Friday, June 15, 2012

Building an Open, but Affirming Community

by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos

The steel flag monuments on Paseo Boricua are the ultimate representation of a conscientious affirmation of our people’s existence, an assertion of our greatness, and a proclamation of an incredible vision of the future. This is not to say that they are barbed wire fences of exclusion. On the contrary, they are welcoming gates to all those who want to learn and be a part of what we hope to develop: a Mecca of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, a cultural and economic corridor on par with any Chinatown, Little Italy, or Mexican enclave.

But to the mainstream media, real estate developers, and I dare say new (mostly white) residents, our community is a barren wilderness; dangerous, obscure, and in need of bulldozing. If not that, Humboldt Park for such folks is an exotic locale, a safari of sorts, to gawk at and revel in its primitivity. This is the discourse of gentrification, the manifestation of long-time resident displacement - it is imposing, exclusionary, and in complete disregard of our history and heritage.

I provide you two examples. The first is the so-called “Riot Fest,” a punk rock festival to take place in Humboldt Park at the end of the summer. Did the organizers consult with the multiple age-old institutions and organizations to see if the community would welcome them? No. Did they speak with the residents of the elderly homes that are across the street where their stages and a possible beer garden will be set-up? No. The lack of communication between the festival’s organizers and the very community of its location is telling of the inconsideration and imposing nature of gentrification. Even more telling is the fact that not one Puerto Rican rockero group is on their line-up and that they will be charging up to $155 for tickets. It is as if this event is not for us to attend.

The second is a community meeting organized by Casa Puertorriqueña last week stormed by two pro-gentrification groups influential in campaigns against affordable housing. They dominated the discussion, made unrealistic and resource-draining demands, and spoke without an ounce of modesty. One of their spokespersons even had the gall to claim that they were the community despite the fact they had only lived here for a couple of years.

We are a community that is open, yes, but any lack of humility and respect - inherent in a true dialogue - on the part of new residents will always be met with opposition. This is what centuries of colonialism has taught the Puerto Rican. The table is open and set for discussion, but it must in the spirit of collaboration with an already established plan of this community’s future.

Originally published in La Voz del Paseo Boricua newspaper, June 2012 edition


Anonymous said...

This meeting was requested by the members of the community you are choosing to slander in your blog post. we did not STORM it. It was our meeting with PRPCC, and we had no antagonistic feelings towards others joining in. We have no hidden agenda, do not wish any harm to anyone, and rather, quite the opposite, want ALL members of the community to be safe.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Right.

Anonymous said...

It was a meeting by the 14th District Police I thought, not of the East Humboldt park neighborhood Association

Anonymous said...

Regarding Riotfest, can't anyone who would like to use the park be allowed to get a permit? Isn't it the city's job to approve or deny a permit based on noise and feasibility? I like all kinds of music and feel that promoters be allowed to pick their own lineup. If there were only one group that was rockero, wouldn't that be a problem for you also? As my husband likes to remind me, it isn't all about you.

Instead of such a negative attitude, why not be excited that a new group of people will be going to visit your area? They might help you toward your community development goal and spend some money at local businesses and maybe even come back again ans spend more.

Anonymous said...

It was not a police facilitated meeting, though they did send a rep. There was also a rep from Ald M's office in attendance. I am just tired of the animosity. Comments like, "Yeah. Right," are hurtful, and set the dialogue back. That comment does not contribute effectively, and that person should stop and check themselves.

The point is this - we are fine with the fest, enjoy that people come to our neighborhood to sample PR food and music, but are not thrilled with all of the gang members coming back to stir up trouble. We wonder why more isn't done to alleviate this problem.

If the fest brings in $100,000/hour, why can't there be more security in the surrounding neighborhoods?

I believe that the organizers also do not want this riff raff to come to HP during fest time, as it causes them a lot of grief, but cannot do anything about keeping them out of the area.

It's quite a conundrum.

Xavier Luis Burgos said...

Thanks for the comments everybody. :-)