So often, we see it happen the opposite way – change taking place as outsiders see fit, without consideration of the community's voices speaking to what's best for their own lives. And usually, this kind of change follows certain patterns. Out with the liquor stores, and in with the wine bars. Out with the graffiti, in with the art galleries. And, of course, out with the low-income people of color, and in with those who can afford to live in the more expensive, new and "improved" version of the neighborhood.
At the July Lit Slam, the stupendous featured poet, Danez Smith, read a poem he'd written from the perspective of a prostitute witnessing gentrification in her neighborhood. "My pussy got a Whole Foods," he read. The poem was a comically clever, making me laugh and making me reflect on the neighborhood where I grew up. It's still Whole Foods-free, and without gentrification, that land is sort of sacred ground.
So as I watch, I wonder where things will go from here. Will Stockton communities continue to experience award-winning misery? Or will they see positive change, as some believe? If so, my hope is for the people of Stockton to be able to feel safe and thrive, rather than being displaced by some new wave of privileged folk who decide that change is worth it because they've moved in.
You know me – I find hope in poetry, in the telling of stories from the voices of the people. So With Our Words, a Stockton-based organization promoting youth development and leadership through literary and creative arts, is on my radar. Here's a video of Stockton youth competing in a poetry slam, with a piece that draws attention to the measures some take to find hope for change under dreary conditions.