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Them & Us

written April 2016

I am them.

I am your worst nightmare — the manifestation of your fears about this community, gentrification incarnate standing here on this corner of East Liberty
My resume reads like a rap sheet of privilege:

I am the product of privilege and racism — “There and Back Again” by White-boy Baggins who so comfortably abandoned the city centers to let them rot, built the suburbs where I grew up, and now so comfortably is taking back the cities from the stewards.
And they would have the gall to say they are revitalizing this city, when gentrification 氣 isn’t about life on this corner, 氣 but about white 氣 on the corner.
Because life survived even after they left, and the stewards were faithful with what was left.
Yet they would punish and cast out the survivors for being wicked 氣 and lazy. 氣

But I am them.

Yet I am here because I want to listen and learn.
I know that this conversation has been black and white, and I’m not.
I know that I don’t know that much.
But I know that I don’t want to be them.

Because, I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day on the black and yellow hills of Pittsburgh, the people and the power-brokers will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day Pittsburgh, a city frozen with heartless injustice, frozen with heartless oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my neighbors will one day live in a Pittsburgh where housing is affordable and available to everyone without redlining or eviction.
I have a dream that one day could be today and not tomorrow.

Because we have a shared dream.
We have a shared dream to stop “them.”

We have a shared dream to stop using “them” even if they use us, because we are better than “us vs them”
Because we are one body experiencing self-harm
Because who can be against us if we are for us?
Because the real enemy is not the community development group, not the government, not the private developer, but pride, ignorance, and greed.

We must be a body that seeks to understand each member, and not seek to dismember; a body that works together, and is not just a collection of parts; a body that celebrates the multi-mitochondrial and genomic differences exhibited by each individual cell.
We must be a body of neighbors in neighborhoods unrestrained by the fictitious chains of market forces, instead living freely with love and humility.

Because we are not them; we are all of us.