Tag Archives: gentrification

Why I want to protect First Fridays!

10 Aug

I have never been a regular attendee of Richmond’s First Fridays Art Walk. In fact, over the years I have been a major critic of the event and the concept of the event.

Richmond is by no means unique in having such an art walk. The tactic of using an art walk to push for the redevelopment or gentrification of an area (depending on your perspective) is not at a new concept. Richmond has had First Fridays for over a decade now. And while over that decade there have been major changes to the Jackson Ward/ Broad Street area, they have no occurred quite as  quickly as they might have were we not in an economic depression. I’m no expert, but the aspects of City Planning that I have studied and read about have lead me to take a position against Art Walks, Canal Walks, Convention Centers and other cookie cutter redevelopment schemes that fail to address the actual needs or wants of people living in a city.

Jackson Ward is a historically black working class neighborhood. The demographics of that neighborhood have been changing, particularly via VCU students moving in. First Fridays basically occurring in Jackson Ward was something I viewed as problematic- another major gentrifying move that had the potential to hurt that community and displace lower income people.

When I have gone to First Fridays in the past it was mostly to support friends who had art on display or who were performing. I even helped to organize some First Fridays events- like the Richmond Zine Fest at Gallery 5 in 2009. And what I saw was mostly white people.  And I saw a lot of white people who were more affluent. Which is definitely the type of crowd this sort of event is desinged to draw in.

I would acknowledge at this point that there have been organizers of First Fridays, Gallery owners and artists, who have all along worked to make this event inclusive and welcoming to pre-existing residents of Jackson Ward and the surrounding areas. I have just always been highly skeptical of their chances of success despite their good intentions.

So I mostly stopped going to First Fridays. I was not interested in participating in  a redevelopment strategy that seemingly reached out only to suburbanites and fearful west enders, adventuring into the heart of a city they really don’t understand. But then this year, we started to hear the rumblings of something else. I am a member of the non-hierarchical organization Richmond Copwatch. We listen to a digital scanner to hear what the Richmond Police are up to. This enables us to go out and observe and record the police, thereby helping to keep them accountable for their behavior. So through this and conversations with people we know who do attend First Fridays we began to hear that this year, the police were there in force, disrupting the crowd.

We heard that the police had maced the crowd a couple times, ridden their horses into the middle of crowds, and were trying to organize with Curated Culture (the non-profit that officially organizes First Fridays) to change the times of the event and potentially get rid of it altogether. We heard from many non-anarchists, respected community members about town, that the police were being very aggressive and that a lot of this aggressiveness seemed directed towards people of color. The media and others mostly spoke of the “youth”, but in this case the youth they meant was mostly youth of color.

Richmond Copwatch decided as a collective to go to the August First Fridays to observe and record the Richmond Police Department. I was still conflicted about how I felt about organizing to try and save something I have been avidly against in the past. For me, my motivations for going were mostly hearing from “youth” from my neighborhood (Southern Barton Heights on Northsiiiide) about the police presence. Regardless of the art, regardless of the suburbanites, I was interested in using Copwatch as a method to try and keep my friends and neighbors, as well as folks from neighboring communities like Gilpin Court a little bit safer from RPD.

We met at the Rite Aid parking lot for August First Fridays. Which was a bad idea, because of the whole private corporate property thing. But we met there, and then hung out in the parking lot waiting for one Copwatch member to go purchase some energy drinks from inside.  They came out and distributed the drinks to the caffeine fiends among us. We were just about to head out in smaller groups to patrol First Fridays for police, when lo and behold one came to us.  This RPO – Toney Waldorf- came speeding into the Rite Aid parking lot, parking at an angle, and got out of his car, basically yelling at me and my friend. He said something along the lines of “Hey you”. I asked if we were being detained (because if you are not being detained you do not have to talk to the police and can go on your merry way). He didn’t respond except to say he was not talking to me. He then crossed in front of me and unholstered his Tazer and held it about 2 feet from my friend’s face. Waldorf is a tall cop, and he positioned himself on a median above my friend, which made it so he would have been shooting my friend in the face had he fired his Tazer. That is the closest up I have ever seen a Tazer, and the fastest I have seen a Richmond  Cop freak out and pull a weapon. Tazers are less lethal weapons, just like if I shoot you in the foot with a .22 it is less lethal. They are still deadly and being shot with a Tazer can very easily end in death. Especially if someone has a heart problem, which my friend does.

Quickly other RPD arrived and kicked the rest of us (who were filming at this point) out of the parking lot. One of them, Stone, committed battery against me by shoving my arm while I was clearly backing out of the lot and not at all resisting. They eventually let my friend go, after we showed a commanding officer the picture of Waldorf with a Tazer in my friend’s face. He had no charges, had done nothing wrong, was simply wearing the same color shorts as a suspect in a call they had received.

So my first experience back with First Fridays is Toney Waldorf, Richmond Cop, freaking out, unholstering a weapon at an inappropriate time and in violation of protocol, and threatening to kill my friend.

As the night carried on, it became quite clear that First Fridays had changed. I liked it better. There were kids from my neighborhood, and overall a lot of people of color seemed to be enjoying a public space. I am a huge proponent of public spaces and our ability to use them. It is the lack of public spaces in lower income neighborhoods that can make community development and organization more difficult. Downtown was packed, loud, and seemed to be full of people enjoying themselves.  These were not the people who might be likely to eat at some of the few new fancy restaurants on Broad Street, but they were people socializing in an area that could certainly benefit from development of community. Continue reading

Monroe Park Advisory Council- Sittin’ Pretty, Pretty Classist…

3 Jan
The Monroe Park Advisory Council is the organization which created the plan for the renovations of Monroe Park. They are also very unrepresentative of the people who use the park. They also fail to represent the diversity of Richmond- or come at all close. I have found one concrete way to show how different the lives of many of the MPAC members are from other people in the City. Doing some background research I discovered the following which goes at least a little ways towards pointing towards the obvious class prejudice present in the Monroe Park Advisory Council. I did property searches on the City of Richmond website to see who owned property and how much it was worth. There is of course the possibility that I have the totally wrong individuals, although I have done my best to research honestly. The people I was not sure about are listed at the bottom. 

For full disclosure and to save the haters some time, here is the same information on myself:

The Wingnut has a total real estate value of 127,000. Worth a lot more to me though! (And owning ANY property at all, regardless of its value still denotes a good amount of privilege)

Owner: KARN MORIAH MARGARET

Mailing Address: 2005 BARTON AVE, RICHMOND, VA 23222

The Esteemed Councilman coming in at a relatively modest 264,000 value on his property:
Owner: SAMUELS CHARLES R & KRISTA M

Mailing Address: 203 N MULBERRY ST, RICHMOND, VA 23220

And now for the MPAC members:

Next Time Alice Massie tries to pull the poor teacher card….her house is assessed at over 1.1 million dollars. Those Monument Avenue addresses sure are pricey- but you’d have to pay me to live that close to statues of dead confederate assholes:

Owner: MASSIE WILLIAM MCKINNON JR AND ALICE MCGUIRE MASSIE

Mailing Address: 1643 MONUMENT AVE, RICHMOND, VA 2322000000
Continue reading

Cuddle Puddles and Hot Pants #5= Available for Download

25 Nov

Cuddle Puddles and Hot Pants # 5- An Anarchist Zine from Richmond, VIrignia is now available for download here:

http://zinelibrary.info/cuddle-puddles-and-hot-pants-5-anarchist-zine-richmond-va

Cuddle Puddles and Hot Pants #5 (CPHP5) is a zine by Mo Karnage with other contributors including Kayla Dean (also of the Wingnut Anarchist Collective) and Autumn Springs! Topics include; gentrification, queerness, gay marriage, vegan recipes, accounability, copwatch, the campaign to keep Monroe Park Open, and more about the Wingnut Anarchist Collective.
All pdfs here are parts of the zine. we are behind the times technologically.
xveganarchistrvax@gmail.com
www.anarchymo.wordpress.com
PO Box 6025
Richmond, VA 23222

Food Not Bombs Statement Regarding Monroe Park

10 Oct

Richmond Food Not Bombs has been sharing food in Monroe Park for over sixteen years now. We have developed many connections and friendships over the course of our existence, helped provide healthy food to many individuals who may not have had access to it otherwise, and become a staple of social activity for many people’s Sunday afternoons.

The proposed renovations to Monroe Park are an attack , a judgement on who the park should and shouldn’t be for. It is an attack on the homeless, the “homeless-appearing” (whatever that means – it’s in the Monroe Park Advisory Council’s renovation plans), and groups and individuals who don’t judge people by their social status or whether they have conventional means of acquiring shelter.

We will not stand for it.

The only change that the park really needs is for the city to do its job when it comes do doing maintenance on the bathrooms, as they are functional but one of the water pipes to the sinks has corroded away. Other improvements, such as installing permanent chess tables, or a playground area for kids would be nice, but NOT at the cost of driving out the folks who currently congregate in the park, shutting the entire park down for 18 months, or privatizing the security of the park. Continue reading