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In 1957, D.C. became the first large city in the United States to be majority Black, earning it the moniker “Chocolate City.” That shift was in part due to a function of an expanding Black population during the "Baby-boomer" generation.

Lineage is so important in any community, especially in Black communities. Washington, D.C.'s Black community was self-sufficient, despite the PTSD of segregation and slavery.  This community created the strongest Black community in the country at that time. What was the turning point?  The 1968 riots, then mass incarceration and today the impact of gentrification.

Gentrification occurs when college-educated business professionals or the so-called "gentry class" locate (or relocate) to an urban community resulting in the displacement of low-income, often times long-time residents.

Consequently, housing and living expenses will increase tremendously impacting a variety of local people. Although these communities experience a number of modern changes (increased policing, improved city services and expanded commercial corridors which cater to the new residents), many long-time residents are forced to relocate because of rents and costs that skyrocket due to the appeal for the gentrifying class.

Is DC gentrification the new 21st century colonialism? Developers, realtors, bankers, investors, planners,

architects, engineers, and politicians often have a hand in this redevelopment and displacement phenomenon and act as capitalists in the idealized neo-urban frontier. These actors frequently serve as the elite assuring that specific plans and policies are established for urban redevelopment, and they rarely disclose their proposals to the consumers (the young urban professionals or yuppies) or longtime residents, akin to colonialism. Thus, the argument becomes that these elitists operate exclusively between themselves, serving as venture capitalists, while the consumers (yuppies) are largely left unaware of their relocating implications on the local community.

Gentrification is a continuum of modern man's land and human exploitation. Similar to colonialism, gentrification not only usurps local and economic power to newer and often wealthier residents but there are also implied class and racial components attached to it as well. A number of individuals amass wealth and power through gentrification, and they must be further analyzed since they profit from the process and serve as significant players in redeveloping cities, while scores of urban residents are displaced.

Gentrification reinforces capitalism through economic demands (real estate) while displacing a number of urban inhabitants (local residents). 

The entire process is largely based on speculative real estate and a rental gap between neighbors when a cadre of elite operatives (developers, realtors, bankers, public officials) allow for renters (though oftentimes owners) to rent or purchase residential space at a premium cost in an effort to turn around depilated or distressed urban neighborhoods.

Some see this as a "new frontier" experience in revitalizing overlooked communities.  While gentrification can lead to a positive economic renewal, it more often leads to problematic implications. 

Among these negative consequences includes the displacement of longtime and a significant number of low-income residents who are consequently priced out of their neighborhoods in exchange for new residents with high incomes willing to pay inflated rents or mortgages.

How is this modern phenomenon similar to colonialism? There are interesting parallels since both gentrification and colonialism require an economically empowered few to oversee an operation to economically and politically displace one group for another while achieving financial gain and political power. While colonialism is considered an antiquated term, it nonetheless suggests disempowering one group of people and empowering another, while at the same time an elite group operates the mechanisms for colonialism or in this case, gentrification, to flourish.

Gentrification Profiteer Paradigm

These players above frequently interacted with one another to facilitate gentrification in specific urban neighborhoods -- in an elite model fashion. Only the gentrifying model is different than the military complex, corporate and political elite rubric.

Instead, gentrification is financially based on an elite few (the gentrifying profiteers) prospering from real estate and supposed community development.

Frequently there were and are moments when these profiteers’ exchanged ideas or reinforced an urban oasis vision for a city to redevelop around the yuppie. Financially, bankers provided monetary support while realtors and brokers opened doors to yuppies showcasing desirable properties. Like any other capitalistic entity, money was made and exchanged between all elite actors. Yet it is largely the politician spearheading the public policies to attract the developers to build or rebuild urban spaces for yuppie clients. In essence, public officials are the chief architects of gentrification. From tax abatements to tax credits to grants and other public sector proposals, there were a variety of governmental initiatives that assisted profiteers in countless ways.  Many District residents are concerned with being displaced or priced out of today's District "agenda". 

Rhonda Hamilton 4 DC Mayor asks "Do you want change or more of the same?"

While many policy incentives spurred development in once blighted communities, developers and investors grew financially and became politically dependent on such sources. Why? Because for the developer, tax abatements save not only upfront costs for residential construction, but also entice individuals to rent or purchase a space at a perceived lessened cost.

In the process of this financial gentrification two-step, the moral consideration of protecting the longtime residents' interests is secondary as the colonization phase transcends onto their neighborhood. Rapid displacement of low-income renters occurs in these speculative urban spaces in exchange for yuppies' residential and commercial space. Were the displaced residents' interests an afterthought to the gentrification elite? Similar to colonization, these interests were hardly a consideration by so many gentrifying profiteers. Instead, financial investment in the yuppie-gentrifying business is the chief goal of the elite. The profiteers, the yuppies and the longtime residents were not even in their political or economic spheres of influence. They were for the most part pawns in the process, similar to colonization, meant to financially empower the gentrifying elite. So, what happens to “The Cholate City?” 

Paid for by:
Rhonda Hamilton 4 DC Mayor
Finance Committee,
Thomas Carpenter, Treasurer.
421 M Street N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002
A copy of our report is filed with the Director of Campaign Finance.

Campaign Headquarters: 
421 M St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Phone Number: (202) 486-6037
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