by Zakia M. Carter
After a subtle but very deliberate courting, I subscribed to The New Yorker two months after moving into Prospect Heights from Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Pretentious and literary with a capital L, I had let the magazine taunt me in those first unsure steps pursuant of a writing life. Heretofore, The New Yorker's brand of wry humor and witty social commentary had at times read like an inside joke that excluded me. This no longer the case, a very tiny voice inside snidely remarked, "how very Huxtable."
Similarly, just two blocks south of the Brooklyn Museum and the Botanical Gardens, my apartment is in one of the most sought after real estate zones in the borough. Marked by the constant coming and going of U-haul trucks, the entire neighborhood seems continuously to turn itself inside out. My neighbors are generally one of three camps. They are either young white professionals and students fleeing inflated Manhattan rents or elder and working class people of color who have lived here for decades. The other, less duly noted, influx of young African American students, professionals and artists are often rendered invisible.
Last spring while my white neighbors negotiated new and daring feats such as using the bodega pay phone after sunset or moving into what had previously been the super's apartment -- now advertised as a super basement apartment, I was concerned I would be accused of living la vida bougie. I had decided enough with VIBEMagazine already and challenged the notion that "When You Miss Essence, You Miss You" by not subscribing. Similarly, weary of the blather of commercial radio, I switched from Hot 97 to National Public Radio in the mornings.
Suggestive of my choices â€" right down to the magazines I subscribed to, I was shedding Black cultural qualifiers and embracing yuppiedom. And that greatly concerned me, to the point where when greeting the mailman, a mahogany brother with locks spilling over his blue capped shoulders, I wondered if he suspected that mailbox 1F stuffed with The Nation, The New Yorker and Poets & Writers belonged to me. And if he did, had he also noticed my Black Enterprise and Stress?
Whereas my white neighbors may have signed up to play urban pioneer, able to tame the ghetto with the fortitude of a collective presence, I, at times felt like an informant. Born and raised in Brooklyn, my family moved to Crown Heights when I was ten. Though I no longer look the part of around the way girl, I remember well the days when I rocked doorknockers, a stacked Halle Berry cut, and Guess jeans. Even so, I have no desire to move back to Crown Heights. I relish having bookstores, health food stores and restaurants (sans the bulletproof glass) within walking distance.
However, as the months skirted by I realized that I really did miss Black womanhood reflected on glossy paper, after all I had been reading Essence since I was twelve. And though I swore to cancel VIBE, anything with D'Angelo on the cover is welcome in my home. I love NPR in the morning but Cherchez LaGhost has been on repeat in my CD player for about two weeks straight.Today, I couldn't care less what other people think of the contents of my mailbox. I enjoy The New Yorker, Black Enterprise, The Nation, Essence, Fast Companyand Mosaic. I have abandoned the narrow as my mailbox thinking that would suggest my cultural values could possibly be dictated by what I read, wear or live. I am constantly evolving, ever mindful of my past but fortunately always moving forward.
Ironically, the wry humor and witty social commentary with which I grapple daily is the fact that I have been priced out of this neighborhood. So, if anybody knows of an available two-bedroom in Crown Heights, send me a shout.