Get to Know The Guilt-Ridden Gentrifiers Looking to Make a Difference
While walking the streets of Bushwick, it’s likely you’ll encounter a couple of high-end coffee shops occupied by 20-somethings typing away on their MacBooks and sipping chai mochas while debating their individual impact on the community’s socio-economic sustainability. They might cry and fall onto each others’ laps, seeking consolation and a new sense of self-worth.
This hypothetical coffee shop has long been a meeting ground of sorts for those overrun with guilt and privilege who fear for their neighborhood’s gentrification. They’ve only been part of this neighborhood for a week now, but they fear. And now, these friendly do-gooders have found a new way to express their grievances—one that is loosely modeled after “Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Enter the Chelsea apartment of Oasa DuVerney, one of the organizers behind Gentrifiers Anonymous, where a group of individuals widely diverse in age (and not so much in race) join forces to wash away their gentrifier sins and create citywide awareness through public art.
The group’s meeting took place on Saturday, May 14th, and according to the event’s invite, the gathering’s purpose was to allow “visitors to publicly confess their own sins of gentrification, large or small, in order to explore their complacency and complicity in the citywide struggle for ‘affordable’ housing and the wholesale displacement of low-income New Yorkers.”
The almost too-bizarre-to-be-true meeting, which was co-developed by Brooklyn High-Art Machine and Month2Month, started as any confessional, overly-dramatic gathering would: “Hello. My name is [insert gentrifier’s name], and I’m a gentrifier.” Like we said: it’s kind of unbelievable.
Yet this meeting was no joking matter, and actually spurred an important discourse on a topic that few people know how to readily address. Many individuals in attendance spoke about what brought them to their current neighborhoods—the economic disadvantages they had been served and the lifestyle changes they were forced to make.
Gentrification has continued to sweep through two-thirds of New York City’s formerly low-income neighborhoods for over the past decade, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. It’s no secret that rent is rising at a rapid, especially in low-income neighborhoods, displacing many families in what some people are describing as a modern form of colonialism. Nor is it a secret that the majority of individuals moving into these gentrified neighborhoods are white and of higher economic status—and that this mass displacement is wrong. As comical as the idea of Gentrifiers Anonymous may be, it’s certainly a worthy cause.
And thankfully, the meeting consisted of a lot more than just airing grievances and making excuses for real estate investments. The group also worked on art that’s meant to raise public awareness about gentrification and that they plan to erect in multiple neighborhoods that are currently suffering under gentrification’s iron fist. One of their pamphlets, titled “You Discovered Nothing,” outlines how one can avoid contributing to the residual effects of gentrification, complete with instructions on how to be “less of the problem and more of the solution.”
Gentrifiers Anonymous pointed out a few key issues many seem to overlook when debating gentrification. Perhaps the largest misconception is that the root of the problem lies in the individuals who are moving and not in the economy and its political pressures. After much discussion, the group concluded that it’s the highly corrupt housing market and the disadvantages that are intrinsic to minorities that cause gentrification.
While they’re unsure if they’ll continue holding the meetings, the organization is steadfastly committed to exposing the causes of gentrification. That, and chai mochas.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on gentrification
Images via Hyperallergic and The Guardian. Original imagery by Gabi Cossens.