“to the new white neighbor who crossed the street when she saw me” – Our Own Khemani Gibson pens personal essay for Blavity

to the new white neighbor who crossed the street when she saw me – Our Own Khemani Gibson pens a personal essay for Blavity 

I had not realized it yet, but a lot of the work I have been participating in has been in the realm of community organizing. Now, as a community listening fellow with the HUUB, I have really been able to jump into things. The community I am trying to serve is more than the Valley Arts District but the city of Orange. I have had the pleasure to work with Molly Rose Kaufman again, as well as Rachel Bland, Khemani Gibson and more of my friends and dynamic community leaders.

The city of Orange is changing in ways that are up for debate but we have all been trying to make sure that we preserve what is already here by cultivating the people, places and things that have always made the city special.

Khemani Gibson is also a community listening fellow and Orange native. He is charged with the impending threat of the G-word, gentrification. It has me thinking, especially since I have been meeting Orange residents with varying feelings towards gentrification. Recently Khemani has encountered a saddening story of racism on the street he grew up on in Orange, that I think ties into the conversation of gentrification in this city. He penned a personal essay describing his experience for Blavity.com. I wanted to ask Khemani a little more about it.


Patricia Rogers: Hi Khemani, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to answer a couple questions. How did it feel to submit your essay to Blavity?

Khemani Gibson: At first I was scared because I never put myself out there like that but with the encouragement of my sister and Naeema Campbell I realized that this was probably happening to a lot of people and that someone needed to articulate the feelings of being otherized in your own community.

You have your own blog, Jamaican Dreamer, and express a lot of your musings on social media. Why did you send this essay to Blavity?

Well, my blog mainly speaking to my Facebook audience. This piece needed to reach people from all over who could identify with being seen as other by newcomers in their own community.

How can this be tied into how gentrification affects urban communities?

Well in a nutshell gentrification brings new capital into previously impoverished communities but as a result, it causes rents to rise pushing out the working class people who called these places home. No one should have to lose their home just because new people are moving in.

Read an excerpt of his essay, To the new white neighbor who crossed the street when she saw me now on Blavity.com 

Maybe you wouldn’t have moved if I told you the sob story of a black youth surpassing society’s expectations that people like you love to hear to make you feel better about yourself. Maybe if I mentioned how I graduated at the top of my class from an “urban” high school in New Jersey, attended a private in-state university where I graduated summa cum laude, and went straight for my PhD at a prestigious university in New York City, you’d think my life mattered. But most likely you would still fear me. I often tell my friends that my PhD won’t protect me and you proved that to me. You didn’t see that potential in me that Saturday night, instead you saw a ghost from 1915’s Birth of a Nation, the black brute seeking to defile the white woman. The “thug” drug dealer peddled to you by local news. You didn’t see potential or hope, you didn’t even see my humanity. To you, even in my own neighborhood, I was still an outsider to be feared and loathed.

Follow Khemani on social media and read his blog, Jamaican Dreamer.


Written by Patricia Rogers


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