Browse Tag

gentrification

/

Black Owned Restaurant Fighting For Survival after Legal Battle with Gentrifying Developers

Bintimani is a Black owned restaurant operated by Sierra Leonean natives, wife-and-husband duo Baindu and Sahr Josiah-Faeduwor. Earlier this year, Bintimani, a pillar of Boston’s West African dining scene at the time, was forced to leave the space they’ve called home since 2009.

We caught up with their son, Aiyah to find out more about a situation that is both heart wrenching and heartwarming.

black owned restaurant
Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor

Briefly describe your parent’s journey to the US?

My dad came from Sierra Leone, West Africa in the late 70’s on a student visa with the goals of becoming an engineer, starting a family, and pursuing the “American Dream.” By his 30’s, he had amassed 5 advanced degrees in the agriculture and engineering fields, been working for NASA, and he and my mom were forming a solid foundation for me and my 4 siblings to reap the benefits of their sacrifice.

However, life happened, my parents separated, and my Dad was awarded custody of 5 children under the age of 13. Unable to maintain jobs in such a highly demanding industry, my Dad was forced to figure out another way to support his family. As we hauled our worldly possessions into a small Uhaul, we came to Boston, to live with my aunt, and it seemed my parents’ American Dream was all but deferred.

black owned restaurant
Baindu and Sahr Josiah-Faeduwor operated Bintimani in Roxbury for 11 years until they were evicted. (Terrence B. Doyle/Eater)

What challenges did your parents face as immigrant entrepreneurs?

In 2008 my dad eventually re-married, and he and my step-mom, a recent Sierra Leonean immigrant, chose to be entrepreneurs, as not many “traditional” career paths were available to either of them given their various constraints.

They started a fresh fruit market in Roxbury’s Dudley Square, which eventually became a West African Cuisine restaurant they named “Bintimani” after Mount Bintimani, the tallest peak in Sierra Leone. As Africans, in a historically and predominantly African-American community, they had much adjusting and learning to do to be “accepted” and supported within this community, not just by residents/potential customers, but also by government and business institutions needed to build capacity.

For much of their 13-year journey, they fought with and against the current, to pass health code requirements, in a dilapidated and neglected building, within a significantly under-resourced and overpoliced community. Through determination and quality cuisine, they built a strong and loyal customer base that ultimately garnered the recognition of trusted critics like Boston Eater, which in 2019 named Bintimani one of New England’s 38 Essential Restaurants and featured regularly in their publication.

It would have seemed that my family, even though pivoted and delayed, was on its way to the destination my parents dreamed of upon their arrival to the States — until the Boston Real Estate Collaborative (BREC) purchased the building that housed Bintimani for 13 years with the aims of converting the space into luxury co-living apartments.

What sparked the legal battle between your parent’s business and BREC?

Originally BREC communicated their intent was to close the building down for renovations, and then allow the 15 or so East and West African micro-business tenants to apply for tenancy in the new development upon completion. Without guarantees of tenancy, if/when, or a communicated plan for how these businesses would operate in the interim without a physical place of business, the intentions were clear, that this was a de facto gentrification-induced displacement in the newly re-named district of “Nubian Square.”

Out of options, my dad called me, because he had no one else, but also given my background in community engagement around issues facing BIPOC folks, and a current MBA and City Planning student at MIT. I reached out to my community organizing contacts, and the City of Boston municipal network, and we were able to obtain 1 year commitments to not-evict tenants until construction began, giving the businesses a year to sort out their affairs and eventually leave on their own accord.

This pyrrhic victory not only did not yield the ideal outcome of guaranteeing a sustained plan for this group of businesses, but it also position Bintimani as rabble rousers in the eyes of the developers, putting a target on my parents’ back that ultimately resulted in the landlord’s pursuit of their eviction, catalyzed by the pandemic. Unable to keep up with rent, as soon as the moratorium on evictions was lifted,  Bintimani was ousted. 

How has the community come together to support the business?

Since moving to Providence, Rhode Island in 2009 to attend Brown University as an undergrad, I fell in love with the vibrant, quirky, and deeply interconnected community within the nation’s smallest state. As an involved and engaged community member and agent, by the time of Bintimani’s eviction, I had built a strong network and community of folks who, at the news of my family’s situation, immediately sprung to action offering sympathy and support towards an optimistic outcome.

Buff Chace, of Cornish Associates, a real estate company that owned many of the buildings in downtown Providence, reached out and offered my family tenancy in a prime location at 326 Westminster St, in the heart of downtown. Grateful and honored we gladly accepted the offer and set our sights on moving the family, and our business to Providence. The Boston Globe covered our story, and this led to an even stronger outpouring of support that both encouraged and affirmed the transition to be one that was born from turmoil but had the potential to be an even more fruitful and ideal location for our family business.

What is the status of the business now?

Since being offered tenancy, we’ve sought to raise the necessary funds to complete the build out and fit out of our space at 326 Westminster. We have utilized WeFunder, a crowd-sourced investment platform to raise $50,000 towards the build, as well as successfully obtained a $99,000 microloan from the Papitto Foundation to support capital costs.

In addition to fundraising,  we have begun catering to the RI and MA areas, and have hosted pop ups with community partners in Providence to get our cuisine out to this new market that we’re still learning about and meeting as a new business in the already vibrant culinary scene.

What are your future plans and how can we support you?

Given the ups and downs of our experience, and my background as an urban planner, and believer in the value of community-centered entrepreneurship, we have incorporated into our business plan, and the physical build of our space, the need to support BIPOC entrepreneurs as a critical component of business model.

To this end, we expect to host guest-chefs and vendors, as well as community agents, to utilize and share our space as a launch point, incubator, and community node, that operates to return the value that has been invested in us to land on our feet in this new community. In order to make this possible, we still have a long ways to go towards our needed goal of raising $400K for the build out of our space. What helps most currently is an investment in our WeFunder, contributions to our GoFundMe, and/or support and connection to capital for owners with high-risk creditworthiness.

Beyond the financial support, opportunities and platforms to share our story have been critical to our growing support, and we would greatly appreciate all support to reach more folks who resonate with our story of sacrifice, struggle, and deeply rooted belief in the immense power of community.

Tony O. Lawson


Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram &Twitter

/

Black-Owned Businesses Carve Out Space In An Increasingly Gentrified D.C.

It’s Friday night, and rapper Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” is blaring inside of the only black-owned bar in D.C.’s predominantly white Dupont Circle neighborhood. Its patrons, drinks in hand, are enjoying various items from its Southern-influenced menu, like chicken and waffles and shrimp ‘n’ grits.

But this bar wants to be known for more than just another late-night spot in a city replete with them. It wants to be a space where black people can come together to freely express their whole selves, in a city where such spaces seem to be disappearing.

The Caged Bird in Washington, D.C. TOSIN F/THE CAGED BIRD

The Caged Bird, which opened its doors in July, is the newest bar that seeks to cater to black millennials in a city that was sued for discriminatory practices that promoted gentrification earlier this year.

Washington, D.C., one of the blackest cities in America, has been experiencing an economic renaissance for nearly two decades — but that renaissance is considered nothing more than gentrification by longtime residents. According to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Business Report, “whiter and richer” families are increasingly displacing low- and middle-income families. As affluent families move in, higher rents push out black residents, and black businesses leave with them.

Derek S. Hyra, a public affairs professor at American University and author of Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City, says the District’s redevelopment is disproportionately affecting communities of color.

“With this economic boom, the tax base in Washington, D.C., has grown, but so has racial inequality,” Hyra told HuffPost. “There’s a study by the Urban Institute that shows that white household wealth is 81 times that of black family wealth. There’s immense inequality in the city.”

Dupont Circle has been known as Washington’s central neighborhood for gay life and business for decades. It is a trendy area filled with art galleries, bars, nightclubs and shops. Black business owners weren’t seeing themselves represented in this vibrant area, prompting some entrepreneurs to plant roots in the neighborhood to try and attract black customers.

Brandon Rule, one of the co-owners of The Caged Bird, knows how important it is to have a space for black people, by black people.

“We wanted to combine the power of food, culture and community to foster an environment that welcomes and encourages artistic expression, cultural exploration and diverse experiences in hopes that, together, we can reimagine what’s possible for our culture and community in D.C. and beyond,” Rule told HuffPost.

“Rule, 30, founded the bar with seven others who combined their resources to create a space, named in honor of Maya Angelou’s famed memoir, that is “100 percent owned, operated, staffed and financed specifically by black millennials.” It joined the roughly 2.6 million black-owned businesses in the United States, according to the United States Census Bureau.

On this night, the people inside The Caged Bird are choosing from the specially crafted menu at the venue for DMV Black Restaurant Week, the first of its kind celebrating the best black restaurants in the nation’s capital.

“Andra “AJ” Johnson, a co-founder of the inaugural restaurant week, is a consultant for The Caged Bird.

“Our mission is about setting businesses to succeed by being able to reach the customers they need to reach,” Johnson said, explaining the thought process behind creating restaurant week. “Representation from an ethnic standpoint is low, and from a black standpoint, it’s even lower. It’s all about inclusivity.”

The Brown Beauty Co-Op in Washington, D.C. ERIN MARTIN/@BAGLADIES

That’s partly why Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith, founders of the Brown Beauty Co-Op, decided to open their business in Dupont Circle. The duo recently celebrated the grand opening of their store in December and chose the neighborhood because of the lack of representation in the area.

“It was important to me that if I started a business, I want it to be in the District. Not outside on the outskirts or the suburbs, but be here,” Kimberly Smith, 38, said.

The pair wants the co-op to be known as more than just a shop to purchase beauty supplies. They hope the Brown Beauty Co-Op will also be a safe space for all women of color and a hub that provides mentorship for emerging black entrepreneurs and businesses.

They plan to provide newer brands shelf space to showcase their products and provide feedback from consumers and industry professionals to help them thrive in the market.

“We want to help other businesses,” Kimberly Smith said. “Not every beauty business can be in a Bloomingdale’s or Target, but there are so many people that are making really great products, and we want to give that retail experience to other small, emerging brands.”

“We wanted to show other people that we can have a successful business here in Dupont Circle that is catered to us. We chose this space, not only because it was needed, but to show that we can still be successful even when we target ourselves.”

/

12 Black Entrepreneurs Fighting Gentrification in New Orleans

Black entrepreneurs and business owners are getting pushed out of New Orleans as gentrification brings an influx of affluent white newcomers to the city and real estate becomes more expensive. Businesses owned by people of color have shuttered in historically Black neighborhoods including Treme, St. Roch, and Gentilly.

(credit: NOLA.com)

Although 40 percent of the city’s businesses are Black-owned, they receive only 2 percent of business, said Trace Allen, neighborhood program manager at Propeller, a 501c3 nonprofit, business incubator, and coworking space that addresses economic disparity and racial justice in New Orleans.

To combat gentrification on South Broad Street, Propeller launched South Broad Business Initiative (SBBI), a free five-month program that provides technical support, co-working space, and mentorship to entrepreneurs of color.

“When a brick and mortar succeeds, there are long-lasting positive effects,” said Catherine Gans, marketing and communications manager at Propeller. “Longterm, looking at the (SBBI) program, we hope to provide our businesses with the opportunity to become neighborhood anchors.”

Below, find a list of SBBI-supported businesses bringing “equitable economic development to their neighborhood.”

Black Entrepreneurs fighting gentrification in New Orleans

A Priority One (209 S. Broad Street) is a local family-owned and operated rental car company providing low rates for daily and weekly rentals since 2001.

black entrepreneurs
James Washington Sr. & James Washington Jr. (Credit: Propeller)

NOLA Organic Spa (213 S. Broad Street)

Mackie One Construction (4014 Erato Street)

Emerald Services (4134 Washington Avenue) is a financial services company that provides tax preparation, bookkeeeping, and credit repair to individuals, as well as small businesses.

black entrepreneurs
Ty Davis (Credit: Propeller)

We Bleed Ink Tattoo Shop (4140 Washington Avenue)  is a premier tattoo and piercing studio with a focus on high quality, custom artwork and impeccable customer service.

Trevone Sansom (Credit: Propeller)

The Godbarber Beauty Salon (219 S. Broad Street)

Daiquiri Lounge (4201 Washington Avenue)

Umoja Visions  (4101 Washington Ave ) manufactures and sells a comprehensive hair care treatment system for men, women, and children with excessively curly hair.

Beverly D. Smith (Credit: Propeller)

Chef D’z Café (424 S. Broad Street) is a full service restaurant and catering company.

Chef Donald Smith (Credit: Propeller)

Custom Optical (3137 Benefit Street)

All-Pro Maintenance (2915 Perdido Street)

The Lipstiq Lady Cosmetics provides high-quality, non-toxic, vibrant hair and skin care products.

Tara Simmons (Credit: Propeller)

 

Business owners of color can apply for the SBBI program here.

Source: Curbed New Orleans

/

The steady decline of African-American culture in Washington DC

Under five-foot-tall Virginia Ali, white-haired and frail, welcomes the never-ending stream of customers entering her diner. The 84-year-old woman is the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl, one of the most famous restaurants in Washington DC (District of Columbia). Opened 60 years ago, on U Street in Northwest Washington, it is one of the last vestiges of the heyday of African-American culture in the city.

“When I arrived in Washington in 1952, I realised how prominent and classy the Black community was. We had our own banks, Howard University, two state-of-the-art movie houses, without mentioning all the businesses, doctors, lawyers and architects we had,” Virginia recalls.

Once known as “Black Broadway”, with its many Black-owned businesses and nightclubs, U Street was the cultural and economic hub of the city’s African-American community, until the riots that broke out following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Sacked by rioters, the neighbourhood was left abandoned, only to be taken over by gangs and crack dealers in the 1980s.

Until then, the US capital, home to famous African-American leaders such as abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Mary McLeod Bethune – an educator and advisor to President Roosevelt – had been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights. Already in 1830, 35 years before the abolition of slavery, the majority of the city’s Black population was already free. Washington was also the first city to give African-Americans the right to vote, in 1867, three years before the rest of the country, and to abolish segregation, one year before the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision declaring segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

U Street is now considerably gentrified. Several period buildings have been demolished to make way for luxury apartments and trendy stores, designed for, more often than not, the city’s white newcomers. The less fortunate Black residents, meanwhile, are often forced out by the rising rents. Ben’s Chili Bowl is one of only three Black-owned businesses in the area to have stood the test of time.

A few blocks from there, in the Shaw neighbourhood, the recently renovated Howard Theater has been one of the Black community’s most popular cultural hotspots since it was built in 1910. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Aretha Franklin – almost all the legendary African-American musicians have performed at this venue.

“Look at this photo. This is me playing at the Howard Theater,” says Jimi Smooth, an African-American musician from DC. During his teenage years, this now 72-year-old man used to work as an usher at the famous entertainment hall.

“Howard Theater was a real cultural phenomenon. We didn’t have many places to go, and Howard Theater kept the community together. People would come to see their idols,” explains Smooth.

Like many other symbols of the city’s African-American culture, the Howard Theater, vandalised during the 1968 riots, was also left neglected until a private group took over its management in 2006.

“The theater is the shadow of what it was in the 70s…money changes everything. If you don’t have money, you have to step back. That’s why gentrification brought the decline of Black culture in DC,” he adds.

Go-go music: the rise and fall

In addition to the legendary figures of the African-American music scene born in the city, such as Marvin Gaye and Duke Ellington, Washington is also the birthplace of go-go music. Created in the 1970s, this subgenre of funk with a strong African influence was the pride of Washington’s Black community during the bleakest decades in the capital.

The music bands at the time found themselves having to compete with DJs who didn’t need to stop between songs. Chuck Brown, known as the ‘Godfather of Go-Go’, therefore decided to extend the percussion solos during the interludes to keep people on the dance floor.

Chuck Brown

“Music is the soundtrack of a community. It is its voice. Go-go was for us and by us. We could claim this for ourselves in DC. It was ours,” says Kato Hammond, an African-American musician and journalist, considered to be go-go’s de facto historian.

Like many other African-American cultural riches, go-go also fell victim to the upsurge in violence and crime in the capital during the 1980s. The city, plagued by a crack epidemic at the time, came to be known as the “murder capital” of the United States. The venues of the go-go bands, very popular amongst young people, became the stage of disputes between rival gangs.

“Violence definitely contributed to the decline of go-go music. When two neighbourhoods had a fight going on, they knew where to find the rival crew because everybody would go to the go-go. So the police targeted venues where go-go bands played, to stop the violence,” recalls Hammond.

Gentrification and identity crisis

Weakened by years of economic recession, at the end of the 1990s, the city council launched a plan to revitalise Washington and its poor neighbourhoods by attracting several billion dollars in property development projects. The result: 52 per cent of the city’s poor neighbourhoods have been gentrified since the year 2000, according to a study by Governing magazine.

“The U Street NW and H Street NE corridors have gone upscale, pushing out the places where you could buy tickets, hear go-go music live and purchase your neighbourhood’s unique brand of embroidered sweats,” wrote Natalie Hopkinson, journalist and author of the book Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City, in an article published in the Washington Post, on 11 April 2010.

Credit: David Baron on Flickr

Albert Hillman has been cutting the hair of people from his community for 50 years in his small business on H Street, in the northeast of the capital. Photos of Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Malcom X on the walls of the small barbershop stand as a reminder of the African-American heritage of this neighbourhood, where businesses like Hillman’s are an increasing rarity.

“I receive phone calls from developers who want to buy the building every day. They are offering me US$1 million. Gentrification is good because it brings work, but a lot of people have been forced to leave because of the rent rises,” says the barber, holding up a property brochure.

Grocery stores, funeral parlours, beauty salons and barbershops are among the many Black-owned businesses shut down as a result of the neighbourhood’s gentrification. According to the Urban Institute, which conducts research into political, social and economic policies, almost 68,000 new residents came to live in Washington between 2000 and 2010; 50,000 of them were white. Millennials aged between 18 and 34 accounted for 35 per cent of the city’s population, as compared with 23 per cent for the rest of the country.

For Brandi T. Summers, this is part of the reason for the decline of African-American culture in the city.

“Everyday culture means cultivating Black life, Black owned businesses, small supermarkets opened and owned by Black people, professors and artists, political decisions that keep Black people thriving, access to education and employment, as opposed to laws that tend to be disproportionally against Black people and lead to poverty, incarceration and disenfranchisement; everything that made Washington great for the people who lived here, even when the rest of the country saw it as a terrible place,” she explains.

It is in a bid to stop his community from suffering the same fate that artist and cultural activist Vernard Gray decided to set up a website to register and feature local Black artists from the deprived neighbourhood on the east of the Anacostia River, an area of the capital known for its poverty and high crime and shooting rates. Artist, curator, art collector, Vernard Gray has been fighting since the 1960s to preserve African-American culture in Washington. In 1976, he opened the Miya gallery, an art space dedicated to promoting African-American art, which he directed until its closure in 2001.

“My project is intended to expose those artists and the fact that they reside east of the river. Hopefully, as they get exposed, people will do more business with them,” explains Gray. ”I saw a real estate listing that described the area as ‘up and coming’, which is code for ‘opportunity and affordable’ for people to come and take it over. Developers rename places and claim it as something else, as if nothing had happened.”

By Andréane Williams for Equality Times

This story has been translated from French.

 

/

4 Poems That Show How Personal Gentrification Is – CityLab

To close out National Poetry Month, we rounded up poems that translate gentrification and the housing crisis into personal terms.

Terms like “gentrification” and “housing crisis” get tossed around so much that they’re often stripped of their human context, framed as abstract, hypothetical, and overwhelming concepts.

A good poem can take what is unwieldy and make it specific and human, showing viscerally how policy and development translate to everyday lives.

Dispatches From The Black Barbershop, Tony’s Chair. 2011,” Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

poems
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib –
Photo credit: Airgo Radio

“…jeff got knocked out on east main by a sucker punch that broke up the 4th of july cookout in front of brenda’s hair shop and when he woke up it was a whole foods see that’s why you sittin up here talkin bout you lonely while my rent goin up every month but I still got my name on the door.”

There is a Street Named After Martin Luther King Jr. In Every City,” – Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

“…after all / are you less / of a ghost / if you die on a street / named for a man who / they will say / could have saved you?”

Housing for All,” Tyrone Lewis

Lewis, from the Bay Area, wrote this when he was 12 about his own family’s struggle to find an affordable place to live.

Tyrone Lewis – Photo credit:CNHED

We’ll Work hard

Day by day

‘til everyone has

A place to stay

I shouldn’t see couches

On the sidewalk

I should see a street

Full of U-haul trucks

This Is Home,”Deandre Evans, Will Hartfield, and Donte Clark

This poem, produced in conjunction with The Center for Investigative Reporting, touches on the mismanagement of public housing in Richmond, California and the dreams and needs of people who live there.

 

 

Modified from an article by  Natasha Bakwit, City Lab