A statue dedicated to Duke Ellington, photographed by me.
The buildings and area immediately to the left of the theatre, photographed by me.
A guitar on display inside of the Howard Theatre, photographed by me.
The inside of the Howard Theatre, the lobby, photographed by me.
Screenshot of the Nightclub tab on the Howard Theatre’s website
Screenshot of the Menu tab on the Howard Theatre’s Website
The sign outside of the Howard Theatre, photographed by me
Sign on one of the resident buildings in Shaw, photographed by me
A long line of people waiting to enter a restaurant called “Southern Efficiency” in Shaw. Photographed by me.
Window to a restaurant called “Southern Efficiency.” Photographed by me.
Interior wall design in a cafe called Uprising Muffin in Shaw. Photographed by me.
A run-down building next to the Howard Theatre. Photographed by me.
Interior design in a cafe called Rise Up in Shaw. Photographed by me.
Concept for 655 New York Avenue
“Education is a Powerful Weapon” – 312 Florida Avenue NW
Mural near the Howard Theatre.
“Support Our Troops”
“Joan Scott, 70, sits with her belongings and holds the envelope that contains court papers that she signed agreeing to leave Brookland Manor.”
“One of the closed lots in Shaw. Dominic Moulden, who has been organizing residents in Shaw for 30 years, says the city is still failing to meet the most basic needs of some residents, particularly when it comes to housing. Raquel Zaldivar/NPR”
In Ruben Castaneda‘s S Street Rising, Shaw is described as “a vibrant cultural center” (50). I wanted to explore what Castaneda meant by this, so I set out into Washington to research the area myself. He was right. It is a cultural center and it is quite vibrant. But I feel there’s more to that.
For the first portion of my project, I look at the Howard Theatre and the general history of Shaw. I look at the past and the present. My research had no clear goals in the beginning because I wanted to see where this journey would take me. It took me on a path that explored how Shaw changed over time and whether these changes were as good or as bad as people of the community said they were. The Howard Theatre became my commonplace and it was my entry point into Shaw.
I soon discovered that the image of Shaw was gilded and presented as an up and coming neighborhood. I think there’s some truth to that, but I began to give commentary on the consequences of Shaw as well. I began to give commentary on the plight of older residents and what can be abstractly defined as a “violent” takeover. Ultimately, this shifted my perspective of Shaw and led me on another path to explore how gentrification affected the people of Shaw.
As I delved deeper into my project, I realized the importance of moving out of my entry place and exploring the environment around it. This led me to a quaint little cafe called Uprising Muffin outside of the Shaw-Howard U Metro Station. Well, to be truthful, my friend did because she wanted a smoothie. Upon entering Uprising Muffin, I had some sort of epiphany. I saw a mural that I felt best condensed what I came to learn about Shaw.
This website is the home of all of my findings for my research, and then some. I have attached links below that will make it easier to navigate this site and understand the factors at play in Shaw.
When I step out of the Shaw-Howard U Metro Station in Washington, D.C., I come across a cafe called Uprising Muffin. At first, I chose to ignore the cafe embedded inside a tall glass building. I wanted to understand the culture of Shaw that I felt was being overrun due to gentrification. I believed it was smart for me to explore the surrounding areas and pay special attention to the run-down buildings only utilized by the older residents of Shaw whose most defining characteristics were “low-income” and “black.” As I started to learn more of Shaw’s history, I felt that the narrow approach I took did not allow me to understand the complexities of the changing community. The friend that I was with one time wanted to buy smoothie, so we walked into Uprising Muffin, where we found a beautiful mural. The mural was filled with quotes like, “Feet don’t fail me now,” and “The revolution will not be televised.” I believe the mural best represents Shaw, and this single genre has different effects on the owners of Uprising Muffin, the older residents of Shaw, the newer residents of Shaw, and college-aged students.
For the owners of Uprising Muffin, the mural helps the cafe embed itself into the history, culture, and political atmosphere of Shaw. Shaw used to be a primarily black neighborhood, and over time, it has witnessed the coming and passing of activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, J.r., and artists like Duke Ellington. Furthermore, Shaw is known for its various murals that are sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. I believe the owners of Uprising Muffin intentionally placed a mural inside the cafe to make local customers feel more welcome. Additionally, the cafe was installed inside of a new building that was the result of a development project. To pay respects to the area, and make residents feel that their lifestyle isn’t overrun, the owners have installed this mural.
To older resident the mural’s purpose is to recognize and voice the struggles they have faced as a result of the changing political atmosphere and gentrification. In recent years, Shaw has been subject to many intense projects aimed at bettering the community through development projects. New buildings, new businesses, and new people have begun to pour into Shaw, ultimately changing it. As a result, older residents of Shaw feel that they are being evicted from their communities because of rising costs in the area. These residents often live in high rises and depend on their low or fixed income to sustain themselves. With the arrival of new residents, older residents may feel threatened because they simply cannot afford to live in Shaw any longer. Gentrification is an inherently violent process to them. The quotes on this mural, however, may serve as source of inspiration. If older residents find themselves in Uprising Muffin, quotes like “‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me,” and “Keep Ya Head Up” communicate inspiration.
In contrast, newer residents may view the mural as a window to the culture and history of Shaw. People moving into Shaw tend to be white people who are comfortably middle class and are young. The new residents are occupying a space which they know nothing about, unless they avidly research the history and culture of Shaw. This is where I believe Uprising Muffin comes in as a catalyst to integrate these new residents into the community. The cafe’s mural can be considered a window into the character of Shaw. When new residents visit Uprising Muffin and see “We’re a winner, and never let anybody say boy you can’t make it cuz an evil mind is in your way,” they understand the community cares a lot about activism and social justice. Although I don’t believe that the mural is responsible for changing perspectives of new residents, I do believe that it helps them understand their area a little better.
Lastly, it’s important to recognize that the cafe is near Howard University, so other rhetors may include Howard’s students. The students of Howard may feel that the cafe is honoring their history and the history of Howard, a historically black university. Washington, and the United States as a whole, is constantly facing intense racial conflict. Students from all over Washington and all over the United States come to study at Howard University to pursue their passion and infuse it with social justice and racial equality. Uprising Muffin recognizes that and creates a very welcoming atmosphere. Students are always welcome to come and study in the cafe under this mural. As a result, to students, the cafe seems warm and welcoming. I think the owners would have wanted them to feel this way.
In the preface of his City of Rhetoric, David Fleming outlines the course he will take in his book regarding the relationship between public discourse and built environments in the United States. I have noticed that Fleming structures his argument three parts. The first part of his argument in the preface is the rejection of implicit judgement of his topic. He establishes that his work is unique in this part. In the second part of his argument, Fleming introduces the perspectives he uses to come to his conclusions and gives historical examples, thereby convincing his audience to read further into his piece. The last part of the preface, however, indirectly makes the claim that if we can change the environment around us, we can change the politics it produces.
Fleming does make clear that he doesn’t wish to take a traditional work of view, but a commentary on existing built environments and how the influence public discourse. Fleming states that his book is a “verbal portrait of contemporary civic life in the United States” (xi). He emphasizes this because he feels it is important to communicate to his audience the uniqueness of his perspective. By offering this “verbal portrait,” he isn’t trying to explain deep historical trends rooted in sociological studies. Instead, Fleming reaffirms that he is offering commentary on existing trends of community development and political activity. Fleming states that, with his book, he will attempt to “crack open the visible world of our local lives and find within it a specifically political rationale” (xi). Once again, he is making clear to his audience what his purpose is and why his perspective is unique from other people who have contributed to similar conversations.
Subsequently, Fleming introduces the tools and techniques he wishes to explore the relationship between discourse and environments. In order to achieve his goal, Fleming says he will bring together “three traditions of thought not usually linked: political philosophy, urban design, and rhetorical theory” (xii). The mixture of these three perspectives when trying to understand the effect place has on discourse contributes new material to existing conversations in each of the three traditions individually. Fleming then develops this part of the preface by offering historical examples regarding how actors like ancient Greeks, the founders of democracy, utilized principles of urban planning to promote democracy. With the various examples Fleming offers, he builds trust within his audience because readers will then start to trust there is indeed a relationship between space and discourse. This helps to draw attention to Fleming’s argument in the rest of his book.
As the preface comes to a close, Fleming suggests that if we can understand these relationships, we can actively reshape them to influence the politics of our environment. Fleming makes sure to emphasize the importance of studying the relationship between public discourse and the built environment. Fleming states, “if we continue to design our landscape so that we need not have contact with people who are different from us, we should not be surprised when the political life that results is impoverished” (xiv). By saying so, he is suggesting that the opposite approach will have an adverse affect. To elaborate, Fleming is hinting that if we design our landscape to have us in contact with people that may be different than us, we may see a revitalization in public discourse and a surge in political participation.
Suzanne Tick, in her “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” the central argument is that modern-day designers must use their craft to promote acceptance and change in society. Before stating her claim, Tick refers to the breakdown of traditional concepts of femininity and masculinity defining societal norms. The path her article follows begins by explaining traditional concepts of gender, then how the perceptions of gender are changing, and finally, the affirmation that design can be a method to view these changes and further them.
Immediately after stating her claim, suggests that the modern design landscape is still stoic and rooted in the past. Tick states it is “still deeply rooted in Modernism, a movement shaped by a predominantly male perspective.” She introduces this perspective and then furthers her point by stating historically, men have dominated design because of the tendency to gravitate towards power roles in offices. After reading this part of her article, her readers may seem alarmed, dismayed, or disappointed because Tick’s writing suggests the male-centric paradigms on which the design landscape is based on is negatively hegemonic.
In the next part of her article, Tick argues that the male-dominated design workforce is subject to change, and she does this in two sections. First, Tick references well-known phenomenons like Emma Watson’s He for She campaign, and the successes of the LGBTQ rights movement. According to Tick, these movements initiate the need for solidarity of all genders because they implore men to “join the cause for gender equality, both here in America and around the world.” Men are beginning to help deconstruct norms in society that have benefited them for so long. This is supported by the second section, which suggests that women are becoming more prominent in the workforce because of the role of Mother Nature, which inspires workplace sustainability, hospitality, and softness.
Tick acknowledges that this change may not be easy, but she argues it is a natural human phenomenon. In this part of her article, Tick relates her argument back to the design landscape and names designers and their work as evidence of changing gender norms. For example, Alexander Wang’s women’s coat from Fall 2015 has “masculine tailoring with a military coat,” and Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin makeup line “has been designed to be appealing to the male buyer.” However, this may confuse people because it is human nature to be uncomfortable with concepts that don’t inherently make sense. Tick introduces the struggle of being labeled an outcast, much like Martine Rothblatt, trans CEO of United Therapeutics. However, Tick cites that the change is only natural. She suggests that issues regarding gender and bathrooms, for example, are rooted in the need to include and support others. She also suggests that design has evolved in a way to support people with disabilities for the same reason.
To close her essay, Tick emphasizes the concept that the changing design landscape is evidence of the emergence of a post-gender society. In her words, “…we need to design for the accumulation of different human beings who are out there by being respectful to individual needs, and creating environments in which people can have their own individuality.” By saying so, Tick affirms that the hegemonic concept of male-centrism in the workplace is breaking down, and design can viewed as a medium through which we can both see and add to this change.
Stephanie Barbara Frank, in her publication titled, “If We Own the Story, We Own the Place,” suggests that people must take different approaches to gain more insight into gentrification in Shaw as a whole. Frank suggests looking at gentrification through a conversation of cultural heritage against economic development. She enumerates in her dissertation that we must understand gentrification as a very local process. In Frank’s words, “The key to unlocking the stories about the neighborhood undergoing gentrification is first-hand exploration of the people and the place” (85). Frank further explains that we must look for evidence of gentrification and its ramifications in mediums that span across the architecture of homes to the diction in local newspapers. She even suggests that if you don’t talk to the local people about their experiences, then there’s no weight to your findings.
This source provides extensive background information on gentrification around the Howard Theatre and D.C. at large, but I mainly want to focus on the toolkit section found towards the end of the publication. This section does provide various methods in which we can understand the power of gentrification at play while being an active observer in the area. I want to use this source as a guide to inform my research from this point forward. I want to further explore Shaw and all the information it has to offer if I look for the right things. I believe this source will help me achieve my goal because it gives me the agency to do so.
In her “Introduction: The Gentrification Game,” Barbara Lewis views gentrification through a lens that many may not even consider–war. Lewis argues that the word gentrification, although it has become a buzzword, is rooted in something much more sinister than a gilded view of progress. Lewis says, “At bottom, gentrification is a war game, with at least five basic elements” (2). The first element is to identify the “enemy” and launch a smear campaign, and the second element is to pursue a “divide and conquer” strategy. The third element, according to Lewis, is to breach borders, and the fourth element is to remove the defeated group from their land. The final element is to reflect on history, but blame the “enemy” to justify your conquering. To put it in this perspective is to introduce the fact that there is an inherent violence in gentrifying a space, and this violence does not have to be entirely physical. Rather, this violence is mostly the control and eventual destruction of a preexisting narrative. Lewis supports her argument by using historical examples that span from the colonial era to the present day. What’s most interesting to note about her argument is that it sheds light on the concept that gentrification was never new. It evolved in its practices and processes, but it has been a prominent tool used by the privileged throughout American history.
What I found especially helpful to put into context with my other sources is the concept of gentrification being an act of war. Lewis highlights that the processes of both gentrification and war have five phases in common. These five phases, she proves, are constant and they can allow us to understand the true effects of both events. Some may argue that because of the lack of immediate bloodshed, there is no violence to gentrification. It’s not the same as pulling a trigger. However, the piece Lewis has published encourages us to understand a different kind of warfare. In the context of the Howard Theatre, U Street, Shaw, and broader Washington, Lewis would suggest to think of everything as deliberate. Think of the design of everything as deliberate simply because it was so and everything has an agenda. Maybe then we could explain the takeover of Shaw by white millennials.
In “Underpinning and Shoring of Historic Howard Theatre in Washington, DC,” Englert and Eddy suggest that the restoration of the Howard Theatre was an intense process that inevitably brought to light major construction challenges. This source is primarily an analysis on the different construction techniques used to restore the Howard Theatre to its current state, but it also provides insight into architectural choices made for the theatre itself. Englert and Eddy, in their report, emphasize the need to maintain the exterior appearance of the Howard Theatre as it was built originally. The interior of the Howard Theatre would preserve some of its original architectural designs, but would accommodate newer technology. In doing so, Englert and Eddy illustrate the deliberate decisions made to bring the Howard Theatre into the twenty-first century.
This source is arguable one of the most unique in my collection. There is little commentary about socioeconomic and demographic differences relating to either Shaw or the Howard Theatre, which some may interpret as a negative characteristic. However, I believe the lack of commentary and the reporting of construction challenges allow for me to make connections regarding Shaw’s socioeconomic and demographic shifts myself. This source also allows me to think about how Howard Theatre came to be a nightclub for some people while also serving as a place one might go to if they wished to listen to opera. This connects especially well with my analysis of the theatre’s website because I will be able to draw relationships between the various services of the theatre to its architecture.
In the journal publication “The Back-to-the-City Movement: Neighbourhood Redevelopment and Processes of Political and Cultural Displacement,” Derek Hyra adds nuance to the process of gentrification in Shaw. Hyra acknowledge on one hand, the influx of younger affluent residents in Shaw may result in an improved quality of life. He suggests that newer residents may demand better infrastructure repairs and political participation. On the other hand, Hyra also acknowledges that there may be differing perspectives among community residents. Younger affluent residents want to make Shaw a center of revitalization with the neighborhood earning a title of being “new and improved.” Older residents are often pushed to the side and are displaced from their homes, churches, and other community centers. The role of the Howard Theatre in Shaw, however, continues to serve as a place where primarily older residents are able to attend despite the changes around them.
I especially like the analysis that Hyra provides connecting the influx of young white affluent residence to possibly unforeseen social implications. I admired the way the source brought to light two different narratives regarding gentrification and how one might look at it. The source illuminated what newer residence may view their role as, which is essentially as saviors of the neighborhood. The source also illuminates that older residents may view the same phenomenon as a narrative to eventually evict them from their home and destroy their culture. Both views, in my opinion, are equally valid and I believe I can find a way to incorporate them into my larger essay.
In Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C., Derek Hyra gives insight on the greater dilemma of gentrification in Washington. This publication is a book with several chapters dedicated to different dimensions of gentrification and its effect on the District’s race relations. The book reinforces “the reality that the District of Columbia is a much more vibrant, vital, and changing urban center than tourist postcard scenes of munificent parks and public spaces might suggest” (322). Hyra explains this by thoroughly deconstructing demographic changes by asking questions like, “Who is supposed to be here? Who is actually here?” He also explores the concept of economic inequality in D.C. by investigating the evolving economic employment structures and its effect on hiring patterns in socioeconomically depressed areas. His findings lead him to suggest that, no matter how turbulent changes may seem, they actively change the identity of a neighborhood or region. However, Hyra does not endorse viewing such changes passively and encourages residents to take an active role in shaping their communities using the successes and failures of Washington as guides.
In my opinion, this source is especially important for me to understand and put into conversation with my other sources. This is the case because the source enables me to connect the Howard Theatre, buildings I’ve seen around the theatre, and my interactions with Shaw into broader context. My field research on the Howard Theatre has been extremely specific to this point, and while I understood fragments of a larger narrative, this book clearly puts my experiences into perspective.
Robert Samuels of the Washington Post, in his article “Aged out of the District,” makes the argument that the District of Columbia is actively trying to invite millennials to stay by making neighborhoods more desirable to live in. In this article, Samuels does acknowledge that, with the rising cost of housing and other services, the millennials that can afford to live in D.C. are usually single and affluent. However, he says that the rapid increase of housing costs may inadvertently be pushing even those single millennials out. They are more likely to stay in the District in the short term and in knowing they are only there for a small amount of time, they don’t bother making meaningful connections with long-time residents. Furthermore, the District has been getting so expensive to live in that these millennials are second-guessing their decision to start families. In perspective, however, this does not fare well especially for older residents who may be low- or fixed-income. Then, it is needless to say that community development in the District of Columbia is simply vicious.
Many of my other sources allude to how affluent white millennials are moving to D.C. neighborhoods like Shaw because it’s simply the “next big thing.” Businesses are starting up, crime rates are being reduced, nicer brunch places boasting watered-down ethnic foods are being built. A dream come true until one looks at the repercussions. The truth is, rising costs have inadvertently led to rise of homelessness in D.C. This is a concept that my other sources allude to but have never named. In relation to my other sources, this source can potentially highlight the aftermath of city-sponsored development projects. I can then connect this source and contextualize it with the demographics of who now attends Howard Theatre, or maybe who does not.
According to this Washington Post article written by Debbi Wilgoren, it is entirely possible to align the interests of real estate developers and long-time residents of Shaw. To do this, Wilgoren introduces the ongoing conflict of residents being forced out of their neighborhood due to community development and then a proposal drafted by an advocacy group. In one instance, she quotes a single mother, Anika Trahan, who says, “We cannot afford to stay.” Through the advocacy group Manna, Wilgoren explains that consensus between residents and developers can indeed be achieved. She explains Manna has proposed to have developers: 1) Increase available affordable housing, 2) Offer below-market rents for existing businesses, and 3) Recruit more Shaw residents for jobs created as a result of projects. The success of this proposal is astounding. As Wilgoren states, “Manna officials said the proposal, developed over 18 months, has the support of several advisory neighborhood commissioners, Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham (D), various churches and nonprofit organizations in the neighborhood and five private developers interested in building there.” Ultimately, this proves that the success of developers doesn’t always have to be at the expense of residents.
This source is will be an essential piece in concert with my other sources because it offers a perspective that would otherwise be unheard. Many of my sources describe a deliberate scheme to systematically oppress the residents of Shaw through gentrification while using the history of the Howard Theatre as a lens. There is truth to this. However, this Washington Post article suggests that there is a possibility to hinder that scheme, to bring about progress that isn’t at the expense of others.
The first round of the French presidential elections on Sunday has been considered a rejection of the mainstream parties, and a surprising victory for the two political “outsiders” who will move onto a second round in May: the centrist Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (Onward!) and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front. The New York Times, for example, called it “a full-throated rebuke of the mainstream parties” and The Economist warned that the “first-round result could also presage the break-up of the French party system.” Although the results certainly indicate a historical ousting of the Socialist and Republican Parties, which have been governing France for most of the past 50 years, the results were hardly unexpected, and the two leading candidates are not political outsiders.
The election has been seen by many as the “rejection” of mainstream sentiment, the “victory” of “outsiders,” and a fight for the right to rule. It’s the same fantasy that gripped American elections in November of 2016. The outsiders defeat all odds pit against them and they win because they are the true representation of the people. To have this representation is the foundation of a strong republic. However, if Schain were to provide commentary on the nature of these elections, he would likely agree that this is isn’t true, especially for the French election.
Schain seems very doubtful of people who feel this way, because to him, this was a story too good to be true. The last sentence of this paragraph begins with the world, “although.” That immediately refutes the beautiful imagery of struggle and success (although that’s debatable depending on who you ask) that came immediately before. It turns out that the outcome of the election was “hardly unexpected” and that the candidates were not “outsiders” at all. Heartbreaking. Shattering. Devastating.
So, why this? I think I’ll leave it to Martin A. Schain himself to explain.
The quote above has been pulled from the top of a display in Washington’s famous Newseum. The Newseum undertakes the mission of relaying how important information, and the manipulation of information, is to the functionality, or dysfunctionality, of society. The quote is displayed above a collection of newspaper front pages from various states and countries. Ironically, all of them are filled with good news. They’re all filled of feel-good stories like good samaritans saving kittens and the dreams of little children being realized.
When I read the quote, it hit me hard. It’s one thing to make a claim like the one Senator Moynihan made, but it’s an entirely different thing to see the manifestation of that same claim. My friend and I walked through the hall analyzing the contents of each paper, and no top headline mentioned anything about stories regarding earthquakes, murders, or even genocide.
This got me thinking about the state of our democracy and the illusion of our free press. I wondered if it was ever really free to begin with. The United States champions itself as a nation that boasts the free status of its press. After all, we’re not like North Korea or anything… right? As my friend and I walked through the hall, however, the front cover stories weren’t very critical. By this, I mean that the headlines didn’t say what was wrong about the United States in general, or communities within the state.
If what Senator Moynihan says is true, then we should be extremely alarmed. Given the nature of politics right now, we should be seeing more pieces criticizing the society we have built around us. There is always something going wrong in our country, or in our world. Something is always happening, and if something is always happening, at least one person is trying to get a story regarding it out there. And if Senator Moynihan is right, they may very will be trying, but they’re facing great challenges while doing so. Doesn’t sound like a very free press to me, probably a lot of “fake news,” though.
In Lance Freeman’s book titled There Goes the Hood : Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up, the central argument is that there is no one view of gentrification any more valid than another. The concept of gentrification, like many concepts, may be interpreted differently by different people. What I admire about this book is that it heavily relies on interviews with a plethora of people. I have been used to the concept of gentrification being a indirectly violent phenomenon, but as an interviewee states in Chapter 4 titled, “Making Sense of Gentrification,” “I think gentrification is good in certain respects in that it brings things to a neighborhood what it really never had. Like an all-black neighborhood never had as much police protection as their white counterpart. So it brings that. Plus it brings investment” (98). That’s a view not many of my previous sources are willing to explain.
To use such a source would allow me to truly map the complexity of urban development and its relationship to gentrification. No matter how false or true a claim may be, it must be supported. Although I wholeheartedly believe that “urban development” is a gilded term for gentrification, this source allows me to expand on what people may think if they view the opposite. It allows me to further my credibility because I will have a balance of opinion.
Huning, Sandra, and Nina Schuster. “‘Social Mixing’ or ‘Gentrification’? Contradictory Perspectives on Urban Change in the Berlin District of Neukölln.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 39, no. 4, July 2015, pp. 738–755.
In Sandra Huning’s and Nina Schuster’s ‘Social Mixing’ or ‘Gentrification’? Contradictory Perspectives on Urban Change in the Berlin District of Neukölln, the central argument suggests that terms like “social mixing” and “gentrification” not only describe the transformation of a place, but are embedded in its transformation. The argument is developed by viewing the Berlin district of Neukölln as a lense to explore this phenomenon. As Huning and Schuster state, social mixing refers to “the ideal of social mixing refers to hegemonic middle-class values of individual achievement, capacity and lifestyle and thereby stabilizes existing power relations.” They suggest that the term gentrification describes the same phenomenon, but from a different perspective. Huning and Schuster describe gentrifications as a means to “protest against the loss of affordable housing and the displacement of poor residents.” Both views have weight to them and both are equally valid.
To use this source in conversation with my other sources is to surface complexity in the issue regarding gentrification. Development, social mixing, and gentrification are all connected, yet unique in their way of describing the same phenomenon. After reviewing this source, I plan to further the argument presented by understanding how it relates to Neukölln and applying it to the Howard Theatre. Shaw has transformed into a mixed community, which allows me greater agency to truly explore the diversity of perspectives it holds.
Ley, David, and Cory Dobson. “Are There Limits to Gentrification? The Contexts of Impeded Gentrification in Vancouver.” Urban Studies, vol. 45, no. 12, Nov. 2008, pp. 2471–2498.
In their Are There Limits to Gentrification? The Contexts of Impeded Gentrification in Vancouver,David Ley and Cory Dobson analyze the positive and negative consequences of gentrification. They acknowledge both sides to how one may approach gentrification. On one hand they acknowledge that with gentrification comes development and investment. Yet, Ley and Dobson both understand that, “Districts with impeded gentrification would have a minimal stock of older or newer residential properties with architectural character; they would have limited access to environmental amenities or desirable cultural institutions, but could well be near working industrial sites; and generally they would be lower-income and often immigrant neighbourhoods, including districts of deep poverty, some distance from existing élite areas” (2475). Because of the intensity of such a phenomenon, they also suggest that activism is bound to occur to reverse these trends. Ley and Dobson elaborate, “Sustained neighbourhood mobilisation has led to a distinctive local moral culture that accepts the right to the city for poor people” (2494). By making such a statement, Ley’s and Dobson’s publication ultimately suggests that there will always be pushback by local residents against the forces of gentrification disguised as urban development, and that this is a trend worth exploring.
Initially, I viewed the process of gentrification as one with an endgame. The endgame was to pretend to preserve an area’s culture, but ultimately substitute it for another. A complete takeover. However, Ley and Dobson offer a convincing argument. As long as there is perceived injustice, there will be some resistance. This makes me curious as to how Shaw is reacting to “development” in the area. It makes me want to explore the ways in which Shaw has resisted, how it has resisted, and how effective was it. The publication has offered me a new platform to explore my built environment.
David Fleming, in the afterword of his book titled The City of Rhetoric, argues that if we wish to see any advancement in American society, we must no longer neglect the important relationship between a given space and socioeconomic trends. This chapter is unique in the sense that he begins by providing historical and political examples that many Americans are aware of. He references political bills, statistical data, and publicized orations. To clarify his argument, he remaps the arguments he developed throughout the course of the book. This way, we understand the relevance of what seemed like arbitrary detail in the part before. Finally, he stresses the relationship between space and socioeconomic issues is not coincidental. Before we can understand the complexity of the world we live in, we must examine our built environments. If we can understand the rhetoric of our built environments, we can prevent the further fragmentation of our society.
Fleming begins his argument by listing examples of major events that the American public has experienced, and this solidifies the connection between his work and the real world. For instance, Fleming begins this chapter with a quote from the U.S. Housing Act of 1949 which reads, “The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the Nation and the health and living standards of its people require . . . the realization as soon as feasible of the goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” (211). This allows Fleming a platform to introduce other historical examples of the American government addressing public planning, and their failure to address it well. He references how the Bush administration circa 2006 failed to uphold the standards set by the 1949 Housing Act and how hurricane Katrina revealed that the American government had tried to mask worsening socioeconomic trends as indicators of progress. To Fleming’s readers, such examples draw the connection between theory and practice. For lack of better terms, it simply becomes real.
To reinforce this concept, Fleming revisits and reflects on the examples he had explained in depth throughout his novel. He recalls the shortcomings of Cabrini Green, Chicago’s suburbia, and unforgiving high rises. After acknowledging them, David Fleming begins to answer the proverbial question, “So what?” And to that, he answers that design, by nature, is natural and countervailing to large-scale political and economic forces. Design is organic, and to force design to work differently and to separate people, the design is flawed. To further the concept of a relationship between a built environment and larger economic, social, and political issues, he appeals to a widely accepted cause–global warming. Fleming argues ironically, “dense, centered cities— as “un-natural” as they often seem to us— may be our best hope in fighting global warming and, ultimately, saving Earth as a habitable planet” (215). He references this because, one way or another, he is trying to convince his readers why these concepts are important. If one reason isn’t enough to convince his readers, then this might.
The overall message of Fleming’s afterword inspires a sense of activism. It is short, concise, and despondent. Fleming recognizes the fragmentation and polarization of American society is only increasing, and that he doesn’t have much hope even in newer generations to reverse this trend. However, Fleming isn’t entirely convinced there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Although he expects there is no point in placing the burden upon future generations to essentially reverse a trend that has been developing for centuries, he claims that the minds of youth are still malleable. I admire the way Fleming ends this last chapter. Fleming states, “Perhaps if young people experience, even just within the walls of a high school or college classroom, what it can be like to be members of a strong public, they will grow up and demand such publics in the ‘real world’” (214). And how are these “strong republics” formed? Well, the first step is to understand our built environment.