The One-Woman Gentrification Project
by Rashayla Marie Brown
In The One-Woman Gentrification Project, I read from texts related to histories of liberation, confinement, and displacement such as Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I perform these texts through a megaphone I’ve placed in top-floor building windows in neighborhoods that have experienced high levels of displacement. Passersby can cross the street to visually locate the megaphone’s position or they can choose to stay directly below it to hear what my voice is saying. Usually, they can’t see and hear the voice’s source at the same time, due to the distance from the sidewalk to the window. They have to make a choice. My neighbors often file noise complaints and the police sometimes intervene.
This work was inspired by my move to the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country. Friends were surprised to find out where I lived, wondering how I could afford it and what it was like for me socially. The nature of gentrification is complex for me, as I am on the line between several groups socially, economically, and culturally, and the now-demolished Cabrini Green Projects are close to my home in the Gold Coast. Instead of moving to a working class or “up-and-coming” neighborhood, I specifically chose to move to an area that will affect me more than I can affect it. Or can the reverse ever happen?
Rashayla Marie Brown is an artist-scholar who was lauded as a 2015 Breakout Artist by New City and Arc Magazine, and manages an extensive list of cultural production modes including photography, video, performance, curation, and writing. Brown also serves as the inaugural Director of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and holds a BA from Yale University and a BFA from SAIC. Her work has been featured at Bellwether, Cleveland; Black Paper, Los Angeles; Calumet Gallery, New York; Center for Sex and Culture, San Francisco; Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; University of Chicago; and other venues. rmbstudios.com