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Flag Wars is a 2003 documentary film about the gentrification of a Columbus, Ohio neighborhood. The film captures the conflict and resulting tensions as the original residents, black working class families, are threatened by an influx of white, gay homebuyers. The situation is highly typical of a neighborhood that undergoes gentrification; the residents are older and facing economic distress, so the neighborhood becomes more attractive to wealthier homebuyers who can purchase real estate at a premium price. The original residents of the community in “Flag Wars” have fears that are common to gentrification, such as concerns about losing control of their neighborhood, their ability to continue afford to live in their homes and the changes to their community’s unique culture. “Flag Wars” reveals the complexities of gentrification, as a community struggles to come together across various differences to overcome a myriad of social, economic and political problems that reflect the demographic differences.

Flag WarTrailer

Due to the recent trial and conviction of the infamous South Boston gangster, Whitey Bulger, much attention has recently been brought to South Boston and its ongoing gentrification transformation. Once a gritty, working –class, Irish enclave, South Boston has become a popular spot for young, single urban professionals and one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. South Boston has become more diverse and the waterfront has become revitalized, opening up to housing, stores and restaurants that have benefited the city and its residents. South Boston’s transformation however, has not been without its struggles. According to former Boston mayor Ray Flynn and lifelong South Boston resident, South Boston has become a “ Tale of Two Cities, with young professionals who buy luxury [condos] and frequent the trendy bars, and working-class families who feel they are losing their neighborhood.” NPR produced a segment about South Boston’s changes and one resident, describing the increasing living expenses described the situation as “economic apartheid.” South Boston, like Columbus, Ohio represents the difficulties of gentrification, because it combines both positives and negatives.

Spike Lee, the Brooklyn based film director, producer, writer and actor, recently went on a tirade against gentrification occurring in Brooklyn. “I grew up here in New York. It’s changed,” Lee said during a speech at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, “And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?” Lee’s question is a common theme in gentrification, because residents in struggling neighborhoods often feel ignored by their local government until wealthier residents move in. Critics have responded that gentrification is necessary in order for cities to develop and innovate so they do not stagnate. Lee has responded that while changes is necessary, there must be respect for the local traditions, history and culture of the neighborhood. Lee’s comments highlight the many struggles that residents dealing with gentrification face, such as racial issues and a desire for beneficial change that also respects the integrity community.

Sources:

Bryant, Linda. “Flag Wars” Premiered 07 17 2004. PBS.org. Web

Nickisch, Curt. “South Boston Transformed In Whitey Bulger’s Absence.” All Things Considered” Recorded 07 18 2013. NPR.org. audio recording

Powell, John A.  and Marguerite L. Spencer. “Giving Them the Old One-Two: Gentrification and the K.O. of Impoverished Urban Dwellers of Color.” Howard L.J. 433 (2002)

Wyly, Elvin, and Daniel Hammel. “Gentrification, segregation, and discrimination in the American urban system.“ Environment and Planning . (2004): 1215-1241.

Owens, Ann. “Neighborhoods on the Rise: A Typology of Neighborhoods Experiencing Socioeconomic Ascent.“ City and Community . no. 4 (2012): 345-369.

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