Bedford-Stuyvesant

Racist Halloween decorations a symptom of Bed-Stuy’s gentrification, say neighbors

November 4, 2019 By Clarke Illmatical

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.”

ArtShack Co-Founder McKendree Key addresses the crowd. Eagle photo by Clarke Illmatical

Attendees said the incident was the symptom of a much larger issue of gentrification in the neighborhood.

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“[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. Eagle photo by Clarke Illmatical

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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27 Comments

  1. Whats harmful to a community is having the highest murder rate in brooklyn. If it wasn’t for gentrification, there would be even more murdered on these streets. I welcome gentrification.

    • miss jay

      Listen! I don’t give a damn who is in the neighborhood. I still watch my self and clutch my purse. What you refuse to see is along with gentrification came heroine, opioids and prostitution. Everyone can do better. Knock it off!!!

      • You are used to clutching your purse and worrying about crime. That isn’t normal, you have communities that leave their door open at night thats how safe it is. Prostitution and drugs has always been around, gentrification actually reduces it. I dont see many night walkers walking through park slope but i do see them in East New York. Gentrification makes communities better, it sucks some people wont be able to afford to stay. But thats life, prices have to be raised to keep the riff raff out and attract better quality people.

        • Nativeson

          And I haven’t seen people leave their doors open in Urban Areas and Suburban Areas in many States in 50 years. Maybe they do so in small town Maine (yes, I’ve been to Maine.) Maybe they do so in Rural areas. However, in most metropolitan areas, that’s a pipe dream, fool hardy, and not in sync with reality. Robert Frost said, ” Good fences make good neighbors. So do good locks.

        • Nativeson

          And I haven’t seen people leave their doors open in Urban Areas and Suburban Areas in many States in 50 years. Maybe they do so in small town Maine (yes, I’ve been to Maine.) Maybe they do so in Rural areas. However, in most metropolitan areas, that’s a pipe dream, fool hardy, and not in sync with reality. Robert Frost said, ” Good fences make good neighbors. So do good locks.

          • Its not about need, its about what is happening in front of your eyes. They are coming whether you like it or not. And either we help educate then or be angry all day. Its up to you

    • Nativeson

      Bed Stuy and especially Clinton Hill hardly have the highest murder rate in Brooklyn. I have lived in Brooklyn for 65 years, 26 of those years in Clinton Hill. I have seen those communities at their worst and I’ve worked to make them better. Newly arrived neighbors should work with older residents to improve communities, not impose their values in opposition to long time residents.

      • And older neighbors need to upgrade their values as well. No loud music at all times of the night, no hanging out all day at the corner, no selling drugs on the corner, teach children to value education.

        • Nativeson

          When new neighbors call the police on the neighborhood church that’s been an institution in the community for over 100 years, because they don’t like the choir rehearsal that’s been held every Wednesday night for almost as long, that’s White privilege. When they call the police on the Drum Circle that’s been held in Prospect Park for decades without complaint, that’s White Privilege. When they go to the Community Board to close a restaurant because they don’t like the fact that it has too many well dressed, middle class patrons who go there after church on Sunday, that’s White Privilege. When you assume that every Black young man who hangs out in front of his building, that he’s been doing since he was a child, is a drug dealer, that’s White. Privilege. People have been wanting the prostitutes and the drug dealers to be removed for years, but it only happens when the White people come. It’s the same “pioneer” spirit that White people displayed when they displaced, removed and decimated the Native Americans. Newly arrived people have to show some sensitivity for the people who were there before them. I’m willing to work with newly arrived people who are going to be good neighbors. If you are going to be an Occupier, I will work against you, which I have.

          • Cashatwork

            People please uderstand the meaning of the word gentrification, and please stop using it to describe the change to the populace in any neighborhood. Its an ugly term used to elevate people coming in and be derogatory toward those people Indigenous to the area!

            “Gentry are “well-born, genteel and well-bred people” of high social class, especially in the past. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry, the majority of the land-owning social class who were typically armigerous, but did not have titles of nobility.”

            Please! In this day and age it’s SAD! Stop playing into it……

          • Nativeson

            I’ve been fighting against “Gentrification” and “Displacement” for almost 40 years. I know who “The Gentry” are and what the term means. Back in the day we used to call them “Yuppies.” The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

          • Occupiers dont care, working against them for what? Its more energy against harmless hipsters then there are the same idiots in our community selling drugs and shooting people. They are coming whether you like it or not, these home prices are out of reach for people who grew up in the neighborhood. These luxury buildings going for over 2500 isnt for them either. I grew up here, my quality of life has never been better. New restaurants, bars, healthy supermarkets (many black owned), no loud music blasting and less gun shots. Im happy, stop fighting change for the better.

          • Nativeson

            Then take out the criminals. Don’t take out the less affluent with artificially projected housing costs. I spent 20 years as a tenant advocate. I prevented 100’s of people from being evicted, losing their homes. I was here when the housing laws were changed to benefit the landlords. I just helped change them to benefit tenants. We don’t have to have a Class War to make things better. We need to educate people. We need an education system that works. I also worked within the justice system as well. We are creating opportunity in our community. Opportunity reduces crime, not this Planned Obsolescence we’ve been working since the 70’s. I grew up here too. Promote partnership and working out solutions with your neighbors. Otherwise, we’re just playing Cowboys and Indians. I’m with the indians.

          • Unfortunately, you have the indians protecting people that shouldn’t be saved. So their is no separation of good and bad, just the almighty dollar . Raising prices is the fastest way to get the low quality people out. As more elderly people start selling their homes and making a lovely profit off of it thanks to gentrification. Wealth that black families would have never seen otherwise. There are pros and cons with everything. I understand renters scare with gentrification, but thats why we have affordable housing and rent stabilization. As a homeowner, i benefit from the higher home prices, amenities and lower crime and overall better quality of life. The train is already going, you cant stop it. We will never be a park slope which i dont want bedstuy to be. The strong black community is our strong point, but i do welcome the changes that have made our neighborhood better.

          • Nativeson

            Fortunately, I benefit from Rent Regulation. I live in a 2 bedroom in Clinton Hill with 1 and 1/2 baths, a full kitchen, a living room and a dining room. My rent just hit $1,200 a year ago. I raised 2 of my 5 children there and had at least a dozen children from out of the district use my address to attend PS 11. Both of the children that were raised in my apartment have reached adulthood, have graduated college and are working on advanced degrees. One left the Apt and the other is still there. We achieved this BEFORE the big Gentrification boom. My wife and I are both still working and we are both collecting Social Security. Even in the 90’s we didn’t feel unsafe. Yeah, a lot of Black people have to start treating the neighborhood school as a babysitter and start treating it as an investment. I did with my children and grandchildren. However, this Social Darwinism you espouse leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My building is a Pre-War Apt Bldg. 50% of it is rent regulated now. The other 50% percent is market rate. I’d say 90% of the market rate people are transient. The average stay is 3 months. They don’t make an investment in the community. I’ve also seen 5 businesses in Fort Greene close up within the last 3 years. Businesses that were considered institutions: Academy Diner, 57 Hamburger, Scopello’s, Moshood Clothing and Madiba Restaurant. Their storefronts remain empty. I want a mix of class in my neighborhood, and I refuse to have newcomers look down on me. You think Gentrification is a good thing, I think it’s ok as long as people are not imposing values and are being good neighbors. Every Black kid in a hoodie and sneakers is not a criminal. Besides, I think the Gentrification thing is leveling off.

          • Nativeson

            Fortunately, I benefit from Rent Regulation. I live in a 2 bedroom in Clinton Hill with 1 and 1/2 baths, a full kitchen, a living room and a dining room. My rent just hit $1,200 a year ago. I raised 2 of my 5 children there and had at least a dozen children from out of the district use my address to attend PS 11. Both of the children that were raised in my apartment have reached adulthood, have graduated college and are working on advanced degrees. One left the Apt and the other is still there. We achieved this BEFORE the big Gentrification boom. My wife and I are both still working and we are both collecting Social Security. Even in the 90’s we didn’t feel unsafe. Yeah, a lot of Black people have to start treating the neighborhood school as a babysitter and start treating it as an investment. I did with my children and grandchildren. However, this Social Darwinism you espouse leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My building is a Pre-War Apt Bldg. 50% of it is rent regulated now. The other 50% percent is market rate. I’d say 90% of the market rate people are transient. The average stay is 3 months. They don’t make an investment in the community. I’ve also seen 5 businesses in Fort Greene close up within the last 3 years. Businesses that were considered institutions: Academy Diner, 57 Hamburger, Scopello’s, Moshood Clothing and Madiba Restaurant. Their storefronts remain empty. I want a mix of class in my neighborhood, and I refuse to have newcomers look down on me. You think Gentrification is a good thing, I think it’s ok as long as people are not imposing values and are being good neighbors. Every Black kid in a hoodie and sneakers is not a criminal. Besides, I think the Gentrification thing is leveling off.

          • We definitely need a balance. Like i said, i dont want clinton hill and bed stuy to be the new park slop or williamsburg. I love the neighborhood, grew up here and bought here when crack were sold all down the block. There was always community but im not going to lie about the issues that worried me. I never had my kids ouTside after 5pm. I also love the neighborhood now and what it is becoming. We need to Be welcoming on both sides, understand its beneficial to the community.schools get more funding, more local jobs due to business creation. Im cool with my new white neighbors, they are learning and so am i. The odds of white folks who are racist moving into a black community is low. Lets start from there and see how relationships can get better.

          • Nativeson

            Now you have Real Estate people stealing deeds from elderly homeowners so that they can resell the ripped off homes to more affluent people at inflated prices. I guess you’re in favor of that too, huh?

          • Its almost 2020, everyone has an iphone or access to the internet which holds a wealth of information. Elderly people should not be ripped off from their homes in today’s climate. Dont trust random people and don’t sign any paperwork without reading it or a lawyer present. There are tons of protections but people get scammed everyday. Bernie Madoff ripped off millions from educated wealthy people. It happens, and that’s not a large segment of homes being sold from deed theft.

    • Cashatwork

      Do you really believe that “gentrification” as it’s suggested here has decreased the crime rate simply because of the newly arrived “Gentry”? 100%wrong. What you’re suggesting would in fact support the idea of privilege because of race…… And Then you’re part of the problem!

      Check your facts…….

  2. Jerry Krase

    ‘unknowledge’ is often a cause of insensitivity. one might argue that the caption for the offensive ‘artwork’ could have been how children of color are being ‘lynched’ in trump’s amerika, which would have made a different statement. unfortunately, many new ‘invaders’ are ignorant of their effect on the people who strove to make the neighborhood desirable through decades of neglect and attack by outside institutions. for example the racist mortgage and insurance red-lining of beautiful bed-stay. https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ron-howell-goodbye-bed-stuy-article-1.1978542

  3. Nativeson

    PS 11, and the home in question are located in Clinton Hill, not Bed Stuy. Letitia James also lives in Clinton Hill. I would think, as journalists, you would get these things right.

  4. Aliya Tyus-Barnwell

    They gave a fake apology and tried to link it to a movie that depicts none of the imagery they claimed to be recreating.
    They’re going to have to marinate in the discomfort they created for themselves.