Monday, April 9, 2012

Does 'The Hood' Grow Up?

I'm aware of how long it's been since I've written. Actually, I'm lying. I thought it'd been about four or five months but it's been...longer. I haven't much felt like writing but I'm inspired lately. At least for a little while. Moving on to the point of this post...

I live in Brooklyn in one of those areas that is constantly undergoing a change in terms of its look in terms of the stores and primarily, the racial makeup. Bed-Stuy made a very quick change from being an all black neighborhood to being very mixed with both black and white people. The stores and restaurants, by and large, make you feel like you're in Manhattan. It isn't the Bed-Stuy I grew up around (having went to school there for 10 years and having family there) but for as much as many of us hate the "new" Bed-Stuy, a large majority of it is safer to live than it was 15 years ago.

But back to my hood. The racial makeup here, too, is slowly (and I mean, slowly) changing. White people are moving in more and more because it is still slightly more affordable than Bed-Stuy and other neighborhoods. The new stadium is being built, old establishments are moving or closing down and new buildings and stores are being built to go along with that stadium. I suspect that as the new establishments are created further in the hood, it will actually become more safe. For now, I still believe that I live in a very volatile neighborhood.

When I walk around my neighborhood, I observe the people who grew up here (I actually grew up about five blocks away) and see how they treat their homes. Although there is great potential for growth - with or without white people or new establishments - here, it doesn't seem like anyone wants better for the area. It appears that they'd rather it be the same place it has always been and not become a safer place for children to live. There are still a couple of crack houses on this block, cops coming here weekly to break up a dispute or two and as I've been told, occasional break-ins. There have been block association meetings but for as many people who live on the block which is 75% apartment buildings, not many people every attend.

I've never been afraid to live here. Though where I grew up has made a complete about face in its aesthetics and safety, it used to be just like where I currently live. Part of the change came because white people started moving in but the other part was that people started caring more about where they live. The things that used to be tolerable soon became unacceptable by the residents of maybe a three block radius. I don't want to discount the affect white people moving in had about such change (because that definitely helped) but it just seemed to me that people became tired of the same ol' thing. If you'd been selling drugs on the corner for 15 years, then maybe they couldn't get rid of you completely but maybe you realized it wasn't going to be on the corner anymore. Basically, the hood grew up.

I'm nervous for my neighborhood. The residents don't seem to want change and appear to be totally fine with being resistant to it. I'd say a good 80% of the people who live on the block were born and raised here so therefore, nothing is really going to happen in terms of self-change unless they contribute. What can happen, however, is that the neighborhood can be forced into change. Forget the new stadium and other businesses it will bring; the owners of the apartment buildings on my block and surrounding blocks can decide to go condo and push people out of their homes. The few legitimate mom and pop stores that are still open can have their leases raised making it unaffordable and be ran out. So we'll then mature into the second or third coming of the "new" Bed-Stuy and it'll be the next best place to live.

Why wouldn't a neighborhood, especially in this day, want better for itself? What needs to be done to our mentality to not care about making our neighborhood better to make it appealing to white people but rather, to make us feel better about where we live? Sure we can blame the city and the government but if we all tried a little more then at least we know we've continued to do our part. This whole thing has sort of troubled me for the last two or three years (I've lived here longer but the idea just fully took shape two or three years ago).

Is there some type of dignity, honor or pride in having 'the hood' remain in its oldest and truest form? Is this just...the way it is?