A History of Land-Grabbing & Displacement.
Symbols of national pride harbor power in their manipulative potential. Emotional awe is indoctrinated amongst a nation’s populace in such symbols, and often, pride is condoned and generationally reiterated without properly addressing the historical baggage of the pride-inducing symbol. Let us take the example of the American flag. In the case of the United States, the blind pride wrought by our stars and stripes will oft invisibilize the histories of those who faced a legislated subservience upon the soil of the land of the free. Indigenous Americans were “lawfully” displaced from both land and culture on a continent that was entirely “theirs” (though the notion of 'ownership' was itself a liberal value imposed upon indigenous people, as Greywolf stated during our conversation on space and ownership, “we had no concept of dividing the land and taking it… we didn’t create the land, we can’t own it" (4). Though there are myriad reasons to admire and respect the values of this nation, one can not deny that the elements of pride which comprise our national identity are rooted in a history of land-grabbing and a disregard for the livelihoods of an “other”.
Our Displaced Urban Histories course has come to define “gentrification” as “the institution by which privileged people create an ideal, resulting in the physical, cultural, economic, political, and social displacement of the historically marginalized.” An integral element of Greywolf’s story, as an indigenous American, a member of the Cherokee tribe, who moved to the South Bronx during the 1970s, has been displacement. His U.S. history is one of land-grabbing, “The American government made one promise to the Indian, and that was to take the land. And they took it… the only promise they ever made was to take the land... And took it they did” (4).
Although displacement is integral to the documentation of neighborhood change, and is an element in the life story of Greywolf and the other tenants of 161st St. and Melrose Ave., their tale is not one of disenfranchisement. Having been made to move from their homes far too many times, Greywolf and a handful of other tenants worked arduously with the HDFC (Housing Development Finance Corporation) through the Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) Apartment Purchase Program to ensure that they remained within the building they now own. The story of the Urban Reservation's establishment is one which subverts the capitalist, colonial notion that “success” means that a certain group must suffer for others to gain (i.e. the displacement of families in order to build 'high end' restaurants).