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Inglewood “wind of change”: Good or bad for community?

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Although cheaper than Hollywood or Koreatown, for the community of Inglewood, that already suffers from inequality issues, the price for housing is not affordable. According to rentcafe.com, Inglewood saw a seven percent increase from 2018 to 2019. The average rent used to be $1,654 and is now by $1,770.

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By Isabell Rivera, Our Weekly Contributor

Inglewood, known to many as the mecca of local sports, hip hop culture, gang activity and long-standing inequality is receiving a wind of change. It could be considered a bigger storm for some by virtue of gentrification.

The term gentrification means, “The process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area such as an urban neighborhood, accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents.”

Opinions vary among residents

Opinions are split, doubts are high. All with good reason. Since Los Angeles County decided that Inglewood will be the location for Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, the new home for the Los Angeles Rams, Chargers and Clippers (scheduled for completion in 2020), the neighborhood has seen quite a difference.

Although cheaper than Hollywood or Koreatown, for the community of Inglewood, that already suffers from inequality issues, the price for housing is not affordable. According to rentcafe.com, Inglewood saw a seven percent increase from 2018 to 2019. The average rent used to be $1,654 and is now by $1,770.

“We have heard many stories about businesses closing and moving out. Several shops on our block have closed in the four years we have been here,” said Renie Schoenkerman, owner of MiddleBar. “Hard to survive with rent increases. Our staff who lives in the neighborhood has had to contend with these issues as well.”

More Whites are returning

Looking back, Inglewood wasn’t always a predominantly Black or Latino neighborhood. In the 1940s up to the late 1960s, Inglewood was a staunchly segregated White neighborhood.

However, more African-Americans moved to the city, which resulted in the familiar White flight toward the suburbs. But with change, also comes hardships, such as poverty, high crime and food deserts. But besides its issues, Inglewood was also considered the Harlem of the West, with its Jazz bars and entertainment that attracted various celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe, and Rita Hayworth.

“Over the years, the neighborhoods are changing as more White folks move into Inglewood,” local resident and architect Christopher L. Mercier said. “It’s a funny flip on diversity as Inglewood gets more diverse. The hope is that this influx of new residents, and new businesses can quickly learn to grow into the existing culture this area has and help to grow its positive aspects with minimal displacement.”

MiddleBar owners, Renie Schoenkerman and partner Corrie Scully, have been in Inglewood since 2014 and love its diversity. The power couple, that specializes in craft cocktails and hosts pop ups, looked for a place that offered space and affordable rent.

What they’re saying on Market Street

Scully, a New Orleans native, found similarities on Market Street that is the home to many for southern comfort cooking.

‘We were on the search for a commercial kitchen when we came across our space in Inglewood. It was so cute and we saw the potential on Market St. well before the announcement of the stadium and revitalization,” Scully said. “We just felt we could bring some good hospitality to this historic neighborhood.”

Located at 129 N. Market St., MiddleBar’s mission is to grow with the change and serve the Black community, as well as the White community. But the increase of rent makes is hard for residents and business owners to stick around.

“One of our waitresses, an Inglewood resident, has seen a $500 hike in the last year alone,” Scully said. “Our rent increases at a rate of 5 percent per year and is set to go higher this year.”

Although gentrification can have a positive impact on a community, it could also result in backlash, hurting the people who have been there their entire life. Business owners and residents fear the change and plans for the new stadium will push old residents, which are mostly Black and Latino, out of the area.

Differing views of gentrification

“As business owners, we see the changes as very positive for business and communities. Overall, the vision of the new Inglewood that Mayor [James T.] Butts is promoting will bring long lasting, positive change to the city,” Schoenkerman said. “As humanists, we see the greed of landowners who hike up prices and force people out of their homes as morally corrupt.”

Despite Inglewood’s gentrification process, it’s still not Disneyland. Crime rates are still high, according to city-data.com. But does this really keep White people away from this new prime real-estate?

“At MiddleBar, our goal is to create an excellent experience in Inglewood. An experience that residents will not have to travel to Culver City or Westchester to get,” Scully said. “We focus on music, food, drink, hospitality and service. We host local artists and chefs and rent our dining room for residents’ special events. MiddleBar on Market is a community-driven, community building business that brings people together to gather with loved ones, relax, and enjoy a precious moment on earth. We aim to promote happiness.”

Sharp increase in tourism

The number of Whites moving into Inglewood is increasing dramatically. Businesses, such as Airbnb, have witnessed an increase in bookings via tourism. The so-called “Jewel of the South Bay” might actually become the next Rodeo Drive, with the nearby plans of the makeover of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, investors see a new mecca of opportunities.

“I think gentrification in the Inglewood/Crenshaw area is a good thing,” Mercier said, “as long as it is bracketed to focus on the existing cultural condition of that area as an opportunity to inspire what re-gentrification is. How it includes local business and local residents at the heart of its creation. Gentrification should be home grown and not transplanted if that makes any sense.”

And although hip, new places have moved to Inglewood’s busy shopping mile, Market Street, others have left. The change is sneaking up slowly, like a big, bad storm. Once the new stadium is built, things will happen quickly.

“I think there is a mixed response,” Mercier said. “Many realize the city needs the improvements and has for years. At the same time, there is tremendous fear, everyone is going to get pushed out. The recent approval of the rent control measure is a first step in helping to keep local residents in their homes. I think, more things like this need to be developed that result in some form of help to mix incoming new residents with the existing, so that the notion of a truly diverse community can really develop here in a unique way. That I think, is the real opportunity Inglewood has.”

Affordable housing a high priority

Various media outlets have reported that Inglewood residents demand affordable housing, as well as the access to healthier food options, such as a weekly farmer’s market.

Earlier this month, Butts, in support of the community, proposed an emergency ordinance to put a hold on rent increases for a 45-day period, while the city determines its next steps. In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the emergency ordinance took full effect. It prevents landlords from raising rent more than 5 percent and will prohibit the eviction of tenants for reasons other than criminal activities. However, as great as it sounds, the ordinance doesn’t count units built after 1995, including all single-family homes, condominiums and hotels. If the city needs more time to decide, the council has the option to extend the ordinance for up to one year.

“It was clear that we have to figure out something that respects the property rights of owners but gives options to tenants that can’t afford a rental increase,” Butts said. “We’ll figure out a balance between that.”

Nevertheless, the Inglewood community could possibly see more job opportunities, than are currently available.

“If gentrification can bring life to a community without forcing out the community then there is positivity. Good business, good jobs, good community,” Schoenkerman said. “It’s the greedy landlords I wish we could force out of town.”

Neighborhood culture a mainstay

On Market Street, it isn’t all about southern comfort, but also about the culture that is to be found at the nearby Residency Art Gallery at 310 E. Queen St. Owner Rick Garzon has mixed feelings about the current situation.

“I think Inglewood is already a great place to live, and has been for decades,” said Garzon, a 30-year Inglewood resident. “We would like to see more of the services that are offered in more affluent neighborhoods such as graffiti removal, better landscaping, more public art, all-inclusive city-led engagement programming and etc.”

But there’s more going on than building a new sports stadium at a projected cost of $4 billion. A little over four miles north, in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw neighborhood, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza got approved for a third phase renovation project. One-tenth of the new units will be designated as moderate-income housing for those with household earnings between roughly $51,000 and $77,000, according to city officials.

However, the median household income of Inglewood is about $44,377 and the poverty rate is about 20.7 percent. The median household income in the Crenshaw District is a reported $40,042, which means majority of the local residents likely cannot afford the rent and may be forced to move to surrounding southeast neighborhoods.

Because Inglewood has so much potential to be a living, vibrant region of opportunity, assistance is needed to help the city reach its full potential. Architects such as Christopher L. Mercier are working on new ideas to make Inglewood more attractive. He has worked on the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, among other architectural icons, and developed the idea of the Inglewood Living City Project a few years ago. A project, that would include green areas, and eco-friendly resources. Unfortunately, the idea has not found a home in the mayor’s office, just yet.

“The main piece of the puzzle in really about identity,” said Mercier, who has resided in Inglewood since 2003. “What we think about an area is an environment we create in the mind, and that in turn supports an environment of the physical world and vice-a-verse. Inglewood is already changing. The trick is to ensure that all [the] new and old residents support the existing local cultural icons and places of this community and help them to grow. Inglewood and the surrounding communities have some great and unique conditions that need to become recognized and celebrated even more as the cultural identity of the area shifts, so none of us loose the great pieces, places, and cultures that make Inglewood Inglewood.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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