Harlem Minister Says Boycott Gentrication

This article is a couple of years old, but this guy is on the right track. Gentrification usually brings with it higher rents, more laws, and more police repression, not to much attacks on economic and cultural activities that don’t jibe with the yuppie lifestyle.

Mr. Manning, who has been the church’s pastor for 27 years, said the intent of the boycott was to return Harlem to its pregentrification days of 1990, without the crack, crime and boarded-up buildings. His hope, he says, is that declining property values will make housing affordable for those he believes are the neighborhood’s rightful owners: black people.

“It is our homeland. It is our Mecca. It is the only place we have,” he said, his voice rising. “It ought not to be overrun the way that’s happening. We are an endangered species.” But many of the new residents of Harlem are in fact middle-class African-Americans.

Mr. Manning’s many critics say his call for a boycott is irresponsible and would devastate a neighborhood that has only recently showed signs of even modest economic well-being.

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5 replies »

  1. Sudhir Venkatesh nails it!

    “To write off Pastor Manning would be an absolute mistake,” he said. “There is a very strong sentiment in the black community in Harlem and elsewhere that during the last 20 years the government has subsidized middle- and upper-class interests that have tended not to promote economic development that caters to the lower classes. There’s a strong sentiment that they are losing their community.”

    Check out his books on street gangs and the underground economy of Chicago’s south side.

  2. Issues like tent cities and gentrification are going to become more and more significant politically as the economy continues to slide and class divisions widen.

  3. Here’s another thought:

    One thing I find interesting about Manning’s critics is their appeal to vulgar economism and materialism. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, who cares about preserving Harlem’s cultural heritage or even the well-being of its most vulnerable inhabitants if it interferes with development and upward mobility.”

  4. That’s usually the case. They will start off at first defending “private” development while ignoring the ridiculous number of public-private relationships that are required for gentrification/status quo center city development to happen. Back in Cincinnati, the planning department was straight up replaced by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, a “non-profit” front that acts within the interests of the corporate plutocracy. I did a short documentary on the situation here:

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