Social Experiment. Those are the two words that best describe what’s happening in Bedford-Stuyvesant, my adopted neighborhood. What’s happening in Bed-Stuy is not too different from other urban neighborhoods – gentrification bringing in changes that are good for the community (more Black owned businesses, community initiated revitalization, etc.) and sometimes bad (people getting priced out, gentrifiers not really caring about the history of the community they’re moving into, etc.) Most days I love it and other days – well it’s just down right frustrating because, despite my self-awareness of where I fit in this social experiment, I never thought the negative effects would hit home.
Imagine this – the evening after the United States’s democratic process won and elected Barack Obama – my housemate is walking up our block w/ groceries and is hit over the head w/ a brick and robbed of his wallet. Knocked out COLD and taken Woodhull Hospital. The police show up at our doorstep and fortunately my sister is home to hear the news. She heads over there and finds him a little shook up, but otherwise ok. We start talking about all the strange things happening in our part of the ‘Stuy – more gang activity since Halloween, etc. and what it all means for us. Because even though a lot of this stuff had been happening over the two year span we’ve lived here (hey we’re not far from the Marcy Projects), we were relatively safe. Our neighbors on our block look out for everybody else and we return the favor. We also participated in block activities and made it a point to get to know key players on the street. But when this happened to my housemate just four houses down, who is a young African American man at that, it really made me think about just how safe my sister and I really are walking these streets and if it’s even worth the risk of staying.
We were thinking of riding it out for a couple more months until the same housemate was taunted in front of the same house where he was robbed and asked if he was looking for his wallet. Moreover, I spoke to one of our neighbors who I’m friendly with and he informed me that this particular house is full of squatters and is a drug den that the block association has been trying to get rid of. And the icing on the cake was my sister called the cops as a precaution this past week because she overheard a kid saying someone was bringing a gun to the block to shoot somebody.
Now, after all the crazy events of this week and a half, there is no doubt in my mind that my sister and I are making the right decision to move. Not out of Brooklyn, but to an area where we don’t have to constantly worry about our safety and be closer to our friends – whether that means Bed-Stuy or not, as long as it’s a good place. I’m happy with our decision, but part of me is still angry and sad about the circumstances that led to this choice.