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Max and Sara on Their Role in Gentrification

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Max – “I think that we are really conscious of our own role in the gentrification process of Petworth. Gentrification is a slow process and I think about it a lot. Sadly, just being conscious of gentrification does not change things, but I try and do my part in the neighborhood and be respectful to the community. I, like many artists, musicians and students, moved here for the cheap rent and to be around my friends. I’m not trying to change the neighborhood or tell people how they should live. But, I realize that I am part of a wave of white people moving into Petworth and, in doing so, people start to lose their white fright and the neighborhood will continue to change. Before living here, I was in Columbia Heights. In that neighborhood, there are lots of points of contention between what was there and what is replacing it. I have family that has lived there for the past twenty years and we saw the area change from a few small businesses into condos. The whole thing happened so fast.

It stresses me out to think that a lot of people don’t have the right attitude when they move to a place like Petworth.

Sara – “From what I’ve heard, Petworth has been being gentrified for the past ten years or so. White people started moving in because there are beautiful houses with yards and the real estate is pretty cheap. From what I can tell, it has not been nearly as gentrified as Columbia Heights, but there are a lot of tense feelings here. I live in a group house with four white men. We talk openly about gentrification with our neighbors. I think that it is important that you know your neighbors and understand the history of the place. Too many people don’t do that and that is partly what gives the term gentrification such a bad connotation. If you have that kind of camaraderie with your neighbors, it really lessens the tension. That doesn’t mean it goes away, though, as gentrification is a very complicated and painful process.

“I used to work at Domku. That place is a very gentrifying force in Petworth for the better or worse. Many of the clientele would come in complaining about the parking or neighborhood. They would say we need more parking or make comments about being in the ghetto. I was like, you mean we should knock down people’s houses so you can get to your brunch easier? This place does not exist for you to just come here and tell the neighborhood how it should be. Look, it is important to be in touch with your white privilege and be conscious of the fact that many gentrifiers come into a place where they are not the majority and act like they are. This is an issue that I think about every day. It stresses me out to think that a lot of people don’t have the right attitude when they move to a place like Petworth.”

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