We knew it would be a long walk and I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. I wore high heels and a short black dress. Jonathan insisted that it was a bad idea. He was right.
“Stop taking a picture of me you faggot!” These words were the first words we heard as Jonathan snapped his first picture on 23rd St. and Girard Ave. We both knew we did not fit in. The longer you walked through the streets, the more intimidating the area became. You notice barred up windows and doors, destroyed and vacant homes, shards of glass, broken bottles, and cigarette butts. Both of us coped by laughing and looking down at the trash-covered streets.
The comments continued throughout the neighborhood. Two older African American men screamed obscene remarks from across the street but I looked the other way. I assured Jonathan that at least I know how to fight. I am a black belt in Muay Thai but I wasn’t sure if I could stop a bullet. We were the only white people for blocks on end.
In the middle of 28th and Girard, there was a post office with a large, red laminated poster that read: “NO! Gentrification! We truly welcome the world—diversity is an asset. But, we reject displacement. We want economic development, not housing for the rich. We must rebuild our community for those already here!”
After we spotted this sign, we wanted to investigate. The walk further into the neighborhood showed signs of rebirth. Construction started in some parts of the area with large Westrum Development signs that were carefully placed on vacant building and new-gated communities.
Residents of Brewerytown are hopeful that the community will overcome the poverty and reshape the abandoned property. Joseph Green, a proprietor and owner of B&G Auto Tags said, “I’m happy that they are fixing things up. We are happy to see the change, like to see the way things used to be. I would like to see more home owners. There needs to be more renting. Section 8 is bad for the neighborhood no matter what color they are.”
With this mentality, we started to understand why we felt so displaced from Brewerytown. We knew nothing about this neighborhood. With more time and a better understanding of the people and their views, we would like to call Brewerytown “home away from home.”
By Danielle Bacher and Jonathan Braymer- Team 18, Brewerytown/Strawberry Mansion