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Hello [New] Brooklyn! A Newcomer’s Guide To Bed-Stuy

The Old Dirty Bastard Mural on Putnam & Franklin—an unofficial Bed-Stuy landmark

Hello [Enter non African American/West Indian/Black descriptive here] Person!

First, welcome to Brooklyn. You did it! Or specifically, welcome to the more African Diaspora side of Brooklyn.  Namely Bedford-Stuyvesant, however this can apply to Oakland, Brixton, and other “been cool and now it has been ‘discovered'” newly gentrified areas around the globe.

While you’ve been paying higher rents for smaller spaces in Manhattan, Park Slope or Williamsburg – we’ve been busy making Bed-Stuy pretty awesome for the last 50 or so years. In the last 10 years a younger, black “creative class” from Chicago, DC, Atlanta, etc, also started to call the area home as a reaction to the rising rent prices of Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, Ft. Greene and Prospect Heights. Basically it was cheap, the apartments were huge, we could get to work on time and it was like a little slice of our respective hometowns. We got clowned for living in Bed-Stuy as well…”don’t get robbed the way home” was something familiar to all of us when leaving a Manhattan event. But little did you know, we’ve just been making it cool. Black Cool is real, and when it thrives in a central location, more will flock to it. See Ft. Greene. So with that—welcome to the Stuy ya’ll.

Tree-lined streets, some pretty dope parks and a 20 minute train ride to the city and our own LIRR stop so we can get out weekend beach on. Yup, it’s a pretty magical neighborhood to call home. And with that, here are five melanin-approved tips to make your stay in Bedford-Stuyvesant just as awesome.

1. Good Morning, And Good Night
For many of us, our roots are in the West Indies, Africa, Black America and more. And with that, there are certain cultural habits that come with communities of color that have had to remain close-knit and not always by choice, but for survival. Namely, we speak. We chit-chat (ok we gossip), and we stay visible. So when someone says “good night” or “good morning,” return the favor. Because you aren’t going to live next to me and play the invisible game. Especially since you leave your windows open at night and I now know what kind of TV you have and that we have similar throw pillows. This is a neighborhood, not a hi-rise. And if the situation arises when you need something from your neighbor, knowing who they are makes the process much easier.

2. Eat…No Eat
One of the beautiful things about Bed-Stuy is also one of the things that longtime residents take for granted. You want artisanal? Have a currant roll from a West Indian bakery. Exotic fruit and condiments? Spend some time in one of the fruit stands on Fulton. Flavor? Have you been to the Royal Rib House? C’mon son! I have a theory for eating “local” in Bed-Stuy – the longer or more disorganized the line to order is, the better the food is. See Ali’s Roti shop. While Saraghina, Peaches, etc are all wonderful places to have a dining experience, don’t discredit the store-fronts that have served as mainstays in the area. Some of the best food in your life is right around the corner. It’s fresh and it’s fun to try. And if you don’t know what it is, ask. Note, don’t even call a roti a burrito. Just dont.

3. Block Parties Are Awesome
During the months of July to September, your block will close down, a few kids will have a dance contest and if your block association has some money you will get a bouncy-castle-thing. You will hear hip-hop, soca, reggae, r&b and the Cha-Cha slide song at a blaring level for at least 6 hours. Leave if you must, but stick around if you can. Because if you’ve been regularly speaking to your neighbors, this is prime time to score some free food and discover that you actually have a few things in common with the folks on your block.

4. This Is Still Brooklyn
So why are you jogging down Gates avenue between Marcy and Throop at 11:30pm? See where I’m going with this?

5. Put Down The Compassion Cape and Just Be Cool
Not all of the young boys and girls on the basketball courts are “at-risk” youth. Not every man on the corner is a drug dealer. Bed-Stuy is a predominately middle-class neighborhood with city workers, doctors, architects, and EBT card-carriers alike. What you do have are regular people, leading pretty normal lives with no desire to be “saved.” When you approach a person with pity instead of recognizing pride, things will go awry and feelings will get hurt. And if you see a need for something, build it with your community—instead of attempting to create a micro-community in the midst of a larger one. Essentially, keep it open and keep it moving.

All in all, the evolution of moving patterns and neighborhood demographics inevitable. But what we can manage is how we choose to coexist as a community. While the above is based in truth and sprinkled with humour, cultural clash is no laughing matter when it goes wrong. Hopefully, this can open up some pretty cool dialogue about what the future holds for communities of color around the globe.

Love, Me.
Team Hancock, nine years running. 

Got your own tips? That’s what comments are for! Speak your piece below.

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington