Seattle Natives Identify Gentrification By Who's Riding The Bus

Dec 14, 2016
Originally published on December 28, 2016 1:18 pm

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

The No. 48 bus runs through the Central District of Seattle.

It's a historically black community that Carla Saulter and Gabriel Teodros know well. It's also a neighborhood that is gentrifying as Seattle has boomed in the past decade.

During a ride on the 48, the two bus companions discussed the changes they've been seeing in their city. Saulter says riding the bus allows her to see how different parts of the city have changed physically and demographically.

"The thing about the 48 is that it goes through so many different communities," Saulter says. "Of course, over time, the riders of the bus [have] changed, and that's one of the ways you can really see, just viscerally feel, the changes in the community, is that who's riding the bus is so different now than it was even 10 years ago."

Use the audio link above to hear the full story.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen. He said he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the thousands of communities that make up this nation from the people who know these communities best. We're calling this series Finding America, and we begin on a bus in the Pacific Northwest.

CARLA SAULTER: My name is Carla Saulter from Seattle, Wash.

GABRIEL TEODROS: I'm Gabriel Teodros from South Seattle.

CORNISH: The 48 bus runs through the central district of Seattle. It's a historically black community that Saulter and Teodros know well. It's also a neighborhood that's changing, gentrifying as Seattle has boomed in the last decade. They discuss the changes they've been seeing during a ride on the 48.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hi.

(CROSSTALK)

SAULTER: The way I feel about the bus - I mean, there's this song - I think it says sometimes I take the bus home just to touch home.

TEODROS: Common says it.

SAULTER: And - oh, it was Common. It was Common.

TEODROS: Yeah, yeah.

SAULTER: That represents what I feel about the bus. There's just no other way to be part of your community in the way it feels when you're on the bus. And the thing about the 48, you see, is it goes through so many different communities. Of course, over time, the riders of the bus has changed. And that's one of the ways you can really see - just viscerally feel - the changes in the communities - is that who's riding the bus is so different now than it was even 10 years ago. Yeah, so this is about to get redeveloped, too - this whole area.

TEODROS: The Red Apple Grocery Store - they always had, like, the best soul music. Like (laughter)...

SAULTER: Still does.

TEODROS: Yeah, still, like, playing when you go into the grocery store. There's a barbershop. There's a couple, like, Ethiopian-owned businesses in there that's about to get torn down. But it's just odd to have such a deep, deep life-changing history and connection to a neighborhood where I have a memory attached to every crack in the sidewalk. And I go here now, and I don't know anyone that lives anywhere close to here.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Douglass-Truth Branch Library.

TEODROS: Do you remember three houses when they were just boarded? (Laughter).

SAULTER: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I used to live in one of them...

TEODROS: Really?

SAULTER: ...For almost seven years.

TEODROS: Before it burnt down?

SAULTER: No, after.

TEODROS: Wow.

SAULTER: Yeah. My father was born here in 1939. Actually, his original house is not there. It's Ezell's now - Ezell's Chicken.

TEODROS: Word.

SAULTER: So my grandparents came here a long, long time ago. And during that time, the neighborhood has changed. So I understand that change is constant, change is expected, change is even good. But what bothers me about the changes that are happening now is that - who does the place belong to? Right now, this place only belongs to people who can afford to be here. It's not over time sort of organically different groups of people have come and gone. It wasn't organic that this became a black neighborhood, and it's not organic that it's not now.

TEODROS: I just want people to talk to their neighbors (laughter).

SAULTER: Yeah.

TEODROS: Like, the last time I lived in the Central District wasn't that long ago. It was, like - 2008 was last time I had an apartment out there. And literally, we were the only house full of black people on a block where everybody else was white. And my white neighbors said hello to each other. And they were real cordial and friendly with each other and ignored us and treated us like we were invisible. And I think that hurt more than anything. And it's not even just that it hurt, but it becomes dangerous when you move into a place, and you're more comfortable calling the police than talking to your neighborhood. That's when lives get lost.

SAULTER: Whoever's moving in is your neighbor.

TEODROS: For better or worse - whatever that means to you.

SAULTER: My pastor always says that is my neighbor.

TEODROS: Yeah.

SAULTER: It's not just who you want it to be. It's whoever's there.

TEODROS: That's right. And a community thrives when everybody in the community thrives. If you want to be successful and if you want to have a healthy, thriving community, you should be investing in the success and health literally of, like, your next-door neighbor.

CORNISH: That's Carla Saulter and Gabriel Teodros. Their story was produced by Mona Yeh and Yuko Kodama. It comes to us from Localore: Finding America, a national production of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. You can find more stories at NPR and at Finding America. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.