This is the third part of a longer conversation we had in May 2016, discussing the differences and similarities in contexts and issues between Niddrie, a housing scheme in Scotland, and the hood in West Atlanta, GA, USA. If you missed them, check out part 1 here and part 2 here.
In this video, Mez chats with John Onwuchekwa and some of his church members at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, GA, about the issue of gentrification and changing communities in both a scheme and a hood context.
For those of you wondering about one of the incidents mentioned in the video where Mez is stopped by the police…
Mez: Now in England and in the Midlands where I used to work in England, they were much more racially mixed, so you could have blacks, you’d have whites, you’d have Asians, largely divided along those lines, I know in London there’s huge problems with gangs… and Birmingham… black gangs, against white gangs, against Asian gangs… We don’t have that so much here, but certainly not in Edinburgh, but it’s changed in the last few years, more racially diverse, not just black but people from all over Eastern Europe as well, and it’s certainly… Glasgow is much more culturally diverse but lots of racism here would be towards, if you were English than if you’re black. So if you’re black here, at least you’re not English!
J.P.: Wow. When do I move?
Mez: I’m not saying you don’t have racism, because there’s racists, right, I’m just saying that…[bctt tweet=”‘Walk down the street, both in hoods, who’s more likely to get stopped by cops?’ @JawnO or @mez1972″]John: This is helpful stuff for folks where we’re at. We walk down the street, and what you shared was that if me and you both walked down the street and we both had on hoods, who would be more likely to get stopped and accosted by the cops?
Mez: Yeah I would get… It would be me. I’m not saying you wouldn’t get stopped with me but it wouldn’t be you at my expense, where as I know if I’m going out shopping with you boys in America, I’m all good!
Tara: Yeah, I almost can’t believe the reverse.
Mez: I’m not saying it is the reverse, I’m just saying here… so I have been stopped several times, with no cause, just because you look suspicious, you know, my car is registered to a reverend.
John: A reverend?! That ain’t you!
J.P.: Where’s your collar sir?!
Mez: But less so now, because they all know who I am, so it’s quite obvious, the little scruffy one’s the minister! But here we, you know, easily stop and search, you know, and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen to black guys because I know it does, racial profiling goes on here, but just specifically where we are right now, it’s a different field. And so, for instance, we’ll get on to it – gentrification – that is an issue… I remember talking to Shai, Shai Linne, and we were talking about gentrification, and I’m saying ‘Man, gentrification is killing us’, and he just laughed and said ‘You sound like a black man!’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘How do you mean gentrification is killing you? How gentrification killing you?’ And I was trying to explain that the social engineering that is going on to get rid of the bad elements of our communities is unbelievable…
John: It’s a mirror though, so as I look up here and I see the home prices and the signs for all the new stuff they’re gonna come you would think that you were driving down the streets of Atlanta or Philly or Chicago or you name it, yeah, that’s crazy!
Mez: So I don’t know the answer to that problem is so…
J.P.: It’s weird man because it’s like, even with us, like, we move into Westing, we move into wherever, and it’s like, three years from now, it may not look the same so…
John: So that’s what we’re starting to run into, the same thing. 10 years from now, I don’t know if it’s gonna be the hood, it just kind of seems like this tidal wave that’s starting to come through, and it’s like what do you do, there’s no way to stop it, the dollar drives it all and we don’t have enough dollars to run our own church much less turn this tide…
Mez: I think we just have to grow churches that reflect our ever-changing community, I mean that’s how we’ve tried to… because I’m thinking in 10 years, the guy who started 20schemes won’t even have a scheme church, if development continues. And it’s looking like it is continuing, and so…
Tara: I think the greatest thing about the gospel itself is that it charges people whether you are the oppressed or unoppressed to fight for the oppressed that you take care of the little person because they are your family, and they’re made in the image of Christ I think that’s having, you’re absolutely right, I think churches with people who believe the Word completely and trust the Lord completely is the only way because they’re the only ones who are going to stand for that truth continually regardless of what they look like or what class they’re in or whatever. Yeah.
John Onwuchekwa is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, GA. He’s originally from Houston, TX. He’s married to Shawndra. John O visited Scotland in May 2016 to check out the work of 20schemes as part of a 20schemes vision trip.