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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Racism, Entertainment District, beware Philly - you are next

Let me pass on a bit of advice to my new Philly neighbors who are contemplating having a Cordish entertainment district built by the sports stadiums. It is the same advice people in KC got from their friends in Louisville who had the experience before KC did. Don't do it!

The Louisville Live and KC Live districts have both had the same fallout - Cordish demands a dress code that explicitly denies popular clothing worn by young African-American men. Period. In KC the Power and Light District (named after a local historic building)is now known as the Power and White District. No joke.

Last night, DJ Jazzy Jeff was performing at the P&L outdoor stage. 15 minutes after taking the stage he stopped the show and left. The KC blogs are buzzing that he was asked to leave because he played hip-hop music that was not appropriate for the "family oriented" P&L District. This is an over 21 entertainment area and this is DJJJ - a hip-hop legend. What did you think he would spin? Others are saying his mix was too hot and the sound system couldn't handle it. When he "refused" to turn it down, the management said he was out. Others are saying DJ got pissed and walked out.

You can read his twitter account of the event at @djjazzyjeff215 or read the dozens (and growing) other viral accounts of the situation. There is a boycott P&L district hashtag #boycottKCPL

The entertainment district was built with significant city tax funding and subsidies (tax increment financing backed by the city, not just the venue revenues) and Cordish has a rep already. No white T-shirts are allowed, no backward baseball caps, no sports jerseys (though plenty of whites are seen with sports jerseys and sports t-shirts), no saggy pants. I get that the investors want to keep some kind of standard so the white suburban folks don't get scared when the urban youth take over. I get that the privatization of city space is about making a safe zone for tourists where they feel comfortable away from the "mean urban streets." I get that the city feels they need to placate these investors so the city gets on the map with one of these entertainment districts. I've been studying this topic for my entire career (I'm a professor, get over it). What is going on in KC is an unjust use of tax dollars, in a city that harbors a history of extreme racial bigotry, where the city can't provide ANY entertainment space for young people of color. In the Eastside of KC - where there is a 95% minority (AA and Latino) population - there are no malls, no indoor movie theaters, no teen clubs, very few sit down restaurants where anyone can hang out, and then the city uses its tax dollars in this fashion.

Wake up Philly. You are next on this parade of racial bigotry when Cordish comes to town.


JC said...

Thank you for penning something from a perspective that makes some important connections on this matter. Understanding the big picture is important in evaluating who's credible when it comes to reporting what happened last night.

Sandy Price said...

wow. this is important and wrong.