A couple weeks ago, an interview surfaced about about dog walking on the campus of Howard University. Like most major cities, D.C is undergoing gentrification in many neighborhoods which brings with it differing opinions and conflicts. The new neighbors around Howard University have started walking their dogs on the campus specifically the yard. On campuses all over the country, any expanse of grass will be used as an area to congregate; no one wants to congregate where dogs have pooped. This poses a health risk to the students, and it’s disgusting. Many cities have laws about picking up after your dog. Howard University is a private University, but like most college campuses it is open to the public and anyone can enter the campus freely.
In an interview, one of the neighbors suggested that if Howard cannot adapt to an ever-changing environment it should move. Howard, the University founded on that campus since 1857, should move. Because it is easier for a University to move than it is for people to walk their dogs elsewhere. Howard has a rich history as an HBCU which I think is the problem: it’s an HBCU. Do we think anyone is walking their dogs on American University’s campus or telling them that they should move? I doubt it. It’s not just the disrespect that’s the problem it’s the biases and the sense of entitlement.
One of the issues with gentrification is not just people being pushed out of their homes, but the attitudes and beliefs that go along with it. The belief that because you want to move into a neighborhood, that those residents who have been living there for years and have made the neighborhood what it is should change for you. Yes, you should feel comfortable in your neighborhood, but not at the expense of those who have been living there or your other neighbors.
Gentrification is a real problem here in NYC and in most major cities in the country. And while there are arguments for the benefits of gentrification such as the beautification of the neighborhood, access to restaurants, and better supermarkets it almost always negatively affects the African-American and Latino communities.
Before I moved into my current apartment, I used to live in Bed-Stuy. Bed-Stuy has always been a historically black neighborhood. Like many neighborhoods, it blends the beautiful architecture of brownstones with the grittiness of the projects. Within the past decade, the neighborhood has undergone a change that is mind-boggling. Yes, there are cute little cafes, restaurants and even a ramen shop a few blocks from where I used to live, but the demographics have changed and with it the heart of the neighborhood. A neighborhood is more than just the buildings or the restaurants, it’s the people. The people give it a certain vibe which is why each enclave in NYC feels different.
The President of Howard had to issue a very polite statement that the University would work with the community while protecting its students. The very fact that a statement was necessary is an insult. The community should take pride in moving into the neighborhood with a school that has such a rich history. Any new neighbors should take the time to not only research their commute, and if they’re favorite coffee shop is nearby, but the history of the neighborhood. I think they might be surprised at what they find.