Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gentrification Grand Rapids

Here are three short articles recommended by Trevor.  Read all three before posting.




  1. this topic has been very controversial to alot of rad kids here in GR. basically, what happened was someone had been fucking up storefronts each month (Dec and Jan) and then in Feb someone burnt down a townhouse that had been under construction. the arsonist, who is an alleged 'anarchist' (if you believe the vandalism and arson is connected, which is disputed among kids here) sent a letter to the people in the surrounding townhouses ( http://media2.woodtv.com//photo/2011/02/26/VandalLetter_20110226160823_320_240.JPG ).

    which threatend them to get out in two months. the two month deadline was actually yesterday (april 25th) and thus far, nothing has happened.

    for me, this is kinda hard to talk about because of the repression that has come of it. the atf, fbi, as well as most of the grpd have been following us, trying to scare us into talking (which works with some kids), and patrolling that neighborhood pretty hardcore. this makes it scary to talk about it on an online forum, or at all for that matter.

    but i will say that gentrification, in my opinion, is indeed happening. and while burning down a fucking condo may not be the most efficient (some folks say it was actually counter-productive, as it brought neighbors together) way to approach gentrification, it sure got alot of people to talk about it. everyday i'd hear someone talking about it, at work, on the bus, in the store, or at shows. while i dont believe anyone has a fucking clue (including myself) what it meant to live in east hills pre-revitalization, people are sure happy about the changes and condemn any talk of non-support.

    i could go on for hours about this shit, but for the sake of the feds that have been listening and reading everything me and everyone else who claims capitalism is wrong, i shouldn't.

  2. Gentrification, in general, is a hard topic to wrap your head around. Outside of these articles I dont know much about what is happening in Grand Rapids, but the Pittsburgh Neighborhood that I live in has similar problems it sounds like, and have had similar situations.
    From what I gather from reading this, and from what has happened here, I do not agree with the actions of this person or persons. Individual acts of destroying property by some an-ominous person does not stop gentrification. Here in pitt, white anarchist kids have smashed out the windows of a corporation that buys property in low-income black neighborhoods, and builds new homes on the property and sells them to "qualified candidates" which in practice results in-white yuppies. They have a focus on revitalizing areas with 'the arts' as far as their commercial property goes. This resulting in many more white owned galleries, restaurants, etc. which have a predominately white clientele, and employees; in a neighborhood thats almost entirely black.
    Smashing out the windows of this corporation resulted in nothing but new windows. Gentrification is still happening faster than ever.

  3. I agree. This seems like another case of pseudo-anarchism-as-meaningless-destruction. Smashing windows of some businesses doesn't change gentrification, and it would seem it is the very people who benefit (even if in a roundabout way) from gentrification are the ones who are engaging in these random acts of violence. Instead of smashing in some windows, the people in individual communities need to talk to each other--to the business owners and to their local government officials--about gentrification. I'm willing to bet many, if not most, people do not even know what the word gentrification means. And I doubt many of those white families who benefit from gentrification would think they've done anything wrong or that they've hurt anyone. Why is the first option violence? There has to be a better way of approaching this topic.

  4. Chris and Casey said a lot of what I wanted to say and thanks to Codi for sharing his experiences with the Police regarding this issue.

    Although, as I said, Chris and Casey have already said most of what I wanted to say, I'll say it in a different way (maybe I should become an academic!! hahaha).

    "Gentrification" is more often than not nothing more than the process of displacement of low-income people of color. Casey did a very wonderful job of describing how it seems to have worked in Pitt, which mirrors how it worked in The Mission in San Francisco, where I spent some time. Is it also complicated, nuanced, and specific to each situation? yes. But the general result, "at the end of the day", (as they say) is that black and brown people, and their communties, cultures, and lifeways, are displaced (violence?) and/or totally interrupted, and in their place is a mostly white, more wealthy "community" of people, who, as chris rightly points out, may not even have any idea that they did anything "wrong."

    That being said, how in the hell does vandalism contribute to the struggle against that displacement?? And, I really honestly ask that question...for I believe that their might be cases that it DOES contribute....but very few cases (desperate cases), and, i think what's important to point out here, at what point in the timeline of said struggle? In my mind, certainly not so early on, as seems to be the case here.

    Also, i straight up just don't know much about this particular case, so I'm hesitant to really say much more.

    As a side note (which might end up being a very huge side note: Man, that FBI sure gets moving when CERTAIN people or things get attacked, huh??? It'd be nice to see some FBI action like that against, oh, i don't know, the Minutemen. If only this undocumented workers drank lattes and listened to MGMT. :)

  5. *by "this undocumented..." i mean "those undocumented..."

  6. I just want to add that although gentrification has distinct qualities, we should think of it as an extension and form of colonization; this helps, me at least, to think about it in connection to places like the Mid Mitten.

  7. I agree that destruction of property & posing threats are generally bad strategies for addressing gentrification, but I think that the real problem here is that these folks are taking action anonymously. I'm not expecting anyone to leave their address and phone number at the scene of a crime, but currently this group or individual has no identity within the community, and isn't accountable to anyone's values but their own. I just can't see how anonymous, apparently unilateral violence could ever resonate with a community, no matter what the motive is. Thoughts?

    PS good comment on extension of colonialism Casey.

  8. I know there has been a big anti-gentrification movement happening in Jamacia Plain in Boston, I wonder what tactics they are using? My first thought is that these "anarchists" are not working within a community at all, especially the original communities that were displaced. I think it's another instance where concerned folks should go to that original community and ask how we can help, rather than throwing bricks and lighting shit on fire.

  9. The fact that these "anonymous" acts are not responsible to anyone or connected directly to a community or speaking for the community is problematic, as Trevor said. And Chris Hedges would agree: "The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations".

    I still do not think I really understand gentrification. I had a discussion with a lady who works for "Main Street, Inc." a "downtown revitalization" company/non-profit here in Green Bay. I asked her if her work was gentrification. The short answer she gave was no, because the work she does tries to bring more businesses into neighborhoods like mine ("diverse neighborhoods") so that, in theory, there will be more jobs for the people who live there. But I still do not understand how "mixed income" apartment buildings are really helping anyone, or how putting a fancy co-op into a neighborhood where 95% of families qualify to receive free or reduced lunch at school (a pretty reliable marker that the families in the neighborhood don't eat co-op food, and probably can't afford it no matter how close it is to their house).

    Anyone have any good resources for reading up about gentrification? Casey, I like the comparison to colonialism. I really struggle with understanding the difference between people moving around or neighborhoods just changing over the years and gentrification.