An urbanist is someone who specializes in urban planning – specifically architecture and how space in and around such is utilized. There are a significant number of disenfranchised urban communities for which any planning was done for a demographic that fled, and new projects have often simply about cramming more units (stack, stack, stack) to be lived in. When it comes to that original planning, it’s kind of like being given a pair of shoes that don’t fit and having to make do. This is a legacy black Americans are not unfamiliar with. Lately I’ve been feeling like it’s another thing that contributes to the anxiety that comes with living in such a squeezed misfit. I’ve written some about the positives of that—the strength that comes from not having the world tailored to you, and how it’s such that both its upsides and downsides look good enough for appropriating. For those in disenfranchised places that can’t make that—or, better, more traditional channels of success—work for them, you’d have to figure there would be a certain hopelessness. Or at least I do.
Despite the way they’re portrayed, urban cities with large black populations are not always boiling over with people lashing out in hopelessness. But getting out there and living can often mean getting caught up in all kinds of negativity and dead-ends. And existing around or in between that can be trying, to say the least. This isn’t even a ‘black thing,’ though on the urban scale of American life, it does unduly affect large swaths of black people.
So, with all this in mind, first, two excerpts from some blog posts worth checking out–
Over at THEPOLITICSOFUS:
Though other studies have claimed that gentrification does not necessarily push people out the fact remains that as older residents move out others of their same socioeconomic standing fail to move back in to take their place. As a former community and campaign organizer in San Francisco I found that among longtime residents’ biggest concerns is their feeling of powerlessness in the face of unrelenting change.
And the blogger of Contemporary Contempt theorizes about upscale food trucks:
What this trend has done is spread gentrification to a cultural space that one might not think was possible: the truck. A space that transcends space, occupying many. Nothing is safe from this upwardly mobile force. It seeks and destroys all things lower-income and non-model-minority.
–And, lastly, a great piece in which Pete Saunders explores “a dire lack of a black voice and perspective in the traditional channels of urbanist dialogue.” It also offers up potential solutions to improving urban spaces that would involve some small form of gentrification that might be a bit too ideal in scope, though that doesn’t mean it’s not crucial. Excerpted from 60spunk:
African Americans have been perhaps the most urban of American populations for the last half century. With the formation of the Great Migration between 1910 and 1930, and the Second Great Migration between 1940 and 1970, blacks moved from the rural South to urban areas throughout the country – primarily in the Northeast and Midwest. Today, many blacks are leaving Northern locales and returning to Southern spots, but they are firmly remaining urban.
As a result of this transition, African Americans have had a profound impact within the communities they’ve moved to. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, blacks are the majority demographic in 19 of the nation’s 273 cities with more than 100,000 residents, and are between 25 and 50 percent in another 36 cities. Taken to a metropolitan scale, blacks exceed the 13.6% national proportion of population in eight of the ten largest metropolitan areas, with blacks making up 32.4% of metro Atlanta’s residents, 25.8% of metro DC, and 21.0% of metro Miami. Clearly, blacks have left a significant imprint on America’s cities.
So where are the black urbanists?