Racist Halloween decorations a symptom of Bed-Stuy’s gentrification, say neighbors
More than 100 people gathered at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Bedford Academy High School on Saturday for a meeting organized by ArtShack, the creative studio at the center of controversy caused by racist artwork in the home window of its former co-founder Dany Rose.
The discussion was moderated by Anyawu, executive director of The Human Root, an organization that’s been working with the staff at ArtShack to help them understand the impact the conflict has had on the community, and the creative studio’s role in it.
“I’m here to listen and I’m here because I know that there has to be accountability for ArtShack to the community,” McKendree Key, the remaining ArtShack co-founder said at the meeting. “I think that what happened was awful. I feel terrible about it and I know it caused so much harm and hurt for so many people.”
Attendees said the incident was the symptom of a much larger issue of gentrification in the neighborhood.
“[We’re seeing] individuals of greater affluence coming in and imposing political will, economic will and now cultural will on a people who have been sustaining these communities for decades,” said Reverend Kirsten John Foy, a civil rights activist who has two children enrolled at P.S. 11. “It’s important that we hold ArtShack accountable. … This isn’t art, this is about imposing a system of privilege and operating from a place of white supremacy.”
Key said she did not believe Rose knew what she was doing when she hung the decorations.
“I think that your stance is necessary. But we disagree. I don’t agree that [a racist depiction] was intentional,” Key said.
Last month, Rose created and placed Halloween decorations in the window of her Clinton Hill home, which appeared to depict black children being hung by nooses.
The decorations were first reported by parents of children who attend P.S. 11, which is across the street from Rose’s home. When a picture of the decorations went viral, Rose apologized on social media, contending that the decorations were based on the horror movie Annabelle. Days later, she resigned from her job at the art studio after community members protested outside of her home and called for a boycott of the business.
Attorney General Letitia James, a Bed-Stuy resident, told those in attendance that she never thought that art could “be so divisive.”
She also spoke to the underlying issue of gentrification.
“I also know that there are people in this community, primarily of African ancestry, who feel a sense of loss. They don’t know this community anymore. Gentrification has had a harmful result on their hearts and their souls,” James said. “I think what was done was stupid. I think what was done was a lack of knowledge of the history of people of African ancestry and the harm certain art forms can cause to our soul and to our being. What is happening in our neighborhood is very painful.”
Clarke Illmatical is a writer from Queens, currently residing in Brooklyn.
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