Spike Lee Attacks ‘Christopher Columbus Syndrome’ In Epic Rant On Gentrification

Film director Spike Lee was speaking at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for Black History Month last night when an audience member asked for his opinion about “the other side” of the gentrification debate.

Lee responded with a 7-minute expletive-filled rant about New York City’s gentrification. He decried what he called the “Christopher Columbus Syndrome” in trendy, rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like Harlem and Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn that wealthy white people purportedly believe they “discovered.” From his rant:

Then comes the motherf—ing’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherf—ing’ African drums in Mount Morris Park [in Harlem] for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud …

Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherf—in’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.


Lee’s speech came a few days after a controversial New York Times article by a woman who wrote about being groped on the street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn but praised the “literary scene” there and a bakery where she can “banter” with the baker in French. Indeed, Lee called out the Times for playing up supposed “good of gentrification.” (It’s unclear what specific article he was referring to, though.)

The filmmaker suggested that places like Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy are just getting better schools and maintenance services now that white people are moving in.

“So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!” said Lee.

Lee was prescient about the changing face of the city back in 1989 with his landmark movie “Do The Right Thing,” which chronicles simmering racial tensions in Bed-Stuy. Check out this clip, which Lee name-checked last night.

The full audio is below, but you can check out the transcript at New York here:


Seeking Oakland’s Soul In The ‘New Oakland’ via NPR

Oakland has become one of the most multicultural cities in the United States but to some that’s not so amazing. Some are saying this shift is causing Oakland to lose its “soul”.  Known as the city that was the hub of African-American culture on the West Coast, birthed the Black Panther movement, etc., Oakland is facing a shift that other major cities are facing as well. This shift has created a climate of Old Oakland vs New Oakland. New Oakland being a place where Pacific Islanders raised in Oakland can film an R&B video in front of a Taco Truck, what does this shift mean for the city and how welcome is it? Details after the jump. Read More

Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing via LA Weekly

We came across this article today which was related to an LA Weekly cover story we saw a week or two ago. For some reason we never posted the article but it’s definitely a must read. With the facelift of Hollywood and all the new things popping up there, it seems as if a huge Latino community is being pushed out in exchange for hipsters and high rollers. Hit the jump to check out the article. Read More


The Occupy movement has found a new target: the Central City Association or CCA.  The CCA is the driving force behind the development of many of Downtown L.A.’s Loft property.  Many organizations feel that these developments have come (and are coming) about at the expense of the homeless and Skid Row areas.  Many of the Occupy organizations say that the homeless population in Downtown are being targeted because they are African-American.  Occupy organizations are sitting outside the CCA headquarters starting this past Tuesday and this will last for seven days (info). Read the full article here.  A few interesting quotes below:

This is not occupation, this a siege that will last six more days. I guess you can say because of the pattern practices and policies that the Central City Association continues to push on the residents of Skid Row to their detriment to benefit developers and their clientele.

Homeless people have been targeted to remove them. It’s ethnic cleansing because a majority of them are African American.