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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is the African Bazaar at Dance Africa Shrinking? : Photo Wednesday

This is not one of the those I hate gentrification pieces. But simply a sincere question;

What’s the future of the African Bazaar that has accompanied BAM’s annual Dance Africa event for almost two decades?

My question stems from the fact that the triangle shaped parking lot, which for the past decade has provided space for the Bazaar vendor tents and food stands is the footprint for one of several new 20+ story towers soon to be erected along side five relatively brand new high rising additions to the Downtown Brooklyn skyline.

Tomorrow is May 1st and in three weeks the African Bazaar will be held as part of Brooklyn Academy of Music's annual Dance Africa event and I wonder what plans, if any have been made to keep the Bazaar, a marketplace and meeting place, an unofficial annually reunion for many communities of color, particularly for creative peoples who's talent, passion, and dedication, have helped to cultivate and maintain the positive image of Brooklyn that has proved so enticing to developers.

I wonder because from my outsider perspective I available spaces, parking lots that were once buildings, and recently staging grounds for the bazaar, now becoming buildings again. I wonder if in the planning for all these developments, space has been allocated for to the bazaar which has long been a central nexus of community culture and history, so the long standing communities in Brooklyn can continue to enjoy and participate in that history and culture.

I’ve written various pieces complaining about the callous and sinister side of gentrification, about displacement, and economic bias, which often overlaps ethnic bias. And I’ve written about the positives that come with development and change. For me sky scrapers in downtown Brooklyn are pretty much fine, despite the fact that they’ve made the city skyline from my physical perspective look haphazard and unfamiliar. For me, and I believe other Brooklynites, Downtown, is just that Downtown, Brooklyn’s “City”. Since Downtown was so beat down since the departure of major department stores from the 70’s to 90’s and the climate that existed after, I’m happy for renewal to almost any degree, My definition of Downtown, starts where the bridges let out, and ends with the Williamsburg Savings Bank Building at Hanson.

So I’m don’t automatically think the new towers on the grounds of the African Bazaar are necessarily bad. I’ve followed the development and planning of these spaces, and I’m aware they are co-owned by BAM, a sponsor of the African Bazaar. I’m also aware the new spaces will contain cultural amenities of their own, a new library in one, possibly a theater in another. I'm sincerely excited to be in those spaces.

But my question is because as an Afro-Carribean man who's lived in this borough through waves of change, I've become sensitive to how often that change is people like me, being short changed out. I walk through Bedstuy and see dozen's of tourists from Europe suitcases on wheels in tow and plenty of Upper East Siders who've been priced out paying above market in rent stabilized buildings, exploding their protected rent stabilized status, and on the other end of that I see moving vans, moving people of color out as frequently as I see the aforementioned people coming in.

So I’ve searched online and haven’t been able to find what space the African Bazaar goes into, which tower is going to open it’s spacious lobby to the dance recitals that have been as much a part of the African Bazaar as it’s food and clothing vendors. Inclusion or expulsion, that’s the difference between evil gentrification and positive gentrification. I’m not sure where we’re going here, anyone know?