TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Between a block and a hard place | Da Gambling Man | Comic Strip

in Gentrification/Major Collaborative Project by

An annual, neighborhood block party in Harlem gets shut down after police respond to a complaint made by “new neighbors” who called law enforcement on longtime residents, claiming that their loud noise and suspicious activity were a threat.

In Harlem, and other urban oases such as Oakland, Newark, Los Angeles and Washington DC, the block party is a weekly or annual summer event occurring on predominately Black blocks for decades. With the massive wave of gentrification in Harlem, thanks to new residents’ refusal to envelope themselves into local culture, law enforcement and city officials are telling organizers to shut the parties down.

Harlem native and Kentucky State University Liberal Studies professor at the Whitney Young School of Honors, Donavan Ramon, tells Ark Republic of his experiences around his community’s block party becoming heavily regulated after over 30 years of all-day activities.

“I grew up in the projects. Growing up it was so bad that my mother forbade me to play outside. So, in the summer, all the children looked forward to the block parties and there were all types of parties you could just walk through and listen to music, eat some good food and have a great time. Every year there is a block party for my neighborhood which lasted all day. It was a community event. We’d set up chairs, tables and a play area for the kids. People brought food and we barbecued. Music played and we enjoyed ourselves until late into the night.”

A few years ago, we were told that our party was cut to only daylight hours because there were complaints. So they took a tradition in our community and cut it because some people were uncomfortable. But I knew that it was coming when Harlem got a Whole Foods.

Ramon’s experience aligns with the clashes between gentrifiers and the culture and community formed by longtime residents. This strip is my attempt to show how gentrification can ruin the culture of a city with the unfair privileges entailed to upper class, often white residents, who can impose their demands and refuse to assimilate to established, urban traditions.

Matthew Gamble, creator of comic strip, Da Gambling Man, inks humorous stories on the most uncomfortable issues. When duty calls, he transforms into a reporter to cover culture, news and art.

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