This past weekend, I went to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on 135th and Lenox. I saw 3 exhibits while I was there and they were all centered around African American art and history. The most interesting exhibit for me was one about Harlem and its many intersections with history and art. I went with Riverdale’s BSA, so there was a group of us, and I noticed that basically all the other visitors were teen school groups, usually populated with kids of color. There were a few other adult visitors of other races, but it was definitely a space dominated by people of color.
We left the Schomburg Center and set out to Amy Ruth’s for some soul food. The 2 and 3 trains weren’t running, so we decided to walk up Lennox to the restaurant and I had many observations about the area. Lenox in particular is an avenue that, to my eyes, has stayed pretty black. There are definitely institutions that are hallmarks of gentrification such as boutique coffee shops and gourmet chocolate stores, but they seemed to be operated and patronized by black people. This made me think even more about the nuance of gentrification. While gentrification is often racialized, in this particular area, it seemed like a lot of the “gentrifiers” were trendy, young, employed, and educated young black women. I don’t exactly know the impacts of this, but based on my observations it seems that even with these trendy shops popping up and big chains, the natives of the neighborhood still seem comfortable. For example, when we were walking past a Whole Foods I noticed that it was filled to the brim with people of color eating the prepared hot food Whole Foods sells. While this neighborhood did not have many other real grocery stores ( a food desert perhaps?), I find it hard to believe that all the people eating there use it as their primary grocery store, but they still made use of it. All in all, I had an interesting experience and was able to see the nuance of gentrification in full force and use our readings to explain some of these findings.