Brooklyn artists take on gentrification with spray cans and brushes

BUSHWICK, Brooklyn — The dramatic transformation of neighborhoods in New York City is well documented.

Since the early 2000s, gentrification in Brooklyn has stripped nearly every street and structure of its flavor and culture, leaving longtime residents like Jaz Colon feeling like a tourist in her own neighborhood of Bushwick.

"You move to Brooklyn, that’s fine. It’s not like we’re anti-anyone moving into our communities,” Colon told PIX11 News. “We’re just anti-us as a culture being erased.”

Instead of watching from the sidelines, Colon took action, raising funds through her two community-based organizations -- Color Scenes and Bushwick Street Art -- to reclaim a slice of gentrified space in her beloved Bushwick.

The project, which includes a massive mural that blankets the creative space known to locals as Silent Farm along Bushwick Avenue, brought together dozens of New York-based artists, all whom are on a mission to shine a light on the pioneers and their craft that infused culture in the borough decades earlier.

“We don’t want to see anybody get credit for the culture other than the people who are from the culture,” Colon said. “We are talking about some of the names of the people on this wall who are not even here with us anymore, they passed away.”

“That’s what it means to reclaim a space and give back the power to the people in the community and that’s what this looks like."

Passion for their community and having their voices heard is a common thread binding the artists.

“One of the main steps for me would be just to open your ears because a lot of people coming in they feel ‘oh these people in the neighborhood are just harboring ill feelings toward me,’” contributing artist Monique “La Femme Cheri” Welsh said. “They don’t understand that we have these feelings for a reason.”

Another contributing artist, Lil’ Boo, described the ongoing situation with a verse from a song she wrote.

“You got me feeling like a stranger in our hood, saying change in our home is good. Like that sounds familiar, something like imperialism when Africans went from living at home to living in prisons,” she said.

“Its like basically saying what they are doing now is what they basically did in history.”

The group, which is self-funded and relies heavily on donations, plans to continue restoring the art and culture stripped from their neighborhoods one wall at a time.