Instagram is a telegram that streams into your consciousness from online. On this weekend day when usually scrolling through Instagram Erica Leshai caught my eye. She is an artist vlogger and businesswoman. She sings, recites poetry, voices her opinions on recent events (therefore vlogger), pitches her musical talents from her website with beauty care products and dripping artistic earrings. She is pretty and her beauty is inspiring for my sketching. Aside from these obvious talents this young talent has wisdom. Her introspective vlogging is what really caught my attention.
Nipsy Russell, comedian, name inspired Rapper Nipsey Hussle, who lost his life after a shooting in the LA hood. Erica Leshai lives and works in Los Angeles. She used her #AfroChat video platform for spoken word in delivering her response to black folk’s self-degrading reaction to the rapper’s murder. It was her bigger viewpoint that got my attention. I have no details on the specifics of Nipsey Hussle’s demise, yet her idea of his murder being a chess move to lower property value as a ploy by developers that creates and atmosphere of fear and abandonment thus making the land affordable land triggering gentrification. Her examples include Harlem, District of Columbia, and other major cities. More than that, the idea of using aggressive actions, like murder, to start a narrative of our communities being unsafe discourages organic transformation. This pernicious behavior also eliminates the potential for economic development and wealth building amongst those who live in and are from that community. Her insight and challenge to reactionary narratives that make us afraid of our own communities is diametrically different from what we suppose to feel.
Home values are already underpriced for those owned by African Americans. Moving back into the community is not an option. Moving out always was understood as a way to get better housing, protect our families, live closer to better schools, and have better access to walkable stores and shops. The thought of us from the community turning this around could not and often times has not come from lending institutions. Segregation was a double edge sword of forced self-sufficiency and slow development of stable communities or face institutional racism, predatory lending and threats of gentrification on the other. The formula for businessman, rapper Nipsey Hussle’s clothing store, created sparks by returning home and revitalizing in our old neighborhoods from the inside out. His dilemma was becoming a victim to frail and dangerous elements from the community as well as the unseen attempts via violence to our stokes our poor self-perceptions of where we live. This sabotage leaves our neighborhoods vulnerable to fear and flight a self-induced prophecy that begins abandonment, displacement, and finally gentrification.
While this young talent attributes her wisdom to those before her including her Christian minister father and the teachings of the ‘Honorable Elijah Muhammed’ via minister Farrakhan, her capacity of delivery was particular enlightening on gentrification. Perhaps it could do more than that by raising our awareness to possible strategies that could emanate from churches which used to be the center of our neighborhoods. Rather than just watching and reacting to city wide comprehensive plans, perhaps it is time to fully participate and bring the church members along to appreciate ways of ensuring sustainability their communities when facing the market driven conditions that cause gentrification. This level of awareness and sophistication puts churches and communities on notice that what they face cannot stand alone just with God’s graces.