CHANGES: Prince Charles visits Brixton, south London, where new home buyers have flooded the market (PA)
FOR YEARS I have thought I was alone over the so-called ‘gentrification’ of our traditional neighbourhoods. Now it seems that none other than film maker Spike Lee shares my concerns with regards to his neighbourhood in Brooklyn.
For the last few decades we have seen the areas that black folk have resided in since the Windrush slowly become ‘gentrified.’ And with that gentrification comes a certain shift in power, culture and social mores.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Manchester, where the black population has been decimated by an urban regeneration that has improved their neighbourhoods for the benefit of everyone but them. Where there was once a vibrant, if poor black community in back to back terraced two up two downs, there is now desirable housing in tree-lined streets where the roads were once desolate.
All good and well, until you start to wonder where all the black people are.
Well, in one of the most cynical and craftiest divide-and-rule-the-black-population tactics, the local council has farmed the black community into what they describe as 'temporary accommodation' in areas such as Wythenshawe (so close to the airport that black people had no business there before they were transported there in their droves) and into poor white areas in the north of the city such as Moston, where you can still buy a house for about £30,000. That's how bad things are there.
They even moved some black people to areas in Greater Manchester such as Hyde where there had virtually never been a black face.
Of course it's not a temporary move. It's permanent. The black community in Manchester has gone forever. Moss Side will never be black again. And the idea that some people have that they could one day revive the internationally acclaimed Manchester Carnival is laughable. It's no wonder that Manchester has experienced a black flight in the last decade or so for the more culturally vibrant areas of London. No black person in their right mind would continue living in Manchester under the circumstances.
When Spike Lee vociferously airs his reaction to the ‘de-blackification’ of some of New York's traditional 'hoods' it's clear that they are going through exactly the same thing that we're going through here and Spike ain't happy about it.
He bemoans the fact that the dreads who have been beating their drums in the local park have been forced to stop making that racket, just as sound systems that were such a vital part of our culture here in Britain were forced to die out because of so-called 'noise pollution.’ That's what happens when a neighbourhood changes and if we don't want to lose our culture entirely we have to take drastic measures.
There's a street in Golders Green in north west London where the householders refuse to sell their homes to anyone but Jewish people, even though it's illegal. I'm not saying anyone should do anything illegal - quite the contrary. But we're a community in despair over the loss of our culture. So we gotta do what we gotta do to hold on to our culture - legally.