Gentrification exists and it’s relentless, rapidly unrolling like a plague, especially in our classic black areas. We see it on TV, hear about it everywhere these days, and see it happening right in front of our faces. Though, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. WE FIGHT to take back. These are our communities we see being swept from under our feet. Sadly, but in most cases, the capability is always there (because we are capable if you didn’t know), but the resources are either few and far between, we don’t apply ourselves accordingly, or we were never taught the tools.
Desmonde Shalom Monroe has done just that, created his own toolbox, playing by his own rules, and putting on his boxing gloves to save our neighborhoods. You can help too. Monroe is a resource you can use and he’s equipped to win. Monroe let The Quintessential Gentleman in on who he is crediting for his success, which he gives to his mother for everything that he is. He said, “She always told me that in America, I will always be a black man and because of that, I have to be stronger, faster, smarter than everybody else. She equipped me with resources and things to get me to where I am today. I think I am a byproduct of my mom and because of that, I care about my community and I care about my other black and brown people, to actually teach them and let them know that they have to be faster, stronger and smarter than everybody else.”
In case you’re wondering, Mr. Desmonde Shalom Monroe is the President and CEO of The Monroe Group, LLC. He is active in his community of Brooklyn and focused on organizations involved in urban development and growth. Monroe listens and cares about the citizen. He has heard, “You’re rebuilding communities and you’re making them more resilient, but you’re also caring about the people.” He hears their stories. Monroe states, “I’m rebuilding communities for the people who are there. So, I’m asking them, ‘How do you want your community back?’ Then, I rebuild it. It’s how do you want it, then doing it. That’s something different that developers and a lot of people don’t do, not even our government. I would love to see more of that and I’m sure it will happen, but right now we’re doing it.”
Gentrification is best quoted by Mr. Monroe as, “Pricing you out of your neighborhood.” They buy up properties and start pricing up rent, where people can’t do it. This is targeted at minorities. As Monroe made a point saying, “Then you start seeing people who no longer look like you come in and then rents go up, because it’s like, ‘Oh, white people are moving in, so let’s raise the rent.’”
He doesn’t mean that people of color don’t have the money to afford it. However, there is a trick. The marketing is not to people of color who would come here and buy homes. It’s not the cost we can’t afford. Monroe said, “They come in and just completely change the culture and change what it was to be here.” It’s the feeling of losing our culture we won’t buy into and hints at why gentrification exists. “There are different communities based on people of color who came there and put culture in their food, their spirit, into art and their craft and then it’s just moved out for some artist in Trader Joe’s.”
This didn’t happen so abruptly; it’s been shifting for a long time now. Desmonde believes the shift happened, “I can say in New York, it was 2007, 2008 because they started renaming the streets. They started changing names, they started bringing in other people, they started marketing it differently, and then we saw other people coming into the neighborhood.”
It starts with education. We have to educate ourselves, and as Monroe reminds us, “There are city resources.” This doesn’t mean you are to blame. We can start changing the way we see our circumstances in society and shape our minds differently today. Monroe says, “I have to look back at myself and look back at my own community.” Desmonde serves on his community board in Brooklyn and is a committee member for land use and economic development for the North Brooklyn community. Now there is a mass outreach to us, uplifting us that you can buy back your neighborhood and there are all sorts of grants you need or can use to fix up your neighborhood if you want to.
Monroe is a developer as well, and you can be one too. He advises that someone can go and say, “I’m a minority or woman business owner. I want to get into real estate development. Once they’re certified, they can go down to EDC (Economic Development Corporation), apply, get part of this pool, and they can go and buy back some of their neighborhoods.” This is a key that not many know. He adds, “There are programs that we are not taking advantage of because there’s no one telling us about it, but other people are.”
His question is always, “Well have you looked online? “There are so many loopholes within the tax code; we just don’t have the education to take advantage.” Bad actors who perpetuate Systematic oppression don’t want to see us own property or businesses and take part in the American dream for the betterment of our communities. His question is always, “How do I push my people?” By his people, he doesn’t only mean his brown people, he is referencing us all. He says, “I’ll say to all shades of brown, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, all of us, how do we move towards that?” He believes, “If I work the system and the system works for me, then it’s going to work for you. I may have a different education, but I’m still working within the same system. If I can do it, you can do It.”
It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It takes time. It’s about knowing that there are many places you can go to get that information and move forward. The first step is, knowing it’s out there.
He’s most proud of becoming the man that his mother would be proud of. Desmonde lost his mother after a long seven-year battle with cancer. He stated, “She was a strong woman. She fought.” Monroe has carried on that same strength, to fight and will to have life and all that’s good in it. He is building a legacy and as far as what’s next for him, “I want to take this worldwide. The thing is, there is a cause. There is something in me that sees a need to help and rebuild and I want to get more involved with the UN [United Nations] because they have a disaster risk reduction program. That is exactly where our focus is.” It’s empowering, teaching, and sustaining others to grow and build our communities. “The funny thing is, my name is Desmonde, which means world, and of course Shalom means peace. So my parents inadvertently named me WORLD PEACE.” Let’s get some.