Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bobby LeFebre

This poem by Bobby LeFebre speaks about changes in the neighborhood. The poem’s topic is gentrification—the process of new residents with money (the “gentry”) moving into an older neighborhood, often displacing longtime residents. To me, this is not about “urban renewal”; it is truly about “pushing out” the history, people, and roots of urban neighborhoods.

Push Out

I remember when my neighborhood was just called the Northside
Now they are calling it the “Highlands”.
Bilingual bookstores are now Boutiques
and the liquor store is carrying exotic wine.

They’re calling it progress….
Progress on the same Barrio streets
those people once warned their children to stay away from.
Now they flock to the Barrio armed with
developers plotting out a new place to live.

I see the transformation.
They say it is an evolution…….
as if what had existed there before was somehow subhuman, but my neighborhood had history.

The concrete beneath the feet of customers at
coffee shops has a story woven within the patterns of the cement…..
unfortunately its format is not compatible with any of the programs installed on their laptop computers so….
they’ll never get the message.


My neighborhood is changing before my eyes
Old Impalas and Monte Carlos are becoming Mercedes,
Parking spots have been invaded by SUV’s,
and I have to drive to get Mexican food.

They removed the tennis shoes from the power line
painted over a mural of La Virgen de Guadalupe,
and closed another Brown-owned business,
…..they replaced it with a “doggie daycare”.

I remember when the police patrolled the streets,
rollin like thugs two to three squad cars deep,
cuffing before questioning………
Now the Police interaction with the changing
demographic is smiles and handshakes.

Gentrification is as compassionate as a suicide bomber detonating in a preschool schoolyard.

My culture is suffering worse than it was before the push out,
meanwhile, the pushers, they discuss popular culture in an overpriced eatery that used to be a shop that sold herbal remedies for people too poor for doctors and prescriptions.

They have placed streetlamps along the same walkways where the darkness of night provided a shield for drug deals,
graffiti ridden walls have been painted over,
trashcans have been added to every corner,
and there is even a contraption on every light post that has baggies for dog shit.
All of this in the name of beautifying the Barrio.
All of this was asked for before,
but back then……
it was only dirty Mexicans asking;
if they wanted a better neighborhood then why didn’t they just move….


And now it has become so damn pretty that sometimes I have to remind myself of the pain, but some things are just impossible to change,
the blood has been washed away,
but the shape of the stain in my mind remains.

I know why the bricks on the corner building are chipped,
there was a drive-by there,
but prospective buyers don’t know that,
…..they just think it gives the building character.

The sound of profit drowns out the cries of the people who were there before

Gucci shoes erase the remnants of the chalk line that was there before

Before long there will be nowhere else to go.
It couldn’t get much worse

Now don’t get me wrong,
the barrio I knew was not an ideal place for a flower to grow.
There is nothing beautiful about drug deals and Brown on Brown crime.
Nothing luring bout’ streets filled with litter and disproportionate illiteracy rates.

Living paycheck to paycheck has never been fashionable
…………..there was beauty in the struggle though

I received the call yesterday
My landlord informed me he is “negotiating” a deal to sell the property in which my apartment sits.
A deal that would leave him with a profit and us packing…….
We have started to collect boxes.

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