At the crossroad between Tech and Gentrification


Early last month I had the pleasure of attending Innovation v. Gentrification: A #BlackHistoryMonth debate hosted by the Bay Area Urban Debate League. Four Black high school seniors from Oakland, CA addressed the audience with their viewpoints on the topic. The heart of the issue was this: Black and Brown people are being pushed out of their neighborhoods, largely, by people who move to the area to buy in to the tech industry boom.

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Bay Gentrification map courtesy of http://www.urbandisplacement.org/map/sf

But, what is gentrification? According to the Urban Displacement Project:

“Gentrification, or the influx of capital and higher-income, higher-educated residents into working-class neighborhoods…Displacement, which occurs when housing or neighborhood conditions actually force moves, is occurring in 48% of Bay Area neighborhoods… Displacement can be physical (as building conditions deteriorate) or economic (as costs rise). It might push households out, or it might prohibit them from moving in…”

Phew! That was a mouthful. You still with me?

To explain, Gentrification refers to the process by which infrastructure and city improvements increase the cost of living for residents who live there. These residents are typically working-class, low-income families and individuals. And unfortunately, there is an overwhelming perception from Bay area natives that tech companies are taking over their neighborhoods. This causes an overall distrust of the tech industry and ‘big business’ at large.

Are they wrong?

I was born and raised in Richmond, California. I can see the subtle changes in my city that ultimately make it harder for people like me to live here. In central Richmond, we have fancy new street lights. There’s a charming mini-market by the Richmond Bart Station. Fresh paint jobs on previously shabby buildings. Remodeled Schools. Brand new condos on the Richmond Marina… the list goes on.

As an engineer, I can 100% understand why people would want to move to the Bay Area. Jobs appear to be plentiful and the salaries appear generous. I mean, who doesn’t want to make more money? I’m not writing this to tell all non-natives to leave the Bay Area. My goal is simply to raise awareness because, as a lifetime resident of Richmond, CA, I can also see the negative impact on close friends and family.

Gentrification is an insidious process. Its’ creeping nature gives rise to feelings that there is nothing we, as individuals, can do to combat it.


True, there is no one way to stop the beast that is gentrification. But, there are many ways that one can take action.

To name a few:

  1. Join an organization to lobby the government
  2. Host workshops to raise awareness about the issue.
  3. Donate money to organizations already doing the work like:

You can do these things with organizations like:

https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fgiphy.com%2Fembed%2FcCaSeGucvNEm5KDqom%2Ftwitter%2Fiframe&url=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia.giphy.com%2Fmedia%2FcCaSeGucvNEm5KDqom%2Fgiphy.gif&image=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia.giphy.com%2Fmedia%2FcCaSeGucvNEm5KDqom%2Fgiphy.gif&key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=giphyBeyonce: ‘Let’s get in formation’

Here’s what I’m doing: I’m teaching a free introduction to code summer course in my hometown. I hope to show the individuals who complete the program that they, too, can thrive in STEAM fields. But that’s not the only reason I’m teaching this course.

I recently attended an outreach event where the goal was to provide support and opportunities to Richmond youth. I was taken aback though, when, as a city official began to highlight upcoming events for the students, they only mentioned career fairs for blue collar job. That’s great. But I would have loved if in the same breath, they mentioned opportunities in other fields.

And hey, tech is just one career pathway of many and I’d encourage anyone with specific area expertise, to share that knowledge! You never know how one nugget of wisdom will impact someone’s worldview. I believe that exposure to new fields (more importantly — seeing people that look like them in these fields), will put these youth in a much better position down the line.

But, back to my course. Shameless plug: if you’d like to join me, I’m looking for support with curriculum development as well as mentors to join in.

While the concept of gentrification can be daunting, always be mindful that even the tiniest action can have a massive impact.https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fgiphy.com%2Fembed%2FzwomW6WpoWRO0%2Ftwitter%2Fiframe&url=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia.giphy.com%2Fmedia%2FzwomW6WpoWRO0%2Fgiphy.gif&image=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia.giphy.com%2Fmedia%2FzwomW6WpoWRO0%2Fgiphy-downsized-large.gif&key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=giphyRipple effect in pond

The urban displacement project has done extensive research on gentrification – visit their website to learn more!

Ping me at fayemyrettehayes (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet me @fayemhayes


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