As a new Brooklynite, I cannot help but to stop and squint my eyes through the wooden shutters of the newly renovated brownstones found along many neighborhood streets. Homes that seem to be squeezed between the “have-a-littles” and “have-nots”. Homes that scream, “I’m here. I’m hip. And I’m leaving my windows wide open for all to see.”
Each time I stop to stare (and dare, I say salivate), I inevitably see:
-Stainless steel appliances
-Plush sofas (with too many accent pillows to count)
-Eccentric interior designs
-Flat screen TVs (mounted to the wall, of course)
-A homely, street-turned-house cat
I’ve always wondered, “Who lives here?” Maybe it’s the hipsters.
Now insert Spike Lee. Last month, during a speech at Pratt Institute, the director and author shared his thoughts on gentrification in Brooklyn. He questioned why it took an influx of white New Yorkers and the takeover of “motherf—ing hipsters” for changes in Brooklyn schools, city maintenance and retail opportunities. And he made me wonder…Spike, are you talking to me? Am I a hipster? I just got here! But maybe, just maybe, I’m staring back at myself through the brightly-lite windows of those brownstones I spoke of?
Let’s check and see.
-Did you move to Brooklyn from another state? Yes.
-Do you stroller-walk your child at night and feel safe? Yes, relatively…but maybe I shouldn’t.
-Do you live in a newly renovated brownstone? Yes, but as a renter.
-Do you commute to other parts of the NYC to work? No, I live 3 blocks away from the school where I teach.
Now, for the real hipster qualifications.
-Do you have an appreciation for art and indie-rock? Yes, somewhat.
-Are you in your 20s or 30s? Yes, but I have the soul of a grandma, watch Shark Tank and usually fall asleep before 10pm.
-Do you reject mainstream consumerism? Sometimes, but I love a structured black blazer, a pastel polo shirt and a good anti-wrinkle cream…from name-brand companies (that will remain unnamed here).
-Do you value independent thinking, intelligence and witty banter? Yes. Yes. And yes.
-Do you wear thick-rimmed glasses? Yes—I did. Red ones. They broke a few weeks back. So let’s throw that question out.
-And finally, are you white? I acknowledge that hipsters come in all shades. But no, I’m black and I’m proud. [Pauses to pick at afro.]
So, am I hipster? My gut says, “Hell to the no!” But maybe I am in some ways. In fact, hipsters tend to avoid the label because they do not like to define themselves as one particular “thing”. They are always carrying a book and are mostly likely to start a blog about things that matter.
Either way, my intentions are to immerse myself whole-heartedly in service for and with the people of Bedford-Stuyvesant. I hope to do so with love and integrity for the culture and people who have been here long before it became the new Manhattan. (NOTE: At no point did I use the word “rant” or the phrase “mouthing off” to discredit Spike Lee’s most recent thoughts on Brooklyn gentrification…only a hipster would do that.)
Thoughts? Feel free to email me at Demetria.firstname.lastname@example.org.