Because we were so static and uninspired last weekend, our group was determined to do at least something over the weekend, especially since the weather was sunny and dry. On Saturday, we were finally able to reserve a bowling lane in Splitsville, thanks to Jose going there early. Later that night, we went to Wynwood, an arts district, to experience the art galleries and gentrification. On the official Wynwood website, the district is described as the result of “forward thinking developers and property owners rehabilitat[ing] neglected warehouses, shuttered factories, and other unused buildings, transforming them into the innovative businesses that are visible today,” a watered-down euphemism for gentrification.
On Sunday, we had our reflection session, during which Sanjidah and Srinath presented on gentrification and counter-cartography (which is mapping against dominant power structures) and then left us to practice counter-cartography on a neighborhood of our choice. Because we had visited Overtown, a historically Black and racially segregated neighborhood, during the first week, our group decided to map out Overtown’s gentrification and its resistance to it. We learned that Overtown’s gentrification had not yet reached the extent of Wynwood’s, but that the process has definitely begun. In addition to I-95 cutting through the heart of the neighborhood, modern structures are currently being built near the neighborhood like the Miami World Center. While the topic of gentrification often focuses on the greed and power of developers, anti-gentrification resistance also comes in many shapes and sizes. For instance, our group referenced an organization called the “Dream Defenders,” who serves as the voice for rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods and promotes certain remedies that can ameliorate it. In addition, on Wednesday, we also attended a presentation with guest speaker, Dr. Robin Bachin, who introduced us to the Miami Affordability Project (MAP), an interactive online map that helps users (with the target audience being legislators and community organizations) navigate the distribution of affordable housing and housing needs in the greater Miami area. The week was nicely themed and really furthered our understanding of gentrification as an extremely relevant and applicable phenomenon in Miami.
As usual, the LSGM group (Jason, Jose, and I) went canvassing on Tuesday and Thursday to different MHPs in Miami. We’re gathering data on demographics and living conditions for mobile home residents, which we will later analyze and use to draft a Mobile Home Advocacy Project (MHAP) report. Working under the scorching sun can be strenuous, so we’re always relieved when one of the residents invite us into their home to converse. Even though our response rates are not the highest, I’m always pleasantly surprised at how many people (e.g., moms with children, people working in the yard) are willing to take time out of their busy days to talk to us. I can’t understand Spanish, the dominant language in Miami, so I’m often the one who needs translation/explanation during or after the conversation. Luckily, I’ve been familiarizing myself with some Spanish words (e.g., sencillo and doble, buenas, regulares, malas) so that I can fill out the surveys without too much translation, and I’ve been trying to learn basic Spanish from Duolingo. Hopefully, I can learn some conversational Spanish this summer!