It's no news to anyone that for years New York City was browning, so to speak, except in certain neighborhoods (the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, SoHo, parts of the West Village, Tribeca, etc.), as hundreds of thousands of White residents left for the suburbs of Long Island, the northern counties, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other hospitable places near and far. The nadir of New York's image as a multiethnic, chaotic city came, I think, in the 1970s. The Blaxploitation films, and subsequent ones like Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, Fort Apache, The Bronx, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Gloria and the hilarious The Out of Towners are just a few of the films reflectiong this era of the unlivable metropolis, and there are countless others, extending well into the early 1990s, like Spike Lee's masterpiece Do the Right Thing.
As has been clear for since before 9/11 and certainly since then, that's changed. As have the demographics of New York City: there are now more White residents and fewer African Americans, but also more Asians, more Latinos (who can be of any race), and, as always, a lot of immigrants of all racial backgrounds. A while ago I posted on the falling numbers of African-Americans in New York City, which is becoming unaffordable for people of any race who aren't very rich, and as the linked New York Times article, White s are returning to and Blacks are leaving the cities noted, I imagine, for wherever's more affordable, especially during a period of wage stagnation and rising prices. The article also notes that despite the ethnic transformation underway, New York possesses an ethnic equilibrium that few other cities or metro regions in the country can boast of. Nevertheless, as more and more poor and working class people, especially brown and black ones, are dispossessed and exiled and Manhattan in particular, but Brooklyn as well becomes ethnically and economically monochrome, where will the people who keep the city running--the people who person the service jobs--live, and will the city that remains still be a draw?
It isn't only New York, though. Hurricane Katrina and its disastrous aftermath drove out a sizable portion of New Orleans's Black community, which has dropped from 67% to 58% of the population. (The city overall has recovered only about 60% of its population.) To the horror of the world and the delight of right-wing Republicans and some real estate magnates, black New Orleaneans were scattered to all corners of the country. Many of the discussions I've seen about the reconstruction of New Orleans note that there appears to be little more than lipservice paid to bringing back a large portion of the working-class and poor Black people or to creating a city that would improve their lives. The aim is to create a tourist-friendly living museum, which chunks of Harlem, the East and West Village, and many other parts of New York have become. (On a Times blog, historians Madhulika Khandelwal and Joshua Zeitz offer somewhat different, enlightening perspectives.)
More broadly, gentrification has also changed other cities, like Washington, DC, which is steadily losing its Black population to Maryland, Virginia, and more distant points. I think that these changes are cyclical--New York, as I say above, was supposedly on its last legs in the 1970s and "ungovernable" during the last years of Ed Koch's mayorship and the first two of David Dinkins's, yet is now on an upswing, and I can only wonder what cities like New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago will look like, what their urban cultural mixes will be like, 1o or 25 or even 50 years on.
Yesterday I heard a radio report, later confirmed by a TV news account, that according to data from the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, over the 2001-2006 period, the rates of HIV seroconversion were up by 33% among New York men under 30, though they had fallen by 22% among men over 30. Most troubling were two statistics: first, that males between the ages of 13 and 19 constituted the group with the fastest-growing rate of H.I.V. infection; HIV diagnoses doubled for this group in the five year period. And second, more than twice as many Black men, and 55% more Latino men, reported HIV diagnoses as White men, with 90% of the diagnoses of men under 19 among Blacks or Latinos.
Quoting the New York Times's City Room blog article directly:
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, offered a blunt assessment of the data.
“We’re headed in the wrong direction,” he said in a statement. “Unless young men reduce the number of partners they have, and protect themselves and their partners by using condoms more consistently, we will face another wave of suffering and death from H.I.V. and AIDS.”
Dr. Frieden’s statement included statements of support from leaders of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Gay Men of African Descent and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
Thoughts? Suggestions? What can we do/what can be done, especially for adolescents who are susceptible to HIV seroconversion, and probably not receiving adequate and comprehensive sexual education in school these days?
As for disturbing US news--and I don't mean the Petraeus-Crocker Kabuki-carnival in Washington, which is distressing and dispiriting, or the ongoing horrorshow in Iraq, etc.--there are few things that can top this (which I quote directly from the The Smokinggun website):
Six Held In West Virginia Torture Horror
Cops: Black woman raped, beaten, abused during week-long captivity
SEPTEMBER 11--A black West Virginia woman was sexually assaulted, stabbed, and tortured while being held captive by her white abductors, one of whom told her, "That's what we do to niggers around here." The 23-year-old victim was freed Saturday after cops responded to the home of Frankie Brewster for a "welfare check on a female that was reportedly being held against her will." When cops arrived, Brewster claimed she was the only one home, but then the victim limped to the door and said, "Help me." According to six harrowing criminal complaints, the woman, who apparently had been held for more than a week, had four stab wounds in her left leg, bruised eyes, and had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and humiliated. The woman told police that she was forced to lick Brewster's "toes, vagina, and anal cavity." Brewster's son Bobby forced the woman to eat dog and rat feces, according to one complaint filed in Logan County Magistrate Court. The victim, who is now hospitalized, was raped at knifepoint, choked with a cable cord, and had her hair pulled and cut during the ordeal. Police, who have arrested six defendants for their roles in the abduction and attack, are looking for other suspects who may have lured the victim to Brewster's home. The arrestees are seen in the below mug shots. Pictured clockwise from the upper left are Frankie Brewster, 49; Bobby Brewster, 24; Danny Combs, 20; George Messer, 27; Alisha Burton, 22; and Karen Burton, 46. (11 pages)
I did not link from the Raw Story website, whose comments section for this article evidently drew some of the nuttiest, most virulently racist people running around out there, but one person does claim that these folks had a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on one of the trailers and another points to parallels with the Abu-Ghraib torture scenarios, which, let's not forget, Rush Limbaugh waved off as fraternity-style hijinks. Sadly and unfortunately, brutal, inhumane attacks against women, particularly Black women, or against racial and ethnic, religious, sexual, and socially different people are nothing new, but still, the specifics of these allegations were so horrible I almost could not believe what I was reading.
On a different note, I received from several different people this notice about a memorial reading for Phebus Etienne (1965-2007, at right) this upcoming Friday at NYU. It's a divine roster reading in memory of a divine person and poet (whom I first met at NYU), who left us far too soon:
Memorial Reading for Phebus Etienne
Friday, September 14, 2007, 7 p.m.
Reading Phebus' poems are her friends Sarah Gambito, Aracelis Girmay, Joseph O. Legaspi, Vikas Menon, Dante Micheaux, Khalil Murrell, Mendi Obadike, January Gill O'Neil, Gregory Pardlo, Evie Schockley, & R.A. Villanueva
@ Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House
58 West 10th St. (between 5th and 6th Aves.)
New York City
Reception to follow