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Terry Lewis on Responsible Community-Based Neighborhood Improvement

Neighborhood Improvement Without Displacement

In recent years, neighborhood gentrification is bringing a flood of wealthier, whiter, outsiders to Detroit (some from the Metro Detroit area, many from more expensive locales across the U.S.). This influx of outsiders is causing wholesale displacement of existing residents. While Detroit’s gentrification can in some sense be considered “neighborhood improvement,” it is not creating opportunities for or improving the quality of life of existing residents. Nor is it strengthening existing communities.

Enters a new movement: HOOD CLOSED TO GENTRIFIERS.C2BE as an organization cannot take credit for starting this movement, though we have deep connections to the individual (Bryce Detroit) who is its catalyst. Among many other commitments, Bryce has worked with C2BE as a cultural programmer for many years. The movement began in Detroit’s North End with the posting of what looked like a construction sign on Oakland Avenue (a main thoroughfare through the neighborhood).

Here is a link to a YouTube video of local TV news coverage of the event.

Police removed the sign. But Bryce quickly ordered 22 more, created a line of t-shirts, recorded an anthem, and began to spread the movement throughout the city. Nor has it stopped there. There are neighborhoods facing the same displacement in regentrifying cities throughout the country. Seattle is one of them. And Bryce has been asked to fly out to speak to community leaders in Seattle about the movement.

C2BE is committed to strengthening existing communities. C2BE works to create community- based enterprises (CBEs) that provide living-wage jobs for community residents and, above and beyond that, a profound financial stake for the worker-owners of those CBEs, plus significant voice in their strategic direction. Displacement undercuts all of that.

As C2BE, we can and do support the fight against displacement. As a first step, we support the dramatic naming of the problem. In too much of Detroit, gentrification = displacement. But using the “HOOD CLOSED TO GENTRIFIERS” slogan is only a first step. Join C2BE in supporting the creation of strong community-based enterprises, bringing opportunity to disregarded neighborhoods, and strengthening our existing communities.

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