Open Letter To West Philly
By A Concerned Relation
I got a email invite last week for the offices of the State representative network. I stopped by and slide down to
Clark park as well, here is some thoughts.
So, now that the brew pub is open at 50th and baltimore it had occurred to me that maybe now was the right time to write this letter. When you go and sit around all day outside the satellite coffee shop, do you ever think about your role in gentrification? I cannot help but ask this question because sometimes I pass by and I see what to my eye looks like a white settler occupation beachhead down there across from cedar park, with an increasing number of white homeowners within a one block radius and perhaps more disturbingly, Penn students/employees buying houses up to 52nd street with school subsidies.
I remember a time not that long ago when it seemed like there was a conversation going on in West Philly about gentrification and how to organize against what was about to go down... and then people seemed to stop being engaged, maybe they got busy or something. Well, while you were having fun and going to dance parties, guess what happened? THERES A BREW PUB AT 50th and Baltimore, and a YOGA STUDIO and a COFFEE SHOP. HELLO.
Now I am not one to argue that everything is black and white and that those things plus a bunch of white folks moving into a neighborhood simply equals gentrification, but in this case its really hard to see it as anything else. I suppose partly because nobody seems to give a shit and ya'll are going on with your hipster lifestyles. I mean christ, the brew pub is open and nobody broke the fucking windows yet. It was bad enough when trader joes got a compactor and nobody sabotaged it. IS THIS WEST PHILLY OR WHAT? Aren't ya'll supposed to be anarchists or something? If shit gets to a certain point don't you need to take direct action if you failed to engage in the process that could have stopped it? A bunch of you are white homeowners, you could have been at the neighborhood meetings, you could have stopped that shit. And what's with letting these snot-nosed hipster fucks move into the neighborhood so they can look cool? Are you really just going to accept this manifest destiny bullshit or are you going to take responsibility for where you live and for what you have helped happen. Silence equals consent remember? People fight and organize around gentrification in places like New York, Miami and San Francisco and win their battles against much fiercer odds. Penn is not an unstoppable juggernaught and neither are developers, ya'll just gotta get down with the neighborhood and start building some people power, have concrete demands, know where to put pressure and have an alternate plan. Organizing is not rocket science, and at a certain point white guilt builds into not doing anything and playing a part in the white agenda - don't get caught up in that shit, its just as bad as not acknowledging your privilege in the first place, in fact its worse. Are you just turning into liberals as you get older?
Maybe if ya'll got your act together in the neighborhood we could start working on city-wide issues again, like how the cops have declared open season on black folks the past couple years, or about how they're building prisons and condos while there's homeless folks on the streets and people are hungry and there's no health care and there's no jobs. If you were a bunch of socialists you would have done something by now and there would be an organization and a program. This is a kick in the butt. Don't get so comfortable in your urban cool lifestyles, push yourselves, get back into politics and be part of organizing and action or move out - we don't need you if your just going to play your part in the developer agenda.
Damn it! When I look around the city it's happening every where, N. Liberties, Strawberry Mansion, South Philadelphia, Kensington, I mean most areas of the city. Then all across the united states of America we see the gentrification taking place.
While we focus on the violence, which is part fear and hopelessness....what does the rich versus poor really mean? psychologically it means you gotta pick your team.
Yes, of course. Because patronizing locally owned businesses which provide wellness services or create spaces to get to know one's neighbors is the sole province of well-to-do white folks.
And obviously li'l ol' white homeowner me is the face of gentrification today. What with the choosing a mortgage-share structure that doesn't actually cover the mortgage, because it's that or make the house inaccessible to artists and farmers and activists. And with the working with my block to get a derelict house torn down before it fucking falls on someone. And the getting housemates to pick up the litter and the shit, and helping neighbors with their trash and sidewalks, and composting a block's worth of leaves every fall. And the keeping an eye on the street and talking to folks about suspicious goings on and encouraging them to look out for each other. And planting flowers, don't forget the flowers. Flowers are nice, and nice things = whitewashing West Philly. And i am starting classes at Penn this week because i want to be better at my job which is helping small local non-profits make ends meet, and my partner got a job at Penn after she burned out in the West Philly schools. Don't look! I sold out!
Yes. I give a flying fuck, and that means i am Teh Eee-vul.
Tell me why, if i am so white and wealthy and privileged and life is so easy for me, i can't get the city to fix the damage done my house during the demolition and i still have water seeping in at the unsealed spots and the joists are still rotten and now mold is growing because our excellent council person's office has been jerking us around for years? Shouldn't they all ask "how high" when i say "jump," because i am white and Penn-affiliated and i co-own a house?