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Detroit has always been one of my favorite cities. When you look past the bad, there’s a history and eclecticness that its long-time residents and business owners are clinging to. Many of those business owners, who are black, are now fighting to keep their businesses alive because of gentrification.

In what is referred to as “New Detroit,” white owned businesses are taking over and Mike Duggan the city’s first white mayor in 40 years couldn’t be happier.

In a harrowing report on NBCNews, Black business owners expressed their issues with all of the redevelopment that has taken place. Many can’t afford their leases that have now skyrocketed, only to see new businesses popping up.

From NBC:

Larry and Dianne Mongo, a couple who ran restaurants, hair salons and retail businesses on Woodward Avenue for 31 years, were evicted with more than two years on their lease just before opening two new restaurants.

The Mo’ Better Blues Jazzy Bistro closed after a legal battle over the lease. Owners Marilyn Hall and son, Gerald Watson, said they spent more than $250,000 on a build out and operated only about a year.

That same month, Darnell Small, owner of the Tangerine Room, a bar and restaurant, also lost his lease. After a long legal battle with owners, Rivertown Holdings, he finally closed the business in May.

In June, Zana Smith, owner of Spectacles, a small downtown retail shop known for selling the hottest sunglasses, trendy T-shirts and novelty items for 31 years, was given a 30-day notice to leave because the building was sold.

Small, who has owned entertainment spots downtown for two decades, said he doesn’t know what to do now. Earlier this month, he received a settlement for more than $100,000 in damages, but it doesn’t ease his pain or the losses he sustained.

“It seems like we can spend our money, but we don’t have a right to be there,” he said. “Blacks do not have a level playing field anymore. Certain opportunities are not there for us. I never felt like we were being moved out before. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened.”

This issue isn’t just something happening in Detroit. Look at Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn, N.Y. as examples. Not only can black people not afford to live in these cities, they also can’t afford to keep their businesses opened.

Even with gentrification occurring in Detroit, it still remains one of the cities with the most black entrepreneurs. According to Ken Harris, president and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc., there are 32,000 black owned businesses in the area. And it’s these business owners who will more than likely remain in Detroit after the ‘thrill’ has left the gentrifiers.

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  • BillipPhailey

    Sooooo white people have $. They have more $. Why not sell artisanal collard and kale smoothies?

    This sounds like shitty business planning to me.

    Did they support Kwame Kilpatrick (and his mistress)?

  • Gentrification then and now is an act of war against black people. There is nothing to sugarcoat. Detroit has a long amazing history. It is a mecca of black culture and black strength. There was the DRUM organization that promoted black human rights and workers’ rights (during the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s). Also, Detroit is home to so many musicians, civil rights activists, and very down to Earth people. For decades, there has been the deindustrialization and corporate exploitation of Detroit (which has nothing to do with the masses of the people), but it has to do with the actions of the American capitalist oligarchy. Both Republican and Democratic leaders in Detroit have allied with corporate interests to promote the cutting of pensions, the layoffs of workers, and the restriction of water among many of its residents (which people have classified as a violation of international human rights). The rebellion in Detroit back in 1967 was a turning point in our black American history. Folks were tried of racism, police brutality, and other injustices, so the rebellion transpired. From the 1970’s, thousands of workers lost their jobs in the auto field.

    Today, land grabs in Detroit are not just done by gentrifiers. It’s also done by multinational corporations who benefited from the bailouts during the bankruptcy of Detroit. Also, another point is to be made too. Detroit is a city filled with resiliency. Everything isn’t perfect in the world, but I have hope for the future. We, as black people, should do all that we can to build up our infrastructure and help the poor. There is no liberation in the world without strategies and solutions to help the poorest of our people. There should be more investment in Detroit’s auto industry, STEM fields, and in education. Creative solutions are in order as well.

    There should be the elimination of the water shutoffs and a moratorium on home foreclosures. There should be accountability in society, but we should be careful not to scapegoat black people collectively for the situation in Detroit. This stuff never existed in a vacuum. This situation was decades in the making. Those people who are suffering in Detroit need compassion and inspiration. I have no problem with group economics in our community and pooling our resources to build in our communities. That’s commonsense. We don’t need Wall Street interests dominating Detroit. We need the people of Detroit to control Detroit. We need to advance economic justice and a radical redistribution of economic plus political power.

  • Sharon Hughes

    i know this is oversimplified for an issue as complicated as gentrification but i would like to maybe see some of these black business go in business together and think co-op but for a business. they all pool their money together to buy a building and then each shop can operate out of and own their own separate space

    • CoolChic

      That’s what I thought too.

  • Bearlikesbones

    There are spaces available, just
    not where they want to be. This is prime
    time to rebuild the black areas in Detroit.
    Let the whites have downtown, midtown, whatever area they are going to
    rename to suit them. Go back to the
    neighborhoods that need businesses and get good security systems. I do feel for
    the people who paid to improve their rental spaces and then got their leases
    terminated early. They should all
    receive some type of reimbursement for lost revenue if their leases got
    terminated early. Some of this sounds
    shaky, they should talk to an attorney, because I thought existing leases had
    to be honored.