It's important to discuss Philadelphia's issues with gentrification when you talk about policing, Starbucks, and racism.By Asia Renée I love Starbucks. I’ve easily spent $1,000 in the last 10 years on peppermint mocha lattes, cookies, muffins, and breakfast sandwiches. Its emblem—the green, two-tailed mermaid on a cup—is a status symbol. In non-white, low-income neighborhoods, the cup is a symbol that gentrification has arrived, and that people of color are in danger. Last Thursday, two Black men entered the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia for a coffee meeting as they waited for a friend to join them. Rittenhouse Square is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country and it is also approximately 70% white and 6% Black. The two men were waiting for their friend, real estate investor, Andrew Yaffe (who is white), when they were asked to leave because they hadn’t purchased anything. The store manager called the police who arrived and handcuffed the men. Local resident, Melissa DePino, recorded the arrest and posted the incident to Twitter; Yaffe can be heard asking why they were being forcefully removed. https://twitter.com/missydepino/status/984539713016094721 Good question. It is common knowledge that Starbucks is a venue for small, informal meetings. It is also common knowledge that coffee meetings don’t always include coffee. In fact, Starbucks partnered with Match.com for a Valentine’s Day campaign in 2015 called, “Meet at Starbucks”, encouraging people to make the first move in dating by meeting at a public and safe venue. If only Starbucks were safe for everyone. The arrival of a Starbucks in non-white neighborhoods is often linked to gentrification and signals that businesses are now investing and attracting white residents. In a piece for The Guardian, writer Jana Kasperkevic investigates the relationship between higher real estate prices and the establishment of a neighborhood Starbucks, citing the authors of Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, Spencer Rascoff and chief economist Stan Humphries, who write that Starbucks fuels gentrification and is responsible for higher housing prices. https://twitter.com/WriterJohnKopp/status/985842617282899969 Philadelphia is a large city of approximately 1.6 million people. It also has the highest poverty rate among the nation’s 10 most populous cities, as well as the highest percentage of residents living in deep poverty, according to the 2016 U.S. Census. In stark contrast, Philadelphia holds historically wealthy neighborhoods like Rittenhouse Square, as the rest of the city falls to gentrification, pushing low-income residents further away from Center City. As a lifelong resident, I began noticing the patterns of gentrification about 20 years ago. Over the next decade, I would spend a lot of time in Nicetown/Tioga, a section of North Philadelphia. Temple University, also located in North Philadelphia, has steadily spread its reach and boundaries over the last 20 years. Even back then, I watched as condemned or abandoned houses became renovated and listed for thousands of dollars per month. These old, 3-story, 4+ bedroom Victorian homes are priced so that Temple students end up paying $600 for a room in a shared apartment. University City, home to Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, has also drastically grown in the last two decades. We now have wealthy, young white people, artists and/or families, living in what has historically been known as the “hood”. When we see the hipster coffee shops, we know what is coming next: Starbucks, Whole Foods, and heightened police activity to protect the new residents, their assets and their businesses. This is to the detriment of the neighborhood’s original locals. The schizophrenic woman who walks around a few select streets—bothering no one—at all, is now seen as a nuisance who needs to be removed, so they call the police. We know what happens when they call the cops: sex workers are arrested; people walking down the street, minding their own business are stopped and terrorized by police and sometimes killed for “fitting the description”.
Why do so many non-Black Latinx artists still make space for white supremacy? By Ruby Mora Singer Sabrina Claudio was recently outed on Twitter for writing anti-Black tweets and frequently using the n-word. The discovery was made by another Twitter user who
Frida isn’t a commodity, she was a person who fought against materialistic consumerism.As someone who has spent almost 20 years studying the life and art of Frida Kahlo, I’ve mused for hours over what her doll version would look. Here’s the Frida doll I’ve imagined: Since she spent so much time in a wheelchair due to illness and so many surgeries, her doll would have to come with one as an accessory. Accessories would also include a back brace, body cast, and washable paints so you could draw on her as she did herself. Her right foot to knee would be detachable, and modeled after the red boot prosthesis she designed and painted herself. Her clothing would be ethically sourced from the same villages she commissioned them in Mexico and would be an entire line all of its own to accompany the doll, as well as a variety of hairstyles and headdresses. The doll’s eyebrows would be thick and meet in the middle, and she would have a shadow above her upper lip. Underneath her elaborate outfit, Frida’s doll would be criss-crossed with a variety of scars across her legs, pelvis, belly, and back; Frida suffered her entire life and her avatar would need to represent all the physical pain that inspired and informed her art. The doll would come with a booklet explaining all of this, and would be written in a way that encourages people to go learn more about her rather than just consuming her image because she’s hip now. But since we can’t have nice things (ever), Mattel created the exact opposite of a doll honoring Frida Kahlo. Instead of looking even a little like Frida, they have made her into an actual Barbie. Her unibrow is softened as are her striking features, and there is no evidence of her disabilities at all. In a nutshell, Frida has been grotesquely whitewashed. Having been a fierce Communist until her death, she would despise this consumerist and capitalist "tribute" to her life and work on so many levels. Everything that Frida did in her self-presentation eschewed Western standards of beauty. She refused to pluck her brows or wax her face; she didn’t shave her underarms or legs. She rarely wore makeup and instead focused on layering away her pained body under handmade textiles from remote villages in Mexico, almost single-handedly bringing some of these traditional weaving methods back from cultural extinction.
There are alternatives to contacting the police, and these alternatives can be more effective than getting law enforcement involved in situations that they are not specifically trained for. As an institution, the police perpetuate and uphold the violence of white supremacy