On June 6, our final performance of our first run, we had the honor of having former Governor of New York State, David Paterson, support our show! We hope you show your support as well for our summer shows! Here is a clip of the interview he gave with our videographer:
This show is centered around gentrification in Harlem, but what is gentrification? I've come across numerous people in the Harlem community who do not even know what this word means, but certainly know its effects.
According to Merriam-Webster, gentrification is:
"The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents"
This is the definition in one succinct sentence, but I feel gentrification can be defined in a better way. I especially do not like the "deteriorating areas" part. Although that may be true of many places, by saying that the area is "deteriorating" it takes away from the arts, culture, and unique character that existed in that particular neighborhood, and it makes it seem as though the neighborhood was in shambles before the process of gentrification occurred.
Say what you want about Wikipedia, but I think they summed it up well in a few paragraphs:
"Gentrification and urban gentrification refer to the changes that result when wealthier people ("gentry") acquire property in low income and working class communities. Consequent to gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases in the community, which sometimes results in the eviction of lower-income residents because of increased rents, house prices, and property taxes. Taxes paid to the city go up, and the cost of police, fire and welfare services go down. Often old industrial buildings are converted to residences and shops. In addition, new businesses, catering to a more affluent base of consumers, move in, further increasing the appeal to more affluent migrants and decreasing the accessibility to the poor.
Urban gentrification occasionally changes the culturally heterogeneous character of a community to a more economically homogeneous community that some describe as having a suburban character. This process is sometimes made feasible by government-sponsored private real estate investment repairing the local infrastructure, via deferred taxes, mortgages for poor and for first-time house buyers, and financial incentives for the owners of decayed rental housing. Once in place, these economic development actions tend to reduce local property crime, increase property values and prices and increase tax revenues.
Political action, to either promote or oppose the gentrification, is often the community's response against unintended economic eviction caused by rising rents that make continued residence in their dwellings unfeasible. The rise in property values causes property taxes based on property values to increase; resident owners unable to pay the taxes are forced to sell their dwellings and move to a cheaper community."
We touch on many of these issues in "Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale," such as the price of rent going up, as well as businesses entering the community that cater to an affluent clientele.
As much as we love to perform, we don't want this show to just be a performance. We want this to be an opportunity to educate others on what gentrification is and how those feeling its affects can take action.
A large part of gentrification is that many residents are pushed out due to higher rent prices. If you live in New York, one way to take action against this is by becoming involved with a group called Tenants and Neighbors. "Tenants & Neighbors is a grassroots organization that harnesses tenant power to preserve at-risk affordable housing and to strengthen and expand tenants' rights in New York State."
Please visit their website by clicking here and learn about the "Real Rent Reform Campagin." According to their website, "The rent laws are set to expire on June 15. If the rent laws are allowed to expire, rent regulation as we know it will cease to exist, so Tenants & Neighbors is coordinating a campaign to renew and strengthen the rent laws, the Real Rent Campaign."
Gentrification is such a multifaceted issue. There are positives and there are negatives. Come explore those facets through humor, theatre, spoken word poetry, and more by purchasing your tickets to "Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale!" To purchase tickets click here.
-Jaylene Clark (Creator, Co-producer, Director, Co-Playright, Actress)
Harlem KW Project
Harlem all day, every day!