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The discourse on gentrification is growing: But, of course

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The popularity of discourses on gentrification as it relates to public health and certainly, social justice, have been very enlightening to me. It is very important that the discourses on gentrification are getting so widespread and that it is a huge topic for public policy and public health scholars, and others too.

During my most recent trip to Nigeria, I met up with a child rights and social justice advocate, who works consistently with children growing up in slums, in Lagos. We were discussing the issue of State-sponsored evictions and demolitions of such slum areas. From her perspective, she noted that gentrification leads to a cycle of hurt and broken dreams which then results in crime. That really stood out for me. I mean, gentrification is an action that destabilizes communities, families, in more than one way. It is most often aimed at the poor and in Western nations – at visible minority communities, especially.

In this post, I am taking the advice from the advocate in Nigeria and my concern on this matter, to address what is a destructive global issue. Gentrification happens worldwide. It happened with the Hogan’s Alley of Vancouver, Canada. Historically, it has happened in several parts of the United states. In Nigeria, it happens often in Lagos and even, very recently, with the Eke Ukwu market destruction in Imo State.

Gentrification puts the poor and disadvantaged groups at a far-reach to success, at the centre of the causes of dismal health (pollution, fast foods chains, over-populated housing etc) and in a cycle of lack. Of course, with all such ills often comes, for some, an almost-inevitable susceptibility to crime.

A major step to solving the problem of gentrification is for state actors and their networks (businesses, lobbyists etc), to understand and take very seriously, the implications of what they often deem to be ‘urbanizing’. You can urbanize without leaving disadvantaged groups and the poor behind and cutting away from communities, the ties that held them together in health, success, socialization and other ways. Gentrification cuts such ties apart and it is without a doubt, a human rights violation.

I encourage readers of this post, to also dig deeper on the literature on gentrification as it cuts across the fields of social justice and public health. It has been very worthwhile for me. I will end by saying: SPEAK UP AGAINST GENTRIFICATION!

Please. If we keep speaking up against it, I am sure that we will make, even just a little difference.

Love & Peace,
Chiamaka

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Who At This Time, Can Boast of Being Free?

Too often, we talk about fighting for the freedom of others, we talk about the people who are not free. But, who are the unfree? Perhaps, we could say – the poor, victims of war, people stricken by a chronic illness, victims of human trafficking, the marginalized racial groups in Western societies; the list goes on. While most of the people who fall into those categories are obviously oppressed, there is something about the usual addressing of the so-called unfree, that seems a little odd. It is possible that because I see myself, we see ourselves – as the empowered, the ones who live in a just society – we do not consider ourselves unfree, as well.

We live in a world that is stricken by injustice, corruption and fear. Victims of war exist in parts of the Middle East; racial prejudice continues to maintain popularity in the United States; Aboriginals for numerous decades have had the poorest standard of living than any other ethnic group in Canada; in April of 2014, over 200 schoolgirls where abducted by an Islamic extremist group (Boko Haram) in Nigeria. These examples encompass only a tip of the iceberg. Victims of such vicious actions were not born unfree, they are people whose fellow people chose to keep in bondage. So, when we categorize people from certain societies, racial groups and gender groups e.t.c, as captives of a sort, there is a problem. The issue is that we forget that all of us are unfree, at the moment.

We are.

We live in a world were black protesters in Ferguson are wearing shirts and carrying signs that read – stop killing us. They are urging not just law enforcement agents but also human beings to have some kindness. When we see such things, surely there must be a lump that goes down our throat. They are urging their fellow human being to love his/her brother/sister. Who is really free when kindness of humanity seems to not be innate? How about hearing that Aboriginal women in Canada continue to be prone to murder – don’t we still wonder where humanity lies in humans and also, who is really free? In fact, the phrase “Missing and murdered Aboriginal women” is a very common one in Canada. In October 2014, some Aboriginal families were dredging the Red River of Winnipeg in search of the bodies of missing relatives. If this happens in a world where the so-called privileged live, we are forced to reflect on the question – who is free? When over 200 girls are abducted from their school, taken away from their families and a bright future, by an extremist group whose name translates to “Western education is sin”, surely, some of us must wonder how innate kindness in humans really is.

The effects of globalization, mainly technological developments, continue to keep citizens of the world informed about vices going on in their society and in different communities of the world. The effects of this ease of information transmission presumably encourage people who are bold enough to advocate for the rights of their fellow humans, to step up and lend their voice. The solidarity being shown by protests in different parts of the world not only gives me faith that humanity still exists in some, it also brings hope that truly, the world can become a better place.

The oppressor (could be an employer, the government, the government executive/bureaucratic executive, a law enforcement agency, a militant group e.t.c.) whether he or she or they, know(s) it or not is unfree. It may not be acknowledged or seen, but the oppressor that puts another in bondage is also enslaved. The oppressor experiences an emotional slavery. The oppressor continues to seek ways to punish, does not learn from past mistakes, continually wishes to dominate, always grips to certain ideologies that create vices. The oppressor is not free. The oppressor is constantly driven in motion by negativity and this causes internal unrest. The oppressor also lives under constant attack (usually verbal) from protesters, governments and organizations that do not support injustice. How can you be free, when you are driven by poisonous emotions and ideals? Is not an enjoyable life one that is lived in peace and love?

Some of us may feel that the an occurrence is “not my issue”, so we do not react, though we may feel empathy for those that are directly and obviously affected. However, we are ALL un-free beings till everyone in this world is free from prejudice (ethnic, racial, gender, class, national origin), senseless violence and other injustices that are tormenting citizens of this world. We are not liberated till our brothers and sisters are free. We are not free because the vices inflicted on our brothers and sisters from the same or a different society, by fellow human beings can also come upon us. The oppressor is also not free but enslaved to wickedness and is constantly pestered by those that do not tolerate the violation of human rights. So, we all covet to be free one way or the other and we can make that change by working together to create more loving and peaceful societies.

In the words of the late Canadian politician, Jack Layton, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world”.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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