dance. But that will soon come, within the next month or so when I move out.

Of course, I came into this knowledge as my home is slowly slipping away. What’s been heavy on my heart is knowing that the one of the ultimate forms of “homelessness,” the looming displacement of my community in Atlanta. Last week my best friend sent me a photo of a brochure of the west side of Atlanta showing some hipster ass bearded white people. In the brochure only two black restaurants were mentioned, even though SWATS (Southwest Atlanta) is essentially all black with dozens of iconic and thriving black restaurants and other black businesses.

Ya’ll, erasure is real. And painful. And mind numbing. Like, how do you completely ignore several thousand people who have been here for decades?   

I’m not going to act as if this is new, as if this wasn’t what this country was built on, or as if this isn’t modern imperialism, but still, fuck. I’m also not going to act as if West Atlanta doesn’t have its problems, because it does, as any community does. It  has the zone with the highest rate of violent crime in ATL. It’s where my door was kicked in more than once and all my shit was stolen. It’s where my best friend was robbed at gunpoint. It’s where my pops car was taken from the local mall. It’s where I held a gun for the first time at the local Boys & Girls club while still in middle school (I know, I know, I didn’t shoot it though.) It’s where I know innocent people who have been shot at parties.  It’s where Snow on the Bluff was filmed. It’s where there is poverty. And those are the side affects of poverty. 

And as a result, it’s where I learned how to be resilient. It’s also where I learned what it meant to be black.

 Not to just “be black,” but to recognize the inherent mythical essence that comes with being a child of the African diaspora. My neighborhood infused in me an incomprehensible amount of dignity, admiration and love for all things black.

Every year I attended the Kwanzaa festivals and learned about the principles that shape me now, and the annual Malcolm X weekend/festival where I would go to be surrounded by a sea of black Muslims, pan African folks, sugar cane, and see black and brown limbs reaching out and above to the sky and sea and the entire audience falls in love as the traditional west African dance is performed. It’s where I learned to love.

And this ugly ass brochure is a clear signifier that the West Side of Atlanta is about to be changed forever. Soon as I saw it I melted into tears. I spent half an hour in the corner of the Schomburg Museum gift shop in preemptive mourning. But in actuality, I’ve been mourning since I came home four years ago and there was a bike lane for white people who enjoy riding bikes for sport. I had lived in the West End in my whole life and there have always been po’ folks who can’t afford cars and rode bikes as their only means on transportation. Eighteen years. At the very least, eighteen years of no bike lanes, no safety precautions for the people who have to ride bikes every single day. And then I come back from fall break from college and there’s a fucking bike lane & a white folks calmly peddling down the street wearing gladly their privilege strapped to their helmets and plastered across their faces.  

I’ve seen and experienced some violent shit. As a black/ queer person in the US it would be impossible not to. But, gentrification may be one of the most violent acts to experience. It’s still unreal to me that afters decades totally neglect and decay, some white person Christopher Columbus’s it and now  your neighborhood gets broken up and sold for parts. And I get it, as low income or poor people, its hard to say no to money that can change your life. I’ve talked to other people who’ve experienced it, I’ve been witness to it. But undergoing of it myself feels incomprehensible & impossible and hella traumatizing.

For years, I’ve been thinking about getting a house for QTPOC artists to build, organize, create and love in the West End. But my time is NYC is not finished yet, but maybe, just maybe, by putting it into the universe in a written word, it will manifest itself when the time is right. I also feel conflicted by this, if I’m not doing this work right now, how can I expect anyone else to? Trying to do my best to figure it all because I don’t want to finish my work everywhere else and come home to … no home.

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