For as long as I can remember, I've dreamt of you. It was Spike Lee that brought me to you. He painted The Stuy in the brightest hues and dotted the canvas with characters that reminded me of the ones in my own hometown landscape. I knew and loved you before I even laid eyes on you.
The year was 2007 when I landed here. My dreams of a Bed-Stuy brownstone became reality. For years after, I'd still squeal from under my covers that this was actually happening. The vibrant, historical neighborhood was everything I hoped it would be. The perfect hybrid of Crown Frieds and libation ceremonies celebrating who we've been and are today. I saw my face in everyone I passed. That sense of familial love felt in every black neighborhood in America was overfelt every time I left my door. I found nirvana on the corner of Halsey & Stuyvesant Avenue.
You are the land of Lena Horne. The home base for Dr. Josephine English. The Nation of Islam through their grocery stories fed your people. Your daughter Shirley Chisolm worked tirelessly to liberate your people. Hip-hop became hip-hop on these blocks and gave you a global voice.
I'm eternally in awe at your fight. You thrived in the face of white flight. Crack and Reaganomics tried to wipe you off of the face of the earth. Mass incarceration made the men of the community vanish. But you bounced back every time. Resilience is our birthright. That Trans-Atlantic cruise we took taught us that. For the first time though, I'm scared. I'm not sure if we'll survive this next wave. Gentrification is like cancer, constantly eating away and overpowering the most vital parts of us.
Never believe the lies told about you. You are not a "bad" neighborhood. You're not any more dangerous than the rest of this city. You don't need saving...by hipsters at least. Coffee and craft beer can't heal these systematic wounds. No matter what the Times and real estate firms say, you have always been beautiful. You were worth the millions before the white faces appeared. You are one of very few pockets of this city where genuine love and community exists.
Bed-Stuy in a physical sense may never exist again. Malcolm X Boulevard will return to Reid Avenue. PS 262 will change its name. The mural of black children on Boys and Girls High will come down. Block parties will become a distant memory. The chess games and summer Friday film fest will be no more, leaving the park barren. The Sunday night oldies dance parties at Brown Sugar will go dark. Luther Vandross will lose his Saturday 9am set time wafting out of windows as neighbors sweep the streets.
No matter what happens though, I'll always remember who you were. Who we were. The faces may fade, but the spirit of what Bedford-Stuyvesant has meant over the last few decades will live forever. We'll carry it with us as we build the next Bed-Stuy. The next Oakland. The next West Philly. The next Detroit. Brooklyn Historical Society’s Zaheer Ali’s voice continues to ring in my ears when he said that 'place' is given to you and 'space' is what you do with it." We did a hell of a job!
It's no coincidence that we call you The Planet. Sun-Ra told us that space was the place. What we've created in Bed-Stuy is nothing short of cosmic and infinite, just like my love for you.
Eternally yours, Stephanye