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August 2, 2017

Gentrification as Narrative Strategy in Detroit O.N.E. Mile, Anthony “Ute” Petit BFA Tex/ID

by iluvairplanes99

I sat in on a discussion fostered by O.N.E. Mile in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Cultural Center, who brought various fellows and the band Mokoomba (who were in town for Detroit’s Concert of Colors), as a part of facilitating a connection with Detroit and Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe cultural center facilitates a residency in partnership with Njelele Art Station in Harare, Zimbabwe; where artists exchange between the respective geographies to execute projects on both sides of the ocean []. We discussed the parallel struggles we share in terms of corruption, class differences, and political suppression. We also discussed the uplift and power of our culture, and how cultural collaboration maintains solidarity and community building.

Entertainment activist, producer, and rapper BRYCE Detroit laid it down best, where he laid out the situation in Detroit at this nexus in time. “Gentrification is a narrative strategy that operates primarily, but is not limited to, the following principles:

1. Corruption is equated to emptiness; the vastness of vacancy is correlated to the race of political leaders. When our leaders are black, there is no hesitation to villainize their leadership. Looking at any post colonial history, we see that darker, and indigenous bodies are criminalized and evalued. A pandemic issue rooted in white colonialism that has evolved decade after decade, but never left. 

2. Ruin porn; Detroit’s landscape of vacant buildings and structures had been the best international content for people to continue to appropriate from a city that has given so much to society as we know it. Detroit is not, will never, and has never been dead. Selective depictions of ‘ruins’ in Detroit is a way to signal a final frontier, hence the rapid land grab that is well underway. Contrary to popular media, Detroit has always had people who cared, who fixed, who survived here. Its been 50 years since conspiracy to destroy Black enclaves in the city backfired on whites who have since vacated the municipality. This strategic propaganda leaves out the hundreds of thousands Black folks who have and continue to live here. Who laid the foundation and fixed what no one else wanted to. 

3. Savior complex: an invitation has been extended to white folks to reinhabit Detroit, the beginning of a new chapter. We see this in Downtown where the majority of parcels are owned by a single entity. We see this in “Midtown” originally Cass Corridor, where  new stadium is being constructed with taxpayer money, while our schools are in a unacceptable state. It goes without explanation when our Mayor touts this city as being “for everyone” but the money trail says otherwise. The city does not need saving, there is plenty of work to be done, but it is an issue of equality not “capability.” It always has been.

So how do we stop *gentrification,* quite a trendy word of the past decade. Well, gentrification is always an issue of a community of peoples laying the foundations for the success and life of their culture, and kinfolk. That community then becomes

. ~ * poppin * ~ .

and outsiders begin to look in. Eventually the creators of the space are pushed out, who bring their culture with them, and what once was becomes diluted or erased . Soon they realize what the came for is no longer, and the cycle continues to the next neighborhood. This narrative is most often disseminated via the internet, or television. What’s necessary is a reclamation of the narrative, and building the stories of those that have not been told. O.N.E. Mile  has been building the story of the North End and the residents of the community. 

None of this information is groundbreaking or revolutionary, this is basic American history. In every city, in every state, this cycle is happening, its how we break the cycle while upholding values of diversity and cultural exchange.

Alot more to come soon!




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