If We Do Not Hit It, It Will Not Fall: Gentrification in Albany Park and How Our Class Fights Back

February 6, 2020

CHICAGO: Over the last week, revolutionaries took a stand against the newest face of gentrification in the Chicago neighborhood of Albany Park by wheatpasting flyers against the soon-to-open Khepri Cafe. The flyers were titled “Gentrifiers Out Now!/Gentrificadores Fuera Ya!” and demanded the relocation of the cafe–a small yet significant action for the purposes of organizing the working masses and to initiate a campaign to remove the coffee shop. Insurance lawyer and landlord couple, Isaac Melton and Tatum Drewes, plan on opening the cafe right off of the Kedzie Brown Line stop at the East End of Albany Park, directly underneath the 2013-constructed gentrifier luxury condos.

Gentrification is a function of the capitalist system that can be the most clearly witnessed in urban areas. As capitalists seek to maximize profits, they must pursue a program that makes their commodities profitable. Gentrification begins with the forced depreciation of an area populated by the working class, especially the colonized poor, through divestment by those who control the resources of a community (capitalists and bankers). Then, bourgeois and petit-bourgeois developers speculate on the artificially cheap land to invest their capital. Where land is cheap and strategically located (such as neighborhoods like Albany Park, near public transit and O’Hare airport), the gentrifiers go to work, as we have already seen for years. The gentrifiers profit when their investments raise property values and rent, all while working people get the boot. Gentrification, at its core, is merely the forced displacement of poor and working people to open up new markets for investors and wealthy white people. There are many players in this process–Khepri being one of them.

Given that “CBD Cold Brew” that Khepri will serve is an insignificant afterthought for the working people who struggle to feed and house themselves, the cafe is clearly not made to serve the people of Albany Park. Khepri Cafe is just a piece in a much larger parasitic system: settler-colonial capitalism. Settler-colonialism seeks to dominate and get rid of colonized populations and make way for the protected settler class (people of European descent) to take their place in physical spaces under the same logic of capitalism. Capitalist interests are maintained politically and ideologically by the operation of settler-colonialism. Whether the owners say otherwise, the logic of capitalism requires Khepri, as a gentrifying business, to be supportive of developers building more luxury apartments and more expensive cocktail bars/restaurants. The cafe would benefit from increased policing to make the neighborhood more attractive to rich, white people, while literally making it more unsafe for poor colonized people who already live here. Lastly, once it has successfully attracted its customer base, landlords will raise rents to capitalize on the new, more wealthy residents. And after all that, the residents who didn’t leave already because of the police presence, will leave because they can’t afford to stay any longer. This process has been well-documented in many working class neighborhoods that are being gentrified around the country.

The owners like to paint themselves as nice locals, sensitive to the concerns of gentrification and food and housing insecurity. Their establishment in the neighborhood shows this to be a brazen lie. They contribute to this system of gentrification in East Albany Park and will continue that process. They are able to participate in this broader system of violence and displacement because of their capital, gained through defending large insurance agencies or rent collected off the backs of working people. Their capital was not accumulated through “good vibes,” nor will it bring about any. Gentrifiers like Melton and Drewes, and perhaps even more overtly evil actors, have done the same to Pilsen, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park. Through our social investigation, we know the people of Albany Park are well-aware of what happened when out-of-place, white, bourgeois investors began to develop businesses for their white, bourgeois clientele in each of these neighborhoods.

The gentrification of Albany Park, and other working class neighborhoods around the city and country, is reaching point break. The people have had enough of the evictions, enough of the harassment by police and ICE, enough of the businesses who make their home a more expensive place to live. Marx said capitalism produces its own gravediggers. As the bourgeoisie and their running dogs continue to suck the life out of the poor, the revolutionary forces grow stronger and more militant.

Mao writes:

“‘Lifting a rock only to drop it on one’s own feet’ is a Chinese folk saying to describe the behavior of certain fools. The reactionaries in all countries are fools of this kind. In the final analysis, their persecution of the revolutionary people only serves to accelerate the people’s revolutions on a broader and more intense scale”

Gentrifiers are fools for thinking money can protect them from their inevitable downfall. Working people are ready to take a stand and fight back.

FTP-Chicago opposes the opening of Khepri Cafe and all other businesses that do not serve the people who currently live in Albany Park. Khepri was not constructed with our class in mind. They sell food and drinks that our class cannot afford, while creating a neighborhood that our class can also not afford. While all businesses exist to extract profit from locals and increase property value, some small businesses more than others accelerate gentrification. For these reasons, we are organizing a campaign to make Melton and Drewes relocate their cafe out of Albany Park. We will continue to put up our flyers to inform residents of Albany Park that their neighborhood is actively being settled and wage a militant campaign against those who harm working and poor people. We will organize the people of Albany Park who refuse to be displaced by gentrification against Khepri Cafe and connect this struggle to all hotbeds of gentrification, like Bokeh (the recently opened gentrifier cocktail bar), the luxury apartments, and other institutions in the neighborhood. The people will take control of the resources within their own community, and the people alone should decide how those resources should be allocated and used.

Long live the People’s struggle!