The New York Times ran a great article about how Greater Harlem in New York City is no longer majority black. For those who do not know, Harlem was the long cultural epicenter for black folks throughout the 20th century. Not only was Harlem the home to many world renowned black writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals, the Harlem Renaissance helped defined the black experience in America in the 1920's and beyond.
Like most historic cultural ethnic enclaves, Harlem fell on hard times particularly after desegregation and urban renewal policies. The traditional base of black folks had eroded by the 1970's. The well-to-do and the middle class black populations were no longer forced to live in the crowded conditions of Harlem and moved onto better housing in and outside the city. What was left of Harlem in the 1970's was a poor urban community with a rich and long cultural and historical legacy.
Harlem was not the only culturally significant black community that fell on hard times, similar patterns of vacancy occurred in the Shaw-Howard University neighborhoods in Washington D.C., and the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor in Baltimore. The article reports that:
"Because so much of the community was devastated by demolition for urban renewal, arson and abandonment beginning in the 1960s, many newcomers have not so much dislodged existing residents as succeeded them. In the 1970s alone, the black population of central Harlem declined by more than 30 percent.
'This place was vacated,' said Howard Dodson, director of Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 'Gentrification is about displacement.'"
There are many urban communities today that have incredibly vacancy rates of over 10-20%. Many of these communities are now feeling development pressure after 30-40 years or more of abandonment in some cases. A lot of people in these urban communities fear gentrification but in cases like Harlem where there are so many vacancies, should residents feel threatened by the newcomers if no one is being displaced?
What are you thoughts?