Humanizing Gentrification

In NPR’s article ‘Old Confronts New In A Gentrifying D.C. Neighborhood’ older and longtime residents are interviewed about socio-economic changes within their neighborhood. I choose these series of interviews for my research because they were based less on statistics and tapped into the human experience of gentrification in Washington, D.C.

The article first focuses on Ernest Peterson, a current resident of the Shaw neighborhood in D.C.  The article paints him as a feeling like an outsider in his own neighborhood. Ernest expresses that newcomers in the neighborhood look and him like “Why you hear?” NPR  uses the experiences of Ernest and others to convey that residents who are affected by gentrification are trying to “negotiate a place for themselves in a neighborhood they’ve long called home.”

The article then talks to Carlos Pyatt, who moved away from the neighborhood in early 80s. We learn through the experience of his next-door neighbor how the prices of homes have jumped and that developers constantly call the neighbor to push her out of her home. The article states that “in 2017, the property’s tax assessment was more than $888,000,” a sharp contrast from $42,000 she paid to buy the house in the 80s. The decimation of Black businesses and black churches are discussed. One subject says his church, notable for its community of Black members is now viewed as a community church. The article also talks to black business owners and how they’ve seen other businesses dwindle.

Other socio-economic issues discussed is the debate on who benefits from gentrification. In a quote from the article “if you can’t spend $100 to eat, $5 or $7 for coffee, you can’t buy anything in your own neighborhood,” loosely describes who benefits from the phenomenon. I interpreted as older residents not being able to afford nicer restaurants and amenities but the neighborhood becoming nicer or more modernized.

I like this quasi-interview style because it mixes facts with human emotions. The subjects were not 100% objective but the interviews did focus on specific incidents that happened to real people. The context given is nuanced and lays out both the benefits and downfalls of gentrification. It was interesting to see how real people are feeling about and dealing with the topic of gentrification in Washington, D.C.

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