Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Panel 2: Contested Lives


(soft acoustic music) – Alright, well good afternoon everyone. It’s good to see you all,
I’m Karlene Griffiths Sekou and I will be your facilitator of our conversation with
Professor Keisha-Khan Perry. (soft tapping) Is that Professor Keisha-Khan Perry? Oh there you are, okay. (crowd laughing) And as we move through
the rest of our program, we’ll be talking about
gentrification, contested lives, gentrification and the
politics of displacement. So I will go ahead and
introduce Keisha-Khan Perry now then we’ll watch a brief video. Professor Perry will give a brief framing of our conversation and then we’ll engage in dialogue in a conversation. Keisha-Khan Perry received her BS in Spanish and Women’s Studies from Georgetown University and her MA and PhD in social anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently an Associate
Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University where she
specializes in race, gender, and politics in the
Americas, urban geography and questions of citizenship, intellectual history and
disciplinary formation as well as the interrelationship between scholarship, pedagogy,
and political engagement. She has conducted extensive research in Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and the Untied States. Her first book, Black Women
Against the Land Grab, The Fight For Racial Justice in Brazil, the fall of 2013 Minnesota Press, is an ethnographic study
of black women’s activism in Brazilian cities,
specifically an examination of black women’s
participation in leadership in neighborhood associations
and the reinterpretations of racial and gender
identities in urban spaces. Winner of the National Women’s
Studies Association 2014 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book
Award, this book includes an analysis of the relationship between environmental justice movements and land and housing
rights struggles in Brazil. She is currently writing the book Anthropology for Liberation,
that draws heavily from her ethnographic
research experience in Brazil with the emphasis on the complexity of doing activist research amid
racial and gender violence. She is also working on
two other book projects: The Historical Paradox of Citizenship, Black Land Ownership
and Loss in the Americas and Evictions and Convictions, which represent a continuation of her ongoing research on black land loss and ownership in relationship
to the material articulation of citizenship in Brazil,
Jamaica, and the United States. Another ongoing research project is a multilingual and
transnational exploration of black women’s political
work in Latin America. She examines how black women
mobilize political movements across borders and how
they understand themselves as agents in creating
a diasporic community. She has won numerous awards over the years to support her research such as the National Science Foundation
and Fulbright Fellowships. There was no part of this
that I could edit out. We are indeed honored and I might say that Professor Keisha-Khan Perry
is someone that I look to as an emerging scholar and she has been all that one would hope for
as a mentor in this field. So please joining me
with a warm, join with me in extending a warm welcome to
Professor Keisha-Khan Perry. (group applauding) – [Keisha-Khan] Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. I’m not sure if you’re
gonna show the video before I talk or after. – I show the video now. – [Narrator] Gentrification is constantly being talked about. In the past ten years, the
number of Google searches for the word gentrification
has more than doubled and mentions in the news and in literature have gone up, so people are
talking about gentrification. But they often mean different
things when they use the term. Gentrification is a process
of neighborhood change that includes economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood by means of real estate investment and new higher income residents moving in. as well as demographic change, not only in terms of income level but also in terms of changes of the education level or racial makeup of residents. Gentrification is complex
and needs some explaining. To understand it there
are three key things to consider, the historic conditions especially policies and practices that made communities
susceptible to gentrification, the way that central city disinvestment and investment patterns are taking place today as a result of these conditions, and the ways that gentrification
impacts communities. Over the last century, many policies and practices have created
racialized patterns of disinvestment in city centers that have left low income communities of color particularly susceptible
to gentrification. From the 1930s through the late ’60s, standards set by the federal government and carried out by banks
explicitly labeled neighborhoods home to predominantly people of color as risky and unfit for investment. This practice, now known as redlining meant that people of color were denied access to loans that would enable them to buy or repair homes
in their neighborhood. Other housing and transportation policies of the mid 20th century fueled the growth of mostly white suburbs
and the exodus of capital from urban centers, in a
phenomenon often referred to as “White Flight.” Take the GI bill as an example, the program guaranteed
low cost mortgage loans for returning World War II soldiers but discrimination limited the extent to which black veterans
were able to purchase homes in the growing suburbs. In fact, the Federal
Housing Administration largely required that
suburban developers agreed to not sell houses to
black people in order for the developers to access
these guaranteed loans. Left behind in central city neighborhoods, low income households
and communities of color bore the brunt of highway system expansion and urban renewal programs which resulted in the mass clearance of homes, businesses and neighborhood institutions
and set the stage for widespread public
and private disinvestment in the decades that followed. In more recent history,
the foreclosure crisis also contributed to
neighborhood-level vulnerability to gentrification. In low income communities of color, disproportionate levels of
subprime lending resulted in mass foreclosure,
leaving those neighborhoods vulnerable to investors seeking to purchase and flip homes in bulk. Today, both people and capital are flooding back in to these historically disinvested neighborhoods. One reason new people are moving into these neighborhoods is because of their relative affordability. In many U.S. cities the rental market has gotten increasingly expensive and even moderate income earners are on the hunt for lower housing costs. This means that in some
places, they are looking in historically disinvested communities. Often the same neighborhoods previous generations left
behind during the days of “White Flight.” These neighborhoods
are often characterized by older historic housing
stock that appeals to new residents, in close
proximity to city centers where jobs, restaurants and art spaces are increasingly locating. Cities are also investing in revitalizing some of these neighborhoods. For example with improved transit access and infrastructure, in
part to draw in newcomers. On the ground, gentrification may look like real estate speculation, with investors flipping
properties for large profits as well as high end development. and landlords looking for
higher paying tenants. Increased investment in
neighborhood amenities like transit and parks,
changes in land use, for example from industrial
land to restaurants and storefronts, and
changes in the character of the neighborhood as community-run
businesses are replaced by businesses catering
to new residents’ needs. While increased investment in an area can be positive, gentrification is often associated with displacement. Which means that in some
of these communities, long time residents are
not able to stay to benefit from new investments in
housing, healthy food access or transit infrastructure. Instead, lower income families,
often families of color, may find themselves facing rent increases, evictions, or other displacement pressures and left with no other choice but to move to suburban or even ex urban areas, far away from their
jobs and the businesses and service providers they know. This can mean more time commuting, less time spent at home
and increased isolation, depression, and stress levels. For children, displacement can
disrupt educational pathways and generate negative health impacts. Even for long time residents
who are able to stay in newly gentrifying areas,
changes in the makeup and character of a neighborhood
can lead to a reduced sense of belonging or feeling out
of place in one’s own home. For example, unique cultural
vibrancy can be lost as places of worship see
their congregants displaced to faraway cities and towns. In addition, family run businesses and nonprofit organizations
may be forced out as their customer base disperses or as their commercial rents rise
past what they can sustain, affecting the ability of those
who stay to access the goods and services they need. There might also be changes
in neighborhood norms in policing, for example an
increased police presence in order for new residents to feel safe. On the whole, we cannot ignore
that the adverse impacts of gentrification, ranging
from individual health effects to the suburbanization of poverty, are only the most recent wave in a pattern of urban restructuring
that has been imposed upon and negatively affected low income and communities of color over generations. Public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders have the opportunity to implement strategies that
give long time residents a chance to benefit from
increased investment in their communities and even
be part of driving how some of the changes in their
neighborhoods take place. In order to invest in
communities without displacement, policies, programs and
financing tools are needed to protect renters from formal and informal displacement pressures, facilitate the production
of more affordable housing and preserve and upgrade the existing affordable housing stock. Involving community residents in planning and decision making about their
neighborhoods and region can and should be a key piece of
all three of these strategies. Taken together, these strategies can help keep communities together so that everyone can enjoy access to improved schools, better food options,
more job opportunities and safer neighborhoods,
qualities we know make cities and regions healthy and vibrant. (soft instrumental music) – [Karlene] We’re ready for you. How’s the view for you
now, is this better? – Thank you. – [Karlene] Okay, you’re welcome. – She was a very lovely young woman, but it was just one person
that helped me, so thank you. (group laughing) – [Karlene] No problem. – Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this conference and for being so accommodating
and especially you Karlene, thank you so much for the
wonderful introduction and of course for including me
as part of this conversation. I’m hoping that this
will be a conversation primarily because I firmly
believe that questions around not just displacement
but on housing justice and land redistribution
will be important questions of our day. In the same way that
we’ve been thinking a lot about affordable healthcare,
I think we’re gonna have to start prioritize and think
more deeply and carefully about what housing justice looks like for the upcoming decades
and what a true democracy, in the United States for
example, will look like with housing justice on the table. Right so I think I really
hope that it’s more of a dialogue as we move forward. I also wanted to begin with just reading just a brief excerpt from my book Black Women Against the Land Grab, the Fight For Racial Justice in Brazil and there’s a section
that I wrote entitled If We Didn’t Have Water:
Spirituality, Land and Environmental Justice. Right, and then I wanted to
begin by saying, it says, “To begin to comprehend
this inseparable connection between black women’s
religious culture and politics, the words of the late
Brazilian literary scholar a Bahio called Jorge Amado
in his novel Sea of Death.” (speaking foreign language) The quote, “The ocean is large, the sea is road is without end, borders make up more
than half of the world, they are three quarters
of it and all of that belongs to Iemanjá.” Unquote. In the African diaspora
religion of Candomblé practiced by the vast majority of Bahians, Iemanjá is the highly revered
goddess of the sea primarily, commonly known as Mães da Águas,
the mothers of the waters, the mother of the water. Each year in Salvador, February
2nd marks the most important days of celebration annually. The Festa de Yeye Omo
Eja which takes place in the humid midcoastal neighborhood. With more resources today, particularly government sponsorship, the festival has been
been transformed, mutually practiced into a massive cultural project interesting both local and national and international tourists. The dominant ceremonial
presence of black fisherman in Candomblé with religious
leaders most of whom are women, reminds us however that
although Agua de Meninos is now is now a predominantly
white elite neighborhood black fishing colonies have historically have historically occupied
coastal lands of Salvador and have carried out these traditions since the slavery period. So the neighborhood that I
focused on in my own work, Gamboa de Baixo is now
one of a few coastal black urban fishing colonies
that exist on the Bahian coast. In two Yeye Omo Eja festivals that both occurred simultaneously, the large one in the Água dos Meninos neighborhod and the smaller one in their neighborhood. Like in most fishing
communities, local residents paid homage to the goddess of the sea for protecting the fisherman
and fisherwomen while they work after supplying the sea with
sufficient fish, an important natural resource that
sustains the local economy in African-inspired culinary tradition. More important, Gamboa de Baixo residents expressed their gratitude for Iemanja for protecting their children while they play on the
neighborhood beaches. And partly what did I talk
about a lot in this book, and I actually had no intentions to talk about Afro Brazil religion. In fact, I avoided it
primarily because in Salvador the expectation of an
anthropologist is that you did more research
on religion or Candomble or you’re doing research on let’s say a cultural practice like Capoeira. Right so I tried to avoid
it and I found that it was impossible to not talk about
how Afro Brazilian religion deeply inspired the tenants
to fight against evicions (audio distorting) that created what they
call a wave of clearance of predominantly ethnic goods as they were modernizing
in cities like Salvador. Alright so that’s what I was
actually in essence forced to take into consideration. Not just how inspiring
the religion was in terms of the kind of strength it gave
you but how necessary access like to resources such as the
sea was for the sustenance of their communities and livelihood. So I think it’s important
that oftentimes when we think about the structural
forces of gentrification that it’s certainly
fueled by a long history of colonialism and colonization
of cities but also some of the underlying questions
of racial capitalism that underline these decisions
that even inform books like this one, if you haven’t
read N. D. B. Connolly’s book A World More Concrete, Real Estate and The Remaking of
Jim Crow South Florida. What the essence is that
oftentimes in these contexts the human beings that
are profoundly impacted by these processes get lost. And the cultural practices,
the community practices, the ways of being I think
oftentimes get lost. And there’s a way the
abstract oftentimes take over. So gentrification is not just
a displacement and the loss, there are actual people
that are being mobilized and lost in the process. So I would say that
over the past 50 years, ongoing work have been created around these primary questions that I hope that we can
discuss today, right. So one is how we understand
the key questions of blacks’ position
specifically the loss of land, territorial rights, mass
evictions and housing demolitions, and forced displacement as
a form of anti-black record. Right so while I document
some of the symbolic and cultural practices that
have profoundly impacted, I want us to think about
what happens when we think of the question of gentrification and people being pushed out
of modernizing neighborhoods, what it means as a form
of anti-black record. Also, part of the argument of
all of my work has always been that you can’t about black dispossession without how police
violence and racial terror, really works in tandem
with the destruction of black women reference. So in essence, racial terror
in terms of state violence and mass incarceration and
so forth work in tandem with mass evictions, the
destruction of black urban neighborhoods and gentrification. Right so I want you to think
about one of the first things that we see that is not really mentioned in this neighborhood is the
first thing that appears in a gentrified neighborhood
is increased police presence. So partly the neighborhood has to be safe for the new colonizers that so I’m sure you’ve seen
this in Boston for example. Where neighborhoods that
are in so called transition immediately have an
increased police presence. And what you see is that stop-and-frisking
increases for example. So in my recent work
Evictions and Convictions, I documented and looked
at and analyzed is how in these neighborhoods that were changing, the numbers of stop-and-frisk
increased tremendously. Another factor is that even
looking internationally, when I was doing my research
first of all I had no intention of doing research on police
abuse or police terror. But people saw that as always
being part of the process of trying to eradicate and
eliminate this whole khalifa. Increased police presence,
saying that black folks are criminal, justifying
the presence by saying ya know it’s a bunch of black folk criminal, prostitutes and so forth. And this everyday terrorizing
of the neighborhood that would justify the so-called
“slum clearings,” right? Also a key kind of argument
and point that I wanna make that I hope we can talk a little
more about what this means, is how these predominantly
black urban spaces are should be understood as always
racialized, gendered terrains of domination in which
black women’s politics are deeply connected to resistance against your direct nation as a practice of cultural rule and dispossession. And let me unpack that and
say that some of my work has really looked closely
in terms of documenting the everyday experiences
of black women specifically in urban spaces. You look at oftentimes how black women experience,
they wrap this up a lot people equate it, a lot of the discourse about police violence and
police death and killing focuses primarily on black
women or black men dying in a pool of blood or during
police confrontations, right? Partly what I’m arguing is that
if you look at for example, instances when black women,
maybe the police has caught one of them at the welfare office a and there were some recent
cases that we’re seeing. Or even black women
bullied on the sidewalk or at a pool party, that
there are constantly these, or the music’s too loud. There are constantly
these constant conflicts and motives of confrontation and just violence so
that these spaces become really key spaces of trying to kind of take a claim and ownership and
domination over these spaces. Right so as you look at
some cities they’ll say you know, there’s a lot
of nuisance laws where the repurpose of nuisance laws where the police has been called on black women and even just poor people
who are brought there. So I want you to think about
that these spaces are just are always racialized and
gendered and profoundly impacted how the racialized and the gendered core experience these spaces. I think, I can’t remember
the name of this woman, but she recently for
example died while trying to go down a flight of
stairs in New York right in the six subway. And I think about how
much money is spent on policing the city of New York, the people who are jumping the turnstile, but little has been spent
in the infrastructure that would have avoided her killing. So while you’re waiting
for black women to be shot by police, you’re not going
to see these other spaces that black women are experiencing. The deadly impacts of poor infrastructure, of increased police spending et cetera. So I just want us to keep that in mind. Also that this kind of
dispossession of housing, land et cetera, forclosure. If you think of police processes,
that this has also been at the center of activism
throughout the Americas so from North America
all the way to Brazil. As part of my own work is that
there’s been a lot of focus on what Wood calls the Black
Land Heist that informs kind of that all the
discussions about the fight after life after slavery and globalism. And I say this because a lot of the early famous scholars,
black famous scholars, they focused primarily
on public education, housing, et cetera and a lot my work had been
trying to kind of get us back to our feminist roots to look at some of the material dimensions
of not just anti-black racism but also the kinds of activism
that had emerged as a result. Right so I think if we really are trying to understand social, black social work throughout the Americas I’d
say housing is at the center, the fight against dispossession
and displacement is at the center of those social movements. I would also kind of add,
and I think that’s something I’d like for us to talk about today which is that oftentimes both
these activists will ignore but black women are key
political protagonists mobilizing at the grassroots
against forced removals and for police abolition for example, for better infrastructural resources, buses and the transportation development, that they are at the forefront
of these conversations. And always I would say
offer critiques against venture capitalism that a lot of us are oftentimes not paying attention to. So I think that a lot of
my work had been trying to get attention to those kinds
of activists, so the woman in the neighborhood that in
the city of Salvador Bahia that is concerned about
her access to the beach in order to practice religion. But that woman also has her
children she’s concerned on how they’ll get to
school, how she’ll get to work early in the morning. And even in cities like Rio de Janiero where one of the first things that happens is that they’ll change, to really promote racial discrimination,
is that they’ll change the transportation system to
make it even more difficult for poor black people to access the more privileged and kind
of public parts of the city. And for those of you now, I
won’t take up too much time so we can have a real
conversation, but those of you who are knowledgeable of for example, the assassination of Marielle Franco, she was shot and killed last year. One of the main parts of her
political agenda was really about improving neighborhood
infrastructure but also improving for example public
transportation, that made it that she felt and many argued
were discriminatory in terms of how it made it inaccessible
certain parts of the city. So one of the things
that’s most noticeable for example during the
development of infrastructure of the Olympic Games or the World Cup is how they basically made it
more difficult for poor black commuters to reach the
areas where for example where tourism, where tourists
frequently frequented. So partly what I’m suggesting here is that we think critically about
how all of these processes are interconnected and
also the kinds of activism that comes out of these experiences at the grassroots and the formal level. And I would just like to
kind of open it up for more of a conversation by also
saying that the significant part of my work is not just
focusing on the displacement and the violence that takes place but also the kinds of proposals
for urban redevelopment that are more inclusive, that
comes out of neighborhoods in terms of socialized housing, in terms of collective land
rights, and other kinds of projects that promotes in the tradition of black activism in this country and throughout the diaspora
that promotes communalism, that promotes a much more inclusive form of engagement in urban spaces and beyond. So I’ll stay here and
we can open it up more for a conversation. (group applauding) – [Karlene] Thank you
so much Professor Perry and I just wanted to also
put that in conversation with some of the particular discourses that are raised typically when we’re talking
about the changing contours of urban neighborhoods or
displacement of people, right. Who is displaceable,
what bodies, what lives are rendered disposable
or rendered displaceable? And the argument often is that gentrification is good, it’s actually community reinvestment, community redevelopment. And that with these neighborhoods,
with the revitalization of these neighborhoods come
an infusion of capital. You have an infusion
and influx of businesses and entrepreneurship and
who is included in that and who is left out, right. And with that the cultural
erasure and erosion. I know perhaps six
months or so ago if that, early last fall there was
an incident in Brooklyn, in a particular segment of
Brooklyn where a black man was, who had mental illness,
someone called the police on that black man. And this story happens
in terms of the policing or over policing that
Professor Perry has mentioned with gentrification or
said revitalization, comes this policing. And the incident in Brooklyn
is that the police was called by a new neighbor, someone
new to the neighborhood and this gentleman ended up being killed. I just thought of this but the neighbors and those who have been long
standing community members know this man. They know that he has mental illness, the never called the police on him. He is a part of the community. And so there is an understanding. But when you have others who are coming in who are not a part of the
cultural, communal fabric and who subscribe to a
different set of values and who don’t take time
to understand and learn and be in relationship to the community in such a way that those
who have been there are honored, then you have
this antagonistic, violent, colonialist relationship
with the communities. I mean in addition to
pushing folk out because of the economic inaccessibility to housing in particular. Those are, you know we are all
familiar, many of us anyway with Pool Party Patty, you
know, people who call the police on black people in the United
States, around the country, or Barbecue Becky. And all of these incidents
where black bodies are not supposed to be in certain places and are therefore
criminalized and displaced through the criminal
justice system, as it were. So this is all a part of
the textured conversation among other things and in local context. Boston is perhaps the fourth
fastest was the last report that I heard, fastest
gentrifying city in the country, with the typical studio in Boston now averaging
about two thousand dollars. Right, this week alone two
elderly women in Mattapan are being kicked out by their
landlord because he wants to raise the rent, and
they’ve occupied and lived in that community for years
and they have nowhere to go, they’re on social security. And these are the kinds of day
to day narratives and stories that are happening in
conversation with this. There’s a lot of cover, we
can talk about the border and immigration and
whose lives are contested and whose lives are displaced. But let’s get to a
dialogue and if we have, do we have any questions
for Professor Perry or comments on the subject, yes? – [Woman] Yeah, I was sort
of just thinking you know in terms of what possible
ya know sort of solutions to begin to deal with this
question of gentrification? So many years ago, the CRA, the Community Reinvestment Act was something that was
sort of pretty popular and this was a little before
particularly in Boston ya know we had the crash
and so forth and everything. But is there any like, legal strategies to look at how to deal with the city, the state,
and the federal government or even the banks in that
fact, for them not really investing in communities
in the way of giving loans to community people but
then giving loans to others who had capital and so forth. Because the real question
becomes what is equity, what is value and how
they judge those things? And particularly if someone’s
been in the community for 30 years, they’ve created
value in that community. So someone become a benefit, so is there any legal strategies to begin to hit the various
institutions with the city government, state
government and also sign off on these federal government
as well as the banks, to figure out how to really address this, because it’s a very very
serious issue nationally. – [Keisha-Khan] Right. – [Woman] With the fact you
know, I’m teaching at U Mass. We got professors can’t even live here, forget about students living
in the community anymore. They recruit professors where
they gonna live way outside of the city because of
the high cost of this. So you guys make like 75 thousand dollars and it’s hard to live in the city. – [Karlene] That’s right, that’s right. – That’s a really important
question and I probably won’t be able to get into
some of the nitty gritty about legal strategies
even though I think a lot of I would say the best
folks to talk about that are the grassroot organizations
that are probably part of a much larger national
network such as Right to the City that have been mobilizing
and finding loopholes. Also if we think of the
recent Amazon problem in New York, that social
activism actually works right. They heard from activists for example, and through others who
have, were not only writing how Google destroyed our communities, how Amazon had previously
destroyed communities elsewhere. If you look at home prices
in places like Oakland and Seattle, you’ll see
precisely how the big group and the invasion of these big corporations have decimated public school systems as well as any sort of affordable housing that had previously existed, right. But I think the important lesson there is not just how to mobilize
the law, the law oftentimes we understand work in favor with capital, but how activism actually
does have an impact right. So I think that is the
important thing to think there. I think there’s also
another point that came up that Karlene mentioned and as
well as you just mentioned, there’s something to be
said about who’s considered not just displaceable but also disposable. And I want to draw upon
the Frantz Fanon’s idea of “zones of non-being.” There’s a collective sense
that these communities are already zones of non-being even before the development takes place. Alright so this essence
that when you start to think about where they’re
building the new highway, where to build the new Whole Foods, wherever who is gonna get left behind. Who’s gonna get either eradicated, or totally eliminated,
who’s gonna be killed as a result of increased police actions. It is that black lives
are given little value in this society and I would say globally which is the connection that
I’m making to South America. So I think those are kind of
key continental issues that we need to think about. That even before the police encounter, before the thought about where
we’re going to build this or where we gonna do this,
is how people understand the meaning of black life. And I would say that black
life holds little value in relationship to capital. And so I think that’s
something to think a lot about. Also I think that the irony is that I think people think
about is that black culture, people culture, they’re all
part of what a lot of people are seeking when they go to these spaces. But when they get to these spaces, the very black culture becomes a nuisance. So the ice cream truck is a problem, the loud black woman is the problem but that sense you have
these particular communities that get access to this type of culture. The hip-hop that was always too loud that you previously consumed, the suburbs is now too loud for you. So I think there’s a way that it’s irony of how culture operates in these moments. And in the case of Brazil, Brazil understands itself
as being primarily, in terms of Afro Brazilian culture,
is that the center of what is Brazilian culture
or the actual black people who reproduce so-called,
that kind of national culture can’t be in these new
modernizing spaces that become a key part of how Brazil
understands itself as a modern nation. And I would say the
same thing happens here. What is American culture? What is American culture? But the very people who
produce that culture are not permitted in these new
coveted modernizing spaces. – [Karlene] Mm hm. – So the very black culture that produces the hip-hop that we
hear everywhere, right, that predominantly whites are consuming, we can’t have them live next door. I think those are some
experiences that prove this point. And I think another part
of it that I think that N.D.P. Connelly points out in this book is that there’s always some level of negotiation in the
part of black people. Right so what I say
basically that’s the trouble of how homogeneity works
is that there’re always some black people in the
community that oftentimes proves this discourse around development, around advancement, around
that gentrification is good. That actually we’re gonna do better off and then also negotiates on
the part of the community to their detriment. Right, so I think those are something to kind of keep in mind as well. – [Karlene] Yeah, and
also just to give you concrete resources, City Life
in Urbana does that work. Dorchester Not for Sale,
in other parts of the U.S. By the Block where you have
some really radical grassroots folk who are organizing. I think of cases, this
is happening of course in the United States and abroad and of course the Brazilian context. But I was in London and working with BLM in London but a group called Sisters Uncut,
a radical feminist group in that their sole design was to disrupt this
process of social housing, that was being sold 60%
to private corporations. And the laws there are different but they literally were occupying
buildings and preventing and disrupting displacement of families. Year round activists
coordinated to occupy buildings and the refusal. And the same thing is
happening in Italy against the fascist government of Salvini. Antifa groups are playing
a running flank rather to shield refugees who are coming through, who have no housing,
who have no place to go and other low income populations
who are being displaced. And in those contexts you’re
able to take over buildings and the laws are such that
it is not an easy process to displace people. Right, in Italy it’s
actually against the law to displace people from housing. So it takes years and
years and years and years. And so there is a dimension
of policy in addition to law in the United States that I think we must address here. – [Keisha-Khan] Right, right. – Yeah so yes, Esmera? – [Esmera] Yes, I wanted
to thank you as well for spending some time with us. I’m really a fan of some of your work. – Thank you. – [Esmera] And I’m
curious so what you said actually struck a few
chords with me particularly around the ways in which
culture, Afro Brazilian culture and transnational maybe black culture and the argument centers and
sort of produces this capital sort of market that particularly in Brazil you see the black lives and black bodies not being valued as
much as they should be. Yet when they’re in
spaces, and I’m gonna try to like word this ’cause there’s
three parts to my question, when you I’m curious as
someone who practices Capoeira and was in Brazil last year, sort of practicing Capoeira within a communidad,
and seeing how Capoeira in Cinelândia Square for example, is made for market consuption, it’s viewed as a tourist attraction and
is utilized in that way. Yet to your point it’s,
the lives are not valued. What are the I guess, how do you view sort of
that particular process or that cultural practice in
this project of displacement. If that makes any sense. That’s one piece of the question
and then the second piece is centering more around
what this, when you said house demolitions for example in Brazil. What comes to mind is house
demolitions in Palestine. And I’m curious if there
are any connections between the two and if
they look differently and I’m basing this off of an
experience being in Palestine and seeing house demolitions there. And then being in Brazil
and not necessarily seeing the same sort of housing
demolitions but understanding that the infrastructure is created
in such a way where people were only allowed to build
on top of their houses. They weren’t allowed to build horizonally if that makes any sense. – Thank you so much for your question. I think part of what I’m
suggesting here is looking at, so I’m really thinking about
this in relation to Brazil but I’d make the same argument
for the United States. And the argument is that black people only serve a
particular kind of purpose. Right so I think for
example, you can not sustain, there is no tourism, there is
no nation without black people in the Brazilian context for example. Right so part of the key
to Connolly’s argument is that even at all levels, black people not only
in the Brazilian nation but also in sustaining in life, right. So this morning for example,
I walked up talking to one of my friends who’s an activist and I said are you gonna be taking
care of, are you gonna be doing Carnival? What are you gonna be doing? And she says well you know, I’m working. And I said really you’re
going to it of course. And she said well, I
tried to get Saturday off but the woman who owns the house won’t let me get Saturday off. She has a six, five bedroom,
six bath house, dog and cat. And the reality is that in
order for her to go enjoy all of the Carnival and all of
the music that black folks are playing and producing,
it also means that there’s a black woman who then has
to maintain their house to allow that to happen, right? But also, the local
neighborhoods, and I think this is where transportation starts to play, is that those neighborhoods
historically were always close to wealthy neighborhoods. So black women and domestic
workers and all kinds of workers would live in proximity
to these wealthy families where they could go and
work, but now they’re saying well you don’t have to live
so close anymore, especially on these lands that are
considered to be kind of coveted, coastal, part of the newer
kind of global discourse around what’s considered
beautiful, beachfront. Historically in a lot of these countries, beaches were where black people occupied. They were considered the
poorer, more undervalued lands. Right, so I think there’s a
sense that you only are valued insofar as your labor as
domestic workers, your labor as cultural workers but certainly
not your value as people. And what’s happening now is a lot of folks have theorized is that there’s
now a surplus labor right, because of machines, washing machines and other
kinds of other machines, that black bodies are
increasingly disposable. And I would say that across the Americas, because their labor is
basically no longer necessary so whereas the past, and that is what N.D.B. Connelly argues, in the past people would actually go to
great lengths to make sure that black folks were not incarcerated. Nowadays the surplus
labor is being pushed out oftentimes through mass
incarceration and in court. And as well blatant
elimination, killing and death. So black lives actually equal
put out in terms of labor. So I would say, this is
one of the contradictions of what it means to be a
nation that understands itself as being kinda Afro Brazilian in culture but the sense insofar as
they produce that culture to produce a particular kind of labor, when labor is no longer
necessary especially as it’s kinda consumed even more, through beat culture and so forth. Their bodies are disposable and certainly their neighborhoods are disposable. – [Karlene] Thank you. – And in your question, I’m
sorry, I missed the part about demolition. Demolition as folks like
Matt Davis have documented are common practices
throughout the Americas. How many of you probably
remember growing up with housing projects
and seeing high rises? Newark, New Jersey which
is where I grew up actually you could see the landscape
was a lot of high rises. If you’re driving through New York and you go to particular
areas where social housing you know, were increasingly
kind of being demolished that was part of their strategy always. So I think that demolition
in terms of rebuilding and clearing, basically called
slum clearance, oftentimes funded by major institutions
like the World Bank. Demolition was a significant part of that. You would just clear the
land, and clear the land, and the people would be
displaced and the history and everything else would go with it. Right, so I think if you want to read more on just the practice
and logic of demolition, I would say Matt Davis is probably one of the best persons for that. – [Karlene] Great, thank you. Do we have, we have time for perhaps one more question before we– – And I’d just add one
quick thing Karlene. – [Karlene] Sure. – Is that in the front, in
the beginning of my book I start off with a neighborhood Palestina, and the name of the
neighborhood is basically named inspired by Palestine and I
tell the story of how Dona Telma is standing in front of a
bulldozer in the neighborhood of Palestina. Palestine in Salvador,
trying to avoid the bulldozer from coming down onto her house, right. There were several communities
throughout Latin America that are named Palestina, are
named based on communities in Palestine and I would argue
that it is out of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. – [Karlene] That’s a great
connection, thank you for that. Do we have one more question? If not, we will wrap up. – [Man] I had a question. – Yes. – [Man] So, I’m white and I am, was in one of these neighborhoods like I not too far from
where this gentleman was killed by the police in Crown Heights I believe that was. I actually lived in Flatbush
before I came to HDS, and so I’m sort of wondering, you know how, not necessarily, maybe like a 101, of people sort of get wrapped into, you come into one of these neighborhoods. I know even now I’m here
at HDS I’m not too far from Central Square, which was they used to call it Central Scare and so there’s this idea
that before I even came into, to come here to HDS as
a student, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Like I didn’t know that I was sort of in some ways contributing to this process and so I’m wondering
how as a white person, to be like a better ally. To be, what are some like
basic things that we can do once we’re wrapped up in this, once we come into a neighborhood,
see these things going on, what to do you know, what to do about it. – Hm, that’s always a tough question. I teach at a primarily white institution in courses in urban
politics for many years before Mike Brown was shot and killed. And I would say that I
attracted mostly white students, they were asking very similar questions as that as I taught those issues. I would say that the
best people to learn from in terms of the kind of really important are the white activists that
have been through the work, that have been women of conscience who are working very hard around not just questions around
kind of racial violence but just generally around
kind of housing justice and so forth. And I think what folks
oftentimes fail to recognize and understand is that social housing and just like social healthcare,
socialized healthcare, like public education,
really benefits all of us. Capitalism, racial capitalism and the way that it is developing in places like the United
States, really has worked to the detriment of poor of all people. The reason why for example you can afford good
quality housing for less and you’re not using a
significant portion of your income is because, I mean it’s
precisely at the heart of how this impacts,
you know how it impacts, for example, black folks. So to look at you know the homeless population on the streets of Seattle, you look at
the homeless populations in Los Angeles, it has profoundly
impacted whites as well. So I think when people
start to really understand how the struggles are
interconnected and it’s not just I think you can begin to think
about how you can participate and not just though in terms
of a gentrifying neighborhood but in terms of anti-eviction
troubles and so forth. The key thing if you look at the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project that operates out of Oakland and New York. I mean those are projects that are majority led by whites
who have kind of in solidarity with the communities of color. I mean I think there
are, like I said I hate to oversimplify it but there
are white people out there doing good political work that you can learn from, that oftentimes I would say not perfect but
there’s certainly, you know they’re people out there
doing the work and I would say that whether it be leading, you know, some of the grassroots organizations
that Karlene mentioned, but that they see themselves
as profoundly connected because I think the moment
when you start to think about well, I’m you know, maybe I should rephrase this and say, that there’s a way that one
of my colleagues calls it kind of half connected, the reason why is a lot of us are half connected. Is that the reason why we
start to re perpetuate this because we don’t see ourselves as being profoundly connected
in very important ways. So I think that’s yeah,
I would say that there are just very good conscientious
white folks out there that are doing the work that
you can, first of all in terms of these organizations that exist, people are out there putting
their lives on the line, mobilizing, they’re using
their technical skills for the advancement of our
social movements, um yeah. I hope that helped you. – [Man] Thank you, yeah totally, totally, and thank you for the anti– – Thank you thank you, but
there’s student feminist studies at, her name is Erin, I
can’t remember her last name a feminist in that group. She’s one of the folks who founded the Anti-Eviction Mapping
Project out of Oakland primarily because the housing
justice movement is a movement for all people, I mean,
if you see the impact of what happened to how
Seattle was decimated. I think if you start to see how these, how this is impacting all of us, I think you would see how
gentrification doesn’t benefit not just poor black folks
or Latino and brown folk but how we shouldn’t as people be spending such a significant
portion of our income on housing, in the same way
that we also don’t have access to good public education
and good public healthcare. – [Man] Mm hm. Thank you. – [Karlene] Great well thank you thank you for your questions. Professor Keisha-Khan Perry, thank you so much for your work. – Thank you, I wanted to say
thank you again for all of you. I know it’s always awkward
to Skype and the sound and the movement and so forth
and if it looks weird it’s also ’cause I was standing
up, I had to sit so. But I thank you so much for your questions and if any of you have any, if you want to follow up
on any questions via email please feel free to do so,
and a lot of the time names of organizations that escape me but if you send me an e-mail I’ll try to send you the information,
so thank you so much for your questions and your attention. – [Karlene] Great, thank you. (group applauding) (acoustic instrumental music)




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *