Saturday, September 13, 2008

[Lifestyles] Non-Ghetto Boy Brooklyn Blues…

I live here in the Borough of Brooklyn, well the East Flatbush/Brownsville area to be precise. This neighborhood has a vast cultural mixture of people from the Caribbean and other parts of the world. Every Labor Day I would stand in front of my building and watch the people with their scantily clad costumes walking to Lincoln Terrace Park for the end of the Labor Day Parade. When I was a little kid, I used to sit in my grandmother’s chair right next to the window and stare out of it for hours on end. Outside that window I would watch the world go by. I used to watch the 3 train go back and forth along the elevated train tracks while cars would drive in and out of the Keyfood parking lot below with shoppers going to and fro. I remember going to the parking lot of the Banko Popular bank on my block and playing with my friends the whole day. We would climb the thorny trees, play tag or steal the bacon and sometimes, as lame as it might sound, build forts and play war. Now, that building has been torn down and the parking lot I once played in, had there trees uprooted, paved and replaced with an array of ugly discount furniture stores.

Outside that same window today, all I see is change…

New buildings are being built where dilapidated dwellings once stood. Corporations are moving there stores in to create new shopping strips and forcing mom and pop shops out of places they occupied for decades. These are the changes in the growing effort to renew NYC’s urban areas that I’ve learned to deal with. While these changes have brought back to life a once deserted area, I wonder what price will have to be paid in the long run.

Different types of people are moving in and out of my neighborhood on a regular basis. In my building, it’s been some sort of revolving door. Some are middle class families trying to make a better life for themselves and others are just people who are have no other place to go and it reflects on how poorly they treat the building itself. I’ve come to realize that no matter what changes happen around some people it will not affected those still locked in that ghetto mentality. They are the ones who have become addicted to the allure of the street life glorified by movies, music videos and other forms of media, which depicts young people of color as gangsters, harlots and people of lower class. Hearing children in this day and age, use the “N” word like its water and seeing them announce that they are gangster while wearing clothes that are two sizes to big and calling women atrocious names is appalling.

There was a point where I wanted to fit in, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t. As a teenager I saw people who looked like me, shared a similar culture as I did, but our idealism were completely different. Once I cleared myself of that ghetto frame of mind there is no turning back. I’ve learned that there is more to life then my block or this neighborhood, while other chose to live and die on these streets. Many times I wonder how I fit into all this madness around me. I was not a thug and had no plans on being one. I was not didn’t want a house full of half naked woman, even though it is the most preferred trophy to have according the some forms of urban media. I wasn’t a gang banger whose life mission is to fights over “turf” that I did not own. Reasons why a person would “rep” a block or a housing project that they have no ownership over is beyond me. The interesting part is that the faces of the people who live in my neighborhood, do not reflect to people that own the properties. Interlopers… Yes interlopers, who live in high-end areas of Brooklyn (like Borough Park or Brighton Beach), buy up the quote on quote ghetto properties at dirty cheap prices, thanks to people behaving like free ranged lab rats, scurrying around the streets doing as much damaged as they can in the littlest amount of time. Those same interlopers then will raise the rent to astronomical amounts in order to push people who have been living in those places for years and years out to make those places condos and co-ops. At the end of the day, they are making finical decisions and do not have to care what happens to the buildings as long as they get the rent. Over the years my building has been a place where everyone looked for everyone to a place where everyone is in fear of the next door neighbor. Why? It started with the raise in violence from gangs. Every night I would hear a barrage of gun shots and almost no sirens.

Maybe it’s the sign of our times.

We thin out our own numbers with drugs, sex and violence to help other people get richer. This destructive path that our people seem to be gleefully skipping down without a care in the world has become the norm. When did this happen? I really don’t know when the gangs started to take over the streets of Brooklyn or when this “Thug, get money by killing your own” was the major influence. I hope those same people can find comfort in the street they represent or the bling on their neck when they see that there is nothing out there for them… except free room and board at Rikers University.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it may sound strange to you but i sometimes miss all of the chaos that is called Brooklyn. that is a small "sometimes" though. i left NY because of the chaos. i was always tired of feeling as though i had to "prove something" all of the time. i used to live in Brownsville. i sometimes do miss being on Ralph avenue but i became tired of the attitude that it took "to be on" Ralph avenue. it was always about being "hard or thuggish". i now live in Kentucky and miss the NY lifestyle but i would not want that for the day to day anymore. i have much respect for you and your daily dealings. take care and good luck with your life journey in the happy land of Brooklyn.

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