Without question, gentrification is a hot-button topic amongst Brooklyn residents, longtime and new. Therefore, it is no surprise that residents are joining together to raise awareness and their voices on the matter. Still, there is much to be learned about the topic and how it is affecting Brooklyn communities.
“Before It’s Gone/Take It Back (B4G)” is leading the charge in empowering residents with ways to preserve to the cultural and creative aspects of Brooklyn that have made it so special. The campaign, spearheaded by “Equality for Flatbush.” launched in 2014, says it is the first Brooklyn-wide anti-gentrification movement of its kind.
B4G founders and organizers Katie Hydell and Imani Henry started the organization to give the average resident a voice and an advocate when they thought it was too late and that there was nothing they could do to.
Already, Hydell and Henry say they see a difference. For example, when first launching the movement, the word gentrification was somewhat taboo. But as the effects of gentrification have become more visible and widespread, both now acknowledge that people’s attitudes around the effects of gentrification have evolved.
“[At first], we were trying our very best to be as thoughtful as possible about how we framed things,” said Henry. “In just two years, the landscape has changed and has become very violent. Developers are reckless and landlords are shameless.
“The movement has now become fearless and is about ‘fighting on the ground.’ Now, the use of words like gentrification has a very powerful reaction, which results in a stronger movement.”
As Brooklyn’s historical makeup includes people of a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, the organization believes that gentrification is a crisis– one that is stripping away everything that makes up the foundation of these Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Last year, when a landlord in Bushwick illegally evicted an entire building of tenants, one of the tenants reached out to Hydell who lives just a few blocks down. The tenant was fearful, because the landlord had threatened to change the locks on her apartment. Hydell and other campaign volunteers organized an emergency rally utilizing social media to get the word out about the situation. People from all over the city including in Manhattan came out to participate in the sit-in– some sitting for as long as 48 hours.
In the two years since its launch, B4G has grown a large and diverse following, employing a variety of outreach methods targeted to audiences of different ages and backgrounds.
Most recently, they organized a march in Flatbush that included attendees 21 years of age and younger, as well as people in their 50s and 60s, multinational, gay and trans people. They frequently hold meetings in different neighborhoods where they invite people of the community to come speak about gentrification.
Taking a very grassroots approach to getting marketing, you’ll find G4G flyers in local beauty salons, subways, on telephone poles, and just about anywhere where residents frequent daily.
B4G encourages everyone to get involved and check their rent history so they can make sure that they are not overpaying or being taken advantage of by their landlords.
For more information or to get involved with Before It’s Gone/Take It Back (B4G), visit them on Facebook.