The saying “out of the mouths of babes” rings true in Brooklyn and the children participating in STEAM Camp, a project ran by the DIVAS for Social Justice, have their own opinions about gentrification. This year’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Camp involves learning all about gentrification, and most importantly the role it plays in their lives.
“Just imagine, you were in a house, you were struggling to pay the rent,” one camper said. “But you worked so hard to pay it. And then all of a sudden the landlord comes to you and says you’re being evicted – somebody is moving into this house. It’s like you did everything right and then something bad just happens to you.”
In conjunction with Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant, children are taught financial literacy. According to Gerald Miller, from Neighborhood Housing Services, he hopes if kids learn the basics, by the time they’re an adult, they’ll be better armed with knowledge.
“People feel like the neighborhood that they’ve known is ceasing to be,” he says. “Blocks in Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, that 15, 20 years ago, people didn’t want to move onto are now multi-million dollar blocks.”
On a recent summer day, one of the camp’s Executive Director and co-founders, Clarisa James of DIVAS for Social Justice, took the kids on a documentary expedition. They were exploring the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant to photograph gentrification in progress. And even if they couldn’t provide a formal definition, gentrification as urban reality is something the campers are familiar with. Many of them are experiencing it first hand on their own blocks and in their own neighborhoods. When James points out a “for rent” sign on a newly renovated building, 12-year-old camper Kiyari Jaundoo takes notice.
“I could tell my mom about it,” she says. “Because we’re trying to find an apartment.”
“Why doesn’t your mother get a fifth job so you can still stay in your brownstone?” asks 9-year-old Xaavi Vericain. “She might get a lot of money to buy a whole house.”
Take a listen to what the campers are learning: