Harlem’s Homeless Renaissance
At about 1 in the morning I strolled along the main artery of Harlem, 125th street. As I walked from East to West I got to thinking about the transformation that Harlem is undergoing. Some call it gentrification, revitalization, land grab, urban pioneering, no matter what you call it, things are changing. When we talk about gentrification, we talk about those who have homes, but we forget those who go without consistent shelter.
As I passed the State building, I watched homeless citizens hover on concrete benches. As they lay resting, it almost looked like they were at perfect peace. Like the stone that was their pallet was made by Sealy mattresses, but that’s likely not true. As they lay huddled beneath Adam Clayton Powell with his top coat flapping in the wind, I began to wonder what he would have thought? Did he think about these Harlemites? I began to wonder, do today’s heroes of Harlem think about them?
The juxtaposition of the consummate Black political figure to the Black homeless was more than a sight. A sight would be too transient, too dissimive, too temporary. No, for the folks seeking refuge under ACP’s cape, poverty was not temporary or passing, it was their long term reality. As Harlem undergoes yet another Renaissance I wonder what is to come of the folks who never saw the booms of prosperity? The folks that didn’t have leases to be tricked out of. Are the stares that folks shoot them on 125th tonight the same as the stares that newcomers to Harlem will shoot them in 10 years? Or will they even be there?