As more white folks are drawn back to the city, individuals and developers are buying up land, businesses, and housing stock. This development displaces people of color, resulting in a cultural & historical loss and perpetuating economic disparities. Are we breaking down the Troost divide in Kansas City, or simply pushing it further east? Last week we shared a conversation about gentrification and gentrifiers, the seventh of eight gatherings in our series on race which began last fall. We were honored to have with us the following guest teachers:
- Hakima Tafunzi Payne is a KCMO resident, has a Bachelor’s of Nursing and a Master’s in Nursing Education. Ms. Payne is the Executive Director of Uzazi Village, a nonprofit dedicated to decreasing perinatal health disparities in communities of color. She is an editor for Clinical Lactation Journal, and sits on the board of the National Association for Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) Ms. Payne serves on her local Fetal Infant Mortality Review Board, and cares deeply about increasing the number of midwives of color and improving lactation rates in the African American community through increasing the number of IBCLCs of color.
- Sandra I. Enríquez is an Assistant Professor of History and the Director of the Public History Emphasis at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is a native of Ciudad Juárez, México and immigrated to the United States with her family in 2000. Sandra has a BA in History with a minor in Spanish, an MA in U.S.-México Border History with a minor in Public History, and a PhD in History from the University of Houston. Sandra’s research and teaching interests are in Chicanx and Latinx history, urban history, borderlands, social movements, and public history. Locally, she, along with her students at UMKC, began the Latinx KC Oral History Project, is developing an exhibit on the legacy of the Guadalupe Center, and is the co-editor of a forthcoming digital project on Kansas City activism.
- Angela Martellaro is a real estate agent serving refugee & immigrant homebuyers for nearly 5 years. Prior to her current role, Angela was a social worker in Catholic Charities’ refugee resettlement program in KCK. Angela also lived and worked at Holy Family Catholic Worker House, which provided meals and temporary shelter for homeless families. Through her work and research she has intimate knowledge of the lack of quality affordable housing for a broad spectrum of the population, from the chronically homeless to low-income workers. She is also a member of Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) KC, where she regularly agitates folks about housing-related issues.
The evening started out with a potluck meal on the lower level of Second Presbyterian Church (our parent congregation), with approximately 170 Kansas City neighbors in attendance. Angela spoke first, using Health Department maps to demonstrate the history of redlining, home pricing, and home ownership. Sandra continued the conversation with an historical view of gentrification, showing how it is an outcome of capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. She also gave an overview of J.C. Nichols and how his actions impacted and influenced our city. Hakima then shared her personal story of having lived for 55 years along Troost, describing the changes she witnessed and the impact of gentrification. After a brief video about the Beacon Hill neighborhood, we took the conversation to each of our tables to discuss the following questions:
- How do you define gentrification?
- What factors influenced where you live now and that enabled you to make that choice (e.g., resources, knowledge, education, identity, employment, availability of options, etc.)
- What do you see as the impact of the health and economic wellbeing of the original inhabitants of a community that has been gentrified?
Afterwards the larger group shared some reflections on their table conversations and how their thinking had been impacted. We closed with the question, “What will you do differently as a result of this conversation?” and Hakima offered this list:
Strategies to Reduce Damage of Gentrification
- Seek to actively unpack your own racism (yes you have some) Become aware of the negative impacts of your presence on others
- Participate in the neighborhood you move into- get to know your neighbors of color
- Send your children to the local schools- if they are good enough for your neighbors children, surely they are good enough for yours
- Shop local, frequent the neighborhood businesses, especially those owned by people of color
- When you call the police, make sure it is warranted
- Join groups and activities that are already in place, don’t create your own for you and your friends
- Lobby City Hall to stop practices that promote gentrification and displacement such as tax abatements that unfairly advantage the wealthy
- Support the work of Uzazi Village
Sometimes at The Open Table, first-timers ask us, “Is this…church?” Our answer is yes, this is how we do church! Someone once asked Jesus,
“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Matthew 22:36-40, CEB
Even though we are pretty informal and much of our content is modern, our format is inspired by the early church. We take pretty seriously these commands to love God and our neighbor, and the table can be a starting place for those things, which is why we call it our Communion. But it can’t end there, because love is much more than a feeling. Love has to act. We hope our gatherings and community are a source of both love and action, and you have an open invitation to work and worship alongside us. Join us anytime for a meal (on us!) and conversation on the 2nd and 4th Sunday nights of the month from 6:30-8:00 p.m. To be notified of our upcoming gatherings and other events, just sign up for our newsletter or keep an eye on our Facebook page!
Our next gathering on Feb. 11 is “Disrupting Racism: Bystander Intervention Training“, which our Curator, Nick Pickrell will facilitate. Peacemaking is a skill that requires practice and repetition, so we are making space to do that together. You may also be interested in a book study we’re hosting during the season of Lent–the book The Cross and the Lynching Tree by Dr. James Cone has been referenced throughout our series on race, so we’re going to take a closer look by reading it together. Nick will be leading this study on Feb. 21, Feb. 28, March 7, and March 14 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Bier Station in Waldo.
Thanks for reading this summary of our gentrification conversation! If you’d like to hear the whole thing, check out the audio recording on our podcast, and see the corresponding resources and prayers below.
Handout Packet: Below are the articles we made available at our gathering that night. These are essays from NYU’s Furman Center about addressing gentrification.
NYU Gentrification Discussion
Map: Visit this website to check out “Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America”
Article and Video: This link contains the video our speakers showed about the Beacon Hill neighborhood – “The New ‘East of Troost’: Chef’s Kitchens, Lap Pools, $600K Homes — and Class Tension“, by Eric Adler and Aaron Randle
Food for Thought: KCPT and the digital news team at Flatland are starting a series on housing issues in Kansas City called “Public Works?“. Currently they are asking the question, “What do you want to know about housing, eviction, and gentrification in the Kansas City metro that you’d like us to investigate?” Share your stories, tips, and questions here!
Fire Blessing, by Burnum Burnum
May the fire be in our thoughts
Making them true, good and just,
May it protect us from the evil one.
May the fire be in our eyes;
May it open our eyes to share what is good in life.
We ask that the fire may protect us from what
Is not rightfully ours.
May the fire be on our lips, so that we may
Speak the truth in kindness; that we may serve
And encourage others.
May it protect us from speaking evil.
May the fire be in our ears.
We pray that we may hear with a deep, deep listening
So that we may hear the flow of water,
And of all Creation.
And the dreaming.
May we be protected from gossip and from things
That harm and break down our family.
May the fire be in our arms and hands
So that we may be of service and build up love.
May the fire protect us from all violence.
May the fire be in our whole being—
In our legs and in our feet,
Enable us to walk the earth
With reverence and care;
So that we may walk in the ways of goodness and truth
And be protected from walking away from what is truth.
It is said this ancient prayer is 40,000 years old, handed down through generations of indigenous Australians. The late Burnum Burnum, Australian Aboriginal Elder, shared this prayer with Rev. Helen Summers on Australia Day in New York in the 90s. We read it from the book, A World of Prayer: Spiritual Leaders, Activists, and Humanitarians Share Their Favorite Prayers, ed. Rosalind Bradley.
A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world,
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.
If you would like to contribute to the cost of The Open Table’s shared meals and conversations, we invite you to donate by texting the word “give” to 816-656-3310.