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Monday, March 3, 2014

Spike Lee Talks About Gentrification

Film maker Spike Lee spoke his mind at an event in Fort Green Brooklyn after an audience member asked him a question about Gentrification. Lee has been a long time resident of Brooklyn that is rapidly changing like much of New York City.

Lee is not keen on the idea of gentrification- when middle class residents displace low income residents- Lee was very candid in saying "Let me just kill you right now. Because there was some bullsh*t article in the New York Times saying ‘the good of gentrification…I don’t believe that,” said Lee.

The Times and other outlets have been trying to make the argument that gentrification is a good thing for communities, even though it displaces families who can no longer afford to live in a neighborhood as property values go up and rents skyrocket.  While it’s true that communities become safer and improve over time, many community residents, including Lee, have a point when they ask why it takes an influx of white middle-class residents to improve living conditions.

Here’s the thing,” Lee continued on, “I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherf**in’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something…Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherf**kin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherf**kin’-sixty-eight, and the motherf**kin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherf**kin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherf**kin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the f**k outta here!  Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherf**kin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect.”

“There’s a code. There’s people…I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the f**k outta here. Can’t do that!” he added.

And Lee continued on to ask a series of relevant questions about why living conditions only improve when white folks come to town.  “So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!” said Lee.

Although what Lee said about gentrification is true, critics say Lee now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and should have no say about what transpires in Brooklyn. Lees' father however still lives in Brooklyn.


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