Bed-Stuy Billboard Campaign: ‘Racism Still Exists’

This month’s “Racism Still Exists” billboard in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, on the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Halsey Street, brings up stop and frisk. (Photo by Jamilah King/Colorlines)

Posters spelling out how “racism still exists” line the shelters of bus stops in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, reported Colorlines‘ Jamilah King. The anonymous Racism Still Exists campaign has put up at least half a dozen billboards that have appeared throughout the Brooklyn neighborhood since August. Each month, a new poster lays out facts and numbers on topics from education to the NYPD. The statements are elaborated in a Tumblr post that includes articles, studies, and statistics that back up the posters’ claims.

This month’s billboard reads: “Don’t want to get stopped by the NYPD? Stop being black.” The subject is timely given the recent ruling against the New York Police Department’s “Clean Halls Program.”

The billboards can not only trigger dialogue on racism in society, but the fact they appear in Bed-Stuy has further significance given the changing demographics of the historically black neighborhood.

“Bed-Stuy, and Brooklyn in general, is going through a very profound transformation and we gotta put that in context,” says Kali Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s New York chapter, referencing the gentrification that’s drastically altered the borough’s demographics over at least the past ten years. “For many of the young yuppies and buppies, they see the police playing a positive role and trying to engage in a race neutral dialouge.

“What the billboard is doing is kinda opening up and exploding this myth that [stop-and-frisk] is taking place in a race neutral light — it’s making people confront it in a very real way.”

Akuno added, “I applaud the effort. If the intent was to shake things up, I think they did their job.”

It’s no accident that of all of New York City’s neighborhoods, the billboards have [target] this one. A historically black neighborhood, Bed-Stuy has become one of the most contested spaces in New York City. A 2012 study from Fordham University found that Brooklyn is home to 25 of the country’s most rapidly gentrifying zip codes. That’s created a stark contrast between those in the neighborhood who have more upward social and economic mobility than others. Several high profile media accounts have recently noted Bed Stuy’s so-called “hip” transformation and “resurgence,” but the borough’s medium per capita income in 2009 was just $23,000, which was $10,000 below the national average.

Visit Colorlines and Racism Still Exists’ Tumblr page to view the billboards.

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