Being A Better Tourist In Brooklyn, New York

August 12, 2022

Historically, neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Harlem, Queens, and The Bronx have been the home to Black folks. Over the years, due to gentrification, these areas have become too expensive for Black people to reside. For example, the gap between rental agreements in Manhattan versus Brooklyn used to be $ 1, 000, but now that gap is a mere $ 171. This is to say that the cost of living in historically black neighborhoods has gone up exponentially! 

Gentrification is insidious, particularly where it disenfranchises systematically disadvantaged communities. Generally speaking, people aren’t opposed to their communities improving or people visiting the area. However, to avoid being a tourist with the demeanor of a colonizer, integrating into the spirit and culture of a community makes all of the difference when visiting various communities. 

For example, in line with AFROPUNK values, AFROPUNK Brooklyn attendees should be harmonizing with the essence of Brooklyn. To assist in this effort, we’ve curated a short list of things to remember!

Respect the bodega owner and their pets

Bodegas are integral to communities in New York. If you ever watched Law & Order, you would have noticed that bodega shopkeepers often knew the community intimately. While the TV series is a dramatization of what happens in real life, this part was true. A bodega isn’t a mere convenience store in the way non-New Yorkers would understand them. Regardless of your understanding, the shopkeepers are meaningful to their communities. 

Stefano Giovannini

In recent news, bodega beloved, Boka was unceremoniously snatched by a passing pedestrian. Brooklyn community members rallied to find Boka and were successful in their efforts with the feline friend being anonymously returned to his home. This is a happy ending, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Perhaps the pedestrian thought the cat was lost, but the CCTV footage suggests otherwise. 

Nevertheless, bodega cats are cherished; in the same way that we people show respect to the store owners, respect their feline friends too!

Before you complain, ask

This year, one TikToker went viral for his comments about his new neighborhood. Was he exercising his freedom of speech? Yes. Was the tone of his comments offensive to New York residents? Most definitely! For those who don’t already know, low-income areas, often Hispanic and Black communities experience a ‘food desert’. There is a reason why he couldn’t find a grocery store. However, because he didn’t ask before complaining, he couldn’t have known this major fact. 

With NYC being such an international tourist destination, it’s no wonder the city has such great PR. At the same time, it’s important to note that outside of it being “The Big Apple” it is home to millions, rich in history, and exists in America’s very real system of inequality. It’s so easy to forget where we are and the people we interact with when we’ve been watching footage from films, television, and social media that has accustomed us to the architecture and archetype of a place. The people of New York are asking for consideration, above all else when it comes to visiting their beloved city. 

Every situation isn’t as NB as understanding a food desert, but as a rule of thumb, if something strikes you as strange in Brooklyn, seek understanding. 

Support Black businesses

The cornerstone of gentrification can be found wherein implants to a space prioritize their consideration to their vacation itinerary over the ethos of a community. For example, it’s well understood that a chain burger joint and a traditional burger joint might share qualities, however one is more integral to the fiber of a community than its counterpart. 

Lip Café

Specific to being a better tourist in Brooklyn, pay attention to supporting the organizations that serve the community’s interests before their bottom line. Take, for example, Flatbush, Brooklyn’s Lips Cafe, a family business supporting local artists and entertainers with their establishment. As part of AFROPUNK’s efforts to support Brooklyn’s black businesses, we’ve also partnered with Brooklyn Tea, the tea room that both educates about tea as well as supports the local art scene. 

Include culturally significant sites in your travel itinerary

NYC is not all Times Square, Statue of Liberty, and Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment tourist snaps. There’s a rich history that deserves attention. As previously mentioned, New York has great PR which makes seeking out the listed tourist attractions all the more compelling. At the same time, consider adding a few culturally relevant sites to have a culture conscious experience of New York. 

(Dex R Jones)

For example, in addition to visiting the The Met museum, take a trip to Dorsey’s Art Gallery, the art institution that’s been “serving New York’s art community since 1970,” according to 10Melanin. When you consider catching a show on Broadway in Manhattan, remember that The Billie Holiday Theater is a celebrated gem of Brooklyn. 

There’s so much more to New York than what makes it into TV/Film pop culture. Think about expanding your travel aspirations beyond big and little screens.