Whenever I tell people I’m from North Philly they never believe me. Instead of being from Broad and Erie or 13th and Dauphin I’ve lived in a neighborhood all my life that’s recently come to be known as Northern Liberties aka NoLibs. In my neighborhood the corner boys strapped with 380’s blasting bullets are replaced by joggers strapped with Iphones blasting Katy Perry. Hipsters from across the city flock to the area in search of the Piazza and the Electric Factory, but it’s not the neighborhood I grew up in. So when Spike Lee recently went on a rant against gentrification at Pratt Institute, it occurred to me I may know more about it than I thought I did.
After an audience member suggested that gentrification helps urban communities create more wealth, Spike Lee immediately took to checking them:
Here’s the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherf**kin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.
Then comes the motherf**kin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherf**kin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherf**kin’-sixty-eight, and the motherf**kin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherf**kin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherf**kin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the f**k outta here!
Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherf**kin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.
(You can read the rest of Lee’s rant at Ny Mag)