(ENSPIRE Around Town) The Boogie Down Ain’t Down No More
ENSPIRE Contributor: Tylah Willis
When someone mentions the Bronx they usually associate it with words like ghetto, poor, black, crime, and dirty. Each of these terms coined in the 1970’s when the oppressed people of this borough decided to unify as gangs. Gang culture in the Bronx was created to counteract their horrible economic situations they were faced with on the day to day basis, caused by politicians who viewed African Americans and Hispanics as less than everyone else. Gangs like the Black Spades, Savage Nomads, Savage Skulls, Ghetto brothers and so on terrorized communities as an act of rebellion due to the deprivation of resources to keep the average individual afloat in a fast growing economy. In the midst of all this pressure and tension, this community became the perfect jewel which is the birth of Hip Hop.
From that day on the Bronx was known for creating a timeless genre of music that would spread through the world like wildfire. Some would think such a conquering story would spark the idea of community renewal to keep the youth productive by adding jobs and programs to the local area. But of course, this change would only positively impact a specific group of people and hinder those who lived there from the start.
Everywhere you turn in New York City, black communities are being gentrified in the name of “Urban Renewal.” From downtown Brooklyn resembling 42nd street to the addition of Whole Foods on 125th street in Harlem, many Black and Hispanic communities are being forced out for the specific fact of not being able to afford living there. With the souls of these communities leaving, the culture is being erased as well. In 2015 a developer by the name of Keith Rubenstein put a billboard on the Third Avenue Bridge showing, “South Bronx Piano District, Luxury Waterfront Living,” renaming the South Bronx (which is known for hip hop) the “Piano District.” After putting this disgraceful billboard in an economically deprived community he then hosted a party “The Bronx is Burning” themed party to endorse his $85 million dollar project. Burning buildings, aggressive gang culture, drug addicts and more, this event made a mockery out of the long struggle the Bronx was faced with in the 1970’s.
On top of this privileged and immoral act, the percentage of home sales increased by 35% in 2016 surpassing home sales in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. It’s easy to conclude the people who are buying these houses. But for the people who lived here for years and made positive contributions that changed this borough for the better, all of the efforts and hardships are going down the drain because of selfish acts.
Recently in the Co-Op city section of the Bronx, the only book store (Barnes & Noble) was shut down and replaced with a Saks Off 5th, a store you mostly see in Manhattan. A store where the jeans are on average $250 to $990, that’s the price of many people’s rent in a studio apartment in the Bronx.
The face of the Bronx is rapidly changing and many Bronx natives do not know what to do. As Bronxites we can collectively take action by promoting and attending town hall meetings, reaching out to local Congress official, use social media as a platform to bring awareness to this situation and support local businesses to prevent big business from buying them out. It’s time for Bronxites to take back our borough and our culture before everything we worked so hard to fix, goes to waste.
Are you a resident of the Bronx? What other ways can we help maintain our community?