Wednesday, July 27, 2011
When I left Atlanta there were three little words that began popping up in the city that made me cringe. When you see, "Live-Work-Play" you know that THEM are coming.
And in the case of Atlanta, THEM, had been coming just before the 1996 Olympics
THEM had been written about by author Nathan McCall in a book called, THEM, regarding gentrification in his once professional and working class black neighborhood that MLK once walked.
In this case, THEM are two-fold. The first is THEM, the major corporations and housing authority that have been displacing poor and people of color from housing developments for 20 years.
The other THEM are yuppie white folks and uppity, migrant Negroes moving within the perimeters of the Highway 285, the thoroughfare that circles around the city of Atlanta.
Before the 1906 Atlanta Riots described in a poem by WEB DuBois, the city of Atlanta largely served whites, while black folk lived at the perimeters. But you know what race riots do to white people when they don't do a Mississippi burning, they flee.
By 1920s the white flight out of the city caused a switch in the racial demographics. Blacks were the dominant race, and institutions such as schools and churches supported thriving communities.
Now of course, it was blackified, but not totally black owned. Hence the Coca Cola company, a beverage corporation that stole its ingredients from a black man, and pretty much owns the city. Although black folk owned, they still did not own the economic flow, thus the climate of the city still produced disproportionately low-wealth black families who often were subject to seek government assistance.
Then Magic City opened. Just playing! According to Bobby Brown, that club saved his life and about half of the female alumnae of Spelman, Clark Atlanta and Morris Brown.
Anywho, when Atlanta got the bid for the 1996 Olympics, there was a necessary problem that needed to be solved.
What do they do with all these homeless folk, po ass n*ggas and a sprinkle of cr*ckas in the projects smack dab in the middle of downtown Atlanta?
Atlanta had to brand itself as the myth is perpetuated, the "Black Mecca", and land of milk and honey for black people singing kum-baya and patronizing black stores and eating chicken and bean pies.
In reality, there was the continual stench of poverty, and the new stench of classism in the black community, one that pitted old money against new, native ATLiens against these new Negroes that were coming in from New York, California and New Jersey, and all these Bama country ones trying to get citified.
Prior to the Olympics, Atlanta was one of the poorest major cities in the nation. Developers saw this as an opportunity to build economic growth in the city, and put together a plan that left out much of the people who kept Atlanta going. But the city enacted a removal process that they swore would be a local trickle-down for all.
The answer was simple because they took a page right out of South African Apartheid, ironically, a place where Coca Cola loved to do business. First, the poor and homeless were framed as deviants to the city. THEY were the ones bringing it down.
This set up the stage for the neutralization of an Atlanta that had been in placed since the early part of the 20th Century. They bulldozed housing developments and low wealth areas for Olympic Development.
As a result, people were evicted from their homes and thousands of homeless were jailed while 21 acres of west downtown Atlanta were bulldozed.
Now of course, the removal was coated with unmet promises. The city and developers said that the people would "temporarily" be placed in various parts of the city, and moved back into areas that were mixed-income developments.
Mixed-income developments is a plan in which various income levels lived in the same housing units, but with the varied income salaries, property values would go up. And what happened, the people who were temporarily removed became permanently assed out, as a handful moved back, but most were priced out.
And this is not just people on welfare, people who owned homes, inherited land too could not afford the skyrocketing real estate taxes and lost their homes.
But that was the beginning of a gentrified Atlanta. Today, much more has been done to erase the face of the Black Mecca. From the re-routing and price hikes of public transportation to housing scandals where blacks who moved outside of Atlanta Metro to Claytown County and all of those suburbs with shitty housing communities that fall apart in 2 years, inside the 285 is another face. A face of comeuppance.
As the document below shows, Atlanta is free of housing developments, and has been the first major city to do so. Under the administration of black people. Chilling isn't it?
We didn't overcome, we rather have succumbed to corporate interests and our own greed and power impotency.
Click here for an in-depth report of housing displacement in Atlanta as a result of the 1996 Olympics.