Black Studies

The “coming home” of the black midle class

September 8, 2008
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The “coming home” of the black midle class

Julia Vitullo-Martin has an interesting review of Derek S. Hyra’s new book, The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, in Sunday’s New York Post. In his book Hyra looks at the nation’s two most important historic, urban black neighborhoods—New York’s Harlem and Chicago’s Bronzeville—to explore the shifting dynamics of class and race as these two iconic black communities undergo an unprecedented period of gentrification. From the Post review: Hyra’s most fundamental concern: As these neighborhoods come back economically, what will happen to their poor residents? Hyra notes that both Bronzeville and Harlem are “revitalizing without drastic racial changeover.” In the last 10 years, Central Harlem’s white population increased to 2% from 1.5%, and the white proportion in Bronzeville increased to 4% from 2.5%. Yet while Hyra is very worried about the displacement of the poor, he argues that class antagonism is actually important to the redevelopment of formerly impoverished communities. Black middle-class values translate into effective political activity and organizations, including block clubs, planning boards and religiously affiliated community development corporations. The problem, as he sees it, is that the “coming home” of the black middle class will produce a neighborhood in which poor blacks are . . .

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Press Release: Hyra, The New Urban Renewal

September 2, 2008
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Press Release: Hyra, The New Urban Renewal

Most of us probably think we know how urban gentrification works: rich young whites move into poor, non-white areas and gobble up cheap real estate, eventually forcing longtime residents to move to more affordable but distant locales. Since the late 1990s, however, a surprising new pattern has emerged as a handful of poverty-stricken black neighborhoods have evolved into residential hotspots boasting high-income housing, destination dining, designer boutiques, and even bed-and-breakfasts—all while managing to stay black. No two neighborhoods in the country exemplify this trend better than Harlem in New York City and Bronzeville in Chicago. In this groundbreaking book, Derek S. Hyra—a resident of both of these neighborhoods—moves from the streets to city hall to corporate boardrooms, tracing the web of factors at play in the remarkable revitalization of these two historic enclaves. Read the press release. . . .

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The costs of urban transformation

August 28, 2008
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The costs of urban transformation

In yesterday’s New York Sun Harvard economist Edward Glaeser reviewed Derek Hyra’s new book The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville. Hyra’s book looks at urban gentrification in two neighborhoods—Chicago’s Bronzeville and New York’s Harlem—and its impact on various socio-economic groups, revealing a sharp divide between middle-income and less affluent residents in benefiting from such transformations. As Glaeser explains: A dynamic private sector… has made New York and Chicago increasingly prosperous places over the last 15 years.… As these cities have done well, demand for space has exploded. We see rising demand in the skyrocketing price of space in Manhattan and in the cranes that seem to be a permanent feature of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive skyline. Booming demand has also increased the desire among middle-class people to move to formerly poor areas such as Harlem and Bronzeville: Upwardly mobile urbanites, priced out of more expensive areas, have become urban pioneers “gentrifying” areas that used to be poor. But just as the real pioneers weren’t always such a blessing for the American Indians on the frontier, gentrifiers aren’t always a boon for the established residents of an area.… Continue reading the article on the New York . . .

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Kelan Phil Cohran and Chicago’s mecca of the avant-garde

August 14, 2008
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Kelan Phil Cohran and Chicago’s mecca of the avant-garde

The latest edition of Time Out Chicago is running an article about Kelan Phil Cohran—whose notable work as a jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist once landed him a spot in Sun Ra’s Arkestra and, more recently, a central role in George E. Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. Lewis’s book is the definitive history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an important and influential Chicago jazz collective which Cohran helped to found in 1965. But as Time Out‘s Jake Austen notes, Cohran not only played an important role in organizing the association and establishing Chicago as a mecca for avant-garde jazz, but continues to be a major force in the jazz scene today: After settling in Chicago in the mid-’50s, Cohran became an integral part of the South Side’s cultural fabric during the next half-century, forming the AACM and turning a Bronzeville movie house into the Afro-Arts Theater (home base of Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Oscar Brown Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others). He also became a fixture in public schools, teaching and demonstrating his musical ideas from 1965 until the ’90s.… But Cohran is best known for his stint . . .

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Venus Flytrap returns to Cincinnati

August 11, 2008
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Venus Flytrap returns to Cincinnati

John Kieswetter, the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s TV/Radio/Media reporter heralded the arrival of one of Cincinnati’s favorite TV personalities, comedian and actor Tim Reid, with a nice post to his blog last Thursday. His posting touches on Reid’s historic career in comedy, and details his recent itinerary, which brought him back to the city he once fictionally inhabited as radio DJ Venus Flytrap on the late 70’s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. According to Keiswetter, Reid was scheduled to host the local Emmy Awards dinner and to throw out the first pitch at the Reds-Astros game. In his post Kieswetter remarks: “I bet he’s surprised at how often he’s recognized here, and how fondly so many of us remember ‘WKRP.'” But while most people recognize Reid from his hit TV show, fewer remember his earlier work in the pioneering stand-up act “Tim and Tom” with comedian Tom Dreesen—the first interracial comedy team in the history of show business. Now with Reid’s forthcoming book, Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White, co-authored with Dreesen and Ron Rappaport, the fascinating story of this ground-breaking comedic duo is revealed—from their beginnings in the nightclubs of Chicago to to their acrimonious breakup after 5 . . .

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NPR reviews A Power Stronger Than Itself

July 30, 2008
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NPR reviews A Power Stronger Than Itself

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviewed George E. Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music for the July 29 edition of NPR’s Fresh Air. In the review, Whitehead outlines the book’s captivating scholarly portrait of the Chicago avant-garde jazz collective known as the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which, since its inception in 1965, has counted among its ranks internationally acclaimed artists such as Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Muhal Richard Abrams, and gained world wide recognition as one of the defining forces in the avant-garde jazz scene. Listen to the archived audio on the NPR website. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Richard Wright Centenary

June 19, 2008
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Richard Wright Centenary

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of African American author Richard Wright, whose famous novels Black Boy and Native Son redefined race relations in the 20th century. Appropriate to the occasion, the press released a new paperback edition of the authoritative biographical account of Wright’s tumultuous life and literary career, Richard Wright: The Life and Times by Hazel Rowley. An illuminating article in the June 11 edition of the Times Literary Supplement references Rowley’s book as it delivers a short biography of Wright, describing his rise and fall as one of the “stars” in the early twentieth century’s “literary firmament,” his complicated relationship to the civil rights movement, and the “hazards of his expatriation to France in the late 1940’s.” You can read the full article by James Campbell at the TLS Online. And then navigate here to find out more about Rowley’s biography. . . .

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Interview with Mary Pattillo on WNYC

June 17, 2008
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Interview with Mary Pattillo on WNYC

Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City was interviewed yesterday on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the gentrification of urban African American communities. Pattillo’s book is an eye-opening sociological exploration of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood and the community’s embattled process of revitalization, where the often conflicting interests of the black middle-class, their less-fortunate neighbors, and the established centers of white economic and political power frame a dramatic tale of the transformation of black communities in the twenty-first century. In the interview Pattillo touches on many of the issues discussed in her book and fields some interesting questions from WNYC listeners. Listen to the audio on the WNYC website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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The transformation of Harlem

June 11, 2008
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The transformation of Harlem

Derek S. Hyra, author of The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, was interviewed today on the BBC Radio 4 program Thinking Allowed. Host Laurie Taylor, on the ground in Harlem, interviewed Harlem residents and neighborhood leaders, as well as Hyra and other authors to understand both the history of Harlem and the “Second Harlem Renaissance” that is renewing and stressing the neighborhood. Does gentrification bring upheaval or stability? Is change always good? Who are the winners and who are the losers? The archived audio is available from the BBC. . . .

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The epic history of the AACM

June 3, 2008
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The epic history of the AACM

The June issue of Downbeat Magazine is running a positive review of George Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music—the definitive history of one of the most influential avant-garde jazz collectives in existence, the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Writing for Downbeat jazz critic Howard Mandel begins his review: George Lewis’s epic history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians sets a new standard for scholarly writing about the people who make Great Black Music, or any other kind. A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, interweaves interviews with 67 of Lewis’s AACM colleagues, select journalistic reports and theoretical writings with the perspective of a trusted insider across a societal portrait worthy of Tolstoy. Lewis dramatizes the story of independent, underfinanced, determined, sophisticated artists from a working-class minority subculture struggling to launch an esthetic movement that emphasizes individuality, continuous exploration and personal development in a world that could hardly care less. Downbeat magazine seems to be having some technical difficulties with their website, but for now you can read the full unedited version on Howard Mandel’s blog Jazz Beyond Jazz. Also read an excerpt . . .

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