Harlem’s Cultural Shift Worries Some Residents

Harlem is undergoing a cultural shift due to its changing economic condition. (Photo by Doug Kerr, Creative Commons license)

Harlem is undergoing a cultural shift due to its changing economic condition. (Photo by Doug Kerr, Creative Commons license)

The influx of new businesses and the efforts of one social group to transform Harlem into a technology hub is worrying some residents, reports The Uptowner.

Silicon Harlem, a nonprofit community organization, seeks to turn Harlem into a tech hub by supporting tech education initiatives, help build up the neighborhood’s broadband infrastructure and lure innovators to the area.

“Harlem has always been big on culture and food and art, always had this cultural signature,” said Silicon Harlem co-founder Clayton Banks.  “The reality is, the economic engine of the 21st Century is tech.”

The initiative has succeeded in attracting many high-tech firms and French bistros but some community members fear that the rise of tech businesses may hurt Harlem’s Black-owned businesses and its historic panache.

Regina Smith, executive director of the Harlem Business Alliance, is among those who fear for Harlem’s changing character. She also believes that local businesses have been ignored in the process.

While that may benefit overall employment, Smith sees a danger in trading mom and pop businesses for service-level jobs at larger enterprises. Gentrification in Harlem is hurting the small, local businesses that once dotted the neighborhood and give it character, Smith stated.

Read more about the debate on Harlem’s future at The Uptowner.

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