Gentrification is displacing longtime residents in historically African American neighborhoods from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn to Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles.
I grew up in Bed-Stuy and went to college in Harlem where an iconic mural, the “Spirit of Harlem,” was covered up by Footaction, a sneaker and apparel company.
Langston Hughes famously asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”
We know what happens if we don’t fight the collateral damage of gentrification. African American cultural heritage and presence will be erased from public memory. So Harlem activists are organizing to give the boot to Footaction.
For me, it’s déjà vu all over again. In 2015, Pennrose Properties demolished the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
But rather than simply lament its destruction, I made some noise in my capacity as director of All That Philly Jazz. Fast forward two years, Pennrose Chairman and CEO Richard K. Barnhart thanked me for my activism. Barnhart told me that in raising awareness of the importance of cultural heritage preservation I “made him a better person.”
On September 24, 2017, the “Why We Love Coltrane” mural was dedicated.
The mural was funded by Pennrose Properties and the City of Philadelphia, in partnership with All That Philly Jazz, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Committee and Fairmount Park Conservancy.
Footaction is owned by retail giant Foot Locker. Together, we can make Footaction a better corporate citizen. Let’s make some noise.
UPDATE: After making some noise on Twitter, I received a DM from Footaction.
True to its word, restoration of the “Spirit of Harlem” mural is in progress.