Bodegas, Gentrification, and Social Experiences

The recent controversy around “Bodega” is just the latest example of what is wrong with our society today.  Two Google Bros came up with the idea of “disrupting” the convenience store industry by strategically placing gentrified vending machines in apartment lobbies, gyms and other places when humans can have limited face-to-face interaction.  All you need is an app to unlock the machine and an inside camera will automatically snap a picture of what you are taking and charge your credit card. There are currently 50 Bodegas in the West Coast and the Bros hope to expand it to New York City in the near future.

“The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” Bodega founder Paul McDonald says. “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”

It’s funny because I didn’t know there was a pressing need to get rid of real bodegas and make convenience stores more convenient.  But when you read more into this story, it seems like this service has a more sinister backstory that would actually hurt, not help society.

Mind you; I don’t have anything against technology and innovation. As a matter of fact, I make a living off of it as a web designer, content strategist, and multimedia journalist. I also use Amazon Prime and Uber regularly. However, I do appreciate traditional social experiences, and I think we are losing them little by little every day.

I like going to my nearby convenience store or supermarket not just because it has my favorite type of candy, popcorn, and other necessities, but I like chatting it up with the owner about the weather or other local gossips. Like bodegas, supermarkets, malls, restaurants, and other gathering spaces, social experiences are an important part of community building. I work from home most days so I feel like it is important for me to get out the house at least once a day to interact face to face with others in stores and other places.  I also do a lot of volunteer work in my community because it is a great way to connect with my neighbors on shared interests.  You can not do that with a gentrified vending machine!

Unfortunately, I think this Bodega service will take off because it is catering the two specific groups who for better or worse are changing our society.

  1. Upper-middle class white people moving into gentrified areas who don’t want to interact with the lower income people of color who already live in the areas.
  2. Socially inept millennials who don’t know how to communicate with other human beings without a smartphone.

Both of these groups are moving into many urban areas around the country, including my neighborhood in Boston.  I live in a mixed-income, racially diverse community, where you can see some of this tension between races, class, and age.

I remember going to a community meeting a few years ago and the audience was broken up into smaller groups to discuss the future of our neighborhood.  This 20-something white woman who just moved to Boston began to speak to my group that just so happen to be comprised of women only and I was the only person of color about the “troubles” she has had with obtaining basic necessities in the neighborhood like feminine products.  She went on to say that she once had her menstrual period start early unexpectedly while she was at home and realized she had run out of tampons.

“I had to get into my car and drive all the way to Target to buy tampons, which is 20 minutes away,” she said in a Valley Girl Becky tone.  “Isn’t that crazy.”

Yeah, I would say so myself.  This woman lived one block away from a Dominican-owned convenience store that I know for sure sells feminine products.  She could have walked there, purchased her tampons, and got back home within five minutes!  When I told her this, she said, “Oh, I didn’t know what they sold there and I’ve never been in there,” Valley Girl Becky replied. “I thought they only sold, like, ethnic things.”

“Tampons aren’t ethnic and it says convenience store on top of the front door, so I am sure you can go in there the next time you are in need,” I said.

Another white person in the group, noticing the tension from this exchange, quickly changed the subject.   While they continued their conversation, I was thinking to myself, even if she didn’t want to go into that particular convenience store, Valley Girl Becky could have gone into the local Family Dollar or the small supermarket a few blocks away, or even any CVS or Walgreens between her house and Target to get her tampons.  But, no, I guess there are too many ethnics in those establishments for her.  Luckily for her (if she still lives in the neighborhood) a Target is actually coming to the neighborhood next year.  Hopefully, it won’t employ any ethnics there so she can shop for her tampons in peace because she will have to continue driving across town to avoid those people.

Just last week I was in New York for UN Week, and I happen to be up in Harlem for African-American Day parade.  Harlem has seen a lot of changes because of gentrification in recent years, including the opening of the new Whole Foods on 125th Street.  I thought it was really cool to watch the parade on 7th Avenue, the food vendors selling West Indian and African foods and the celebration of the community’s rich, black culture.  As I walked towards the Whole Foods, I saw tons of white folks walking fast, as if they didn’t want any part of the parade.  I also saw white patrons in the outdoor seating for many of the new restaurants on Lenox Avenue who looked completely oblivious to what was happening and just kept looking at their phones. That was kind of sad actually that none of these new white residents had any interest in learning more about the community they live in.

I guess the new Bodegas will be coming to Harlem and my neighborhood next!

Fall 2017 Music Playlist!

Times to switch up my iTunes playlist for the autumn!

I like taking long walks around the neighborhood to take in all the beautiful, changing leaf colors in the trees.  It’s nice to listen to cool music especially jazz with a little hip-hop here and there while absorbing the scenery, the cool air and reading a good book with some apple cider and candy corn.

Here’s my list of albums you should check out:

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane

Monk’s Dream by Thelonious Monk

Ella and Louis by Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong

Jazzmatazz by Guru



What Is White Privilege?

Recently I finished reading Phoebe Robinson’s awesome book, You Can’t Touch My Hair. While a great deal of the content and the attention the book has received has mainly focused on Robinson’s struggles with her black hair throughout her life, I was particularly interested in two parts of the book that specifically revolve around instances of white privilege. To be even more specific, white privilege in the LGBT community. One issue is regarding the story of the white lesbian couple that didn’t want a biracial child and the other is a sad tale of the white lesbian fetishizing a black female slave.

I discussed this book with one of my friends, Melissa, a very outspoken black lesbian who has had negative experiences with some white LGBT folks, and I wanted to get her thoughts on the book. After talking to her, we came to the same conclusion about this racial identity issue in the LGBT community.

Just a quick refresher, a couple of years ago a white lesbian couple in Ohio used a sperm bank to get pregnant. The bank gave the couple sperm from a black donor instead of a white donor they requested. After giving birth to the child, they then proceeded to sue the sperm bank for the mistake. Mind you, the couple had every right to sue the sperm bank, but they seem to be doing more damage to their child’s life through the lawsuit and the media frenzy that ensued at the time.

I remember when this story first happened. One of the mothers was on TV complaining about the “emotional distress” of living in a conservative, bigoted, lily-white community in Ohio with a biracial child and the punishment of dealing with their child’s natural hair.

The first thing to come to my mind was that the conservative, bigoted, lily-white community in Ohio hated the biracial child, but was okay with being neighbors with a lesbian couple.

Okay, girl…

“The couple sees themselves as white before gay,” Melissa said. “They live in literal white privilege in Ohio and thought as long as they are white, they could pass and be seen as equals in their white community. Having the black child disrupted their white privilege status. Instead of them saying ‘Hey, let’s move to a community that is more diverse, and inclusive, and welcoming of our family,’ they are basically saying ‘Hey, this black kid with the nappy hair is messing up our white privilege lifestyle, and reminding the community that we are not really white because of our dyke status.'”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Regarding the other issue, Robinson recalls in her book when she took a writing class at Pace, and a white lesbian classmate wrote a story about the relationship between a black female slave and her slave master’s daughter. Yeah, this actually happened…

From an NPR interview Robinson did last year:

…This one girl in my class, she’s very sweet but she just recently discovered that she was a lesbian — which I was like: Yes, it’s amazing that you found yourself. So, she wrote this play that … I think it was coming from a good place, it really was, but she wrote this play about slavery. …

Basically, the slave had the chance to get her freedom, but she turned it down to stay being a slave at that plantation or whatever because her and the slave master’s daughter were like having an affair. …

I kind of had to speak up and be like, you know, I don’t think any slave would be like: “Hard pass on freedom, I’m going to keep picking cotton so I can hook up with this chick twice a week.” …

…If you want to write a story about slavery, by all means, do it. But it has to come from a place that’s respecting the past and respecting the people in it…

There is so much wrong with this story. This again proves my point about the problem of sanitizing the history of slavery. People are graduating from schools today who don’t have any clue about the harsh realities of slavery, and this incident is a result of the lack of proper education on the subject. When you have people going around saying that slaves were “migrant workers” and Sally Hemmings was a “mistress,” then you can’t be surprised that this classmate would write such an inappropriate story.

Again, Melissa and I agreed that this not only showcases white privilege in the LGBT community, but it also fetishizing black bodies.

“This reminded of this time I briefly dated a white girl in grad school who had a hard time understanding why the black gay community might not have the same life priorities and concerns as white gays,” Melissa said. “I used to tell her that gay black people deal with the same problems straight black people deal with – racism and discrimination – living while black stuff, right. We are out here struggling with housing, poverty, healthcare, and cops beating us up. She was all about marriage equality is the priority.  I’m discriminated more for being black than for being gay in my everyday life because it is easier discriminate against skin color than sexuality because it is obvious. Most black people are obviously black and it is easier to discriminate against that. Whereas, most gay people are not obviously gay, unless they say so. Gay whites have the privilege to pass when they need to in most cases.”

Interesting! And this is why they dated briefly.

“We had been dating for a few weeks and stuff was starting to get sexual between us, and she texted me out of the blue that she had this sexual fantasy of me being a criminal breaking into her apartment to rape her with a big, black, veiny dildo,” Melissa said. “I didn’t even know what to say. The whole black criminal thing really had my head go back. I was like this girl is really sick in her racist mind and wanted me to live out her warped black, rapist, lesbian BBD fantasy. The fact that she would even text that to me and not think twice before pressing send says a lot. I texted her back and told her to never contact me again and I blocked her. Blocked her! Never saw her again. I don’t really mess with white women anymore.  I mostly date my own kind now.”

Well, alright then… I wasn’t expecting Melissa to say all that…

I don’t really know how to appropriately end this post after writing that. Just go read the book!

Key Findings in SOIC 2017!

Global Wire Associates much-anticipated report, The State of International Communication 2017, was released this week!

This is an assessment of how 600 previous and current GWA clients view trends in information and communications technology (ICT) and social innovation. More than 50 percent of all web traffic now comes from mobile technology. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram continue to be the top social media tools among all participants. As print media and postal mail for accessing information continue to decline in developed countries, they remain essential resources in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

More affordable smartphones, tablets, and computers have come onto the global market, making technology and communication more accessible to those who would otherwise not have access. However, cost prohibitive broadband and poor access to electricity and modern infrastructure continues to create barriers for many in the developing world and for some in low-income communities in developed countries. The growing use and recognition of alternative energy are seen worldwide.
Technological disparities among women in developing countries continue to widen the digital divide, and the majority of our participants in all regions agree that governments are doing more to make sure that ICT tools are accessible to all populations equally.

The State of International Communication 2017

Price: US$15.99

Buy It Here:

Note: All GWA partnering organizations will receive a complimentary hard copy of the report during our UN Week activities in New York City and an electronic version by email today.  Everyone else can buy the electronic version here.