Leroy Barber and Gentrification

**She bends down to eye the dust that’s accumulated, then blows a line of air across. Little moves, so she slides a hand along the surface, wiping the gray fluff on her jeans. She straightens and writes her first blog post in months.**

Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night as 17 or so gunshots ripped through our street. Duff and I jokingly play a game called “gunshots or fireworks” because he can tell the difference and I can’t. Unless it’s 2am and they’re coming from an automatic. One of the shots sounded slightly different, like a popper you throw on the ground on the Fourth of July.

I waited a few minutes and grabbed my phone – I knew our street’s Facebook page would light up with helpful commentary quickly. But I was shocked when the first post said bullets had gone through the front door and windows of a home where a little girl Piper’s age lives.

The next morning it got worse – 9 bullets went through another house. And the next day, worse. A single bullet made it through thick trees across 6 lots and into the bedroom of a home across the street from ours. It ricocheted off 3 walls and slid into the bed, slow enough that it didn’t do major damage, but hot enough that it burned the thigh of one of the bed’s inhabitants. I assume the bullet that sounded different, like a popper, was the one that went through their home.

The conversation on our street afterward was like a role play in a class on gentrification. It was like watching things that I knew, in theory, come into the light and it was tense. Some folks talked about installing cameras and signs making sure that people who don’t have a reason to be on our street know that we’re watching. Others told stories of being the first white faces on the street, expressing concern and sadness about watching her neighbors lose their houses as the neighborhood around ours became more desirable, and taxes rose too fast. We heard stories about how many kids used to run up and down the street from house to house. That doesn’t happen anymore. About how people moved from the Rental Assistance Developments sandwiching our neighborhood with comfort and ease, and without violence. I kept thinking about how little I considered the history of our street when we bought our house, and how thankful I am that last year, someone challenged me to learn the (hard) history of housing in our city.

The night after the meeting, I came home with a headful of thoughts. At some point I walked by a map displayed in our home – one of those that’s shaped like the city with the neighborhoods written where they’re located geographically. For the first time, I realized that the Rental Assistance Development just south of us literally looks like an island. Cut off from everything else, one way in, one way out.

This and more is what I brought into the interview Lindsy recorded with the phenomenal Leroy Barber. I was thankful to be able to process some of what had been going on here as we listened to Leroy and responded. It was incredibly timely!

If nothing else, listen for Leroy’s summary of the history of gentrification from start to finish. That alone is worth considering, but the rest is important too. Let me know what you think

Listen on our website, or on iTunes or Stitcher.

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