Monday, February 8, 2016

The Gentrification of the Black Pearl - Previously unreleased notes

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

--Desmond Tutu

These are previously unreleased notes: 2/8/16

Well, I have been cleaning up my side of the shotgun after someone broke into it. I found out just this morning from a neighbor that they saw a man leaving, arriving not likely, as they came in through the window with iron bars on it!; this neighbor didn't know what was going on but knew that the person walking from my back door at that time of the morning and going into the alley with no exit, was something their consciousness should make note of and they did. Another neighbor told them of the break-in to my house and what they had stored in their mind on early Saturday morning, became relevant. On April 1, 2008, the other side of this shotgun was robbed (3 pieces of heirloom jewelry and a broken digital camera). My neighbor who was leaving in 15 days and had just paid the rent for staying there on the very day she was robbed. She never stayed in her side of this shotgun again. My place was hit a few days before the new tenant moved in. 

A week before Easter Leyon Gaines was shot by his friend who was robbing him about 5 houses from his home.

Since January 5 2007, on this small block 10 houses on each side of the street, two of them vacant, there have been 2 murders and 1 attempted break-in, 1 break-in with nothing stolen everything tossed, and 2 robberies. 3 of the houses are close to mine that had the robberies and the murder of Jealina Brown occurred in the house across from my house.

What makes this unique to New Orleans is the fact that this is an "Uptown" area near Audubon Park. Big, wealthy houses three blocks away.  I live by the train tracks in a working class neighborhood called the "Black Pearl".  And it is. A culturally and historically relevant, beautiful, Black Pearl - it truly is.

The long time neighbors are telling me that robberies just didn't occur in this neighborhood. That this behavior is new to the neighborhood.  When I speak of  longtime and lifetime residents in this case I mean 30 - 40 + years.

What's different? I believe that it is directly related to a sudden influx of Caucasians - me included - to a historically Black New Orleanian neighborhood. The landlords in this area seem to be renting out to a lot of Caucasian people/students, and as I keep saying, this neighborhood, the Black Pearl, is a historically relevant neighborhood of middle class Americans of African decent in the culture of  New Orleans.

Uh, huh, this new influx of Caucasians are settling in and buying up the Black Pearl, creating a new neighborhood name that has more to do with real estate marketing, than any association with the culture and history of the neighborhood - the "Uptown Triangle" Association.  The neighborhood on the U.S, Census records is called the BLACK PEARL folks... And the landlords who place us in this neighborhood over better educated and often more financially stable BLACK New Orleans who are in need of housing are practicing a form of racism that is linked with real estate market practices that have probably been going on in this city for years. I am no fool, I am aware. And I feel what I see and perceive I see to be morally and ethically wrong and it is so counter culture to a community that is about family, family connections, and friends.

I think what I perceive to be happening here with brand New Orlean$ and the rebuilding of New Orleans could incorporate both demography and demographics

Somehow when we as a nation are polishing our national halo we seem to forget the cruel, inhumane, and violent things we have done, and continue to do to millions of people to bring about this prosperous, rich, democracy of capitalists.

Our national culture has become one of ADVERTISING, CONSUMING, SELF GRATIFICATION.

I am so proud to be staying the Black Pearl as a short term tenant. I am trying to leave as culturally small a footprint as possible, whilst just being me. If you are reading this blog and you have met me or know me, then you are aware that "just being me" can be pretty intense.

The morning after the break-in I told the neighbors who live nearby what happened and I knew that they would tell their nearby neighbors. Since then, many of my neighbors have been checking for me and stopping by to talk. I have been accepted and warmly welcomed into this historically relevant Black New Orleans's neighborhood as a woman not only from another culture, state, life-style; but as a person whom is welcomed for being who she is in a community of people who all know each other and have had long-time/life-time ties with each other.

It is ironic. Some of my Black neighbors tell me that they are happy to see more Caucasian people moving in. What I know about my culture and many who are not of the Caucasian culture do not always get about the euro immigrant American culture is, that many of the Caucasians that move into integrated neighborhoods now, who fit in and want to be a part of the dominant culture, are not the people who will come after us, in a few years, there will be others that come in that will not tolerate any deviance from the NORM that they want and are willing to pay for. They will change an area using the money they have to keep out who they do not want to see or have near them.

All out a lust for the properties and the amenities nearby.

It has been my experience that the Black Pearl is one of the few neighborhoods, where the white families who live in it are not even aware of it's cultural and historical relevance, nor do they care.

Monthly, I watch as this neighborhood is losing it's predominant culture. There is a pushing out by high rents of the people who have lived here since they were born. Along with that, as a long-time resident said, "we did not re-invest in our neighborhood and buy the properties for sale before the developers came through and bought them up."  For many that I speak with, the taxes on the homes in this area are becoming a burden for them and the insurance is very high, for middle class workers and the elderly who have spent their lives in this neighborhood this brings hardship. This is not a hardship for someone with money and more opportunities to make more - it is a hardship for families that are working class, with children to be with and tend to and the elderly.

This neighborhood so close demographically to St. Charles Avenue, Loyola, and the ever expanding Tulane and the wealthy and super wealthy who live "Uptown".  Also,  I haven't heard friends of mine in the 9th ward or 7th Ward complain about tax increases and high taxes. I could be wrong in detail and correct in supposition.

The Black Pearl is a historic neighborhood of Americans of African decent. The Buffalo soldiers first formed up the street on Walnut Street. Mt. Moriah church‘s pastor the Reverend Harvey, was a friend of, and one of the first six who formed the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King, Jr and he still preaches at Mount Moriah Missionary church around the corner. Mahalia Jackson used to sing there as a girl. (I love sitting on my back steps on Sunday mornings listening to the choir).

Other Related Unpublished Notes: Released 2016

Those who speak to me of this neighborhood have told me that this is the first "neighborhood" of Americans of African decent in the city - but then the people "downtown" say they are the first! The Buffalo Soldiers which Ras Bob Marley sings of were formed here - on Walnut Street. I have been told by the elders that this is one of the first neighborhoods of Americans of African decent that enjoyed a taste of the "American Dream" - thanks to the unions and the work of the civil rights workers in the 60's.

I may not have all the facts presented correctly, nor do I know a whole lot - I have only been in New Orleans 'for a minute'. What I do know and what I perceive to be witnessing/happening to this wonderful neighborhood is rental gentrification. I believe the reason there are more burglaries in this neighborhood is because of the influx of PRIMARILY Caucasians (like me!) moving into this historically Black New Orleanian neighborhood and the income inequality.

I feel what is happening here has to do with the influx of students and Caucasian students who do not interact with the local community, it is all happening too fast for the community.

Since I have moved in here a year ago I have watched primarily Black New Orleanians walking and setting on the street talking to far many Tulane students, and folks with unusually big dogs (often one or two). Mostly students though, some professionals, rarely working class - 98% Caucasian.

How could a "Chocolate city" such as New Orleans have so many white students and so little signs of Black students moving in and going to school here? How about other races and cultures?

When I first arrived in New Orleans on February 2 of 2007 and met people who were the polar opposite in personality, culture, and HEART centeredness, of what I have known most of my life - I thought I had finally found a place where a heart like mine could live amongst people who naturally lived life from their hearts. And as a city, New Orleans has soooo much heart. 

I can only speak to the areas I have spent time in, the Upper and Lower 9th, Mid-city, the Black Pearl, along Oreatha Castle Haley, the 7th Ward. I have spent some time in Chalmette.  Hollygrove, for the short time I have spent there,  I had incredible interactions with the neighbors and community.


The elderly who have lived here most if not all their lives, have been telling me this is not a neighborhood where this many burglaries occurred. They shake their heads in wonderment at what is going on when I speak with them. There is a connection here - I know why this area is being hit - because so many white people are moving into a historically and predominately Black culture and the people moving in are primarily transient Caucasian students and Caucasian people who do not integrate into this community.
 I have found a deeper humanity within myself by being accepted into the awesome culture of Black New Orleans, sadly those who look like myself, Caucasians,  moving into the neighborhood seems to act as though the Black people who live here are to be feared and avoided.

On the burglary: Nothing was stolen. The house was totally tossed. I had with me the two most valuable things I own. Both objects have to do with my work - my laptop and my camera. Ever since the other side of the shotgun was robbed I have been following intuitive guidance that told me to just bring it everywhere with me. And I have. I am washing everything that I had in the back room which was my sleeping room. In the front room, a few cabinets and a drawer under the t.v. was searched through and left opened. This person who broke in spent the most time in the back room, the bedroom; this person closed the curtains between the front room and the back, that I leave tied up with a ribbon so I can to pass through.

There is a greater spiritual reason that has been coming to me in the last twenty four hours of my contemplation time. It feels as if I have already gone through as a spiritual initiate what it is like to deal with intense psychological darkness and come out on the other side - the shaman or the aesthetic would understand what I am speaking of.  Now it feels like I am going into a new level of trusting and having faith that the Light in the presence of embodied darkness in the form of violence that has not only entered my sanctuary, but sent someone back to take something else from me. The human aspects of me are saying “Come on, just ask me, that is the reason I am even here in New Orleans, to give, to help - stop stealin from me!”

Then my soul reminds me that I am here in service work and compared to the people whom I have met and hold in my heart, what I am going through is just a taste of the insecurity and violence they live in all the time. I am thinking of Ceophus and his wife in the Lower 9th, or Mrs. Gaines still trying to rebuild on her own at 75. So many of the elderly have died related to Katrina and the levee failures. So many families are suffering far worse violence then the break ins I am experiencing.

Prayers for all the suffering. Prayers for all the New Orleanians who have suffered from this devastating natural and man-made disaster.  Prayers for the communities and culture being destroyed in the lust for land and redistricting.

Peace. Your planetary sister.

Flowing with Change

When all else is stripped away as being without meaning,
love remains, eternally upholding the recognition of God's
presence in life, eternally offering a source of blessing.

-Julie Redstone
The Calendar of Healing

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